Early years on south coast inspired John’s Fairy Tales

Bermuda - December 1970 and (inset) John McGregor's book about life at Thorney Island in the 1960s
Bermuda - December 1970 and (inset) John McGregor's book about life at Thorney Island in the 1960s

THIS WEEK IN 1988: Church silent on sex ring scandal

0
Have your say

When 18-year-old John McGregor was posted to Thorney Island in 1967 it was a dream come true.

He said: ‘I had happily left home in the midlands to see something of the world, and the buzzing south coast of England seemed not a bad place to start in those exciting days of flower power, and peace-and-love, man.’

John McGregor preparing for his first home leave in March 1967

John McGregor preparing for his first home leave in March 1967

He added: ‘Not much of the latter was evident immediately, although when I first entered the gates of that pretty RAF station in the middle of summer, the flowers were there in a plethora of pink and white blossomed trees thoughtfully planted all round the camp.’

Now 62 and living in semi-retirement in Spain, John has revisited those days in Fairy Tales Of An SAC, the story of the five years he spent in the Royal Air Force, almost all of which was at RAF Thorney Island, near Emsworth.

On a recent return visit to Portsmouth he said he remembers clearly the sense of new opportunities and new discoveries.

‘A new world was opening up to me, a world of camaraderie, fun and travel, based around working on the huge Hercules that I grew to love, wonderful aircraft that are still flying today, doing their important work wherever needed in the world.

‘During the next five years, from the springboard of this seemingly-undisciplined life (it wasn’t really, just relaxed) in our Nissen hut up on the airfield I travelled to Bermuda, the Maldives, Singapore, New York, Cyprus, Malta, Gibraltar and Libya.

‘Outside the RAF gates the Swinging Sixties were waking the world up, and filtered through to me and my friends.

‘The fleshpots of Portsmouth and Southampton beckoned regularly, although I found most pleasure and fun with young ladies from Chichester, Bognor Regis, Hayling Island and the surrounding towns and villages.’

Forty years later he decided to sit down and write about those times.

‘I wrote about the young men I worked and lived side by side with and befriended; the young ladies who enriched my life in those exciting days, and I wrote about the foreign places we visited. We had such fun in and out of uniform.

“I called my book Fairy Tales Of An SAC because my aircraft trade branded me a ‘fairy’ due to my lighter aircraft workload, and I held the impressive rank of a Senior Aircraftman (SAC).’

Waterstones in Commercial Road are stocking the £9.95 book and copies are also available directly from the publishers, Woodfield of Bognor Regis, on 01243 821234 or by visiting woodfieldpublishing.co.uk.