When ATC exercises took place on Cleadon Hills

Pictured in the ejector seat during an open night in March 1970 is Warrant Officer Leslie Gustafson.
Pictured in the ejector seat during an open night in March 1970 is Warrant Officer Leslie Gustafson.

When it comes to providing stories from the past, the sky’s the limit as far as Gazette readers are concerned.

For you never fail to come up with interesting and often amusing tales from days gone by.

Les Gustafson.

Les Gustafson.

One such anecdote comes from Les Gustafson, who was responding to a recent article involving the local ATC and an ejector seat from a V bomber.

I’ll let Les explain.

“My nephew, who still lives in Shields, sent me a copy of the Gazette article, featuring mention of 324 South Shields Squadron Air Training Corps, and the fact that the cadets ‘still have the ejector seat’ which showed a photograph of myself sitting in that seat.

“And, I still have the flying suit I was wearing at the time. It still fits me, well, just about, if I breathe in!

“The colleague, Flight Sergeant, checking the safety straps, has his left arm turned prominently towards the camera, showing the badge of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, which a dozen of us in the squadron had obtained – something which was quite unusual at the time in the Air Training Corps, so we took every opportunity to show it off.”

But the photo, taken in March 1970, caused a bit of a stir when it was seen by ATC “top brass” – not because of the ejector seat, but one of the hairstyles on show.

“The photograph caused consternation among the powers-that-be of the squadron,” added Les, “as they thought that my hair was far too long for someone representing the cadets in print!”

Seeing the photo brought back some fond memories for Les, who makes mention of two TV shows, one recent, the other going back many years.

“I was reminded of my time in the Air Cadets by a repeat episode of Inspector George Gently only a few weeks ago.

“It featured a scene by a semi-derelict windmill which I thought I recognised, and then the camera panned round to show Cleadon Chimney in the background.

“It was the windmill on Cleadon Hills, which we had used in a night exercise (a bit like that episode of Dad’s Army where they had to capture a windmill and Corporal Jones got caught up in the whirling sails of the mill, although no danger of that at Cleadon as the sails had disappeared long ago).

“Three of us were to be the attackers and all the rest defenders – so the odds were stacked against us from the start.

“We made our way in the pitch dark across the adjacent golf course, managing to avoid falling into the sand traps, but could see that there was a ring of steel around the mill, so the only way to capture the objective was to create a diversion.

“The other two attackers drew the defenders off by making a noise, whereupon I stood up, took one step forward and fell flat on my face into a dip in the ground.

“Fortunately so, as a defender who turned around just failed to see me, and when he turned away I darted past him into the mill building and told the defenders there that they were captured. Happy days!”

Meanwhile, other readers got in touch regarding a photo showing members of South Shields Harriers being presented with trophies in October 1976.

Margaret Frazer posted: “From left to right, they are Wendy Barstead, winner of the Gazette Cup, Gillian Scott, winner of the Mcfarlane Cup, Paul Addison, winner of the Thompson Cup, Joe McCarron, second in the Yacht Handicap, George Bramwell, who won the Novice Cup, Ralph Sheraton, who won Yacht Handicap, and Derek Johnston, winner of the Prinsky Cup.”

Barry Charles Swainston added: “I remember them all, lovely people, I’m proud to have been a South Shields Harrier.”