CURRENT NEWS - June 2015

My dear Benbows,

We have lost one our most active members, and liveliest contributors: Donald McMillan has ''crossed the bar", only 1 week after his beloved wife. I cant tell you how this news has struck me, and hope you'll not only join me in a saluting tot, but be sure to see Hans & Gordie's tribute here:

Some of you have noticed an absence of Benbow News in the last few months. I had not forgotten you, or had chosen to neglect you. I wanted you to be aware of what its like for me, to not be receiving any feedback or notice. The same regular contributors have contacted me, asking me when the next edition is coming out - but those people I can count on one hand. I'm here to help you, to be a voice or mechanism for you. use me. 

I will publish this as often as the number of submissions dictate. at the current rate, I imagine that would be once every quarter. 

As always, I invite your feedback both good and bad, at anytime:




January 2015

My dear Benbows,

I hope that this finds you well. I'm sorry to open the year with sad tidings, but David Pepper 'crossed the bar' on February 9th this year. He has just turned 89. 

From Dennis Woodhams: 

"David and me used to ring each other about three times a year, his wife Edwina and my wife Lucilla were friends from the age of about 16 – way before David and me appeared. I spoke with him towards the end of last year. He has not been well for some time and when we spoke he was particularly unwell with cancer, but bearing up.

Sue tells me that David spent Christmas with her and family – at that time he was recovering from a fall and broken hip. It is thought that he had a mild heart attack and was taken to hospital where he developed pneumonia, cause of death on the Death Certificate is Pneumonia."

Thank you to Dennis, Gordie and the regulars for sending contributions over the holiday period. The rest of you - don't be shy.

As always, I invite your feedback both good and bad, at anytime:

December 2014

My dear Benbows,

As this long year draws to an end, I see fit to remind you that Gordie is always asking me: "are you still up to it? it's not taking up too much time?". My answer is always the same. I'm not fussed by the time it takes, giving you all a place for your Association to communicate globally is my pleasure. I'm a bit behind this month - I've moved my family from inner Melbourne to rural Beechworth, very much in the Bush, and foothills of the Australian Alps. Gordie has been bringing me here to holiday for most of my life, so to live here now is a great thing.

As usual, I will skip January, and see you all again at the start(?) of Feb. I hope you all have a safe and wonderful Christmas, and may you all raise a glass for the sake of Auld Lang Syne.

November 2014 

It appears that the new Memories column has not attracted  many takers.  A great pity, as when we “go”, valuable information will be lost forever. e.g.  I would give anything to know of my father’s life in the RN from 1915  -  1938.

All I know is that he was in the battle of Juland age 16 in HMS  Conquest. Come on lads, “Remove the Digit” – stretching the mind is a good guard against ElzeimersI am going to push mine from Apprentice days onwards ( ad nauseam) and serialise it – just keeping to the main parts of interest.

I would asked for comments of your own that differ from mine.  The mind is a strange thing, and two people see the same thing in a different way.

                 Up Spirits      Gordie

Gordie has added a piece to the new MEMORIES column. Many of you must have similar memories - so lets have them.

October 2014

Happy harvest, Benbovians.

I'm glad that you come forward even when the news is not good: A rather sad note from John:

I am very sorry to report that Dave Pratt,  who was in a Care Home in Leicester, suffered a cardiac arrest at about 0930 today the 18th September and "crossed the bar".

John Gallichan

from Frank Cuthbert:  "Hello Richard

So pleased you replied.

You may not be aware that for last few years my wife Goria and myself have been spending 6 months from April every year (to avoid the Cypriot sun and enjoy the UK Summer) in our flat near Basingstoke.
Then in October we trot off to our Villa in Cyprus to avoid the English winters!

You can pass the above info to the next issue of Benbow news if you wish." 

Gordie has added a piece to the new MEMORIES column. Many of you must have similar memories - so lets have them.

September 2014

It's nice to see that submissions are up slightly this month. I have received an treasure trove of correspondence from Eric Manuel - it will take me some time to sort through it and compile it in the most appropriate manner. Thank you Eric, I can see that the things you have sent are rather sentimental and original - I'll copy them and hasten them back to you. 

you can see an extract from Eric's letter to me in the MEMORIES page.

from Ivor Passmore:  "Just to let you know another of the old Benbovians has crossed the bar. 

Frank (Freddie) Bills passed away in May after a very long illness of Parkinson's disease.

For info: Together with three other ex Fleet Air Arm colleagues we formed the Ferndown & District F.A.A.Association.  Being just one year old we are quite small at present but recruiting all the time.   The monthly meetings take place on the last Thursday of each month at the Royal British Legion, Ferndown.  My wife, Shirley, and I are now arranging a three course dinner, with a glass of port for the Toasts, to commemorate the battle of Taranto.  This is to be held in the main hall at the Royal British Legion, Ferndown and all are welcome.  Tickets available from the Secretary, Ray Wrigglesworth, 01202 779321.   We are inviting, as guests, Arnold Thompson from Headquarters of the Association and the Mayor of Ferndown.
I will be happy to answer any queries via my email address."

August 2014

Contributions to Benbow2 news have virtually ceased, and has not given our Editor, Richard, the help he deserves after taking over this role from our late editor, John. 

Fortunately, John's wife Brenda, has sent me all of his work that he and his committee had accumulated in their worldwide search for the 170 lads of the Division then scattered, and for creating Benbow2 news. It is an 8" thick pack of A4's!!! and contains some of which are articles contributed years ago but never published. 

To start, I have offered an article to Richard on the evolution of Naval Engine Room Artificers from their beginnings in 1731. Our Air Artificer Branch began at the beginnings of WW2 - so new, that there was no training establishment available, so that our first year was conducted at either Torpoint or Caladonia in Scotland, in the Engine Room Artificer's training establishment, where we worked their syllabus (no aircraft).

So chop-chop lads, try to keep it going. You all must have heaps of photos of our beginnings - so please send them along to Richard.


Gordie (Evans)

(Ed. I can restore damaged and faded photographs if you want me to. I will work with Gordie to publish as much as I can from John's archive.)

Thanks to Eric, Gordie, Dennis and Ron for getting in-touch this month.

June & July 2014

Firstly, let me apologise for June: You've known me to be late in publishing, and to make errors and emissions - but this last month, I had literally FORGOTTEN you! I have been on Paternal Leave for 3 weeks now - my wife gave birth to our second on 27JUN14, which was 2 weeks overdue (see below). To say I was preoccupied is a grand understatement, but for the neglect, I am genuinely sorry.

I'm partly exonerated by you all, in that NONE of you contacted me to complain! Don't forget: this is your space, own it, and speak up when something is not right.

Gordie has directed me to close the LIMERICKS page due to lack of input, and create a new one in it's place: MEMORIES. The idea is that you can email me your memories, in whatever form they take, so that we can all share them. I have started the ball rolling with the first thing that came to mind, that has some relevance here.

Also, we have received a pile of John Marchant's archives, things which he didn't have time to include here in the news. I mean to start adding things from that pile, from next month.


May 2014

I got a lovely email from Eric Manuel (below). I hope you are all well, and please drop me a line with anything that you have. 


The News from Eric. M

                      Reference the 1936 Ford.I purchased one in 1952 at Nirimba whilst "employed"
as an instructor.I paid 300 pound for it on "Time payment!!" and proved various people wrong
when they insisted that valves would burn out on using100 octane.After 40000 miles and
erratic running I removed a head and found one cracked valve seat. Being an old man and
losing my marbles I can't remember it's final resting place.It was a "good un"
                      Whilst fiddling at this machine I have to tell that I recently returned from yet
another cruise,to China. In telling this I must correct the incorrect thinking that I received a
considerable amount of money when Wee Margaret passed away.This, if true would have to
be wishful thinking on someone's part. I did not!!
                       I have no money at present--I am using a Government freebie computer!!We
had a drought before I returned,the grass was inedible!!
                       If anyone ever passes this way,call in and I'll tell you all about it
                                       Cheers all the remainingreprobates,
                                                                                  Be Happy,
                                                                                                   ERIC. M

April 2014

I've tried to compile stories based on my limited knowledge of world events, in the hope that it will stir  some of you into action. I'm happy to be corrected or criticised - anything to drum up responses! I endeavour to come up with articles that I think might be of interest - please let me know if it's working, or more importantly, if it's not!


The Royal Navy

The Royal Navy is proud to announce its new fleet of Type 45 destroyers. Having initially named the first two ships HMS Daring and HMS Dauntless, the naming Committee has, after intensive pressure from Brussels, renamed them HMS Cautious and HMS Prudence.

The next five ships are to be HMS Empathy, HMS Circumspect, HMS Nervous, HMS Timorous and HMS Apologist.

Costing £850 million each, they comply with the very latest employment, equality, health & safety and human rights laws.

The Royal Navy fully expects any future enemy to be jolly decent and to comply with the same high standards of behaviour.

The new user-friendly crow's nest has excellent wheelchair access.

Live ammunition has been replaced with paintballs to reduce the risk of anyone getting hurt and to cut down on the number of compensation claims.

Stress counsellors and lawyers will be on board, as will a full sympathetic industrial tribunal.

The crew will be 50/50 men and women, and will contain the correct balance of race, gender, sexuality and disability.

Sailors will only work a maximum of 37hrs per week as per Brussels Rules on Working Hours, even in wartime.

All the vessels are equipped with a maternity ward, a crèche and a gay disco.

Tobacco will be banned throughout the ship, but recreational cannabis will be allowed in wardrooms and messes.

The Royal Navy is eager to shed its traditional reputation for; "Rum, sodomy and the lash"; so out has gone the rum ration, replaced by sparkling water. Sodomy remains, now extended to include all ratings under 18. The lash will still be available on request.

Saluting of officers is now considered elitist and has been replaced by "Hello Sailor".

All information on notice boards will be in 37 different languages and Braille.

Crew members will now no longer have to ask permission to grow beards and/or moustaches. This applies equally to female crew.

The MoD is inviting suggestions for a "non-specific" flag because the White Ensign may offend minorities.  The Union Jack must never be seen.

The newly re-named HMS Cautious will be commissioned shortly by Captain Hook from the Finsbury Park Mosque who will break a petrol bomb over the hull. She will gently slide into the sea as the Royal Marines Band plays "In the Navy" by the Village People.

Her first deployment will be to escort boatloads of illegal immigrants to ports on England’s south coast. The Prime Minister said, "Our ships reflect the very latest in modern thinking and they will always be able to comply with any new legislation from Brussels. "His final words were, "Britannia waives the rules."

Malasian Airlines MH370

There has been a huge amount of media regarding the disappearance of MH370. When I actually looked, I found that actual FACTS are few and far between. I've listed them here as best as I could make out:

Saturday March 8th

  • Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 Flight departs KL at 12:41am (1441 GMT Friday), bound for Beijing, due at 6:30am (2230 GMT). The Boeing 777-200ER has 227 passengers and 12 crew aboard
  • The aircraft was climbing through 35,000ft heading NE when last contacted, 120Nm from Kota Bahru, Malaysia

Sunday March 9th

  • Radar indicates flight may have turned back from its scheduled route to Beijing before disappearing.
  • Malaysian Airlines and Government open several lines of investigation
  • Panic and a myriad of theories grip the media

Monday March 10th

  • As dozens of ships and aircraft from seven countries scour the seas around Malaysia and south of Vietnam

Tuesday March 11th

  • Malay Military states that the Aircraft seems to have flown west after contact was lost, making it at least to the Malacca Strait. The search shifts focus to the Indian Ocean.

Thursday March 20th 

  • Search efforts are concentrated in the southern Indian Ocean. Search efforts are launched and controlled from RAAF Pearce and RAN Stirling, both in Perth. The search area is 2000-2400km from Perth, in typically poor weather. 
As for theories - they are many. The most valid that I've read is that the aircraft may have suffered a catastrophic electrical fire, where the crew would have turned back for the nearest airport. Overcome by fumes, all souls aboard would have perished, and the plane flew on by itself.

March 2014

As navy men, you'd have to be fascinated with recent events: Russian strategic maneuveres in the Black Sea, and a massive multi-country search in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean for a disappearing airliner! I've strung together my own thoughts on the Ukrainian situation in a new Article for you. 

me aside, there have been 3 contributors over this last month - I know there are more of you out there! step to it!


Recent letter from Frank Cuthbert ( Eddie)

"Just to let you know it will be safe again in Cyprus, and will be making our annual sortie to UK."

Paphos to Gatwick          Sunday 6th April

Return to Cyprus              Monday 6th Oct

My email:   

A cheerio to all Benbows.


Happy New Year Benbows!

All refreshed after the break I trust - it feels like a long time since I've addressed you all; so much has happened. 

It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you Syliva Evans: wife of Gordie, Grandmother to me, and friend to a number of you, passed away on January 11th 2014, a week after suffering a heavy stroke. I believe her ashes are to be spread across Port Phillip Bay on Easter Saturday.

I want to hear more from you people this year, so that I might liven these pages with your idiosyncrasies. 


Recent letter from Frank Cuthbert ( Eddie)

"Just to let you know it will be safe again in Cyprus, and will be making our annual sortie to UK."

Paphos to Gatwick          Sunday 6th April

Return to Cyprus              Monday 6th Oct

My email:   

A cheerio to all Benbows.


Some strange things have been going on with this site in the last month or so. Some of you will have seen my Faux Pas last month the was a result of the most unbelievable and unlikely combination of events. Quite literally, it was the online equivalent of removing the middle of "Fire Truck" thus FIRE TRUCK - I haven't seen anything quite like it. Added to which, the NEWS ARCHIVE section below has simply disappeared. It's only the Link Index, but even so - these things take time - I should get it done over the impending festive break. 

In what has proved to be a very challenging year here in the Antipodes, I hope you all have retained a sense of ownership and pride in these pages. Personally, my situation is in flux, and 2014 should bring a lot more stability and measured results, so we can all look forward to a bit more punctuality from yours truly. 

Thus, I will be looking to you all to come to the fore more so than you have already. I want to hear what you have to tell. Write down your stories and get them to me - so that I might publish them here for the ages!

I wish you all a very fond Christmas and happy new year. May the wind always be at your back.


From Gordie

A plaintive phone call from Frank(Larby) Larbalistier :

He is in Sick Bay  ( Sydney hospital) with a broken arm - slipped when cooking in the kitchen !!

Living alone and unable to fend by himself, they have decided to keep him in hospital for a further 4 weeks.

We all wish you a speedy recovery old Mate.


from Dennis:

It is with considerable regret that I inform, through your good self, all Benbows that my wife of 67 years, Lucilla, passed away peacefully at 0945 on Friday, 8 November 2013.

She had suffered from a cancer of the stomach for some time and will be sadly missed by all who knew her.

Lucilla is due to be cremated at the Oxford Crematorium at 1200 on Monday, 25 November 2013 followed by an informal function at the Four Pillars Hotel at about 1345.

from Gordie:

A plaintive phone call from Frank (Larby) Larbalestier- he is in Sick Bay (Sydney Hospital) with a broken arm – slipped when cooking in the kitchen, Living alone and unable to cope, they have decided to keep him in hospital for a further 4 weeks. Half his luck !!

So Larby old Mate - we all wish you a speedy recovery, and don’t break a leg chasing those dear nurses

Just a note on email addresses and contact details: Eric asked me to furnish him with an email address. There are 2 places I would refer you all to, should you need contact details.


Hi Richard,Chick's wife, Phyllis Fowler, visited Bodenham Arboretum on the outskirts of Birmingham last November. Ever since, she has been eager to share the attached photos of the oak tree that was planted in the 1990's when there was a Benbovian reunion. The tree, when planted, was only a foot high and all wondered if it would survive. Mum is pleased to be able to say, 'Yes!!' One photo shows her standing in front of the tree. That whole area has now been dedicated to The Fleet Air Arm and a cement aircraft carrier has been built in front of the tree as a lasting memorial. It was an emotional, but happy and proud time for Mum when she visited. She hopes you might share this in your next newsletter.

Best wishesChrisChick and Phyllis's daughter

Gordie & Hans have created a Toast to the late Norm & Sid - see it HERE

From Ivor Passmore:

Dear Richard, As one of the last Benbows in the land of the living, I would like to wish all remaining Benbovians a Very Happy Christmas and New Year. I am one of the lucky ones still being fit enough to bowl on the green, drive my car and enjoy life to the full and I hope to keep going for a few more years yet. While I am on my computer I would like to convey my thanks to you for taking over from Tubby Marchant and keeping us all in touch. I have joined with a small group of ex FAA to form the Ferndown & District Fleet Air Arm Association meeting at the Royal British Leogion on the last Wednesday in the mounth in Ferndown at which Shirley and I run a raffle and book sale, so before I pop my clogs I hope it will increase the membership and bring all serving and retired FAA personal fogether. I don't usually rush into print but I was sitting at my computer with a few minutes to spare.

All thest to you Richard and keep up the good work. IVOR

if you have any queries, please feel free to email


This is the 72nd anniversary of our arrival at Sea Park 3rd September 1941. Here in Australia, we send our Warmest Congratulations to we few who have survived, and fond remembrances of those who haven't. Sadly we have just received the news that we have lost another Mate. Norman Smith, who was one of the mainstays and development of Benbow 2 news. with Chick, John, Sam and others who searched the World for all Benbovians then living in many countries. Norm will be particularly missed by his oldTech. school mates: Ron (Hans) Mac., Eddie and Gordie from 1938, who were evacuated in 1939 to Wales when war broke out. From there we passed the Civil Service exams for entry into the Navy (Fleet Air Arm). It's been a long journey since.


Well Lads, it seems that even your trusty editor gets it wrong occasionally - my last entry from Gordie, RE Larby, was truncated - editorialised as it were. it SHOULD have read:

Larby, (Frank Larbalestier) has been in the news recently-Grandfather’s VC, visitto Melbourne -and we have just found that his birthday is on 19thJuly,just passed.Commemorating birthdays has been sadly overlooked in the past, so heregoes.

“Larby, it’s been a long journey since we were all in our teens, hardly ever imagininghow we could ever achieve such a goal.As young apprentices, we oftensaw “Men” getting their Long Service Medals presented ( at age 40 ) shufflingup to the stage – old and decrepit as we then thought !!

Sadly, only a few of us have achieved over double that-so to Larby and all survivors, let us wish them all a :


And wish them many more in the future,Would be a good idea to continue this, by askingall members, if they so wish, tolet our Editor know of their birthdays and possibly how life is treating them.”

Happy Sailing

Entirely my fault: read it incorrectly, misconstrued, and misinterpreted! Now I've done this with a Benbow I'm related to, and geographically close to. The point is, a lot can get lost in translation, and I think that maybe this concept might be putting some of you off, in regard to contacting me with submissions.

I'd like you to know that my door is open, so to speak, to help in any way I'm able - even if that means advising on how email works, what constitutes a good submission, anything.

JULY 2013

Gordie has been speaking to me about the ambitions of this Association with regard to this site. It's my intention to create a complete archive of all "Benbow News" editions on this site. I've contact the late Mr.Marchant's son so that he might transfer to me all records with regard to the Benbow Division, so that I can start back-tracking the archive, hopefully to the point where I then digitise the paper-based editions that Gordie has.

I'll inform you all if I get my hands on the previous editor's files, and further advise you as archived editions come online. I hope this meets with the membership's approval.

In May/ June News regarding the VC, I may be at default in not adding a postscript Would you please include this:" Have recently found the background to this episode, and discovered that George Hinkley was in fact the Grandfather of our old Mate Frank Larbalestier ( Larby) Have been Mates for over 70 years and wasn't aware of it. Something to be proud of "


Firstly - apologies for the lack of Issue in May: I'm too busy for words, and have indeed misplaced my piece that I wrote on this year's ANZAC Day ceremony(belay that - see Articles).

For those that are unaware - Sam Collicott crossed the bar in May. I'm short on details, and will post them as they come through. Hans & Gordie have provided a toast to Sam, which is in the TOASTS page.

Be sure to review the"Passing Out" test job that was examined in 1945 - I hope you're all still up to the task.

if you have any queries, please feel free to email me

APRIL 2013

Hello Benbows; a few changes happening here - I hope they make things easier for you. This is the new "News" page: the current news will be shown here, and the archive of all previous news listings are immediately below. Let me know what you think of the new format.

I have initiated this change as I've been in discussions with the Host of this website RE costs and sizes. I think we've come to a satisfactory agreement. I'm happy to share the details with those of you that are interested. This has contributed to the reasons of the large delay in contacting you this month.

MARCH 2013

NO news to report - all must be well!

Editors Note

Your contributions have dropped right off this month - I hope you're not holding back because I'm getting this out late each month.

I've not had any feedback about the articles I have written for you. The idea was to present modern naval news through a younger set of eyes. If this is not warranted, appreciated, or worse: offensive, please feel free to let me know.