The Year of '54

The years aircraft: The English Electric Lightning

During 1954 - the SE5a was re-built / Built by a team identified in the photo - anyone know the full story?

 Instigated after a query from a '75 lad Grant Jamison about what his father actually got up to in the 1950's! 

“My dad Graham Jamieson was an apprentice 1954 intake, I was 1975 intake. I am a keen mountain biker these days and have a full suspension bike. Talking in the pub as you do , with my dad , he described his efforts to create front suspension on his push bike and ride it off road on the site where the Farnborough tech is now.

Although a 54 intake app myself, I don't recall Graham; my memory must not be what it was! Also, I don't recall anyone with a bike with front suspension. What I do recall, however, is riding my own bike (which had been an 11 plus present) in the wood which was where Farnborough Tech was built in the mid to late 1950s. Several apprentices would take their bikes there and race against each other on the tracks within the wood and it was very healthy exercise and fun. The only person I can name who was there for sure was Dave Harvey '54. He and I became good friends and this friendship lasted until his sudden death whilst we were out walking in the Englisher Garten in Munich in 1984. On one occasion, whilst racing in the wood, Dave came off in s big way whilst I, right behind him, did my best to avoid running over him as he slithered along on the muddy ground. It was good to be reminded of a fun activity we had as apprentices. I'm sorry I can't supply more details. Dave Wilson '54. 

I spoke with Ali tanner in the pub last night (24/04/2012) & he remembers the bike . He says that the bike was designed by Clem Stoneman '44 and ridden by his brother Gordon '49 . The track was in the area of the new college ( for those of you old enough it is on the ground where the "Puddle" swimming pool used to be).

All I can recall are one or two attempts at front suspension by pivoting 2 bars in the front wheel locating lugs, locating the front wheel on the front of the bar and hooking up the rear end of the bar to a bungee cord fixed to the top of the front forks by means of a cross bar attached to the hole for the front mudguard. It was difficult to tune the right spring rate/ride height, reduced the ability to steer it precisely and had no front brake. Eddie Strait '55  I do vaguely recall Graham Jamieson but it was a long time ago but good fun!

I am a 49 intake and a keen mountain bike rider now living in California. While I was at R.A.E a lad of my year, Gordon Stoneman had a rear suspension bike, it was designed and probably ;-) build at R.A.E. I believe Gordon had a brother in the drafting office.  Terry Bunton. '49

Sorry can't remember any attempt to create push bike front suspension. Sadly to say I can only recall a few of the '54 intake (and then only visually, not by name!) but did Graham Jamieson live in the hostel? Most of our year were motorcycle nerds (don't tell them I said that -- but I also had one) and the only apprentices I can remember being keen cyclists were John Appleford and Pete Ryan.

Hank Mucci 1961 intake

A bit before my time but I do recall the communal tandem (good for dates if you didn't have a car). It was a not-so-brilliant welding job made out of two RAE post bikes. I remember my first time on it hurtling down Farnborough road, late for Tech with Pete Farley in the driving seat and crossing the lights at the main gates at red. It was only when we skidded to a halt in the lower tech car park that Pete casually informed me that although there were brake levers on the handlebars which I had seen him dutifully operating, they weren't actually connected due to some technical complication. Fortunately the way back was uphill...........

I do remember taking my own bike over this site. My cycle was a Norman Light Roadster and it was given to me for passing the 11Plus. When the front forks needed changing I found that the only ones that would fit were made by Phillips. I made a special spanner in the RAE Tool Shop to complete the job. They were standard forks...nothing like Grant's spring ones, That corner of Farnborough has quite a bit of history. I have heard that there used to be a tunnel under the road and there were air-raid shelters which were used by the casualties from the John Derry air crash.

Thanks for the memory yours Ron Balcombe '53


SO at least two bike's modified at the RAE apprentice "school of invention" does anyone know of any more?