POSTCARD FROM NEW ZEALAND NUMBER 6 1st NOVEMBER 2013
Here we are with " Postcard From New Zealand - No 6 ". For this one I thought I would relate a story that happened to me in the mid 1960s when I was at RNZAF Station Ohakea, working on Canberras. I will call it :-
A Series of Incidents :- It was about 10pm on a Saturday night when the phone rings. It was the Sqdn Ldr of our Engineering Flight who told me that an RAF Hastings, that had been visiting NZ, was mid Pacific on it's way back to the UK when a fire warning light came on, on one of the engines. The fire extinguisher bottles were discharged and the aircraft headed off to the nearest airport which happened to be Tontouta on the French colony of New Caledonia. ( It was the main civillian airport of the capital, Noumea ).
The problem was soon fixed ( A fault in the warning light system ) , however they were not permitted to fly with empty fire bottles. A request was sent off to New Zealand for some replacement bottles to be flown up to them. ( The RNZAF also used Hastings at the time . )
* See below
Immediately one of our ( RNZAF ) Canberras was despatched with servicable fire extinguisher bottles up to Tontouta.
"Incident No 2 ". The Canberra, on landing in New Caledonia, blew a main wheel tyre ! The Hastings was fitted with the fire bottles and continued on it's way to the UK.
This is where I come in. I was to go to the hangar immediately and load onto another Canberra, a servicable wheel, a jack and tools required to to fit the wheel. These were loaded into the bomb-bay of the aircraft ready for an early morning take - off. After an uneventful flight ( my one and only flight in a Canberra ) we arrived in Tontouta. The wheel was fitted with no problems, and the plan was to refuel and both Canberras fly home .
* See below
However, when we approached the Fuel Farm it was all locked up with only a security guard to be seen ! Our request for fuel was greeted with, " Sorry Monsieur, you cannot get fuel today ( Sunday ) . Please come back tomorrow ! " So we were " forced " to stay the night in the tropical paradise of Noumea at the Hotel Noumea.
We were approached by the Commanding Officer of the French Naval Base just outside Noumea offering us "bed and lodgings " . He spoke reasonable english so it was a bit of a surprise that our captain appeared not to understand him. When questioned he said, "have you ever stayed at a French Naval base ? " Enough said ! So " sadly " we were " forced " to stay in the hotel !
I had left NZ in such a hurry I did not have time to arrange any local currency for my stay. All I had on me were two, 2 pound notes. When I asked at the office at the hotel if they could change money, " yes certainly sir " was the reply. So I said, "Could you please change these two, 2 pound notes ? The smile instantly disappeared from his face when I said this . "I'm sorry sir we don't change THAT SORT OF MONEY ! " That was in the days when NZ currency wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. ( No such thing as credit cards then ! ). However the captain of our aircraft, with the help of the impress account helped me out so I was able to see some of the sights of Noumea.
The following day we refuelled the aircraft and headed back to Ohakea with no further dramas !
* The aircraft shown in the pictures were not the actual aircraft but are representative of the aircraft type in the story .