"The Home Of Eagle"
Eagle Aviation
Eagle Airways
Cunard Eagle
British Eagle
1948 to 1968

Terry Nicolson


The original routing to the Far East for trooping and emigrant flights was London-Istanbul-Bombay-Singapore. Sometime around 1965 India and Pakistan had a conflict which resulted in us rerouting flights from London-Kuwait-Colombo-Singapore. This was nothing to do with any danger with the conflict as I understood it. Evidently fuel was being supplied to India by Russia. Our maintenance men had found that fungus was growing in the fuel tanks. If an Eagle aircraft had to de-fuel at LHR it would have to go into a special bowser and could be only used by our aircraft. These are things we heard at the time and I would love to know how true they were.

On landing at Darwin the aircraft was boarded by “health” people who ran down the cabin spraying some kind of foul smelling chemical. The pax were then allowed to disembark, but at the bottom of the steps was a large tray of chemicals that you had to walk through. This was all due to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the UK at that time. This didn’t happen in all the other countries we had landed at en route to Australia.

From Singapore we flew to Butterworth. (I would love to know more about this)

As we taxied in I saw two rows of soldiers sitting on their packs on the tarmac.
They boarded the aircraft and seated themselves in a most efficient manner from the front of the cabin to the back. I was speechless. When we served them a meal after take-off I was approached by their officer, an English Lt I think, who said he didn’t like to see English girls serving these soldiers. I said we are proud to serve Ghurkha troops. When they had finished their meal they stacked the trays so that cabin staff had a minimum job to do. I think they were the best behaved passengers I have ever had the privilege to serve.

In Singapore there was a station manager? Capt. Berthelson. Does anyone know more about him??

Bombay.....can’t remember if it was a trooper or immigrant flight but we weren’t going anywhere as we were U/S (unserviceable) After checking with Reggie Ferns the ground mechanic and the Captain. Reggie worked under the cowlings of the hot engine in the heat of the ramp. I organised my cabin crew to get them to hotels. We couldn’t get them into one hotel they were spread out over four. We emptied the aircraft stores of nappies and other essential items and I had one stewardess in each hotel as a contact for our passengers. I think we were there for two days and I don’t think I’ve been more tired or the other cabin crew.
Does anyone remember Reggie Ferns ????

In the galley we had an interesting device called a hot cup. Like a large electric mug it could boil a pint of water very quickly. Used quite a lot for baby’s bottles.
Anyone remember them?

Asked if we had a new stewardess by one of the cockpit crew I knew what he meant as we had fun like this before. She was asked if she wanted to look through the Navigators sextant on the flight deck. If you turn it aft you can see the tail of the aircraft etc. What she didn’t know was the rubber eyepiece was smeared with boot polish. She did the meal service with a black eye.

The approach to Hong Kong’s Kai Tak airport is thrilling. You head for a chequer board on the side of a mountain then do a sharp right to land on a runway that goes out to sea. After landing you taxi back parallel to the runway. I was looking out of the window on this occasion to see fire trucks picking up lumps of something from the runway. It wasn’t until later I found out we had burst and shredded two tyres.

Between Far East flights we were also crewed for numerous IT (inclusive tours) flights. (I guess its a sign of age that IT means something entirely different these days) Eagle was one of the fore runner airlines operating this type of holiday flight.

The main destination seemed to be Palma with Rimini/Valencia/Innsbruck and many other and varied holiday destinations. Flights were usually operated in daytime but as popularity increased we sometimes found to be operating a night time version.

Either way these flights were very tiring, for example the crew check in for a Palma flight. There are 3 cockpit crew instead of four because the Navigator is not needed.

Cabin crew remain the same at 4. #1 is in charge, #2 supports in the rear cabin, #3 is in the galley preparing meal trays, heating meals and making the teas and coffees as well as seeing to the needs of the cockpit. (Galley slave was a good name for #3) #4 assisted #3 and the front cabin also looked after needs of any infant food that may be required. This was also most likely to be a new member of cabin crew.

The max load on an IT was 135. Usually we were always full, well I don’t remember having a half full IT flight.
We have 2 and half hours?? to Palma and in that time had to do two bar rounds, meal service, and two rounds of tea/coffee then duty frees.

Briefly, as I remember it.....on taxiing out #3 would start heating the meals in the electric fan ovens. After take-off #1 and #2 prepared the drink trolley by the main door and commence bar service. #4 would also commence bar service whilst #3 prepared meal trays. Bar service over, meal service begins. The door to the galley from the cabin had 4 drop down shelves within it so that full meal trays could be offered up. Teas and coffee were prepared in special serving jugs (one bag of Maxwell house and top it up with boiling water. In the other one tin evaporated milk and topped up) After all meal trays were returned #3 sorted out the galley whilst #1/2/4 went through the cabin with duty free items on sale from the trolley. Most times it was done before the seat belt signs came on. Sometimes timing or problems left you with little option but to 'streamline' the service so that safety was not compromised. When on the ground the caterers changed the outbound meal containers in the galley at the front to the back, and then brought forward the return meal containers to the front.
The return leg was a replay except when nearing base #1 had to prepare XS144 bar documents for customs ready on landing, which took a little more time as you had to count everything in the bar and reflect that on the XS144.

Istanbul, Cinar Hotel.
When I woke up one morning I wondered why a small round table with a lamp on it that was beside my bed was now virtually in the middle of the room. Best not to mention it I thought. Until I met the rest of the crew later who were excitedly talking about the earth tremor during the night!

As Maharashtra state was 'dry' the crews found out that if you had a liquor permit in your passport it meant you were alcoholic and were allowed to use permit rooms in the hotels. Honest. Misty memory also remembers having to get a chit from your doctor to say you were an alcoholic then Bombay would issue a permit. I don’t remember asking my doctor for any such thing so am still unsure how we got these permits.

Change Alley was a market for all sorts of wonderfully cheap items. I used to buy lots of LP records amongst other things. We would meet other crews and go to the Cellar Bar where we had meals and they played the LPs we bought. Another fine place was Raffles but totally different.

Hong Kong
Flying between Singapore and HK during a night flight I remember looking out of the window seeing flashes of light on the ground. I think I may have been seeing a bit of the Vietnam War?
When we were checking out of the Peninsular Hotel over the other side of the lobby were a group of US servicemen also checking out with their purchases of stereo equipment etc. I looked at a young soldier and thought he was about my age and it really hit me that I was flying home and he was probably going back to war.

From Singapore to Perth/Adelaide/Melbourne/Sydney with a full load we were unable to make it direct, so we stopped at Darwin. I loved the place but remember being told that it had the highest divorce rate per capita in the world. Why on earth should I remember that!!!!
Eagle did not have traffic rights on the return leg so we were always empty and could make Singapore in one hop. These were wonderful sectors all the more so for the top class Australian catering.

I cannot remember where we were flying to but it was a nearly empty flight and I found out that a very quiet not very tall man, with military bearing was Richard Todd. A real gentleman. I wish I had that moment again and was able to chat with him.

Around these times the Royal Navy had an aircraft carrier EAGLE.
I do vaguely remember some of our crews being invited on board. Did it happen, does anyone remember??

Crew names.............
I remember the Pettit twins both cabin crew and very handsome, any news?

At Istanbul meeting Jimmy Meade and everyone was cheerful as he had just got engaged to Marie Fairbrass. Lovely time.
I’m saddened to hear of James's passing. I last saw him in his pub over Hampton way.

Capt Don Hammond and F/E Jack Richardson. Flew a few trips with these two excellent chaps. Any news?

No one seems to have mentioned our chief pilot Harold Watkins amazing achievement during WW2 when I believe he was a POW and was forced marched in the winter by the Germans. He would never have talked about it, as was typical of the men then, but maybe someone will research into this and add to Capt. Watkins memory the thanks that we all owe to airmen that suffered for our freedom.

Something occurred to me writing from memory like this........The bar boxes and those blue suitcases that held the cigarettes all had padlocks, naturally. Did we have the keys with us as I seem to remember D8 on the key? Did we always carry these keys, were they fitting all bars on all flights? I just can’t remember that, can you?

After the demise I drove over to #1 Mtc area and was very upset at the line up of the fleet. I stayed in my car and admit to being emotional. Later a police car came and they took me to the police station and apologised that someone was stealing carpets from the assembled aircraft. They gave me cups of coffee and were very sympathetic to the loss of the airline and to me. I don’t know your names but thank you.

My mother was a telephonist for Eagle and she told me about Cabin Crew vacancies otherwise I would never had known, as I also don’t remember any adverts in the paper at the time. Cabin Crew came from all over the country, so did Eagle have a recruitment campaign?
Can anyone say how they knew about vacancies they applied for?