Ray was finally hunted down through Facebook and John South originally emailed Mike Stephens on 8th Jan 2018 with this:
Have got in touch with Ray Willis and wondered if you remembered him from Shinfield Park days. Big keen sporting type (like you!) and he left to train as a PTI before becoming a member of the “Falcons” parachute display team.
Neither Jill Parkyn or Des can recall him although Jill worked in the same office!
Lovely photo’s of your Grandchildren on Facebook by the way.
Two pics below.
Ray replied to Webmaster’s email on 26th Nov 2017 with the following
My time at Shinfield
It feels amazing and a bit surreal to hear from both you and John those 50 years on since those memorable days at Shinfield. I remember sitting with you at the back of the office with you going through reams of paper doing mathematical equations ( which you could invariably solve), in preparation for your A levels. I enjoyed my time at Shinfield a lot, and have fond memories of us all and the good times enjoyed. I am sorry your marriage to Pat never lasted, you always seemed an item together. Dare I say maybe that’s ‘Mothers in Law’ for you. I was not surprised to hear you had found your niche in education and it sounds as if you have met your challenges in teaching and enjoyed that aspect of your life. You certainly made the right choice to turn your back on the Air Force and change your direction in life for the better. Have you remarried and do you have a family?
I have been happily married to Sheryl for the las 42 years. We have two daughters and two grandchildren. Both the girls went on to university and have homes near Clapham Common. They are now independent of their Mum and Dad and work in the city. Sheryl and I are now fully retired. We travel quite a bit trying our best to spend the kids inheritance, or that’s what we tell them.
With me Shinfield was my turning point. I remained in the Air Force for the 40 years and as you know I changed trade to that of PTI. The catch was, I had to complete a 7 jump course before I could go to St Athan for the 6 month PTI course. It scared me silly but it was a means to an end. Once at St Athan I was convinced (thankfully) that I would never have to jump again. I was wrong. Having spent 9 months as a PTI at Oakington, there was sadly a tragic plane crash at Abingdon killing all 49 on board, 7 of which we’re parachute instructors. To my horror I was then posted to the Parachute School at Abingdon on a 4 month parachute instructor’s course. On completion I started to enjoy it and for the following 2 years learnt to free fall at a local club and became a civilian instructor. Alongside the military I worked at the club at weekends in my spare time. I was then posted on to the display team for 3 years and did the aerial photography.through a helmet mounted camera. In 1972 having completed a months training near Pisa Italy, our plane crashed after take off killing 4 of those on board. I left the team in 74, and they moved me into Free Fall Training Flight where we were tasked with training up units of the special forces ie SAS,SBS. Each course duration was 6 weeks and we had to take them from having never freefalled to completing a night jump from 25000ft with full equipment, weapon and oxygen. To achieve this, the middle 3 weeks was spent in a hot climate country which guaranteed the weather. A great job, I loved it.
I formed a 4 man free fall team, and competed for 6 years, winning 2 National championships which entitled us to represent GB at 2 world meets in Australia and Germany. I was then asked to set up a Joint Service Adventure Training scheme running 2 week courses for all services and ranks using civilian registered aircraft. The last 7 years before retiring from the Air Force in 2000, was spent at Hereford with responsibilities for the training, exercises, and operations of those SF units. Again a great job that took me to places I’d never been.
I retired in 2000 and have lived here in Bampton for the last 36 years. I was asked by the Parish Council to look after a recreational sports ground which had been funded by the National Lottery. I enjoyed it and did it for 10 years getting to know a lot of people in the village who used the facilities.
I am sorry to have rambled on so, but it’s been like opening a Pandora’s box. I consider myself a very lucky person that found a niche in life that provided me with such a diverse combination of both work and pleasure.
It has been great to reminisce and chat things over with you after all this time. It would be nice to make your reunion if I can and will make a note of the date.
Take care and regards to all
Your pal from the past
Click pic to enlarge
© Andre Francis 2020