St. Lucia - Hurricane Allen, by Peter Jones (1980)
Twice a week, I used to drive from the capital of St Lucia, Castries, on the north east coast, over the central spine of mountains, to the town of Vieux Fort on the very southern tip. My task was to meet the incoming British Airways flight, liaise with the crew and the staff of the handling agent, LIAT, referee the check-in when necessary and make sure that the flight departed on time with the right documentation and the right numbers of passengers, cargo and airmail.
On one of the few flat parts of the island, just outside Vieux Fort, was the islands main airport, Hewanorra, which apparently means land of the iguana in the language of the Caribs who used to inhabit the island. (I remember some visitors asking me who were this strange couple, Hugh and Nora, and why did I have to visit them so frequently, but that is by the bye.)
One of the very few disadvantages about holidaying, or indeed living, in the Caribbean is that there is a hurricane season lasting usually from August to October. Tropical storms that have their origin off the coast of Africa roll across the mid-Atlantic, gathering momentum as they go. Most go further north and blow themselves out along the Atlantic coast of the USA, but some occasionally pass through the chain of islands known is the Windward Islands, of which St Lucia is one. St Lucia, however, had not been seriously affected for several decades.
In 1980, Hurricane Allen was the first of the years hurricanes, hence the boys name beginning with the letter A. It arrived very early in the season, during the night of 3rd August.
Although storm warnings were in force, the storm was not due for a further 10 hours when that days St Lucia-bound flight left London, and then it was not clear what route the storm would take and which islands it would affect. A decision was made to operate the flight on the basis that, in the then fairly unlikely event of the hurricane affecting St Lucia, the flight would pass through before the winds began to pick up.
Some three to four hours before the flight was due to arrive, it became evident that the storm was moving faster than expected, and its projected route would take it close to the stretch of water separating the islands of St Vincent and St Lucia, in fact very close to Hewanorra airport. We agreed at this point with our London Operations Control Centre that it would be too risky to land at St Lucia and then perhaps not be able to take off again if the storm struck while the aircraft was on the ground, so it was decided that the aircraft would overfly St Lucia.
By this time, many of the passengers had already checked out of their hotels and were on their way to the airport, a journey in some cases of up to two hours. We did, however, manage to contact some of the hotels before their passengers had left.
Over the next couple of hours it became increasingly evident that this was going to be a full-scale hurricane - and that it was going to pass right across St Lucia. We quickly made arrangements to accommodate any outgoing passengers who arrived at the airport at the nearby Halcyon Days Hotel, a large and solid 3-star establishment that had been built during the very early days of mass tourism. The hotel was to receive an indeterminate number of passengers, check them in quickly, find them some food, and give them a room for the night.
The winds built up quickly and it was soon difficult to stand up. I had to drive into the local town of Vieux Fort for some reason which must have appeared important at the time, and as I drove back between the end of the runway and the eastern edge of the island, boulders the size of footballs were being driven by the wind up from the waters edge and over the road.
Once in the hotel, we got everybody settled into accommodation, and I found myself sharing a small hotel room with our acting station engineer, his wife and small baby. The howl of the wind turned into a demented shriek, and this ear-splitting noise was to stay with us all night.
As the storm strengthened, the sliding glass door of the hotel room rattled uncontrollably, bowed alarmingly, and threatened to disintegrate altogether. At this point, the four of us were huddled together in the very small bathroom. Then, for a short while, a sudden calm, as the eye of the storm passed over, and just as suddenly the wind resumed its relentless howl as we entered the other side of the storm. The sliding glass door was no longer a problem, but the storm appeared to take an age to pass through, and it was dawn before we again felt reasonably secure.
In the morning it appeared that the hotel had suffered no structural damage and all the guests were safe. However, palm trees lay across the road in many places, there was no telephone, electricity or water, there were pieces of corrugated iron lying around that had blown off roofs, and it was evident that many places on the island would have suffered considerable structural damage.
There was little more I could do at the hotel, and the resumption of some sort of communication with the rest of the island seemed the next priority. I had made the acquaintance of three youngish BA passengers to who this all seemed more of an adventure than an ordeal, and we decided to try to drive over the hills and across the island to the capital, Castries.
Surprisingly, this was not as difficult as it seemed, give or take the removal of a few small trees. What was evident, though, as we made our way over the hills, was that the years banana crop had been decimated, and that many of the smaller homes along the way had lost roofs and sometimes more.
We made our way into Castries, where I was able to make contact both with my family and with the British Airways office staff, who were all safe. I remembered, and called on, someone I knew who operated a two-way radio, and within hours I was speaking from a hilltop with my British Airways counterpart in Antigua, and was able to apprise him of the situation so that he could communicate with the rest of the outside world on our behalf. There were about 16 fatalities in all on the island, tragic for those involved, but a relatively small number for such a major storm.
Things returned slowly to normal. The islanders worked really hard to clear rubbish, rebuild vital communication and transport links, and try to restore some kind of normality to their lives. The British, American and French navies sent ships, which provided emergency supplies and technical assistance. The hotels were open again and receiving visitors within four weeks.
The banana crop was indeed destroyed, depriving many of the islanders of their livelihood. However, bananas are fairly quick to mature, and with some outside help, the industry was operating again within a couple of years at something like normal capacity.
On the hill where we lived, power was not restored for three weeks. Food in the freezer was shared among friends; supplies that were surplus were donated to the local hospital.
Inevitably, the hurricane brought its own stories. One concerned an old lady who lived in a little cottage at the top of a hill who decided that the best way to avoid the trauma of the hurricane was to go to bed with a bottle of the local Denros rum. She woke in the morning, still in her cottage, still in her bed, still clutching the bottle of rum, but at the bottom of the hill!
A St Lucian friend of ours was looking after her neighbours house, which was rented out from time to time. The morning after the hurricane, and believing the house to be empty, she went round to check for damage. She opened the door with her key, went in and to her surprise found that there were people in the house. Oh, hello, she said, I didnt know there was anybody staying here. Are you all right? Yes, fine thank you, we arrived yesterday, replied the visitor but it was really quite windy last night, wasnt it? Is it always like this?
BETTER ON A CAMEL
BOAC and BEA reminiscences, memorabilia and history
About the charity 'Practical Action'
Foreword by Sir Ross Stainton, former Chairman of BOAC
Review of background to airline experiences and recollections
CHAPTER ONE - THE FAR EAST AND INDIAN OCEAN
airport and airline memoirs about the far east - from India and the Seychelles to Japan
Bangladesh - All Together Now! by John Anderson (1973)
Bangladesh - Memories of Dhaka, by Simon Watts (1981-1985)
Life and Work in Bangladesh
Burma - Lighting Up Time, by Gerry Catling (1954)
an airport story - cigars as insect repellent
Burma - The Day of the Dear Departed (1954), by Gerry Catling
memories of a delicate diplomatic exercise with BOAC in Burma
Burma, etc. - Britannias, by Alan Douglas
recollections of the Bristol Britannia in service with BOAC
Burma -The Sound Barrier, by Tony Russell (1972)
Dealings with the civil aviation authorities in Rangoon
Burma - The Fertiliser Factory, by David McCormack (1972)
memoirs of an airline manager - going the extra mile in customer service...
Burma - Cigars, Religion and Superstition, by Peter Jones (1975)
Meeting the Burmese People
Burma - Special Adviser to the Manager, by Peter Jones (1975)
attending a funeral in Rangoon
Burma - Burmese Days, by Peter Jones (1975)
a visit to Mandalay and the temples of Pagan
China - Learning Chinese by Ralph Glazer (1983)
China - Scotland the Brave by Ralph Glazer (1985)
India - Holy Cow, by Ralph Glazer (1964)
Obstruction on the runway...
India - Delhi (Not) Singing in the Rain, by Ralph Glazer (1964)
Monsoon (and its Cargo) Close airport
India - The Morning Commuter, by Peter Fieldhouse (1970)
Getting to the office in Calcutta
Japan - The Mount Fuji Disaster, by James Wilson (1966)
a retrospective view of the management of the aftermath of a major air crash
Pakistan - Yaqoob and Musaleem, by Peter Liver (1987)
fond memories of two aged retainers
Philippines - Cutting it Fine, by David Hogg (1970)
memoir of the chaos to civil aviation caused by a typhoon in Manila
Philippines - Being British, by David Hogg (1969)
reactions to an earthquake
Sri Lanka (Ceylon) - The Day my Number (almost) Came up, by Gerry Catling (1960)
memories of a BOAC Comet 4 landing on a wet runway..
Seychelles Days, by Mike McDonald (1974-1977)
An island idyll..civil aviation (and British Airways) arrive in the Seychelles
CHAPTER TWO - THE MIDDLE EAST
airport and airline reminiscences and memorabilia in the Middle East
Abu Dhabi - Ice Cold in Abu Dhabi, by Graham Moss (1970)
keeping VC-10 passengers cool on the ground
Abu Dhabi - Sand Trap, by David Hogg (1972)
hazards of driving in the desert
Dubai - a Training Posting, by Peter Liver (1970)
Bahrain - The Traffic Manual Expert, by David Meyrick (1962)
an air cargo problem - loading a BOAC DC7F
Bahrain - The Thunderstorm, by Ron Colnbrook (1968)
a scary flying story
Iran - The Nosewheel Incident, by Alan Hillman (1965)
a problem on the runway in Tehran
Iran - Hold Five, by Brian Cannadine (1972)
Teheran Airport - animal alert!
Israel - Cultural Differences, Mike McDonald (1972)
airline tales from Tel Aviv
Kuwait in the Fifties by Jamil Wafa (1955)
Kuwait - a 'Fifth Pod' Operation, by Jack Wesson (1965)
a BOAC flight planner's nightmare
Kuwait - the Oil Drillers, by John Cogger (1970)
a BOAC Sales Manager at work - life in the fast lane
Kuwait - Out of the Fog, by Peter Richards (1991)
Return to Kuwait after the Gulf War
Yemen - Sana'a Memories, by David Hogg (1973)
a testimony of everyday life in the Yemen
Saudi Arabia - Abdul and the Bacon, by David Hogg (1973)
a treat goes missing
Dhahran, Saudi Arabia - Rats! An Unwelcome Customer, by John Anderson (1978)
An Unwelcome Passenger
CHAPTER THREE - AFRICA
recollections and tales of life with BOAC and British Airways in Africa
Ghana - the Watchman, by Anthony Farnfield (1966)
a letter in the files
Kano, Nigeria - Willie on the Rampage, by Pat Noujaim (1959)
The randiest dachshund in Northern Nigeria nearly causes a delay
Nigeria - Bush Telegraph, by David Hogg (1965)
bad news travels fast in West Africa
Nigeria - Things Other than the World Cup, by Don Ford (1966)
BOAC involved in events in Lagos before the Biafran War
Nigeria - Boom Times, by Peter Jones (1975-1979)
the oil boom in Nigeria in the seventies
Nigeria - an Attempted Coup, by Peter Jones (1976)
violent regime change in Nigeria
Nigeria - Living and Working in Lagos, by Peter Jones (1975-1979)
stories of expatriate life in Nigeria
Nigeria and Concorde, by Peter Jones (1976-1979)
How Nigerians took to Concorde
Nigeria - Never Knowingly Undersold, by Peter Jones (1979)
Travails with the Lagos Telephone Company
Nigeria - Student Travel, by Peter Jones (1981)
a student goes to the wrong destination
Nigeria - Lagos Airport Again! by Nick Robertson (1989-90)
Wild West (Africa)
Ethiopia - Petrol Rationing, by Doug Tester (1975)
Michael to the rescue
Uganda - The Road to Kampala, by Peter Liver (1972)
a moment in history - BOAC in Uganda in the days of Idi Amin
Uganda - Exodus of the Ugandan Asians, by Mike Wickings (1972)
Organising the departure of Asians from Uganda
Uganda - Kenneth's Mortars, by John Anderson (1972)
Diplomatic Incident in East Africa
Zambia - Jottings from the Copperbelt, by Peter Jones (1969-1972)
Malawi - The President's Plane, by Peter Woodrow (1977)
VIP Travel to the Commonwealth Conference...
Kenya - Nairobi 1956 etc., By Maurice Flanagan
early memories of BOAC in Nairobi
Kenya - The Frustrations of the Comet 4, by Don Ford (circa 1962)
recollections of ingenious improvisation to make best use of space in the BOAC Comet 4
Kenya - Customer Recovery, Kenya Style, By Simon Watts (1988)
Going the extra mile...
Kenya - Concorde and other big beasts, by Simon Watts (1986-90)
Concorde and other big beasts
Kenya - Nanyuki Wedding, by Steve Sturton-Davies (1992)
a wedding in the bush
Egypt - The Six Day War, By Ron Colnbrook (1967)
memories of a war zone
Libya, Sudan and Iraq - The Personal and Confidential File, by Roddy Wilson (1955-1960)
more camel stories...
Libya - Monkeys in a Hangar, by Ralph Glazer (1954)
Wildlife in Tripoli
Libya - The spirit of Christmas Past, by Gerry Catling (1958)
hijinks in the Tripoli transit lounge
Libya (and Ceylon) Unaccompanied Minors by Gerry Catling (1959)
The difficulties that younger passengers sometime cause...
CHAPTER FOUR - THE CARIBBEAN, AMERICAS AND ATLANTIC OCEAN
Jamaica - Dr No by Mike McDonald (1964/1974)
a James Bond memory
St. Lucia - Hurricane Allen, by Peter Jones (1980)
surviving a major hurricane
St.Lucia - The Wrong Taxiway, by Peter Jones (1983)
consequences of miscommunication
St. Lucia - The Red Lady, by Peter Jones (1983)
voodoo and the Boeing 747 - an unsolved mystery
St. Lucia - The Collector, by Peter Jones (1983)
An Illegal 'Collector' of Rare Species is seen off
St. Lucia - There's a Hole in the Runway, by Peter Jones (1984)
suspension of operations in St Lucia
Trinidad - Management Skills, by Bill Smith (1965)
learning the ropes, the hard way
Bahamas - Cabin bags and Elephants, by Tony Russell (1966)
Canada - Gander, Crossroads of the World, by Gerry Catling (1956)
Transatlantic travel as it used to be
Mexico - A Day in Mexico City, by Ralph Glazer (1975)
Concorde, a Road Accident and the Mexican Police
Panama - Don't Stop! by David Hogg (1975-1980)
what about the snakes?
Panama - Flying Positive, by David Hogg (1975-1980)
BAC-111 pilots in Central America
Chile - Chile-Chile-Bang-Bang, by Howell Green (1994)
Frustrations in the queue for take-off
Uruguay - Jet Flight Arrives in South America, by Alan Douglas (1959)
introducing the Comet 4 in South America
USA - I Was There That Day, by Jonathan Martin (1963)
Dallas 1963, the day of President Kennedy's assassination
USA - The Cricket Team, by Peter Jones (1964)
cricket in New York with BOAC?
USA - The New World, by Don Ford (1967-1969)
An expatriate airport manager comes to Chicago
Ascension and Falkland Islands - Encounters of the Third Kind, by Bruce Fry (1985-1987)
a BOAC station engineer goes on secondment to the RAF in the Falklands
CHAPTER FIVE - EUROPE
UK - A Shetland Story, by Anthony McLauchlan (1972)
Bulgaria - Fog in London, by Mike Lewin (1976)
BEA schedules affected by fog in London
Cyprus - Suez and the Rocky path of True Love, by Gerry Catling (1956-57)
effect of Suez on BA schedules and social life..
Cyprus - the Hijack, by Bruce Fry (1970)
when a hijacked BOAC VC-10 diverted all flights to Nicosia
Cyprus - The Turkish Invasion, by Taff Lark (1974)
Evacuation of tourists when Cyprus invaded by Turkish forces
Germany - from BSAA to the Berlin Airlift, by Charlie Item Smith (1948-49)
Following the BSAA disasters, the Avro Tudor fleet is assigned to the Berlin Airlift as fuel tankers
Germany - Learning German, by Larry Gorton (1966)
recollections of a BEA manager having problems learning German
Italy - The Secret of Fiumicino, by Bill Smith (1967)
airport customer service staff get a morale boost and valuable lessons for motivation are learned
Romania - Heidi's Haggis, by Mike Lewin (1971)
a bit of BEA memorabilia - ingenuity in the kitchen saves Burns Night in Bucharest
Poland - The Stand-off, by Roy Burnham (1978)
an encounter with American presidential security guards
Russia (USSR) Trans Siberian Start-up, by Brian Burgess (1969-1972)
planning for an historic moment - BOAC's trans Siberian route to Japan
Russia(USSR) - The Omelette Factory, by Peter Richards (1970s)
Navigating over Siberia
Russia (USSR) - Red Faces in Red Square, By Bernard Garvie (1970)
Diplomatic Incident with Chandelier
Russia (USSR) The Security Guard, by Peter Richards (1976)
How to scare a Russian Security Officer
Russia(USSR) the Golf Lesson, by Peter Richards (1976)
In a Moscow Hotel Room..
Russia (USSR) -The Stewardess, by Taff Lark (1980)
shades of 007
Russia (USSR) - Domodedovo Airport, 'the House of my Grandfather' by Mike McDonald (1989)
a memoir of early days at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport
Spain - Dictatorship and Honour, by Gerry Catling (1960)
a recollection of Franco's Spain - negotiating the 'personal honour' code at Madrid Airport
Spain - A Soft Touch, by Ralph Glazer (1971)
A Meeting with Franco
Switzerland - The Precision of the Swiss, by Gerry Catling (1968)
recollections of how we proved to the airport authority that the Super VC-10 was not a noisy aircraft
Further reading and watching for addicts....
Some miscellaneous photos that don't have a story to go with them
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