A tribute to Gordon Robert Maggs
February 10th 1923 to June 19th 2010
Few of you that will be reading this article will know who Gordon Robert Maggs was; to me he was more than an Uncle he was an inspiration and the person who` started me on my hobby which today is more a passion/obsession.
I was born and raised in a small Kent village called Chelsfield which in aeronautical terms wasn’t that far from Royal Air Force Biggin Hill. By road it is about 8.5 miles (13.6. Km) as the crow or as the plane flies about 5 miles (8.04 Km). I was born in July 1952; at the dawn of the jet age yet many piston powered aircraft of the Royal Air Force still used to fly into RAF Biggin Hill. in my early years in the village I remember during air shows I used to cower under the stairs away from the new noisy jet engined aircraft. I vividly remember the fourteen black painted Hawker Hunters of the RAF Black Arrows aerobatic display team.
However, this tribute is not to me, it is to my late Uncle Gordon. In September 1962 when I was just ten years old, my parents (Arthur & Joan), received a phone call from my Uncle Gordon asking for permission to take my younger brother Tony and I to the Society of British Aerospace Companies show at the Royal Aircraft Establishment Farnborough, Hampshire. To my delight my parents said yes. Over the next few days the excitement grew and grew with the expectation of what we were going to experience. I do recall that on the day we were due to go both, Tony and I, were up really early and ready hours before we were due to be collected by Uncle Gordon. What excitement, what anticipation there was that morning; a trip to Farnborough seemed like a million miles away in those days.
I cannot remember whether it was a Saturday (8th) or Sunday (9th) when we went to the show, but I do know there were an awful lot of people and planes there. If only I’d known what “plane spotting” was in those days my logs books would have been full of things like Meteors, Whirlwinds and Wessex? I do know, though, that there were a number of very noisy jets including the Avro Vulcan, the Handley Page Victor and the English Electric Lightning. Some years ago my Uncle reminded me of that first visit, he said that when the Vulcan went over he can remember that one minute he was talking to his nephews then next they were flat on the ground with their ears covered, such was the noise! Fortunately I don’t remember that embarrassing moment in my life but had no reason to doubt my Uncle’s words.
During our day there we would have seen two Avro Vulcans, three English Electric Lightnings, as well as Handley Page Hastings and Vickers Varsitys, and I don’t doubt it would have been my first sighting of the English Electric Canberra. Over the years the names have changed and the SBAC is now known as FIA (Farnborough International Airshow). Forty-eight years after I first went I am returning once again to Farnborough to see the aircraft at the show only this time I will not have the guiding hand of Uncle Gordon or my brother Tony with me.
As I grew older I would meet up with my Uncle when Mum and Dad went to visit my Nan (Grandmother on my Mum’s side). Before setting off on the bus journey, Uncle Gordon and I would call at a local grocery store where he would purchase a French stick loaf and a pack of Canadian Cheddar Cheese; this would be our lunch. The Canadian cheese was very strong and to this day I still eat it although I have to say that it doesn’t seem half as strong as it did back then. Uncle Gordon and I would take the bus from south London (Eltham or Lee) to Heathrow Airport where we would spend many an hour watching planes like Vickers VC-10, Boeing 707s, Vickers Viscounts and Vickers Vanguards landing and taking off from our vantage point atop the Queen’s Building next to Terminal Two. In those early days I relied heavily on my Uncle for his binoculars and I think he had one of the first portable air-band radios. The words “if only I’d kept those log books” springs to mind when I reflect on what I had seen over those years at Heathrow. Today (July 2010) nothing remains of the Queen’s Building or Terminal Two both have been demolished to make way for a new Terminal. At the end of our days at Heathrow, Uncle Gordon and I would jump on another bus for the long journey back to Eltham or Lee where I would meet up with Mum and Dad and go home to Harlow in Essex.
Later in life I learnt to drive and my first car was a Morris Minor four door saloon; visits to Heathrow with Uncle Gordon involved going to Lee to collect him then driving to Heathrow, parking all day on top of Terminal Three’s car park, then depositing Uncle back at his home before returning to my home in Harlow. I recall that in those halcyon days petrol was just two shillings and six pence (2s 6d) a gallon which in today’s decimal currency is about twelve and half pence (12.5p).
As I grew older (some would say none the wiser) I started to travel abroad; at first it was just to Europe but eventually it was to the North American continent. My lust for travel, adventure and plane spotting has never abated, in fact, it has become more than a hobby, it has become a way of life, a passion to the point of obsession. I owe it all to my late great Uncle Gordon.
A.k.a. Alan J Addison
© Addo/RHAG July 2010