280 SU

Those who served with this Signals Unit are welcome to submit pictures and stories.

Hi Guys,

Greetings, this is an update on what has been happening with the 'Publications and Archivist' department. I had a break in the summer after doing a 'header' through the greenhouse, leaving not by the door but through the glass! Not to be recommended, nearly lost a finger, but did lose a lot of blood - messy!!!! 

PICTURES AND MORE PICTURES: The picture library continues to grow, heaven knows where you all have hidden away these long forgotten pics, but they have been added to the already huge collection, now totalling more than 5000. Just finished indexing and cross referencing the most recent tranche of 150, so thanks again.

NEW CONTACTS: Have had several more chaps getting in touch with some more interested than others; current communication with - Ray Field (RAF Police) '280' from 1958 to 1960; Stewart Robertson (ADO) '280' from 1958 to 1959; Alan Tonner (ADO) '280' from 1958 to 1961. Two others awaiting induction are: John Prockter (ADO) from 1958 to 1959 and John (Johnny) Sykes (Ground Electrician) '280' from 1956 to 1958. I have also received the names of Len Nason-Waters, Jeff Jefferson and Gordon Kilroy who may be added to the merry band. Anyone with information on these people might wish to let me such.

AKROTIRI HERITAGE CENTRE: As you may already know all my material has been passed to the Heritage Museum at RAF Akrotiri and I continue to pass on any Updates, especially to the Picture Library. Fl.Lt. Ben Tripp is in charge and the Station Commander Group Captain Barrie Thomson has written thanking us for the donation of material, so I pass on his appreciation to all of you. The Museum covers all RAF units that have served on the Island, not only Signals, and covers some other service units of the Army. The Station Commander has invited any of our Group, visiting Cyprus, to get in touch when arrangements may be made to visit the Centre.

MISSING CAPTION NAMES: I have always had problems with picture captions, with many of us suffering memory loss over 50+ years of the names of good looking young lads that appear on images from long forgotten days. So from time to time I intend sending you some such pics seeking help - watch this space! As a taster how about the attached? I don't need the dog's name!
Hope you find the above of interest.

Kindest regards,


280 Reunion 15 September 2010
DSC_0140.jpg (108565 bytes) After arriving at RAF Akrotiri we were given a brief on the Stations current role followed by a visit to The Station Museum.

800 Squadron were on work-up and kindly let us inspect their Harrier GR7s.


DSC_0143.jpg (74769 bytes) The lads on the dispersal, with some of the Harriers being prepaired for the next sortie.
DSC_0145.jpg (100845 bytes) Hell on the Hill Revisited, after 50 years the return to their accommodation line. They now have to find their concrete bases which where the foundation of the tents that they called home for their tour of duty. DSC_0148.jpg (125031 bytes) An intrepid search gets underway, wading through the overgrowth that now hides most of the remains of the camp.
Lost treasures were found: Ian's Magic Wand and an old locker key.


DSC_0149.jpg (80774 bytes) Looking down over the cliffs at 280 pool. There was a time when we ran up and down like mountain goats to our favourite swimming area. The familiar trails have now been eroded by the weather, next time we will use a helicopter.

DSC_0151.jpg (101594 bytes) 1300 hrs sharp for the Sgt's Mess and lunch, unfortunately the bar was closed and that meant no Keo.

This was followed by an extensive tour of Air Traffic Control and their gizmozs.

DSC_0155.jpg (128747 bytes) Last but not least we were introduced to The Station Commander, Group Captain John Bessell, who welcomed us back to RAF Akrotiri and even invited us back if we whished. Lots of stories were exchanged and tails retold.

We left the Station at 1530 and headed back to our hotels with lots to talk about!!!!! will there be a sequel ??

Thank you for showing me around Raf Akrotiri and i have attached 2 old photos of the tent lines at Cape Gata. They would have been taken late 1959 but have faded with time but i hope they have some use.
Let me know if they are ok will add as an attachment
Frank Cawthron
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A meeting of Standing-Wally Wyatt
Seated Ace O'Hara, John 'Brad' Bradley, Alan 'Ben' Bennet

Ace & Ben tracked down the other two and a meet was arranged in Chester this June (2010).50 years on.

This is of interest to all ex-280SU residents. I've nearly completed the history of Convoy Radar in Cyprus, with '280' in all its guises, and including the other units, 7SU at Kormakiti and 751SU at Cape Greco. All the detachment units are there too - Cape Andreas, Kividhes and Troodos. More than fifty former chaps were contacted with input from about half, lots of photos of that period for all locations, and many memories covering 1955 to 2008.
Martin Currie Dunlop Greig

A reunion of 5 ex 280 S.U. inAugust this year .We met in Little Hampton which is the centre of England and after 50 years we chatted as if we had never been apart.We are hoping to organise a larger meet in the future but I wondered if you could publish this on the website to give encouragement to others .
The names are Paddy Watson, Ben Bennet, Ian Tillotson, Dave Sinclair and Ace O'Hara.

Morning everyone, 17-03-08

We are now eleven in number, who have elected to probe into the dusty corners of our memories and into our long-ignored albums of fading, dog-eared, discoloured, but carefully preserved and clearly valued, photographic images. These represent the final remnants and the only records of two or three years of our lives that played an important part in who we were and who we have become.

Your responses and your exchanges of communication during these recent months have suggested strongly to me that you have enjoyed this exercise. For me, it has been stimulating, and has reawakened cranial cells that had slipped into atrophy and almost, but not quite, quiescence. As you are all aware my pilgrimage was inspired by a desire to seek the concrete base of A12 'Paradise Lost', a quest that was thwarted at the time by burdensome security, but one that has not been abandoned. As you are also aware, my quest also revealed that the archive carried not one reference to 280 - the real 280 that is - a situation that I considered to be lamentable and unacceptable, and one to be rectified. We're getting there !

Your assembled photographs (with you shortly), will be a worthy compilation of memorabilia of you and of those distant days. Presently, I continue to process Matin's pictures, a task that has been a little more complex and time-consuming than anticipated. I will complete the task this week. However - and here comes my first proposal - I would like to suggest making the additon of present-day pictures of each of you to the dossier before I send it on. This will of course impose a slight delay, but after fifty years, I guess that this will make little difference. Some of you have already been sufficiently thoughtful to send me recent photographs, and I have in my possession images of Doug, Martin, Ace and Ben (reunified last year), and Paddy. I will add my own. If you agree, perhaps you could each transmit to me an image of today's man, to allow a reintroduction, each of us to the others, last in company in youthful times long past.

Our recent exchanges have, for me, also rekindled dozens of memories, long suppressed, of events, of moments, and of occasions that accompanied our 'rites of passage' through those years. You too must have enjoyed similar stimulation. They should be neither forgotten nor abandoned. If you would care to share them with me, I will be happy to further enhance the record and the archive by compiling them into a single document. Clearly, this could never be a narrative, more a collection of incidents, accidents, situations and circumstances, and would take the form of a collection of anecdotal passages. Let me know what you think, but if you are happy with the idea - send them on.

I will be in touch soon .



My greetings and felicitations to you all from an expatriate Englishman domiciled in the land of the dragon these thirty years and more.

Back on track and beginning to see some measure of clearance of the backlog of accumulated electronic garbage, I will be happy to continue in our pursuit of 280 memorabilia and reminiscence.

But first, a comment on our recent sporting exchanges, and the ecstatic ramblings of some one called a happy Welshman. It has not been possible for me to bear witness to the entire 2008 six-nations debacle, though I did cast a glance in the direction of the recent weekend fixtures. Not for me an early hours vigil in the company of a glass of Merlot, but down the boozer with a pint of Brain's, more appropriate I think, and probably not obtainable in tinny form, though I am sure that it would be appreciated by that same happy Welshman if that were the case.

It must be conceded, willingly in my case, that the men in red have been deservedly in the ascendant during this season, and that the men in white have been in lamentable decline. Over the years, all of the competing nations have enjoyed their glory days, though that might be stretching it a little in the case of the Italians, who remain valiant but underdogs. But what a season ! International rugby at its lowest ebb (not sour grapes I promise), with those most deserving of accolade, unquestionably the Welsh, and perhaps the men from Milan.

Sunday witnessed the other men in white (normally in blue) take the men in blue (normally in white) to the cleaners - but only just. Late strength from the frogs revealed a latent spark in their bellies, and the ability to ignite it into a more meaningful blaze. On Saturday the men in red will face those men in blue (or white, or perhap tricolor). At stake, a Grand Slam, an avidly desired prize by the men in red, facing opponents of equal passion for the prevention of this sporting accolade. The advantage to the men in red - home ground, home crowd, and a hell of a lot of noise in Cardiff. I will hear it at my distant location in the bar of Y Llew Coch, and if the men in red should clinch the triumph, I will raise my glass of Brain's in tribute and join a happy, now ecstatic Welshman in his antipodean fastness.

To more current matters. I thank you all for continuing the flow and exchange of correspondence during my absence. When I began this small personal odyssey, its only aspiration was my search for a whispering ghost or two. Your responses to the Akrotiri website provided the genesis for a nostalgic exercise that has brought enormous interest and satisfaction to me. Personal histories forgotten, and with the passing of our generation, gone for ever, have been reawakened and restored, and continue to rekindle moment and memory. We have all conceded that the passage of time has erased many of the details of a period in all of our lives that was out of context, that became abandoned at conclusion, and has faded into a mere shadow as busy lives have taken its place. You have all indicated your wish and desire to sustain and to restore some of those memories and some of those details. I hope that we will continue to pursue this small aspiration.

On a more personal note, thank you Ben for your continued supply of anecdotal material, not all of which have I been able to access, but it brings a smile on a dreary wet Welsh day. Thanks also Ned for your cheque, not really necessary but appreciated, and also for your interesting tip about the use of mobile phones - news to me, and I shall pass it on.

Before my absence, I pledged to prepare for each of you a disc bearing a dossier of our photographic contributions to date. I will honour that pledge. I am very grateful to Martin, who has put together a photographic file, with some captions and with some very welcome corrections to my earlier entries. Alas, on receipt, I found that I was unable to access the information on the disc, and Martin is kindly preparing another one, hopefully in a format that I can use. When I receive it, I will prepare the composite disc and send it on. I think that I have all of your postal addresses, but if that is not the case to your knowledge, perhaps you would rectify the omission. In the meantime, any other photographic or anecdotal memorabilia will be welcome.
John (Murphy), did you make any progress with your intended photo collection?

I have no doubt that it will take me a few days to add to caption and to correct, but bear with me, I will get it done and despatched as soon as I can. 

Cheers for now.



Thank you all for your pictures, your memories of distant days, and your contributions to my attempts to bring some of the historic threads of 280 together. There is surely much more out there, and I will continue the task in the coming months. Hopefully, the word will spread, the interest wil be fired among others, long forgotten chitty boxes will be re-opened to reveal dusty contents and photographic gems, and the inner recesses of vintage memories will yield facts, moments and interludes long erased from consciousness, and lost for ever but for this exercise and our collective initiative.

Your information, and your images have induced a turmoil of reminiscence in the tattered remnants of my grey matter, and every prompt spawns yet another moment of enlightenment, and a sometimes tantalisingly incomplete glimpse into another aspect of our lives of fifty years ago. I do remember you all, and though memory is sometimes faint, events are a useful prompt to a face. For example, in one of your messages Bill (B), you mentioned the tent fire. I remember this incident well, caused if memory serves me correctly by flimsy paper Christmas decorations that had been suspended too close to a light bulb. Did the fire not cause a fatality when the occupant had fallen asleep with the light still burning?

With the aid of your contributions, I have prepared a library of images for your delectation, your amusement, perhaps even for your contrition, but certainly for your diversion and your renewed recall. I will send this to each of you, but as it will be of volume too great for the electronic systems, I will commit it to discs. If you will each please provide me with a postal address, I will send them to you in due course. (Except of course Richard, John (M), Bill and Bill. Addressess already in my possession.)

There will be a small price tag. I will be grateful if each of you can make additions to the names and captions and let me have your comments. Equally of course, please make any corrections. My memory is likely to have introduced as many errors as accuracies. In particular, I will be enormously interested on your comments and additions to the annotations on the aerial view of the 280 domestic site.

Please also feel free to pass this message and details of our endeavours on to anyone of those days with whom you have maintained contact.

I will await your comments before completing the library and passing it on to Bill Cundall at Akrotiri, for his addition to the archive, and even to the website. Provided of course that you have no objection to aspects of your foolish youth being lodged in the public domain. (Bill C, please note).

These thing will take a little time. I still require a few days to complete the library, but this should be done before the end of next week, and I must flee the country once more during February. For most of that month I shall be in Sri Lanka, but on receipt of your postal addresses, I will endeavour to despatch discs to you before I leave.

I hope that this all meets with your approval, and I hope equally that more of our familiars will become revealed, and will join the search.

One or two of you made enquiry of my life and times. After repatriation, I entered into the realm of further education and continued my studies in forestry. However, the intended career was not long lived, and I abandoned the trees for wildlife management and environmental conservation. Under the later guidance of London University, I completed a degree in applied biology, and worked through to retirement in the same field. My working locations were southern England and Dartmoor before moving to Wales where I remain. My wildlife passions have not dimmed, and I continue to be involved at a local level, in a voluntary capacity, and as a consultant. I have been fortunate that the latter still sometime provides the facility to work in distant locations. When the means become available, mine or someone else's, and for as long as physical capacity permits, I do not hesitiate to head for the far blue yonder in pursuit of the wild, the woolly, or the wierd. 

I look forward to hearing from you, and may your cerebral endeavours be fruitful.

All the best.

Ian Tillotson.

Just found the website, I was at 280 S.U.1959/60, Radar Operator, loved reading the comments don't know if these photos are of any use but will leave that to you. I am in contact with several of my compatriots and recently had a reunion with one who was on holiday from his now home of Australia.
Ex SAC John (ACE ) O'Hara.
Contact John
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I Had long forgotten all about the Cape, but happened upon an old school friend when visiting England last month. We hadn't really talked since we were in primary school! Turns out we were both at 280, he in '57 as an op, while I did a two year tour '58-'59 as a radar fitter.
"Chris painting" is me applying vomit-green to tent A11, our home for two years. So I guess we were neighbours! I'm trying to cast my mind back to recall the garden next door but it all gets very foggy with time. Actually, from the pic, the leaves look like something one might smoke.
"280 pool" is the view down to the pool where I, and likely many others, learned to swim - the North Sea off the Norfolk coast was never conducive to bathing. A few folks are visible - possibly naked - on the original.
"Wet tents is the view from A11 on a particularly damp day. Now I remember why we dug trenches around the bases!
"Tent city" is a view of the tent lines when A was the back row. 11 is right across from the latrines. Could be useful, could be awful. All depends on one's state of health. You must have felt the same way in A12. The pic was taken illegally from the top of the VHF radio tower.

Chris Humphrey, Ottawa.
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It was in the spring of 1958, when a knock on the parental door announced my call to arms and the demand by HM. Government that I must do my bit and go forth to serve queen and country. As a student, I could have made a case for deferment, or even exemption, but what the hell? Go for it!

Thus, June 2 saw the arrival of a timid and inexperienced youth at the gates of RAF Cardington, having been earlier plucked from the family bosom in rural North Yorkshire. The process of enrolment and induction was mercifully brief and painless, and though rigidly regimented, gave little indication of the horrors of the immediate future.

RAF Bridgnorth was verbally, psychologically, emotionally and sometimes physically brutal, and proved the breaking point for many. Survival, I quickly decided, was dependent upon a total absence of resistance, the instant and unquestioning obedience to commands, and keeping the head down and the mouth shut. The passing-out parade was an occasion of supreme relief

My imposed mission had become the utterly boring trade of radar operation, and in order to grasp the necessary skills, the small, cosy, altogether more welcoming surroundings of RAF Compton Basset became my next destination. These were relaxed days. The provided tuition demanded no huge intellect or academic effort, and a selection of good pubs lay within easy walking distance. Relaxation allowed friendship to replace suspicion and self-defence, and those few short sunny summer weeks enjoyed a freedom that came close to holiday.

The illusion persisted only until LAC status was achieved and notification of posting was awaited. RAF Innsworth provided transit, and a whispering giant from RAF Stanstead bore us aloft for the eight-hour flight to RAF Nicosia. Bewildered, confused, perplexed and tired we stood around in the unaccustomed morning heat, waiting for something to happen. When it did, it delivered the shock of reality to all of our systems. An explosive device that had been planted in, on, or close to a nearby stationary Comet, shattered the morning stillness, our complacency, and the aircraft.

New personnel seemed to be arriving in droves, and for a couple of days I was afforded barrack room in the Cawood buildings until my posting allocation found resolution, and I was banished south to RAF Akrotiri. But the bus didn't stop here. My destination lay a couple of miles distant, close to the tip of Cape Gata. At first glance, 280 SU gave the impression of temporary status. A rough-and-ready, tented encampment that could be relocated as and when this should be required. This indeed was its status, though it never happened, and the ring of barbed wire through which I had just passed was destined to be home for the remainder of my service career.

In the months to come I afforded a warm welcome to the occasional deviation from the tedious routine of radar operation, much of which imposed unwelcome banishment from the Mediterranean sunshine and into gloomy cabins illuminated only by cathode pink or ultra green. Short-term postings to RAF El Adem, to RAF Troodos, and to HMS Broadsword added interest and diversity to the daily cycle of rotating strobes and nodding ppi's, all eminently more soporific than Wimbledon at half speed. Our only other ventures beyond the wire exposed us to the inevitable hazards of outside patrols, escorts, or the nightly round-up in the flesh pots of the seedier quarters of Limassol,. 

Those first few days afforded ample reminder of our status as newcomers.
'Oi. Moooonies. Getcher knees brown.' There was no shortage of banter, until growing familiarity afforded the courage and the facility of response. 280 was a wild place, and indeed the more genteel citizens of Akrotiri considered its occupants to be race apart, a semi-human sub species best left to its own remote cavorting on the end of the cape. Indeed, the two miles or so of bundu no-man's-land that separated the two camps imposed an effective barrier. This was an insecure zone, to be travelled only by truck and with escort, and never on foot or at night. As visits to Akrotiri were thus so restricted, and social visits by Akrotiri to 280 were unknown, little social mixing ever intruded into the fastness and the independence of 280 Signals Unit. 

But why bother? 280 enjoyed the services of a cinema, though early wide screen Cinemascope presentations were obliged to traverse both corrugated walls as well as the screen, an unusual cinema feature that was somehow inclined to reduce the hypnotism of the plot. The cinema also provided the facility for those of a more thespian inclination to stage shows of questionable quality. Adaptations of a variety of literary works were often unrecognisable, but always played to a full house, to all ranks, and to an endless tirade of barracking. 280 also enjoyed the services of a very active NAAFI, wherein closing hours seemed an unknown quantity, and the supply of Keo beer was always assured. 280 was never a haven of peace and serenity.

For each intake of newcomers, the spectre of survival became once more prominent. The tactics employed at distant Bridgnorth would no longer serve the purpose. Perpetual subservience for twenty months or so was unthinkable, and cunning and contrivance became its ready successors. Skiving, invented extra-curricular duties, administrative manipulation to extend periods of leave, contrived sick parades, genuine volunteering for tasks or duties of a less desirable nature, casual flying, journeys undertaken for no reason whatever on the regular 'Pembroke' bus to Nicosia, anything to relieve the tedium and the confinement of the hot and sticky radar cabins.

My favoured voluntary deployment was the on-watch management of the tech site canteen, serving soft drinks, gallons of coffee, and simple snacks. This was infinitely preferable to the glowing interpretation of the whirling T32 or the Nodding Neddy, and with a little subtle, undetectable, questionably honest manipulation, this service could even realise a small profit.

For our more simple and subdued relaxation, 280 Pool, at the foot of the cliffs, provided a haven of peace. Here, a flat platform of rock provided a quiet location in which we could sunbathe, and a section of private ocean in which we could indulge our interests in the marine wildlife. We could succumb throughout the year to the cooling embrace of the water, or we could shatter the peace and tranquillity of the location by cavorting like idiots in the safety and shelter of the little lagoon. 

Thus two years of our lifetimes passed harmlessly into personal history. They were two imposed years that bridged a created gap between the ties of childhood and youth, and the responsibilities of profession and adulthood. They provided a unique experience enjoyed neither by those who had evaded the draft, nor by those for whom the military life was a chosen career. They were a period that was devoid of serious and long-term responsibility, and one that permitted, or even encouraged, total immersion in a life-changing experience, and one that would live in memory throughout each of our lives. Alternatively, and for some, it was a period of reluctance, of resentment, of imposition, and of discontent, that permitted only the sullen and impatient wait for repatriation.
I would not have missed it for anything.

Ian Tillotson

The Photos below were kindly donated by Ian Tillotson who served with 280, 1958-1960.
My annotations are as follows, but they are limited by memory, and will require some collective consideration in July.

A,B,C,D,E. Tent line identification. The line forward of A-line was a later addition, and may have been entitled F-line, or may merely have lacked any identification.
My tent, 'Paradise Lost' (with apologies to Milton), was tent A12. I have marked it with a cross, and if you enlarge the image, the tomatoes and sunflowers in my little garden are visible. The picture was taken from around tent A14.
1. Mess Hall  2. Cinema  3. NAAFI.  4 and 5. Toilet blocks  6, Ablutions (Ithink)  7. MT section.  8. Officer's quarters.
9. May have been the location of the incinerated Corporal's Club.
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Wng Cdr Jim Beveridge (Retired) who was a fighter controller at 280, 1958-1960 sent these pics of a fancy dress party 1959/60.
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280su_cinema.jpg (221740 bytes) 280 SU Cinema, sent by Dave Carnell