Anniversary 50 years ago

Celebrating a special anniversary on this day 23 January 2013. Not something I am likely to forget. It was a life changing journey to a new future.

MFSOn 23 January 1963 I started out on a train journey. This in itself was an undertaking as it was in the middle of a harsh winter known in U.K. as “The Big Freeze of 1963“. My destination RAF Cosford, known then as the no.2 School of Technical Training. I was joining the Royal Air Force on the government’s boy entrant scheme. The train journey from the South of England seemed to take forever as the train would often stop and stay at a standstill due to severe frost on the rails. Eventually, I arrived many hours later in a bleak and frosty Cosford to start a new life.

Also read the second paragraph of my blog article “Reunion of a Lifetime” by clicking on this link.

I salute and raise a glass to all the guys who stuck it out through training and graduated. Sadly, some are no longer with us but we will remember them.

To understand the weather conditions of the day I have quoted some facts below.

Extract from
The winter of 1962–1963 (also known as The Big Freeze of 1963) was one of the coldest winters on record in the United Kingdom. Temperatures plummeted and lakes and rivers began to freeze over. In the Central England Temperature (CET) record, extending back to 1659, only the winter (defined as the months of December, January and February) of 1683–84 has been significantly colder, with 1739–40 being slightly colder than 1962–63. However, the winter did not rank so highly in Scotland for its severity as it did in England and Wales.

January 1963 was the coldest month of the 20th century. Much of England and Wales was snow-covered throughout the month. The country started to freeze solid, with temperatures as low as −19.4 °C at Achany in Sutherland on 11th. Freezing fog was a hazard for most of the country.

In January 1963 the sea froze for 1 mile (1.6 km) out from shore at Herne Bay, Kent; BBC television news expressed a fear that the Strait of Dover would freeze across. The upper reaches of the River Thames also froze over, though it did not freeze in Central London, partly due to the hot effluent from two thermal power stations, Battersea and Bankside: the removal of the old multi-arched London Bridge, which obstructed the river’s free flow, and the river embankments, make the river less likely to freeze in London than in earlier times. The ice was thick enough in some places that people were skating on it. Icicles hung from many roof gutterings; some of these were as long as a metre (3 feet, 3 inches).

Extract from Paraffin Winter (the winter of 1963):
23rd January 1963
On what was generally described as the coldest night of the winter, the British Insurance Association estimated that already the weather had cost more than £5M in claims. Two hundred London buses were put out of action when their fuel froze. Two more people died from the cold. The Mancunian Express took nearly ten hours to get from Euston to Manchester a journey it generally completes in just over three and a half hours.

24th January 1963
There was more chaos on the railways as diesel fuel, coal, points and water troughs froze. Passengers travelling in one train from St.Pancras to Manchester took only ten minutes short of twelve hours to cover the 189 miles. They were lucky. Many trains didn’t run at all. Fifty families were evacuated from a block of flats in Streatham because they were too hot; there was a fault in the central-heating system. On the other side of London bonfires were lit in the streets of Paddington to prevent water freezing in the stand pipes. Cabinet met to discuss emergency measures.

RAF Cosford
RAF 48th Entry Telegs (50th anniversary reunion)
Freeze-up All Round 1963
Life in 1963
RAF Boy Entrants 48th Entry: 50th Anniversary Celebrations

7 thoughts on “Anniversary 50 years ago”

  1. Hello Mike. I was searching for memories of winter 1962/1963 and Cosford and came across your site. I know your name and I know the face in the photo but after 50 years my memory is getting a little jaded..I was known as little Taff Williams (47th entry teleg and for my sins I was the senior Trumptet Major)) after Cosford I was posted to RAF Benson, Raf Changi and back to Benson and then onto Steamer Point and Khormaksar. I came out of the Raf 1967 and settled in Bristol.
    Ken Williams

    1. Hi Taff, thanks for your contact. I know what you mean about memory, we can be forgiven since it has been +50years now. I remember marching to classes nearly everyday during our training. I have had a chance to attend the reunion of the 48th lads and revisit Cosford and the training hangars today. Much has changed over the years. I did a different circuit than yours after training so we never met up again. I went straight to Germany after Cosford and also had a stint in the desert sands. Have a look at the 48th entry website especially the photos, you probably knew these chaps in the band. Photos are on these links :

      I have a video on the 48th website showing that UK winter period 62/63 on link :

  2. Mike, I have know you for a couple of years now and I can say that I learnt a lot.
    A man full of wisdom, experience and so geeky lol.
    Happy anniversary!

    And you still owe me that beer 🙂

  3. Many thanks for this blog-page Mike and its’ reminder of those conditions ‘we brave young-ones’ had to endure – as our change in life from kids to sprogs/sloppy-civilians and later to airmen, to serve for our country.

    It’s good to know that “fifty years on” there are at least 50+ of us around and able to talk about those experiences – amongst ourselves…


    1. It is fantastic to find many of our comrades after so many years. A bit sad that a few have gone to the big hangar in the sky but we have the memories.

  4. In an ever changing world Michel it is good to know that some things never change. 50 years later and the weather is similar in that the UK is grinding to a halt with snow, nonetheless I’m just setting off for the airport this time instead of a bone rattling train.

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