Does anyone remember King Idris?
Events in Libya make me wonder, is life a circle? Wind back the clock to the still Swinging 60s, and in 1968 Britain lands its largest ever arms contract worth £130 million with Libya, then still ruled by King Idris. From being a very poor country where the largest source of foreign exchange is exporting scrap metal from tanks and armaments left in the desert during WW2, Libya has unimaginable wealth and she wants a modern airforce with all the trimmings. This includes airfields as well as missiles and planes and everyone is happy. 1969 and former Sandhurst Military Academy graduate Col. Muammar al-Gaddafi with about 70 other officers launches a coup kicking out King Idris who goes to Egypt. Later the UK arms contract is cancelled and is replaced with a contract with France.
3 years later George is temping in a dusty basement of a firm of architects shredding hundreds of drawings for this glorious project. The work is hardly exciting or onerous and with the shredder overheating regularly, the two of us doing the job have plenty time to chat. First co-worker is an Australian yachtsman who used to own his own 8-berth yacht who mentions hair-raising experiences sailing in the English Channel. Large ships steam down this very busy route with no one on the bridge. Just as bad, he sees a large oil tanker with engines full-astern heading for the cliffs which it just avoids. Had the tanker struck the shore, the oil spill would have been as bad as the Torrey Canyon disaster in 1967.
Yachtsmen are popular people it seems, as one the directors comes down to chat to him one lunchtime, casually mentioning that he is a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron Following week, the yachtie has left and my companion is a former bookies clerk who used to have his own betting pitch at Wimbledon Dog Track. Chats while waiting for the shredder to cool are about the various scams, successes and failures in the world of betting. His own Wimbledon bookie business went bust even though he had two business partners but never mind, he has his eye on his next one.
I should have been an airline pilot
Years later, George has a career in banking, is married with family and a mortgage who does gliding to get the flying out of his system. Banks seem to be full of people who really wanted to something else….But anyway it is a sunny evening at Lasham Gliding Club a group of us have done our flying for the day, and we are relaxing swapping flying stories. I am introduced to Tony, a new guy who has just returned from a 6 month contract in The Seychelles While we are enjoying the warmth, Tony mentions that he feels cold. Never see him again until I notice a new building at Lasham Tony Norrie Workshop set up at Lasham after his plane was blown up in 1989 by the Libyans. He was on his way back to the UK to take part in a gliding competition.
While the Libyans were responsible for killing my friend, it seems they were not responsible for Lockerbie according to Tony’s brother, Charles. Makes interesting reading.