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History of the Hereford Parachute Club

 

 

Website for members of the former Hereford Parachute Club

This website  was created on August 10, 2003.

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This article is reproduced from the August 1983 edition of the Sports Parachutist magazine

Shobdon 20th Anniversary

 

Saturday night and Sunday morning of the first weekend in July saw the Twentieth Anniversary celebrations of the Hereford Parachute Club held during the annual club meet on the DZ at Shobdon. The once derelict airfield used only at weekends by a handful of civilians trained by the SAS, has been transformed over the past 20 years into a thriving and popular full-time jump centre with over 7000 jumps being made every year.

Inspired by a combined Accuracy Competition between the SAS, the RAF and USAF at Hereford race course in June of 1963, Frank Joel and his son Ken got in touch with the BPA, whose unfortunate address was the Cemetery Lane, Nottingham. After gathering together a few other civilians willing to take the plunge, including Jim Green and Burt Wear they approached Colonel Dare Wilson of 22 SAS based at Hereford. Trained at Bradbury Lines by Staff Sergeant Don Hughes of the Army Physical Training Corps with 22 SAS, the group jumped at Shobdon on army equipment.

The airfield had been a wartime glider station used as a base for flights to the Normandy fields. Flying a glider, Frank Joel had made a forced landing at Shobdon in 1943, not realising that he would be making landings of a rather different sort two decades later.

In 1964 'Mac' McCarthy, the present Chief Instructor, took over the post for three years. Mac, who has now done over 4500 jumps, had trained as a paratrooper in 1954. He was National Accuracy Champion in 1964. As a member of the APTC, the rigorous training of the steadily increasing number of civilians continued.

 

 

Staff Sergeant Mick Reeves, Mac's second in command, was awarded the George Medal for saving the life of a student who had static line hang-up at Halfpenny Green in 1966. As jumpmaster, Mick Reeves climbed down the line, cutting it free, free-falling with the student and deploying his reserve. Both landed safely.

After one more SAS instructor, Terry Jickells, the  expanding club had its first civilian instructor, Ian Loutit, who is now Chief Club Instructor at Dunkeswell, near Exeter. Subsequent Chief Instructors included John Boxall and Jim Sharples. Into the seventies novice jumpers were still at Bradbury Lines and jumped at Shobdon out of a Tripacer, flown by farmer Ken Davidson at weekends. In May 1976, the club became independent and was for the first time a full-time club under the chairmanship of Peter Prior, then also Chairman of Bulmers. With the help of Bulmers, sponsors of the StrongBow Skydivers who give demonstrations all over the country and individuals such and Sir Dereck Baily, the first President, the club has been able to build up its equipment and facilities. The local Corbett family, in particular David Corbett, have also been great supporters of the Air Sports centre.

Since being full-time, Hereford Parachute Club has hosted the National Parachute Championships in 1976 and 1977. The world record of 233 consecutive jumps in 18hrs 7mins was made on the airfield by Dave Parchment in 1979, Archie McFarlane, now 85 and the eldest member of the POPS who made his first jump at 70 is an honoured member of the club.

This year, five members, Mark Jones, Mark Owens, Hugh Parry and Trevor Warrenger (4 way event) and the Chairman Andy Mann (Style event) represented the club at the Rhine Army Championship at Bad Lippspringe. Mac, who returned to Shobdon as Chief Club Instructor in 1976, was one of the judges and the team with it's keen supporters travelled to Germany in the newly acquired mini-bus.

In common with the rest of the country, many of first jumps made at Shobdon are in aid of charity and in particular, sponsored jumps organised by Alan Rosebury, have raised over 100,000 for the Cheltenham Cancer Unit.

 

Mark Owens, Mark Jones, Rich Howell, Kevin McCarthy, ??, Helen Chrestofi, Andy Mann, Trevor Warrenger.

 

From an average of 350 first jumps in the early seventies, the club now caters for over 2000 a year. The early days of the army-orientated training by the SAS has been replaced by less severe instruction geared towards civilians. Shobdon is the best equipped parachute centre in the country, with GQ aero-conical mains and their 100% safety record, AOD's and radio's for talking the students down. Boots, helmets and jumpsuits are also provided. For the more advanced jumpers, high performance canopies and tandem systems are available. In addition to Mac the club now employs two full-time instructors, Rick Shaw and Mike Townsend, Helen Chrestofi, the rigger is always at hand and Liz Charlton, the club secretary, generally keeps the members in order.

In addition to the C206 flown by Mike Downey the full-time pilot, the club has recently purchased a twin engine Partenavia which will take six skydivers to 12000ft in 20mins.Two of the Nissen huts have been converted into a packing shed and equipment store, along with the club house shared with the Aero and Gliding Clubs under the umbrella organisation of the Hereford Air Sports Centre. Tom and Pam Morten run the well patronised and recently redecorated bar while Clive Edwards, the caterer, is famed for his 'specials'. Plans for developing the surrounding land of the airfield include a new club house with accommodation and a caravan park.

The club has two annual jumping events, the Club Meet held during the first weekend of July and the Pat Keeley Round Canopy meet open to non-members on the August Bank Holiday weekend. The Round Canopy meet this year was a great success with over 250 jumps made from 72 lifts. Two days of glorious sunshine and sky-gods trying to land aero-conical's meant that red faces were the order of the day. The winning team of the Accuracy Competition was 'The Rudies' (Mark Jones, Trevor Warrenger and Kevin McCarthy). The team's real name has been censored by the Club Secretary in the interest's of public decency. Some of the more notable team names included 'Judge Crushers', 'Vimto', 'Toasted Sausage Sandwiches' and 'Ask Brian'. The individual Square Accuracy event was won by Mark Owens, while Mark Jones took first place for the individual Round Canopy Accuracy competition. Mark Jones (again) and Andy Mann won the relative work competition, with Simon Wilberforce coming first with the Style event.

Red eyes were added to the red faces after the Anniversary Celebrations which started on the Saturday evening. The Mayor of Leominster, Molly Cooke and her husband, were amongst the guests at the fine buffet laid on by Clive Edwards. Later on, the more lively members danced to the sound of Willy& The Poorboys.

The whole weekend was an all round success and a fitting celebration of twenty years of jumping at Shobdon.

SUSAN JOHNSON

 

I would welcome any information or photo's that anyone could send to me about the club during the years that it operated.

Have you got a story about the club or any of its members? to tell? Please send them to me, although in some cases I may have to edit them a bit!