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John McManus

I was posted to RAF Manby in Lincolnshire and worked in the Electrical Section, Aircraft Servicing Flight, and the squadron operating Varsity's in, the main on pilot continuation training. RAF Manby was part of Flying Training Command. I left the RAF in 1964, mainly because of my first wife's nervous condition brought on by my receiving a posting to Aden !

Fortunately for me, Manby at that time was in the process of being civilianized, and I was employed immediately by the contractor, Airwork Services. I feel that I was then presented with an unique situation in that I was now a civilian and took over the running of the Electrical Section, Battery Charging Room and supervision of the electricians working on the two squadrons operating Meteors and Canberra's. This was at the satellite station to RAF Manby: RAF Strubby. I left the RAF as a Corporal and had just taken over from my Warrant Officer. How many junior NCO's feel they could do the same if given the opportunity. This was in April 1964.

On 1st October 1964, things took a turn for the worst when I was involved in an industrial accident. I had been working on a Mk 7 Meteor in preparation for night flying, while at the same time the engines were being run for fuel flow checks. While alighting from the rear cockpit, I jumped, tripped or just fell, and while in mid-air I was sucked into the engine intake. While not being able to be sucked into the running engine because of the main spar, electrical equipment and debris guards, it was still not to be recommended. My right arm, above the elbow, was broken as I went in the intake and both legs were broken below the knees, around the outside of the intake cowl. To cut this episode short, the resulting injuries involved long period in plaster casts and several operations due mainly to my right leg refusing to heal. Finally, after bone grafts and insertion of a metal plate with self-tapping screws the leg healed. A total of twenty two months in plaster and then a further period of physio before some form of normal mobility returned. Airwork Services were very good during this period and assisted with transport and a return to work involving office work in the main.

The period at Manby and Strubby finally came to an end when both airfields were closed due to defense cutbacks. This was late 1973 and my next move was to British Aircraft Corporation and a 'posting' to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. This lasted for just a year, the separation from my second wife was difficult as it was for any separated couple. She was juggling running a home in my absence, bringing up 4 children and also working. So after 365 days exactly, a period which allowed me to end my contract without breaking the contract so if, God forbid, I needed to return to the desert if unable to secure employment, I would be able.

After Saudi, I looked hard at the opportunities available to me in the aircraft industry and decided to have a change of direction. In September 1975, my wife and I became landlord and landlady of a Public House in rural Lincolnshire. The Lincolnshire Fens to be precise. There followed five and a half years of hard work for not a lot of profit, during which, three of our four children completed their schooling and started looking for work While I enjoyed the period in our pub, I thought there must be more to the licensed trade than working seven days a week. So after five and a half years, I left to take up the position of Golf Club Steward at Burghley Park Golf Club at Stamford. Still in Lincolnshire, but only just.

After the pub, the Golf Club was bliss. Two days off a week, with my wife, and being paid a wage again. We stayed at Stamford for about ten years which was thoughly enjoyable. We probably stayed longer than we should but on the whole had no regrets. I didn't even play golf, agreeing with a famous quotation that golf was a good walk, spoiled.

In 1991, my wife and I were accepted for the position of Manager and Manageress of a private members club in Luton. Being a Londoner, I had always endured the wide open spaces of Lincolnshire and yearned for moving back further South. At last, here I was. In Bedfordshire, within about thirty miles of Halton where my working life began.

After my accident with the Meteor, I began to think I was invincible, working on the 'lightning not striking twice' theory. How wrong I was to be. One evening in November, 1999, I retired to bed early with all the classic symptoms of the onset of flu. A slight headache, aching arms and legs. Something we have all experienced. The following morning, I woke at my normal hour with my usual desire for the call of nature, i.e. the bathroom. This was when I discovered that my legs and torso were paralysed. My arms were stiff and I could not move my body unaided. After a call from my wife, " are you getting out of bed today, or what ? " I convinced her that in fact I was not having a crafty lie-in and an ambulance was called. An examination in the A & E department of the Luton & Dunstable Hospital by a young Asian Lady Doctor revealed that she thought I had Guillain-Barre Syndrome.  Heard of it ?  No, neither had I or any of the family. After a night in a general ward for observation, my condition worsened and I was rushed into the Intensive Card Ward. My arms were now paralysed and things were getting worse as feared by the Consultant. Guillain- Barre Syndrome (GBS) is a viral infection effecting the central nervous system and hence all the muscles. While the condition is curable and rarely fatal, it is not unknown for the victim to be left semi-paralysed and wheel chair bound. Two weeks followed in Intensive Care being fed by tubes in my neck, delightful, a lumber puncture injection, painful, and finally a tracheotomy. Being unable to move, feed, talk and only being able to communicate by blinking my eyelids in responce to letters on a alphebet board somewhat altered my earlier opinion that I was invincible. I was not helped in the communication department by the fact that the Doctor who provided and wrote out the alphabet board ommited the letter W. Trying to make words involving W, without W, is bloody near impossible. Still, he was Australian ! A further two weeks in hospital and I was discharged after intensive physiotherapy which involved learning how to walk again. This was much assisted by my long period in plaster after the aircraft accident when I became more than proficient walking on crutches. Well, thats about it. I eventually recovered from GBS having only residual problems which is in the main periodic lack of energy. This becomes difficult to assess as being a result of GBS or just old age !

The employment at the Club came to an end when my wife and I were both made redundant - for the second time in my working life. I now work as a Duty Manager on a casual or part time basis at an Arts and Media centre, again in Luton. This is the best job I have ever had as it is entirely up to me if I work or not. A most satisfactory state of affairs.