This is a collection of stories, memories and photos of Tony from his friends and family. It has been collated from emails, letters and phone conversations and is largely unedited. At the end, there is a piece of writing by Tony, describing his visit to Italy, and transcripts of the tributes from Tony's funeral.
Tony with Foal
By Hannah Collis, May 2008
'Tis time I think, to write it down
before your lofty presence fades,
just as the spring of hawthorn snow.
For, while you lie long in May,
we move on to harvest days;
those you coloured long ago.
So, we must remember your big booted stride
that smoothed the family furrow,
and how we listened wide-eyed with delight
to your full throttle tales overflow,
and rise with the smoke, blow by blow.
Horizon hunter with sky high ideas,
your down-to-earth doctrines won't fade,
your bellyful laughter still rings in our ears
and your bushy browed warmth still remains.
With apologies to A. E. Houseman (A Shropshire Lad)
When I took my two small children to Ouseley cottage (Mark1) for their very first visit, Tony met them at the front door and warned them that due to the very real possibility of structural collapse only one child was to go up the stairs at a time, that they were to be very careful not to fall out of any of the top floor's missing windows, that their bedroom ceiling leaked and finally that he required - even demanded - that they scribble all over the house's internal walls. In the ensuing silence - as my children realised they had arrived in child heaven - Tony finished by saying that he had hoped that they could have slept in their grandparents bed (which he had inherited many years ago from my parents) but that this was impossible as he had recently chopped it up to make a duck house.
In the early 1960s Tony was in Aden in his capacity as ADC
to the Governor, he was also on occasion obliged to pay lip service to a rather stuffy British High Commissioner. One hot afternoon, after a long and interminable meeting with the HC
, Tony left the room but unfortunately failed to close the door properly. Because of this the HC
was able to overhear Tony shouting down the hall to the Arab gatekeeper "Ya Abdul - God wants his chariot at the front door in 10 minutes!"
In 1965 Tony had volunteered to spend Christmas in the Yemeni desert. The only other members of the operation out there were four very tough ex-French Foreign Legion paratroopers who lived in a large cave near Jauf. On hearing that Tony would also be around, they immediately invited him to Christmas lunch, saying that they had previously caught five desert partridge and were presently fattening them up for the special occasion. On Christmas day, Tony duly turned up at the cave and was presented with an utterly delicious haute-cuisine meal (they may have been paras but remember they were French). At the end of the meal Tony contentedly leant back and said something to the effect of how very different Yemeni partridges tasted from English ones. Whereupon he was told that unfortunately all five partridge had been killed a week previously by a feral desert cat. Tony, with a sinking feeling, asked the obvious question "so what have I just eaten?" and back came the answer "the cat".
If you're reading this, then you know Tony Boyle. That makes you lucky. There are not many people on the planet like him. I'm writing this for you. To let you know a bit more about what an amazing guy he was. I'm also writing it for me, to remember 30 wonderful years.
He must have inspired a huge number of people with his energy and enthusiasm. He was a rock to me. An inspiration. Gentle encouragement when it was needed. A kick up the bum when it was due. Up for a debate or two about the state of our country. And bloody good fun. Frankly when I was a teenager he became my father. He knew it. I knew it. We never discussed it. We drank a lot of tea at that kitchen table and polished off bottles of sloe gin as though they were fruit juice. We had Victoria Sponge for breakfast and played table football until I could beat everybody at school. We laughed together. We were mates.
You'll know his stories. Stories about his knees (imagine how he would tell you about what could happen if he was cremated and they forgot to take them out!). Stories about his time in the Middle East (it woz Mossad wot dun it). Stories about Piers and John getting out of Jail. About the trebuchet. About the bottle chopper; his days in London and days buzzing soviets over the north sea. About the youth club he ran. About taking my sister to see the dead aunt, the public trust office, democracy, and smuggling Emma out of school. About his shot gun license. The insurance job on his old house, the new building and living in a tent under the leaking roof until it was ready. About his Bells Palsy (boy, how he found humour in everything - the irony of how Bells Palsy stopped him saying his Bs and Ps, and what a stupid name it was). The stories got better with every outing and as a kid I learned to tell stories like him. The drama, suspense, the punch line. Without teaching, and probably without knowing, he'd help me elaborate on the entertaining things that had happened to me until they became almost complete fabrication. Sometimes our escapades became the subject of his stories, and it was wonderful to hear how our adventures had grown in his imagination.
Someone once told me that you never look back at life and wish you'd spent more time in an office. I can't remember the exact sequence of events but Tony helped me escape my job in London and set up a little company selling wind generators. I guess he was effectively a non-investing, un-paid, non-exec director who kindly leased the air above his farm for £1 to me to test our machines out. We spent hours and hours debating how to make the business work. I'd always make sure that if I was in Shropshire, I'd pop over to see him. In the last couple of years I was so lucky that I saw him every couple of weeks and spoke to him more often than that on the phone. I think he enjoyed his electricity meter going backwards, but he seemed to gain enormous satisfaction out of seeing us grow, step by step into a little operation that might just work out. The business mattered to the extent that people have to pay mortgages - the dull facts of life - the real reward was spending time in Shropshire with Tony.
Last autumn he told me there was one thing he really wanted to do before he died - to see the space shuttle take off and land. He made it, flew the simulators, wore the T-Shirt proudly with excitement in his voice and a twinkle in his eye. Like always.
He's on you tube too: promoting our wind machines for the local news. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldDCj05-HR0
What about my "Vole" ("it grows 6' a year") Leylandii tree, given and planted at Ouseley in 1975, that finally grew so high it shorted his mains electricity wires, burst into flames and then burnt down half of Bembow's field during the night causing the fire brigade to be called out much to Tony's amusement? A "gift" from 30 yrs back, to remember Tony used to refer to it as !!
Or to go back even earlier.... August 1974; The arrival of three hung-over 18 yr old Stoics and a tall OE (Rupert) to stay for a week, whereupon he immediately gave us sleeping bag space on the floorboards of the cottage and put us to good use bashing down a pig shed in the wild back garden for 3 days.
One of the visitors (me; Vole) travelled into the Wenlock vets with a constipated bull calf on the back seat of Tony's Austin Maxi car. The trouble was it became rapidly unconstipated as we waited at the town traffic light. Unfazed; "this is part of rural living; its not Chelsea you know" Tony not only cleaned out the car upon the return to Ouseley but also cooked all four of us a hugely enjoyable and memorable meal of roast chicken done in a pressure cooker and the ancient Aga.
Oh how we nattered and laughed that night; indeed it was to be the start of a thirty five year friendship and the enormous influence upon us all of one man who subsequently was almost a father in his support and encouraging words of wisdom...
Vole, Garber and fiancee Fi were visiting over the Easter break so Tony put us three to work upon his then herd of the bullocks.
De-horning, castrating, recording and weighing thirty-plus beasties in the crush was all part of "the bonding teamwork" which he envisaged would help us enjoy ourselves. It was certainly novel; smelly and physically exhausting with Fiona spattered with animal blood for nigh on four hours yet the job was "well done" and we all were grateful to Tony for the experience as we tucked into a long evening of vino, Rothmans, and pressure cooked delicacies.
The next day we went to Easter lunch chez Kennedy where Hew tried to push Fi's face into the sherry trifle but, luckily warned by Tony, she didn't fall for it, but was amused by the Shropshire behaviour and bonhomie.
Playing Bar Billiards, original space invaders and table football, in that dusty cobweb-covered, furniture-festooned dining room but with the original coins for the respective machines.
Arriving at Tony's in 1983 from a wedding 45 minutes away in Tenbury Wells at which I'd very drunkenly persuaded an unknown wedding guest after the reception to drive me to Ouseley. This he duly did for some reason or other and kindly dropped me off.
He was offered a cup of tea by Tony in that unique cluttered cottage kitchen but promptly fled London-wards as Tony and the other guests pretended not to know me from Adam and that I was a complete stranger to them all!! Shortly later, much to everyone's amusement, I got so tonto'd that I had to free myself from my wedding waistcoat, Houdini-style by actually climbing through it!!
Hearing of, although never actually seeing, Tony's two headed goose embryos caused by the fallout from Chernobyl. How he was convinced that the local sheep farmers were all going to be affected ("nine fingers, perhaps"?), those that hadn't already succumbed to the Shropshire in-breeding, by the settling of the nuclear dust.
His over the kitchen table, Rothmans in hand, blow by blow description of the Vulcan Bomber raid on Port Stanley Airport during the Falklands Conflict; delivered so very precisely and matter-of-factly that one could have easily imagined him organising it from his Ouseley HQ.
Shaking hands with him only to be told "Congratulations the last person with whom I shook hands went to the moon; a reference to his pride and pleasure at having met and talked technical at length with Buzz Aldrin ( the 2nd man on the moon).
1991; Taking Tony to Sunday lunch at a Craven Arms so quite local (highly bibulous) point to pointing afficionado's champions large country pile.
Hostess to Tony "Have you done anything interesting recently ?"
Tony "Well apart from getting four young lads out of a Katmandu jail for gold smuggling and looking after my farm I trebuchet-ed a dead sow 350 yards yesterday and arranged for it to be in flight tested by an RAF specialist."
Hostess; "Gosh" have some claret....." ....and so we all did, with a fascinatingly perfect "proper" Sunday lunch until well past 7.30 pm. when Tony drove us back to Ouseley.
Dinner with Tony at the RAF Club Piccadilly with my wife. Tony talking us through the individual history of virtually every piece of club memorabilia that lined the long corridors into the dining room. A meal of surprisingly restrained alcoholic intake; me on the wagon and Jim's 80th the next day yet, as always at Ouseley, absolutely fascinating natter from which we both went away thinking "wow; what an enthusiast and so knowledgeable and wise about everything"
Last year; inviting myself to stay with my wife and 7 year old son and walking up "Boyles Bank" whilst reminiscing with them about the often utterly surreal but fabulous sunset picnics and bonfires up there over the past 30 years. Tony meanwhile down below in his pride and joy new house with his new knees cooking us a delicious meal in his new kitchen of which he was justifiably so very proud.
Him showing us every single facet of his well thought out designs and explaining just why they were so eminently practical for him. "The old cottage may be dead; welcome to my new humble abode, and a new generation of Voles to be entertained by".
Sir Peter de la Billière
I first met Fl/Lt Boyle in Aden at the residence of Governor Johnson, for whom he was ADC
. We hit it off immediately and I was serving with the Federal Regular Army at the time. On the occasion when we drank with David Stirling, founder of the SAS
, at Govt Hse I remember that we were told of the death by assassination of President Kennedy. I suppose this was one of those few events which etch themselves on one's memory.
I see there are several pages in my Autobiography covering this period and Tony's involvement: 'Looking for Trouble', ISBN
0 00255245 0 publishers Harper Collins. (Click to see selected extracts which have been included below
We kept in touch over the years but did not meet until he came to stay in April 2007. We discussed his latest research but importantly discovered that he and his parents had lived in a house some 200m from ours at The Grange. He brought a sketch of the local views done by your Grandfather and we set it to the local hills in my Barn with a view. We then went to visit the neighbours, whom I do not know, in your old family house but they were out; Tony recognized it all. We recced around the outside of the house and then left them a note and your family sketch.
I last saw him at the Memorial service last month for my close friend John Woodhouse whom Tony knew from his Aden days.
Enduring memory aged about 8 years old or so when Tony was searching for a farm in Shropshire. He told us that this place he had found was very posh, so we all had to wipe our feet very carefully on the mat - we dutifully did this and then opened the door and stepped into about a foot deep of cow manure!! As you can imagine Tony found this highly amusing!! I, for one, have never forgotten this moment!!
I will never forget arriving at Tony's around August time one year to find that the Christmas tree from December was still up and a little more decorated with dust and cobwebs than it had been on Xmas day !! I think in the end it was a permanent fixture!
Tony's games arcade in his old house with his space invaders and asteroids and the football table - it was a child's paradise. And being able to draw on the walls - how cool that was! And the sledging down the field opposite on plastic hay sacks. Brilliant fun! Helping Tony put sheep through the sheep dip.
His lovely dogs - Bagins, Pickles and Puppy, all of whom I am sure are so very pleased to see him. And the horses he loved - Beaut, May and Foal (although the relationship with Foal was not always one made in heaven).
The time when Tony was injecting bullocks, but they were nearly bull type bullocks as he had left it a bit later than maybe he should. All bullocks were in one side of the barn, they were driven into a cattle trap and then injected and let out into the other half of the barn. Stupidly, Dad and I were standing in the half of the barn where the bullocks were let out after being injected. Tony injected the most troublesome bullock, let it out and of course it turned in rage, pawed the ground snorting, ready to charge at anything and anyone, that one being me. Tony instinctively and not meaning to be in-valiant, leapt into the cattle trap and shut the door shutting off my main point of exit, Dad then ran, scooped me up and threw me over the barrier before he vaulted over himself. . . a very near miss!!
I remember when I visited Tony with a friend of mine, Felicity. Tony and a friend of his were out rolling corn when the friend came into the house looking as white as a sheet, clasping his hand, with blood pumping onto the ground - he said he needed a plaster . . . In fact he needed a good deal more as he had been pushing corn into the rolling machine and his finger got rolled. Tony said that was one of 3 accidents in as many weeks, two others involving motor bikes I think, and he was in danger of a visit from health and safety people . . . !!
Tony and his damson jam and sloe gin making.
I remember balmy days on the back of the hay bailer trailer (getting sunstroke as I was 15 and refused to put any sun cream on!).
I remember spiders and webs overtaking the house.
Getting up in the early hours of the morning to watch Tony delivering lambs to this world. These had to be 'Adrianised' - i.e. all the gunk and blood and gooey stuff taken off them before Adrian could look at them without feeling faint!
I remember the half - tame / half wild pony in Tony's bottom field which the postman was training, which I got bucked off.
Visiting the Lywoods in their mansion.
Tony's stories about Aden and the amazing life he had out there. The people he met, the things he did!
Being presented with the Sword of Honour (was it that) by Grandpa.
Tony's sheep scanning machine and when he offered to scan one of his guests when she was pregnant!
The prolonged fight he had to get planning permission for his new house as his old one crumbled around him, and in the end when he had used the slates from his old house to go on his new house, how he slept under a tarpaulin . . . And had to go upstairs by treading on the edges as most of the steps had collapsed.
His micro light plane which he was flying and his neighbour (Hugh Kennedy?) who tried to shoot him out of the sky.
When Tony saved Hugh Kennedy's son from drowning in the manor's swimming pool.
When Tony and mum and dad went to dinner with the Kennedy's, Hugh pushed a bowl of cream into mum's face.
When Tony fought for months to get the moto-cross off the land opposite his bottom field. His tenacity was amazing and meant he won in the end.
How proud he was taking us to the RAF museum and showing us the aircraft he had flown. He was such an amazing man. The life he lead! He was compassionate and understanding, opinionated (in the nicest way) but also able to hear everyone else's argument and side of the story. He was a great listener and very supportive and ready to champion any cause you set before him. He was very caring.
It makes me smile when I think of him doing his astronaut training - that they told him he had to be over 18 but didn't tell him what was too old! Him going to America for the space shuttle launch, him shooting off to Israel to research his book. And when he rang to tell me about it the highlight of his journey was throwing up on the carousel waiting for the luggage and also throwing up on the air hostess!!
He also delighted in telling me in detail about his recent eye operation.
It was also with real dignity, sense of humour and acceptance that he dealt with Bells Palsy - I really admired him for that, amongst other things.
He also charged through his 2 knee operations, choosing to watch one of them - I really did have to be firm about him not giving me the detail . . . Because even without being there I would have passed out!!
When he went to Nepal to rescue Piers and then got paid £1,000 by Channel 5 but didn't appear on the programme because he didn't want to compromise his side of the story.
How compassionate Tony was and how he always offered help whenever I went through my low times in my life.
The Xmas hams which I will miss. Not as much as I will miss him though, of course!
He was so proud of his lovely new home. He was such a generous host and cooked incredible food and made sure there was always something fun and exciting for the children to do when we arrived. He was always happy to be invaded by hundreds of children and all the noise and stuff that comes with that and them.
Christmas at Tony's was just so special - the journey from a rather worn silver tree which had stood the test of many Christmases past in his old and crumbling farm house to the 15 or so foot real tree which graced his new home.
He had hundreds of friends from all round the world of all ages and he was constantly entertaining or being entertained and shooting off round the UK and further to visit friends. A really sociable man with a fantastic sense of humour, who was very knowledgeable about almost everything you can be in life. Also very well travelled!
I loved Tony very, very much. He made a huge impact on my life right from a young child when weekends on Tony's farm were hugely exciting and adventurous. Right up until recently when I had been going through the struggles with Thomas's diagnosis and the Tribunal battles - he was so supportive right until the end. It was only a few days before we had spoken and arranged to get together in a July.
I am 40 years of age and have had the good fortune and honour to be influenced and guided in the way I grew up from the age of ten and feel I am the man I am today because of the informative guidance given to me over the years by Tony. When I became a young man we spent many hours in the kitchen of both the old and new house putting the world to rights over a good bottle of something. We had many hours of long debate on every subject you can think of and while being informed and guided, Tony also taught me to question things and turned me into a man he could have a discussions with that was balanced with to different points of view, and occasionally he almost came round to my way of thinking, but would not quite admit defeat (that's Tony though, God bless him).
Tony was like a father to me as he taught me a lot more than my real dad while growing up, but unlike the family I only have memories and no pictures. I do have Tony's grey coat that he wore in the RAF on parade that he gave to keep about 10 years ago. I had some much loved video footage of Tony and I having a laugh when he got his first video Camcorder, but my ex-wife threw them out, allegedly by mistake, that is now a devastating loss and another good reason for her being my ex-wife!
I would love to be invited to pay my respects and to share in the memories of Tony's colourful life. I feel like I know you, Penny, as we have been round the kitchen table many times when you have rung Tony. I would love to get hold of a copy of Tony's round the world trip diary he wrote. It would be a great comfort and something of his life for me to hold on to, I have dipped in to it many times and been totally lost in the pages of his adventure. As I am not family I feel like an outsider looking in and feel I have no one to grieve with.
Sorry about the spelling and sometimes bad grammar, but I am very tired as it is gone Midnight and on top of that I am a little dyslexic as Tony used to point out with glee at times as some of my mistakes can be quite comickal! (that one was on purpose to illustrate and share the point).
All my love and deepest sympathy. I will never ever forget that great man, know one could ever forget him, friend or foe he left his mark.
I have so many very happy memories of Tony. Initially at the `'fed House - Handcross and then at Mayfield. I remember long bicycle rides and camping in the rain in Fridge Park. His very tidy London house and driving down all the back streets as he was sure he was being followed - by whom I never discovered!
The fun of having him at Porlock when he was in hiding from the press following questions in the House. Our joy when he decided to come to Shropshire and looking for suitable properties - one at Pen y bont which was on a Welsh mountain side with only a stream for water and I am not sure if it even had electricity! We were relieved when he hit upon Ouzles - although we did think that he was going to rebuild!
So sorry to hear about Tony. I spoke to him on Thursday and he was on top form as usual. It's hard to believe he is not with us anymore. We had such a fantastic time in Florida earlier this year fulfilling our dream to see a Shuttle launch. He was a great friend and Godfather and will be truly missed.
What has impressed me about the projects I have known Tony to be involved with, is that he always desired Righteousness and Justice and enquired of God.
When he went to Nepal with the aim of getting his cousin released from a Nepalese jail, he said that he would not be involved with any bribery and despite scepticism achieved his aim.
This is a copy of an email from Tony to Nigel:
"Thanks Nigel - intriguing, if rather sparse, and dismissive of what I would call a solid, reliable aircraft, which plugged a gap in our all-weather, day and night defences before the Lightning came into operational service.
We lost two aircraft during my time on Javelins at Leuchars. There were two squadrons of them, 151 and 29, probably numbering 32 aircraft, and some bright spark one day decided to scramble all of them through 30,000 feet of cloud. We took off in pairs every minute. Somehow one pair lagged a bit, and another pair was a bit fast, and the leader of the faster pair climbed into the tail of one of the front pair destroying the cockpit and killing the crew of the former and destroying the tail of the latter. The crew of the front aircraft ejected and were picked up relatively unscathed. Thereafter the spacing for pairs on scramble was increased to 2 minutes in bad weather!
The Javelin performed quite well on one engine, and though there was a spell when engine reliability was a problem, single-engined landings were not. We routinely flew 300 miles north at altitude, turned one engine off to conserve fuel and waited in a holding area until a Russian 'Bear' or two hove into radar view. We then relit the dead engine, homed onto the Bear, and escorted it to its nearest point on the British coast (usually 25 miles) when it turned round and flew back to Russia, and we returned to Leuchars. If it approached closer than 20 miles to the coast we would be instructed to shoot it down. Quite how we were to achieve that was never very clearly explained. We had 4 forward firing Aden guns, they had a forward firing gun turret, a rear turret, a turret on the top of the fuselage, and another turret on the bottom, each was radar controlled. As we escorted them we tried various lines of attack, trying to find their blind spot, but there was always at least one turret trained on us. Fortunately for me they always turned away from the coast in time.
I arranged with a friend of mine in the Hunter
squadron at Leuchars (43 Sqn) to meet me in the air one day to try out the Javelin against the Hunter
- highly illegal, but I felt it was important to know how the Javelin performed in a dog fight. The Javelin's biggest problem was that if you stalled it the big delta wings blanked off the air flow from the tail plane, and you lost longitudinal control. So a stalled, or worse a spinning Javelin was unrecoverable. During prototype testing at least two test pilots had to eject for this reason. Instead of designing a fix for the problem they built in a low speed warning bleeper and a stall warning klaxon. I decided in advance of my dog fight with the Hunter
that I would respond instantly to the klaxon but would ignore the bleeper. We duly met and immediately got into a dog fight spiral as we both sought to get behind the other so that we could bring our guns, (camera) to bear. For that you need to be turning as tightly as possible with as low an airspeed as possible. The Javelin was more maneuverable then the Hunter
in every respect, and I was able to stay behind him, but while we fought for twenty minutes the low speed bleeper was on all the time, and I controlled the klaxon by easing the turn each time it came on. The exercise was most satisfactory, and not only gave me a distinct edge in subsequent discussions in the bar between Hunter
and Javelin pilots, but also a confidence in flying the Javelin to its limits. Unfortunately my navigator took a different view and as we walked away from the aircraft he said that if I ever did that again he would ask for a change of pilot. I never did it again, but it was sad that he couldn't realise that he would be much safer in my hands as a result of that flight, should we ever come up against a real foe."
Enough of reminiscing!
Love to you all.
The following are taken from phone calls or conversations:
Remembers with some terror small children sitting on the baling sledge, being flung round Tony's fields towed by the tractor.
Picnics up on the big hill, surrounded by sheep.
Remembers his lovely little mews house, Holly Mews, in London in the 60s early 70s and a party watching the first moon landing, playing silly games. Sanda put him in touch with Dame Laura Knight, the artist, which ended with him buying one of her 'vapour trail' paintings (at the top of the stairs on the landing).
She remembers Tony & Patrick aged late 20s joking around one evening and portraying themselves as they would be: "a doddery old pair, slightly gaga, and shuffling along arm in arm. It was very funny, but what a good thing both your brothers avoided that". Tony was John's best man at their wedding, and one of Simon's Godfathers.
Holidays together at Dingle's cottage in Wales, Tony & John attempting to fly remote-controlled planes on the beach, and when it wasn't very successful, Tony explaining that it was of course very different from the real thing.
Air Marshal Sir Sutton John KCB
Very sorry to hear of the passing of Tony Boyle. I was his flight commander on 4
and he was an excellent chap in every way. He would have gone a long way but the for medical blip in Aden.
I have a story about him but doubt it is suitable for his family at this time. However, it might amuse you or perhaps be useful at some time in the future.
In 1979 I had just been promoted AVM
and was about to leave Cranwell to take up appointment as ACAS
(Pol). Erik Bennett had been Commander SOAF
for some years and both Tony and I knew him well. He had invited us to Oman for a week or so to look at SOAF
which, by any standards, was impressive. Tony and I flew out on the Sultan's VC10 - which had only about 10 seats in it and was luxury unlimited. After about 4 days we were at Masirah when we got a call to return quickly to Muscat, which we did. Erik explained that arrangements for our return had suddenly been brought forward and we had to leave there and then in the executive jet as otherwise - because of other requirements - it could be another week or so before there would be another chance. He already had our suit cases packed and loaded and so without further ado we set off in the Falcon. Tony Pearce
- again on 4
during my time - was one of the pilots. Once airborne Tony
said that he hoped we could get clearance over Eastern Europe as there would not be time to go around as the Falcon was needed back urgently in Oman.
However, such clearance seemed unlikely and it looked as though we would be off loaded at Tehran where the Falcon had to refuel and left to our own devices there. On taxying in Tony
heard "permission to taxy RAF VC10 to VIP
point" and, with great presence of mind asked if the VC10 could take two RAF passengers, and was told it could. Tony and I went to the VIP
stand and without showing any identity at all were welcomed on board - surprising as it was David Owen's aircraft - the Foreign Secretary. Air Marshal Sir Freddie Ball was our man in CENTO
and he escorted David Owen on board. He walked down the aircraft, saw us and asked what we were doing. I explained that we had been on an official visit to Oman and that Tony was my ADC
. Freddie Ball knew Tony's father well and knew also that Tony had not been in the RAF for years. But fortunately he said nothing. Later on, amid the filet steak and lovely red wine, David Owen popped down and had a chat about our visit and we told the same story. It was an extraordinary trip. After landing as Tony and I went our separate ways I said that if he didn't get a bill for about three months we could assume he had got away with it - and he did.!!
Extracts from 'Looking for Trouble',
by Sir Peter de la Billière
Some brief extracts concerning Tony Boyle from:
'Looking for Trouble - SAS to Gulf Command - The Autobiography' pp 202-206
Reproduced by kind permission of the author: Sir Peter de la Billière.
'...I was gradually drawn into another activity far more exciting than any of my official duties: I became an undercover agent.
The man who introduced me to this new role was Tony Boyle, a tall, thin, dark airman then working as ADC
to the Governor. The son of MRAF
Sir Dermot Boyle, Tony had flown fast jet fighters in Scotland and Germany, and come out to Aden for an obligatory ground tour in the middle of his RAF career. Part of his job in Aden was to organise hospitality at Government House, and one day early in 1963 who should arrive to stay as a guest of the Governor but David Stirling. Tony knew, of course, that Stirling was the founder of the SAS
, and soon saw that he and Sir Charles Johnston were old friends. One night after the two had dined together alone at Government house, Johnston excused himself and went to bed, leaving Tony to drink whisky with Stirling on the terrace.
Presently Stirling started to talk about his idea for sending support to the Royalist forces who were waging a guerrilla war of resistance against the Republicans in the Yemen, and asked Tony if he would help people as they passed through Aden. So began an extraordinary, covert operation which lasted for five years, substantially debilitated the armed forces of Egypt, and had a profound effect on events throughout the Middle East ...'
'...Because the operation had not been officially sanctioned by the British Government, the SAS
itself could not take part. Yet here was an ideal opportunity for former members of the Regiment to exercise their skills in a mercenary role - and who better to direct them than the one-time Commanding Officer of 21st SAS
, Jim Johnson? ...'
'...At first it was Tony Boyle who fielded the mercenaries in Aden and sent them on: he evolved an efficient system whereby a Dakota would be parked on the airstrip close to the spot where the twice-weekly Comet from London came to a halt, and passengers and their heavy freight would transfer straight to it, without passing through customs. In time, however, Jim Johnson felt that he needed an army officer to handle the traffic, and so he asked Tony to recruit me...'
'...For communication with London, we used the normal post and civilian cable network, disguising our activities by means of simple codes - with cipher-words -'
'...Another time, Tony Boyle (then back in England) sent a message 'IN SWAY OVER WEEKEND', and everyone in Aden became tremendously excited, thinking a parachute drop of arms and equipment was imminent. Word went all the way up the line into the Yemen, and when nothing happened, we were acutely disappointed. So were the Egyptians, whose intelligence service had intercepted the message and alerted the Yemeni defences to look out for parachutists. All Tony had meant was that he would be spending the weekend with his parents at Sway, the village where they lived in the New Forest...'
'...The pressure on me increased sharply in September, when Tony's tour of duty ended. He had begun to suffer severe headaches, and an x-ray suggested he might have a tumour on the brain. Luckily this diagnosis proved wrong, and the trouble turned out to be migraine; but it was bad enough to prevent him flying fast jets any more, and he resigned from the air force. This was great loss to the RAF, as he clearly had a distinguished career ahead of him; yet it was a considerable gain to us, since he promptly joined Jim Johnson's team in London, and several times returned to Aden during the course of the operation...'
I feel very privileged to have been asked to say a few words today.
Tony was my best friend; but then I imagine that there are many people here today who could say the same thing. Whether you were related or not, once you gained his respect - and I don't think he suffered fools gladly - you entered a very special circle.
If you ever wanted to bounce an idea around, it was to Tony that we all turned. Whether they were small personal matters or of national importance. "Ask Tony. He'll know."
I would have sent this piece to him to vet and any suggestions he'd have made would have been cogent and helpful: "It's too long. You missed the bit about the RAF Museum. What about my travels?"
In recent years, Tony took up the cudgels about many things, whether it was the iniquity of the Public Trustee, wind turbines or the latest invention that he took under his wing; whether it was an interesting manuscript that a friend had written or a project that was dear to his heart, like Democracy, he didn't just talk about it, he moved into action. Just like the book of his experiences in The Yemen that he was writing.
I was at school with Tony and, not being in the same house, our paths first crossed in the RAF Section of The Corps. When we left, I did my National Service and Tony began his more distinguished career in the RAF. Passing out as top cadet at Cranwell, he told me recently that his father, then Marshal of The Royal Air Force, and due to present the sword of Honour at the Passing Out Parade, and obviously embarrassed at the thought of accusations of nepotism, asked the C.O.
whether he couldn't think of anyone who was more deserving. The photograph we have all seen in Tony's study proves that there wasn't.
As many know and others are better able to tell you, Tony had an exciting time in the late fifties and early sixties. On 5th July 1964 the Sunday Times Insight team blew the whistle on the Yemen Operation - I still have the article. He remained in London, first in Holly Mews, and then Settrington Road, working for his country in a different way but later 'upped sticks' and moved to a little farm in Aston Eyre, where he lived for the next thirty four years.
It was here that he provided comfort, generous hospitality and a refuge for those who sought it. Initially the price we paid was staying in a ramshackle house, with only the bare necessities and with one bedroom, known affectionately in our family as The Rat Room, that it needed particular courage to enter. We came prepared to hoover, dust, clean and tidy, which we did with a vengeance for the first twenty four hours but, by the second day we too were wearing wellies in the kitchen and by the third, actually going up the creaking stairs to bed in them.
If Tony was like a brother to me, he was a very kind and special 'uncle' to all my children. We 'lambed' with him at night, we watched his foal being born and we took it in turns to plough and sow his fields. We watched him take to the air in his micro light by day and laughed the evenings away around the kitchen table.
It was also here that my son Christian polished his art as a cartoonist by drawing on the walls. If Tony hadn't moved to his brand new house, a request from Christian for the return of all his original illustrations would have meant that the walls and doors would have had to be removed and that the house would have fallen down. Which, of course, eventually, it did.
Tony was straightforward, utterly dependable and honest - at least I thought he was, until we caught him one night, when we were playing Colditz, re-deploying his 'guards' around the castle with scant regard for the rules, when he thought we weren't looking.
Through the years as we both grew older and they grew up, Ouseley Farm was 'open house' for us all. We just said: "Can we come up on so and so day?" and if no one else was booked in, we went. We took a few bottles of wine and some whisky and did the 'first shop' in Bridgnorth and the next three days would be such fun that one wondered why, at the end of it, one had to return to civilization and a boring job in London.
In the evening we would yarn and dine and open bottles of wine at a prodigious rate, while the poker chips changed hands and Big Mississippi was the game.
Preface to Peter Crowther's tribute: Air Commodore Michael Allisstone, CBE
I should begin by presenting Peter Crowther's apologies for not being able to give this tribute in person. As some of you will know, he lives on the Continent and he has two long-standing appointments there today which prevent him from being with us. As I was one of Tony's - and Peter's - Under Officers in C Squadron at Cranwell in 1954, he asked me to stand in for him and I am honoured to be able to do so.
However, it was not until about 8 years ago that Tony and I began to get to know each other properly, when we were both fellow guests in Peter's house in Holland. We found we had a number of things in common: apart from the RAF, we shared a similar sense of the ridiculous and a love of good food and wine, which was a pretty good start. We met up subsequently about once a year at Cranwell reunions and elsewhere, and much enjoyed each other's company.
Tony knew that I had some experience of authorship and, when he was asked to give an address at an Old Carthusian dinner a few years ago, he asked me to help him to write his script. Once I got the gist of the tale he wanted to tell about supplying arms to Yemeni Royalists, I realised that here was a book waiting to be written. I was delighted to learn, a bit later on, that he had finally been persuaded to write it and, when I went to stay with him at Ouseley Farm last year, he showed me some of the material he had gathered for it - much of it highly sensitive, just lying around in boxes all over the floor of his study and in dire need of cataloguing. Everything else was in his head! When I last spoke to him on the telephone, a couple of months ago, he told me he was making good progress with the project but I do not know how far he got. I very much hope that someone will feel able to take it on from here and finish the job as it is such a wonderful story. And that, as we are about to hear, is but a part of Tony's extraordinarily active and interesting life.
This is what Peter Crowther was going to tell us about it:
(As Peter was sadly unable to attend the service, it was read by Air Commodore Michael Allisstone, CBE
'I first met Tony in 1953 when we entered the RAF College. After all the tests we had to pass to get there, I was surprised to hear him say, on his first day there, that he had always wanted to be a farmer! His presence, qualities of leadership, and skilled flying gained him the Sword of Honour ... and it was amusing that on a gusty Lincolnshire day it was only Tony's hat blown off during our graduation parade, in front of the reviewing officer - his father, the then Chief of the Air Staff.
He then moved to Germany to a day fighter squadron
. During his time there he visited a wine festival where the hotel owner's pretty twin daughters showed him round. "Did you take their phone number?" I asked. "No" he replied, "I was too busy with my Hawker Hunter.
A spell on Javelin all-weather fighters followed, with the task of escorting the Russian Bear bombers intruding on our air space. But Tony loved to use the low wing loading of his aircraft to taunt the poor Russians, while his stall-warning sounded and his crewmen complained loudly.
He was then appointed ADC
to the Governor of Aden, allowing him to see the uses of power. But a blob on an X-ray of his brain (a thumb print perhaps?) reduced his medical rating, and thus his future career prospects. Fate intervened, and he met Col David Stirling of the SAS
. This led to his working with them, Yemeni royalist 'rebels' and other friends, to keep Nasser's army and Russian air units in check, perhaps changing the course of history.
He then moved to his beloved Shropshire, to his farm and the hovel in which he lived, courtesy of the 'oxymoronic' town planners. These were harsh years, ageing him and destroying his knees.
But in recent years he was able to build his comfortable new house, when we had an amusing time, choosing his carpets and curtains together and placing his pictures on the walls, like a couple of fading 'lovies'! He obtained new knees, changing his life for the better.
Happily, he had a good safari holiday with his brother before Patrick died. And Tony went round the world 'on one pair of socks; as he put it. More recently he enjoyed the drama of a shuttle launch from Cape Canaveral.
To demonstrate his skills, he obtained the release from a Nepal jail of five young adventurers. In addition, he helped a friend to leave a central American prison. How? We do not know.
Many people have asked me why he never married. I do know that he proposed marriage to a young lady. I also happen to know he much enjoyed spending time on the beach at Aden in the company of a particular young lady of some standing; until the Governor's wife warned him: "Tony, I'm afraid this has to stop - you can't afford her."
My wife bravely asked him why he'd never wed. "Why should I be so stupid as to allow myself to be as bullied and ordered about as your poor Peter? My wife also offered to look after him in his dotage, together with me and my brother. Crisply, he retorted "Count me out".
Staying with him a month ago, I suggested that we should struggle on for another ten years. "I'm off in two" he said "when I've finished my book on Yemen".
I will miss the long, late night kitchen chats, with red wine, the reviews of democracy, ecology, stock markets and aircraft.
That great voice is stilled; he has entered his last 'great adventure'. A firm friend with warmth and kindness is no more. May God bless him.'
April 1956 Tony with Peter Crowther Cranwell Graduation Day
Tony, having won the Sword of Honour for passing out top of his form, taking the graduation parade. Cranwell, April 1956.
...and 50 yeras on. 2008 beating the Cadets at Croquet - with Peter Crowther
When my family arrived in Aston Eyre in 1977 Tony had already been there for a few years building up his farm. My husband John and he became friends and that friendship extended to Ben, Emma and me when John died two years later. I suspect it was Tony who orchestrated the early support for us with other members of the village which saw us through those difficult early months. This was typical of Tony: when people were in need, he offered support, always willing to listen or act.
Over the years, the countless meals and cups of tea we have shared with him were always enhanced by Tony's stories. He was a remarkable storyteller and he will be remembered by his friends, old and young, for his fantastic sound effects which accompanied many a tale, as well as his dramatic presentation. Stories were moulded into legends in his hands, adventures were chronicled as multi-part thrillers. You were never certain whether the colour was authentic or the detail correct, but it rarely mattered. The vivid pictures and implausible circumstances which he recounted will stay with us for a long time to come.
Tony was a magnet for young people and he always had a warm welcome for them. To a young child his old house was an Aladdin's cave - full of mythical creatures and booby traps. I think in retrospect these were the chicks hatching in the incubator and the hole in the stairs, but I'm sure he would have preferred the first explanation.
To teenagers his house was a sanctuary where they were always treated as an adult, but allowed to behave as children. Ian Fullerlove tells how his front door, was always open - literally. Unlocked, whether he was there or not. When they were 18 or so, they used to visit Tony after they'd been to the pub, just to hang out with him, continue drinking, play table football, space invaders or bar billiards - his games room was legendary and the Fullerloves, Coshes and friends gravitated there on many occasions. On moving to his new house he relished being able to entertain his many friends and relatives in more salubrious surroundings.
Tony and I would often talk about Christian faith and the Church. Some years ago he commented that he thought I was trying to change things from within but he had decided organised religion was not for him. Jean Banks commented this week that in the many projects that Tony undertook she was always so impressed by his determination to act righteously and with justice, enquiring of God. His insistence on adhering to his own code made him both honourable and exasperating: a man who refused to enter into bribing officials in Nepal, and one who was intractable once his mind was made up.
My children grew up knowing that they could draw on his wisdom and friendship to see them through. A father figure and a friend; a mentor and ally; he took the mickey and gave encouragement in equal measures. Tony's love of practical jokes and his sense of humour meant he was able to enter into the childhood mindset. In response to her childish refusal to eat cabbage, his reaction was to throw it across the table at Emma, or Ems as he called her; in taking directions through the Shropshire lanes, he chose the literal interpretation of straight on, and drove her straight through a field. To a child these were great jokes and they remain family memories: shared and laughed about even today.
Equally, his intellect and fascination with politics found an outlet and collaborator in Ben. They both derived such pleasure from the wide ranging discussions they had. He was able to seek counsel and advice during many discussions with Tony at his kitchen table. Their mutual interest in technology evolved into Tony offering his barn as a research site for installing wind turbines when he started up his own alternative energy business last year.
Tony was a man who appeared larger than life while alive, and will live on for long afterwards in the memories of all of us here. Surely there must be a kitchen table 'up there' so Tony can feel at home talking with all his friends and family who have gone before him.
Writings by Tony
Tony & Jim Johnson with knowcked-out Jordanian tank - (?)Yemen. mid 1960's.
By Tony Boyle, September 2006
Written for Penny in appreciation of her having me at her 60th birthday party villa holiday, September, 2006
Drive north from Amandola to Sarnano. If the road gives you pause look left to snatch a glimpse of Italy's Apennine mountains - its best kept secret.
Even here the foothills cause the road to snake. A small square house appears, first on one side of the car, then below you on the other as you twist and turn. Roofed with curly terra-cotta tiles, surrounded by the work-worn tools of generations of subsistence farmers each house has its vegetable patch - the pride of its owners. An ancient crone wearing a blue plastic shower cap tends one, an old man another. Bright red and green, tomatoes and peppers shine from ordered rows of plants. Two huge orange pumpkins lurk on straw, protected, each night, from early frost by gaily coloured beach umbrellas. Alas, from many houses the roofs are gone, the trees reclaim the rooms and rise triumphant through the ruins. Yet still the treasured vegetables are cared for in their patches.
In places the road is slippery with wild figs fallen from their tree. Stop if you can and gorge on them for they are nectar.
Sarnano, when you have passed its cranes and ugly factory outskirts, is a joy. Mellow ochre, the massive walls of mediaeval buildings crown its rocky outcrops, and the narrow streets host a weekly market. Everywhere the food is good, the wine a bright surprise.
Leave Sarnano northwards. Take the second turning to the left, signed Bolognola. The tarmac road climbs through hamlets nestled in the thickly wooded landscape. Small mongrel dogs stand guard and yap while others, half wild, trot hopefully behind the car, as if seeking something lost. Wild boar still roam the woods, their meat a favoured dish. When all is quiet at night, their crashing progress through the undergrowth startles you awake.
As you climb and turn the trees give way to woody scrub and tantalizing glimpses of Sarnano, still recognisable, but losing definition in the view surrounding it. A multicoloured field of delicate wild flowers appears large then vanishes as you turn another bend; is spied again as a tiny, bright, jewel of colour in the moss-green of the scrub, almost lost in the developing view.
One last steep turn and you are on a light green undulating plateau, quite Alpine. The road, like the mountain, relaxes into gentle curves. Wild flowers abound and shrub gives way to grass. On these wild pastures sheep and cattle graze, unfenced, in summer. Small, strong wooden huts, shelter for the drovers, dot the landscape.
Ahead a structure takes your eye and, as you near, reveals itself to be a crucifix of steel, painted red and standing twelve feet high. Picasso might have dreamed it. Two steel circles form the head, the rest is like stick-man. Welded above the outstretched hands, parallel to the ground, two steel bars indicate the cross. Its isolation, miles from habitation, and the confident faith of the people who put it there, touch some deep emotive chord. You cannot resist its pull, and stop to look more closely. As you walk up towards it the full meaning is revealed, for it stands atop, and gazes on, a glorious panorama of Eastern Italy: the Just Man crucified tends his faithful people for all time.
Walk on towards the view. You hear the distant clack of wooden bells, then see a herd of white charollais cattle grazing contentedly on a billowed plateau far below. Do they notice the view? Drive on again. A flock of sheep grazing both sides of the road briefly blocks your passage, a massive white sheepdog lying, nose on paws, protecting them. These dogs are fierce, staying with the sheep day and night on guard. A friend was attacked passing near a flock on his 43motor-scooter. They mainly guard from wolves - which conservationists are re-introducing to the area - and the farmers shoot them as they have for centuries.
The road bears right, away from the view. Small groups of mules and horses graze on the plateau along the way. They are unconcerned by man, and the rope around each neck betrays its domesticity. Turning right at the T junction you go slightly downhill, heading into the heart of the mountains. Craggy sheer cliffs, five miles away, fill the windscreen. Even leaning forward and peering up, you can hardly see the tops. A straight line, as if drawn by a ruler, runs diagonally across the precipitous mountain ahead. It starts below you, to your left, and climbs to the top on your right.
Half right the plateau plunges out of sight. Down there, at the end of a fearsome, snake of a road lies Bolognola. Pressed close all round by massive mountains it rarely sees the sun. A flash of aquamarine escapes its enveloping trees to reveal the lake with which Bolognola shares this sump in the depths of the earth. In the lake, when the winter torrents yield to the heat of summer and the water level falls, a gun, pointing skyward from a tank, bulldozed into the lake in some forgotten skirmish, mutely rebukes man's folly.
Soon another crossroads gives you a dilemma: to the right, Bolognola; ahead, the diagonal line on the mountain is revealed as a track, a gravel track, hewn into the wall of the mountain, and climbing to the summit ridge. Signs in Italian warn the unwary, (or forbid its use?). It is irresistible. The track is hardly wider than the car. No passing places, no room to turn around. Just go a little way, if it proves too bad you can reverse. And so you get sucked in, with bated breath and churning stomach you go from moment to moment, climbing inexorably. Its OK so far, do a bit more. You gain confidence, increase speed to 10 and 15 miles an hour. There are places where the road has clearly fallen away and been rebuilt; elsewhere rocks have fallen from above and lie, shattered piles, obstructing you. But your continuous apprehension is counterpointed by the majesty of the surroundings.
It is like driving up the inside of a massive volcano. But this is no volcano: it was caused by ice, which ground away half the mountain, and when it melted, deposited the spoil to form the gentle upland pastures you've just left. But it is also an area of earthquakes, so the strata in the rock has been tormented. Some are even vertical, great cracks horizontally across them, mis-aligning the strata. As you climb, the view from the crucifix is beginning to reappear behind you (oops!). Ahead, the mountain fills your sight, imprisons you, rocky, craggy, awe inspiring. To the left are the rock walls at the base of the precipice that rises sheer above the road, tufts of coarse grass clinging in cracks. To the right the edge of the track rims the dark mysterious depths, whence the mountain climbs triumphant to the sky. The majestic power of nature leaves you gasping and aghast.
What great need caused this extraordinary feat of engineering? It must have cost lives, as well as money, yet seems to have no commercial use. For tourism, yes, but why then is it not on the map, marked green to indicate its unparalleled scenery? Perhaps the answer lies with the military, for the summit to which the track leads would be a prize in conflict. Metal stakes have been driven into the rock at the edge of the road to warn the unwary, when snow lies deep, of their danger. Can it really be safe in winter? A pair of light brown hawks use the stakes as vantage points to watch for their prey of small lizards. Apart from them nothing stirs. . . except . .
A car is coming down. At once there is relief that the rest of the road is open, quickly quenched by the fear that the cars must pass. Search for a suitable place - this might do. Get as far to the right as you dare, don't look down. Hope the edge doesn't collapse. The rock on the left curves away from the road at this point and he might just be able to make it. Soon he is squeezing slowly past without mishap.
The ridge at the top has now appeared in the windscreen. A concrete bunker, stark above it, recalls the turbulence of war. The track, following the contour of the mountain, is turning gently to the right. Now, through the right hand window you can see, far below, the pastures, and beyond, the coloured patchwork map of Italy running right to the Adriatic, an azure strip below the misty horizon. It is hard to keep your eyes on the road with so much to look at. Then suddenly you are on top of the ridge. You can stop.
The relief, and the stunning realisation that not only can you see the Adriatic to the east, but now you can also see a new and spectacular panorama across Italy to the west, leaves you shaking with sensory overload.
For an eternity you stay, poised on top of the world, intoxicated with the beauty that surrounds you.
We recently spent a week in Italy at a friend's house in Le Marche, and I had great delight in driving to the Sibillini Mountains and following the description of your trip which Tony described in the collection of memories you put together. I'm so glad we made the effort, and take the liberty of attaching a poem I wrote soon afterwards.
...it was specifically arriving at the red crucifix that I had in mind when I wrote the poem ...
I felt you there today,
Your reassuring presence at my shoulder.
I followed the path that you had trod
A year before, and now a little older
I'm still wandering in the aftermath
Of your departure.
You left us unprepared.
No timely warning that you planned to go.
And yet in truth
Those years that you bestowed
In wisdom kind
Will bear us safely down our onward road.
I felt you there today,
On a breath of warm Italian wind,
And I knew that all was well.
26th VI 2008
Tony underneath his Javelin at Cosgrove Museum Photo by Tony Bird
Sir Dermot Boyle presenting Sword of Honour to his son, Tony, at Cranwell passing out parade 1956 (Painted by Paul Fitzgerald 1957)
Author, Tony Boyle & John Ducker at Little Aden
('Author' is John Harding. Aden around 1960.)
Mr. Pickles in Old Ouseley
Ouseley from the south - during summer of 2008.
There were four different and well delivered orations, which, with the packed large church and subsequent crowded reception in a marquee next to Tony's new house, were a fitting tribute to the affection for Tony from his extended family and also a large number of local people from his years up at Aston Eyre.
Tony's sister, Penny, & family sent me some of the reminiscences, (this article). Check the You Tube address
given in the attachment to see Tony's burst on Central TV over his wind turbine, as per Ben Cosh's contribution - see Peter de la Billière's bits and Tony's quoted E-mail to Nigel Spooner.
Tony used to bowl in to see us a couple of times in Aden on my naughty boy's tour on 43(F) at Khormaksar, when involved in his cross border activities, which still must be theatre-sensitive. Over the last 3 months I was helping Tony on some of the official, and less so, incidents during my time across the border (if any addressees have knowledge of same and can send me details I will ensure they find the right home in the archive Tony was writing up.) This included a terrible misfortune of pretty unusual R/T
trouble between a first tourist and his leader - grounded in the fundamental "thou shalt never leave thy leader" this guy let slip chasing off and knocking down an intruding Mig 17 when he'd reported it up at Beihan - I remember that it took not the 25 minutes the bureaucrats in Whitehall had to clear us to cross the border airborne on their instructions for Beihan to nail a stolen Ferret car from there - but about 14 hrs, when the surefire cross border search & destroy we were armed and airborne for the previous day, was by then virtually impossible.