RAF Brize Norton Rob Stuller Remembers

Rob Stuller



Rob Remembers

Robb Stuller remembers his time at RAF Brize Norton in the 1960's

Just for nostalgia, I googled “Brize Norton” for info when I was stationed there & saw J Scott’s web. Oddly enough, we were in the same Sq (Base Supply) & even more strange, I am the Airman in uniform, kneeling in front of the car. Jerill, forgot the name & inserted the name he thought it was & as we emailed each other, it came out it was me, Robert “Robb” Stuller. Stranger still, we were room mates for a short time.
As you view the photo in Jerril’s web, you note the military police guard post at the entrance to the base. The building to the left , I believe was the higher ranking , single , NCO quarters. unseen on the right & just beyond, would have been the two story Airmen’s barracks (or “Dorms” as the RAF preferred to call them).
I remember for most of my stay of 2 years, I was in the 1st barracks in the line (ending with the Mess Hall to the rear & very last building) , facing the athletic field directly in front and part of the flight line to our right as you looked out the large window from the front “dorms” that each room had. I remember awakening one weekend in September to a tremendous series of shrieks, whines & overworked precision engines.
As a student of history & in particular the 2nd world war, I had heard that noise & associated it with a spitfire engine.
Couldn’t be. No way. Impossible! As hung over as I was from a night of youthful indulgences and regrets, I forced myself up & was gifted with the most wonderful sight I have ever seen or experienced.
As I pulled back the curtains, above me over the barracks & flight line was a WWII spitfire doing the most exciting rolls, loops & Immelmann turns I had ever seen.
No movie, no historic newsreel could do justice to what I saw.
Dreaming... right? Wrong.
For about 15 minutes more, the pilot continued to dive & and climb & enrapture the entire base >>>> why?
It hit me at once> Battle of Britain remembrance!!
I can still hear that unmistakable Rolls Royce engine sound, that almost metallic rattling echo with throttle changes.
A lot of memories & like most of the Yanks, we took home with us, the genuine feeling of the hospitality of the folks we met all over the UK. I’ve always wanted to return & see the Base as well as Oxford & the surrounding towns (London was great, but I more enjoyed the serenity of the small English towns & pubs I visited & still hold dear.)
I only had one “hitch” in the USAF, but have to say that I wish the time there at Brize was double or triple the time I spent there.
I’ve had a good life, family & career in business, but those military days without the necessities of supporting a loving family and all the demands of a civilian working life... I wonder if we don’t all look back on those days in the Air Force, or whatever branch of service one might have been in, & say to ourselves... I lived & loved every minute of it!
It was not only about service to our countries, but a growing and learning process as well as leaving us with golden memories, that can always be brought to the fore.
I wound up in Brize due to the Cuban Missle Crisis.
While dining at the Mess Hall one evening, for the 1st time ever, the base public address system was used... “All personnel report to your duty stations immediately”.
When I arrived, I was the only one in my duty section. The others lived off base. My NCOIC, M/Sgt Maxwell Called & said he was notified to report... what was up... I didn’t know... but as long as our station was manned ,that’s all that was required.
A few hours later as it was getting dark, I heard a lot of activity on the flightline. Our section was right opposite the Bombers alert area. (I slept in our station for the next 24 hrs.)
Then I saw our B-47’s being fitted with black shrouds around the bombay doors... that meant Atomic weapons.... Lordy.... Lordy
I was scared! My heart sank to my ankles. How could Harry & Vivian’s youngest son , find himself in this situation.
A few hrs later, close to 1am... all the Bombers had left. Silence for about 2 hrs & then the fighters, mostly F- 84’s, started landing Probably 8 sqns by mid morning.
Months Later, many of the SAC (Strategic Air Command.. Bombers) troops were transferred to TAC (Tactical Air Command (fighters)) Myself & others were to be transferred to other SAC bases. I picked Brize Norton, as I always wanted to see England. That’s how I got to Brize
A few months after I arrived in England, I met a nice English girl in Oxford. And,Was invited to her home for Tea. Her parents were very nice, I was asking the typical Yank tourist questions , & questions to me of the states.
One ot he things they asked me, as that I had been in the UK for about 3-4 months, what did I miss most of the states?
Searching for a quick answer, I said “ I miss peanut butter” (one of my childhood favorites).
I was invited a few weeks later over to “tea” again and there on the table was a small jar of American “Skippy” peanut butter. The Mum asked if it was ok, & I said great. Then she asked, “how do I prepare it?” A little surprised, I said... “why just a sandwich... you know, peanut butter & jelly”.
I should have picked up on the surprise look of the mum... but didn’t really think much about it at the time. Then the Mum said .. “well alright... but give me some time”...
After about an hour, I said to the young lady I had met... “Gee that must be some sandwich your Mom is making”.... she said ..”well it takes awhile for the Jelly to set”. I couldn’t believe it...
”You mean your Mom is Making homemade jelly for a simple PB&J sandwich?”.
Then , as I stepped into the kitchen, I noticed she had made (to Yanks)... JELLO!. Whether I said it wrong, or Jelly meant Jello to Brits... I was told later I should have said “Peanut butter & jam on bread!
As George Bernard Shaw once said , the English & Americans share a common bond , separated only by language.

More memories by Rob


British Railways system: Unlike the sterile coaches on American trains, the compartments on British railcars were not only comfy, but encouraged meeting people & spurred conversation. They also brought to mind every British film I’d ever seen & made them that much more fun and familiar

London Taxis: The smoothest riding vehicle I ever traveled in and the drivers were always polite & professional.

All the rural villages: Each one more pleasing then the last.

Pubs: American Bars are still, more for drinking, as opposed to socializing . Pubs, as I learned, were as much for social gatherings. It was a completely different & warmer atmosphere.

History: You could find it around every corner & almost every mile.

Traditions: Like history, so much… too much to know or enjoy all of them. Universal Hospitality: The American south & southwest has a similar reputation, however, everywhere I traveled in England, I found the folks to be warm & engaging.

Fish & Chips: Affordable, fast, delicious “comfort food”.

Proper Dress: Back home, jeans or shorts & a sweatshirt were the norm. After the first couple of times in Oxford, I felt better in a coat & tie & they came to be the “uniform” I donned, whenever I was off the base.

British tailors: Of course, proper dress, required proper tailors. Never before or after did I have “custom made” suits. And, they were affordable even with my lowly airman’s pay.

Double Decker Buses: Made getting there half the fun!. Always rode on top. Though they could be a bit scary, as sometimes seemed to defy the laws of physics and gravity when they made sharp turns.

Tea Time: A most pleasant ritual. Not until my oldest son was in Germany for 10 years, did I experience a similar tradition. The Germans had “Coffee & Cake” at about the same time of day. Also, prior to my English stay, I never put milk or cream in my tea. Now, however, it’s my standard… seems more civilized with milk or cream.

Darts: I was only “fair”, but enjoyed the Pub Dart games I played. I even bought my own personal set.

British Constables: “Bobbys” always seem more professional and were almost always helpful & respectful. (Makes me think we should eliminate the word “cop”, sounds less respectful)

Blending in: Although I tried to blend, somehow I was always spotted as a “yank” (even before I opened my mouth!). What was it: haircut? Clothes? Certainly when I used a knife & fork I was “pegged” as an American.

Scotch Whiskey: Prior to Britain, I never really indulged in spirits and was not a beer or ale person. However, I felt a bit awkward with other men in the pubs with a coke in my hand. Thus, I opted for a “whiskey & Soda” and nursed it most of the night. After 6 months, I was enjoying 2 or three of a night. To this day, scotch & in particular, single malts, are my favorites.

Speech: Most Americans feel that when they hear proper English, spoken as a “Brit”, it seems to elevate a person’s IQ, by 10 points. I still enjoy English pronounced in its’ proper way. However, I do remember talking to a Scotsman once, where the first few minutes I understood just about everything. Then he lapsed into brogue, I couldn’t tell if it was Celtic, Flemish or Finnish. So I just smiled, nodded my head and gave reassuring noises to try to convey understanding & not to offend him.

B&B’s in London: Although I enjoyed rural Britain more, I did get to London a number of times and if it wasn’t for the B&B’s, never could have afforded an overnight stay there. I do remember my first breakfast at a B&B. I was asked “orange juice or corn flakes”. I said yes. Got a surprised look from the owner’s wife. She smiled & brought me both. One of my fellow diners at my table offered advice that the next time I dine at breakfast, I should pick one or the other. I felt a little embarrassed but learned from small incidents like this.


“Poppy Day Parade: Evidently a local village (can’t remember which one) requested a contingent of American airmen to march in a remembrance day parade. A note was posted in our sqn for about 2 dzn volunteers to March behind the British veterans through this small village to a church. I really enjoyed participating and was pleased we were asked.

Hitchhiking: Back then, hitching was a safe cheap alternative for transportation. No one would dream of it here now, not sure if it has changed in Britain. Was almost assured of catching a ride by the 3rd or 4th car or lorry that passed. Was also my first time offered a ride in the sidecar of a motorcycle (took a half hour after the ride before I could hear in my right ear again!).

Cheltenham Horse race: Attended with a dear friend. Horses ran the opposite way then in the states. The bets with the “bookies” in the infield were confusing. No pari-mutuel electric postings. Just a man in front of a chalkboard & a chap with a huge ledger type book next to him. All very basic & completely manual. Again, an education.

Christmas: Was always invited to spend Christmas with a British friend or family. Meant a lot to be included during that holiday time. Got to see more, different traditions, many similar ones too.

Mingling with the RAF: When the base was in transition from USAF to RAF, as Americans or whole units were phased out & transferred, similar RAF units were there to take over. I remember the first contingents of RAF personnel were disappointed when we replaced the Yank food service (Mess hall) with RAF cooks. I had to agree, the quantity & quality did seem to suffer. The saving grace was the NCO club (which stayed open even up to my last day on base). All the RAF enlisted men were allowed to attend. The beer and whiskey was a whole lot cheaper (a whiskey & soda was 25 cents or about 2 shillings then… beer was about 15 cents for 12 ozs.) I must say, it was party, party, party for a couple of months!. If the NCO club closed & still had funds left, they would have to be, by rules, divided up between all the NCO clubs in the UK & Europe. Our club manager said that was not going to happen & insured that all the funds (and it was a very rich club) would be spent on the members. Thus the first thing you did after duty was to go to the NCO club, Yanks & RAF alike. Over the PA system, the club manager would say.. “Free Steak dinners for everyone!”… or “Two drinks for the price of one for the next 3 hours”. The slot machines were set on a 50/50 chance of winning (always a line for each one) and we had a cabaret or floor show every Friday, Saturday & Sunday night, plus two nights during the week! And the club still had a lot of money! In fact the last couple of weeks, the club had floor shows at lunchtime…. That caused the base commander to say enough! As some troops were returning (or not returning) to duty sections intoxicated, although in a stage of transition, military decorum still had to prevail.

Buckingham Palace: The changing of the Guard was & always will be a grand tradition. Lord, I hope that beautiful tradition is never lost or changes. Battle of Britain Day: As I recounted before, the flyover by a lone Spitfire over Brize Norton one morning, was an absolutely beautiful sight.

Currency: Though confusing at first, it was actually fun to quickly learn the differences. Also to stop thinking of the pound as a dollar (the rate then was $2.81 to the pound)!


“Bangers”: My second day in England (arrived at Prescott & spent the night in a WWII style Quonset hut with a coal fired pot belly stove for heat) took a bus through various bases to drop off other American airman. We stopped at a roadside eatery for lunch. It was a cafeteria style set up. Going through the line there were these sausages on a plate with eggs. I asked for the sausages and the attendant said we’re out of them. Anyway, we went back & forth, me saying yes you do & she and her female partner saying no they didn’t. So I said “c’mere, whatcha call them?” She looked at her girlfriend them me and said to me, “Would you like two Bangers”!. I guess it was the way she said it, anyway I blushed avoided their eyes & said, “OK, I’ll have them, whatever they’re called.”. Without being overly descriptive, you’d need to look up American slang to get the other meaning. However, I learned to like “bangers & eggs” afterwards. (And didn’t have to blush anymore!) “Bubble & Squeak”: Another food item. Though not a great treat, I ordered it a fair amount as I just liked saying it!

“Beans on Toast”: I still ask the question.. “how did this ever start, much less become so popular?” Perhaps it was a dish that started out..”Luv, don’t feel like going to the market. How ‘bout I just fix whatever is left in the larder?”

Cucumber Sandwiches: Similar to the beans on toast situation? “Luv, I’ll fix us lunch, but not sure what’s left in the larder”. TaaDaaa….

Serviette vs. Napkins: Probably my most embarrassing moment. I was at a nice restaurant with another Yank and 2 girls we were dating, and found my place setting was lacking a um.. er “piece of linen” . The waiter was just a table away & I asked for the er…. Item with the American term. Everyone within about 5 tables of us suddenly stopped talking, looked at me, and the 2 ladys with us (snickering and laughing as they were), and the other Yank as dumbfounded as I, when the girl that was with me said to ask for a “serviette”.Then she quietly informed me what I had requested of the waiter. Again, another learning curve “Knock me up”: I remember running into another Airman in a pub in Oxford, just a few weeks upon arriving to base. He was talking with an attractive young lady he had just met. We were about to leave to catch the last bus back to Brize, when she said here’s my address,

“Knock me up”. Like a shot from a Hollywood movie, the other Yank & I looked at each other in true wonderment, each searching the others face for an alternate , perhaps “British” meaning. All he said was thanks & we left (though he , fortunately, kept her address). On the way back, we were informed of the “British” meaning. (The American meaning is close to the 1st item, “Bangers”)

Shared expenses on dates: A totally different concept. In the states, the guy was expected to pay for everything on a date. This was Gospel, no ifs , ands or buts. It may even have even been written into the constitution somewhere I think. If I tried this in the states, I would have been on the NATIONAL Girls’ Black List of men.

Central Heating: Or I should say the lack thereof….. Again, a learning experience, as I got pretty good at starting a coal fire. I also found the true use for a hot water bottle before getting into a cold bed.

Shilling Meters: For Gas & Electric expenses. Just be sure you had extra shillings for the boxes.

Roundabouts: Although an odd traffic control system as I first thought, there are many of these in my local area and more being built in small to average size American towns. A very modest cost for traffic intersections.

THINGS I DID NOT ENJOY SO MUCH; (Very few items in this category)

Brussel Sprouts: Beats me, but I could never understand the popularity of this green. Perhaps it was “easily grown”, accounts for its’ ubiquity. Perhaps it was just something “green” to put on one’s plate. Maybe a tradition? It’s been over 45 years since I left England, and I think I’ve had them twice since then, both times at someone else’s home. As a prisoner!

“Scrumpy”: I believe this is a strictly Cotswold beverage… it certainly could not have a following outside the area. On the advice of a Pub owner just outside the base (it being the day before payday, and me with only a few shillings in my pocket), I tried a pint & then a half pint of this rather murky beverage. Yes, it was potent… in more ways then one. It caused me to not stray too far from a loo for the next 2 to 3 days. Another lesson learned, albeit an uncomfortable one.

Sunshine: Not enough of it. However, it did make you appreciate the sunny days all the more.

Driving on the left: Not really a dislike, as much as getting used to it. After my very first day in Oxford, I found I needed to change the natural responses I’d had since childhood when crossing a street. From that first day I learned to look RIGHT, THEN LEFT, instead of the other way around.

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Barrage Balloons in this area 1963

Chapel Brize Norton 1963


Brize Norton 1963

B ill Swider, Beason, Vieth and Rodgers 1963

Larry Rieser and Bill Swider




Rob Stuller in Oxford 1963




John Shelsky anbd Ed Fledderjohn 1963


Ed Ffedderjohn

Witney 1963


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