A Fairey Story by Ken Fostekew (Foz)

Zanzibar 1977

In 1977 the company was awarded a Directorate of Overseas Surveys (DOS) 166 contract to photograph the island of Zanzibar. As was often the case I was sent on ahead of the aircraft which was Beech B80 Queen Air G-AZOH, to organise the supply of breathing oxygen, transport, accommodation, and any other things that may have been needed.

At the briefing prior to departure I was instructed to make contact with the British High Commission in Dar-es-Salaam for advice on the dispatch of finished film to Reform Road. It wasn’t until the company tried to book me an airline ticket that it was discovered that East African Airlines had ceased to operate and as a result the border between Kenya and Tanzania was closed and no traffic between the two countries was allowed.

However, suddenly “Kenya Airways” appeared on the scene, so imagine my concern at LHR when I saw a Boeing 707 parked outside with “Kenya Airways” rather hastily painted on it. I relaxed somewhat on boarding to find that the crew were all in East Midlands uniforms, probably at that time the largest airline charter and leasing company in UK.

The flight arrived in Nairobi where I transferred to a Swiss Air for Dar-es-Salaam. I discovered that was the route into Rhodesia from Geneva to Johannesburg then back up to Salisbury. As the embargo on Rhodesia was still in operation, there were no direct flights from LHR to Salisbury – I learnt this from fellow passengers.

I arrived in Dar-es-Salaam about midday on Saturday and was unable to contact the High Commission until 9am on Monday, so looked around the city, not a very inspiring experience all rather run down with very little in what shops there were.

All in contrast with the descriptions that some other company people told me to expect, but of course, by then very much under the influence of the old Soviet Union. An example, road traffic was not allowed on Sundays due to fuel shortages and every ship in the port was Russian and the harbour side was littered with packing cases and wooden boxes all with Russian script on them. The larger ones had been made into “homes” for otherwise homeless local folk. 

I was at the High Commission on Monday prompt at 9am and taken to the office of Kevin O’Connell (I think that was his name?) and after giving him an outline of the work in Zanzibar, I was strongly advised never go out alone after 6pm as “Dar” was a pretty lawless place. Only the previous week a secretary from the Japanese Embassy had been murdered on the waterfront. Also, I was advised to register my passport, for the first time ever in my travels! 

G-AZOH arrived the 8th August with Captain John Mullin and Navigator/Tracker Ron Neal. We departed “Dar” for Zanzibar on the 10th August. The clove harvest had just been completed and the air was full of the aroma of cloves. Zanzibar and Pemba are well known as the spice islands.

The photo lab was set up in the survey department and I was introduced to Mr John Fernandez who was astounded to learn that mixing the developer and hypo was just a matter of adding water! at the correct temperatures, of course. A supply of ice is always essential in tropical climates. John showed me a collection of ancient tins of photo chemicals that were used many years ago when John was based on the island of Pemba along with an equally ancient enlarger and lenses.

The DOS surveyors were living in the same hotel, which was operated by the Indian Oberoi Hotel Group, and were able to brief us about the local conditions on the island. In contrast to the mainland, Zanzibar was very quiet and interesting but rather sad and very rundown with derelict buildings in the main town “Stonetown” many of which had simply collapsed and blocked off many of the narrow streets. Almost as if it had suffered an earthquake.

At the time of our visit Zanzibar had not really recovered from the revolution that had taken place in 1964. It became a Marxist state with no free trade and no shops and none of the usual markets that one finds in most other countries, very much a time warp with quite ancient cars running around, even two old Austin 7s remarkably still mobile.

We met the American girl who was in effect the US representative on Zanzibar and she explained that she was simply a “listening post” as the North Koreans and East Germans were very much in evidence. Our fuel had been shipped over in barrels by Dhow and refuelling was done by “wobble” pump as there were no facilities at the airport for fuel or any engineering, it had all been cleared away. The airport “shop” only opened for the daily Air Madagascar B737 and as soon as it departed everything closed again.

Travel around the island from one zone to another was strictly restricted, except for the DOS surveyors, though we were often promised a guided tour by the island’s chief surveyor, which didn’t happen until two days before our departure and a very rapid tour at that !. Our work progressed reasonably well given the tropical weather conditions. Our one serious incident was when we had a dead cut on the starboard engine and the tops of the coconut trees were getting rather too close for comfort. But thanks to the airmanship of pilot John Mullin we landed back safely only to find two magnetos had failed. A signal was sent to UK and engineer Ken O’Dell eventually arrived with two replacements and soon we were again serviceable.

Frequent trips were made to the mainland to dispatch processed film to UK.

On our return from one of the mainland trips, we learned that the company had gone into receivership, very worrying as our credit was stopped and Amex and Diners Club cards could not be used. One of the DOS surveyors reported that word had gone around asking who is this man Fostekew with 25,000 shillings in the bank – the local currency was the shilling. It was explained that it was to pay for the fuel to include hardship payment as the Dhow crew would cook their food with barrels of Avgas on board and cash had to be used. The credit situation was resolved after a couple of weeks. By then the season was coming to an end and the rainy season was imminent. The aircraft departed on the 17th of October for further work in Nigeria, while I set off back home.

On arrival in Nairobi I met the late Ian Smith and his wife Helen. Ian was working for a photographic survey company, the name of which escapes me! Helen was working for the British High Commission and had news of the company going into receivership long before we were informed. We had dinner together in the evening and the following morning I departed for London.  All in all a very interesting trip,

The work was finished the next year 1978 using the BN2 Islander G-AVKC. The crew were Captain Tom Kirkwood, navigator/tracker Adrian Saul and photographer Brian Corbin.

Now, of course, Zanzibar is open to tourists and quite a different place than it was in the 1960s and 1970, when there was still a poor old elephant tethered by chains in what was possibly once the Sultan’s palace and gardens, the remains of which were still visible. The house that was used by Dr Livingstone became a school and the old British Embassy where Dr Livingstone’s body was placed prior to returning to Britain is (or was) still there. It was quite disturbing to see school children being drilled in the “goose step” in the playground.

Dates courtesy of the late Ron Neal’s flying logbook.

Jimmy Cheffins – photos

Jimmy Cheffins’ daughter Helen Blackshaw and her sister attended the 2015 reunion at White Waltham Cricket Club, and have sent through some photographs of Jimmy’s time at Fairey Surveys.  It was obviously a Cheffins reunion as well, as Bill Cheffins’ daughter Patricia was also there, and the photographs she brought are on an earlier post!

Helen has sent five photographs, a couple of Jimmy in the office, and three out in the field.  The three field photographs have no dates or names.  Two are of surveyors, and Helen thinks the one with the cairn was taken in Iran.  The man with a chessboard is a mystery, and may be nothing to do with FSL, but was with the other survey photographs, so may be related.  But a collar and tie, playing chess in a field?

If anyone recognises a face or a place, please let us know!

Click on the photographs to enlarge.


Jimmy Cheffins in the FSL Drawing Office

Jimmy Cheffins and Jack Briggs in the FSL Drawing Office








Surveyor on cairn – Iran?

Surveyor on roof – no name or location information








Man in a field with chessboard







Syrian survey 1947

These photographs and newspaper cuttings came from Kieran (Ken) Roche via his brother Gerry Roche.  Kieran was the Flight engineer on what was described as the first ‘Fairey Surveys’ flight out of White Waltham in 1947.

KR Syria_0001  KR Syria_0002

Air Survey aircraft (AIRSPEED OXFORD). First ‘Fairey Surveys’ flight out of White Waltham, 1947. Left to right: Brian Attwell (management), Richard Younghusband (pilot), Ken Roche (engineer), Group Captain Lawes (management).  Richard Younghusband, has a claim to fame from even earlier.  He was apparently flying back from France the day war broke out, and triggered off the first English World War 2 air raid alarm.

KR Syria_0003

Hotel Baron, Aleppo, Syria.
This was our hotel and x marks the spot where we usually sit at night nattering.  This was taken during the siesta period, hence the deserted appearance of the street, shops closed etc.  Only a few Bedouin at large.

KR Syria_0004

Aleppo, Syria.  Air Survey photographers and Ken Roche with medieval citadel in background.  From left: Freddie Worton, John Rushton, Ken Roche, ?

KR Syria_0006

Aleppo, Syria.  Time off …  Left to right: ?, Ken Roche (engineer), Richard Younghusband (pilot).

KR Syrian dam survey newspaper cutting

Newpaper cutting from the Daily Telegraph in 1968, about the building of the Aleppo dam on the Euphrates river.

KR Syrian Hotel Baron newspaper cutting

The Hotel Baron in Aleppo had a long history and many interesting guests on the register.  The last sentence of this press cutting is quite poignant.  A couple of website links give information on the current state of the Hotel Baron and the Mazloumian family:



More news of the Hotel Baron from the Times on 14th May 2016.  Mr Mazloumian died recently, and the hotel has taken a couple of mortar hits, but it is still standing and occupied by Mr Mazloumain’s widow and three refugee families.

Hotel Baron Aleppo update May 2016





Burma survey 1971

Len Sellwood sent these photographs of Burma from when he was surveying there.

Len sent a few notes with the photographs:

“The Burmese village pictured – in the dry season these were rice farmers, in the Monsoon they were fishermen – note the houses are built on stilts.  The palms are toddy palms, from which they get palm wine.  One of my labourers could spot them miles away and always edged over to them ..”

“At the camp in Myo Chaung one of the soldiers caught a King Cobra and cut off its head as it was going into a hole.  Somewhere I photographed it against a levelling staff – it was over 14 ft without the head or hood.  Dennis Shearing skinned, salted and wrapped it up.  Not sure if he still has it!!”

“Leveling through cane fields was very hot and very dirty.”

“The village (river) of Myo Chaung we were supposed to survey for a Dam site, the evening before a full company of soldiers went out to secure the area (usual practice).  In less than an hour a tremendous fire fight erupted lasting some time with rifle, machine gun and mortar fire.  We deliberated for a couple of days and were in contact with FSK via HF radio, our decision was to level up the wider part of the river but not to go too deep into the jungle – we also settled on an extra £1 a day danger money.  Google Earth now shows a dam along the river.”

“The Reclining Buddha is the largest reclining Buddha in the world, we were told.”

“Burmese New Year (Water Festival) in Rangoon was great fun, as can be seen by the joy on people’s faces, wash away the sins of the old year and start the new one clean!”

A local market Al and Ian in mess tent At a Temple, note the gold leaf patches Barber Dave 1 using Helio mirrors Barber Dave 2 Camp at Wah Boat on the River Sitang Burmese village Camp - not sure which village Camp at Nyaunlay  Pin Climbing up to a hill top temple Dennis Shearing Skinning  a King Cobra Dennis skinning 14ft King Cobra Dennis tug of war Driving Through the main street ! Elephant day's work over Elephants Hauling  Teak logs Image at a Temple Instrument and Staff man Leveling Thro' cane fields Mahout (Elephant driver) Myo Chaung 1 Myo Chaung 2 Myo Chaung 3 Myo Chaung 4 Myo Chaung 5 Myo Chaung 6 Elephant Myo Chaung 7 Leveling Myo Chaung Camp Our transport Ox carts Oxcart with sugarcane Paddy fields before the monsoon Pwe (festival) in Nyaunlay Pin Rangoon Reclining Buddha at Pegu (Bagu now) Reclining Buddha Roadside Buddha Roadside Drink Stand 1 (Posh) Roadside Drink Stand 2 (not so posh) Sitang river boat Soldier with semi tame Civet cat Staff man with protection Think Mac is raising the antenna for the HF radio ToyotaToyota Water crossing Water festival 1 Burmese New Year Water Festival 2 Wash away all of last year Water Festival 3 Water Festival 4 Start the New Year clean Water Festival 5 Rangoon Water Festival 5a Water Festival 6 Water Festival 7 Water Festival 8 Water Festival 9 Water Festival 10 Water Festival 11 Way side Buddha

Nigeria survey 1974

Len Sellwood has sent these photographs of the survey in Enugu, Nigeria in 1974, soon after the end of the Biafran civil war.

Click on the individual pictures to enlarge and see the titles.

Alex and ....... Biafran war wrecked planes, Enugu Faded FSL logo Flight path layout Mama Wagon No power No problem Our Garden Packing for WW Packing Up River Niger Shanty town above our bungalow Staff The Crew close up The Crew The Office War damage at Onitsha Washing by the River Niger

Libyan survey 1972-73 – photos from Len Sellwood

These are photographs of the road survey Faireys carried out in 1972-73 from the Gulf of Sirte to Sebha, about 650 kms.  Many thanks to Len for sending them.

“Besides being cold and sand blasted, one memory sticks out. On Christmas morning when we came out of the mess tent after breakfast all the Drivers and helpers were lined up to shake hands and wish us a Happy Christmas – very touching.”

Click on the individual photographs for the description.

Len Sellwood 01  Len Sellwood 02  Len Sellwood 03

Len Sellwood 04  Len Sellwood 05  Len Sellwood 06

Len Sellwood 07  Len Sellwood 08  Len Sellwood 09

Len Sellwood 10  Len Sellwood 11  Len Sellwood 12

Len Sellwood 13  Len Sellwood 14  Len Sellwood 15

Len Sellwood 17  Len Sellwood 18  Len Sellwood 19

Len Sellwood 20  Len Sellwood 21  Len Sellwood 22

Len Sellwood 23  Len Sellwood 24  Len Sellwood 25

Len Sellwood 26  Len Sellwood 27  Len Sellwood 28

Len Sellwood 28a  Len Sellwood 29  Len Sellwood 30

Len Sellwood 31  Len Sellwood 32  Len Sellwood 33

Len Sellwood 34

From Ian Smith

These photographs came from Ian Smith, but we have no information on date or place.  We would love to know where the Hotel Du Parc is (or was)!

Ian Smith 10 Ian Smith 09 Ian Smith 08 Ian Smith 07 Ian Smith 06 Ian Smith 05

These two look like a pair, from the paper, size and age.  And the third and fourth from the left on the top row of the left hand picture are surely the same two facing forward in the foreground of the right hand picture.  Was it a conference?
These two look like a pair, from the paper, size and age. And the third and fourth from the left on the top row of the left hand picture are surely the same two facing forward in the foreground of the right hand picture. Was it a conference?

This is half the story of an unfortunate incident with an Avro Anson.  No date or location given
This is half the story of an unfortunate incident with an Avro Anson. No date or location given

This is the second half of the story of the Avro Anson that landed badly in the desert, with a single camel to take the strain.  No date or loction again, but it doesn't look as if it's very warm.  Perhaps the clothes of the locals might give someone a clue to where it is?
This is the second half of the story of the Avro Anson that landed badly in the desert, with a single camel to take the strain. No date or loction again, but it doesn’t look as if it’s very warm. Perhaps the clothes of the locals might give someone a clue to where it is?


These seem to be a pair, with the same mountains in the background.  Morocco?  Libya?
These seem to be a pair, with the same mountains in the background. Morocco? Libya?

These look like a set, all stamped February 1960 on the back (Kodak processing date).  Perhaps the barman is a clue to the location?  Or the flowers?
These look like a set, all stamped February 1960 on the back (Kodak processing date). Perhaps the barman is a clue to the location? Or the flowers?

Ian Smith 11


Southern Rhodesia – photo album from John Keay

This photo album was passed on by Lawrence Scott for inclusion here. The photographs date mostly from 1950/51, and are of operations in Southern Rhodesia, except for the first few, which presumably were taken en route to Rhodesia in Fairey’s Dakota G-AKNM.

Most of the photographs have notes on the back, so they have been included as is, rather than having captions which might be incorrect interpretations.

Click on the links to open, then you should be able to enlarge the images enough to read the writing on the backs of the photos.  Putting the pictures in as ‘jpg’ photographs didn’t work – it wasn’t possible to enlarge them enough to read the notes.  If anyone wants the digital pictures, please get in touch using the ‘Contact’ page, and they can be sent by email.

Rhodesia album page 01

Rhodesia album page 02

Rhodesia album page 03

Rhodesia album page 04

Rhodesia album page 05

Rhodesia album page 06

Rhodesia album page 07

Rhodesia album page 08

Rhodesia album page 09

Rhodesia album page 10

Rhodesia album page 11

Rhodesia album page 12

Rhodesia album page 13

Rhodesia album page 14

Rhodesia album page 15

Rhodesia album page 16

Rhodesia album page 17

Rhodesia album page 18

Rhodesia album page 19

Rhodesia album page 20

Rhodesia album loose pictures

Rhodesia album envelope photos

This last photograph is included as it was inside the album, but has also been put into the ‘Social Life’ section.

Party for Tommy in Maidenhead