Beechcraft G-AZFS and G-AZOH photographs

Ken Fostekew sent these photographs over, from the person who was involved with the equipment installation for Fairey Surveys. Unfortunately his contact details have been lost, but the photographs tell the story. The first two photographs are of G-AZFS, and the others are all of G-AZOH.

Doing a quick search on G-AZOH brought up the attached accident report published on the Government Air Accident Investigation Branch website. Looking at the date, and the pilot details, the pilot was probably Geoff Milsom, who kept the plane under control when a wheel came off after landing at White Waltham. Does anyone have any more details?

To see larger versions of the photographs, right click the photograph and select ‘Open image in new tab’

R&I Group: A short history from Mike Wilkey

Mike Wilkey has compiled a short history of the Research and Instruments Group covering the period he worked there (1958 – 91) and the events his 2020 brain permits.  A great deal of the work was for the Ministry of Defence concerning airborne reconnaissance, although the design, manufacture and use of a wide range of commercial hydraulic vibration test equipment also became part of the business.

Click on the link below to view or download the history.

R&I Story


Land Surveying: an article from Ross Dallas

Ross was a Land Surveyor at Fairey Surveys from 1968 to 1970, and on coming across our website, has contributed an article about the Land Survey team during his time there, along with a few images.  The surveyors didn’t spend much time in the office, but we still have contacts with a number of the team who were around then.  We can pass on messages!

The whole text of the article is below, but it’s also attached as a Word document, so it can be downloaded and printed.

Ross Dallas: Surveying at Faireys



My name is Ross Dallas. I was fascinated to come across this marvellous site dedicated to Fairey Surveys Ltd. I worked for the Company as a Land Surveyor for two years from 1968 to 1970 (see photo below).

I’m writing this piece now, as going through the site, I can’t find any mention of us terribly important surveying guys!  In those days, the Chief Land Surveyor was Rodney Pringle. A fine chap, who I believe was related to the Pringle family of tweed manufacturers from south Scotland.

I think we had about ten land surveyors in total.  Peter Green, John Cripwell and Roy MacDonald I recall were three of the senior land surveyors at the time. Some of the young lads were myself, Ian Jarvies, Graham Jarvis and Tim Bale.

Our main business was photo control work. In those days, the Company had many contracts around the UK, much of it for road building programmes. Once the aerial photography had been procured, it had to be ‘controlled’ to provide coordinates for the plotting work. We traversed up and down the land, tying into OS trig points and Bench Marks. I think there was a secondary stage of field verification, but personally I was not involved with that work.

The mapping was mostly 1:500 scale from photography at 1:2,500 to 1:3,000, taken by the Company aeroplanes of course. There was OS mapping of all the UK, but it was at too small a scale, probably needed revising and was not accurate enough for road building. As well, we put in lots of semi-permanent survey markers along our traverses for subsequent setting out.

Even in my fairly short time with the Company, I worked all over – the Luton/Dunstable Bypass, the M6 in Cumbria, the Tranent Bypass in Scotland, just down the road on the M4 three-lane widening etc. Fine in the summer, but your hands froze to your Wild T2 theodolite in the winter! Mind you, that wasn’t as bad as on occasion having to travel in Peter Green’s Mark I Land Rover – heater, what heater??

We made use of the Geodimeter Mark VI for ‘distance’ readings. It took about fifteen minutes to take a reading as you repeatedly ‘nulled’ the dial. Then, back in your lodgings that evening another fifteen minutes each to compute the distances – assuming that you didn’t make a mistake!

Then, the traverses had to be computed before you left site, just to be on the safe side. We had a special large form for traverse computations, devised I think by Rodney. All the sums were done on mechanical calculators, of the ‘Brunsviga’ type. Peter Green was very proud of his ‘Curta’ calculator – a beautiful, tiny precision calculator that sat in the palm of your hand.

I have to say that I don’t think we young surveyors in particular were very popular at Reform Road! We swanned in and out the ‘office’ between jobs – and of course when in the office didn’t seem to have much to do!

We did in fairness have to provide our own transport, and got some ‘mileage’ money. Did I mention that we all seems to have, err, sports cars? Ian Jarvies specialised in bending Triumph TR3’s. Did I mention that I had a Lotus Cortina, Mark 1A? Well, I needed the boot space for all the tripods . . .

We did do some work in the office, you know! In the field, we had 9” x 9” ‘contact’ prints of the aerial photos, which we had to incredibly carefully prick with the location of the control points. I’ve still got my ‘Casella’ hand stereoscope, with ‘R Dallas  Fairey Surveys Ltd’ scratched on the underside (photo attached!) Company property, hope they don’t want it back.

Anyway, inevitably, from time to time there would be problems of identification, and we would be called into the plotting room to sort it out. I remember well the remarkable sight of a dozen or more photogrammetric plotting machines filling the room, operators glued to the eyepieces, whirring away with that distinctive co-ordinatograph whine, as they moved from point to point.

From looking through the website, I recognised quite a few names of the operators and staff of the time, but the one for some reason that I had most dealings with was Bill Cheffins. A lovely man, who always seemed to have time to talk to you and discuss problems without giving you a hard time!

I think I talked to him most, as I had carried out an architectural photogrammetry project at college and he had carried out the remarkable survey of the north face of Edinburgh Castle (see Ref below). He used one of the Company aerial survey cameras on its side, photographing from Princes Street Gardens. An ingenious solution, but perhaps not too practical for everyday architectural work! Also, we had a (very) slight personal connection, as I recall Bill was a mad Scottish Country dancer and had quite separately met my sister at dances in London. A tragic loss when he died quite young.

And then there was overseas work . . . Even in my short time, I was very privileged to be sent on a couple of ‘overseas’ jobs. The big one was to Saudi Arabia, for three months to the Ta’if region, where Faireys had a big contract to carry out photo control and mapping for a large block of aerial photography. I think this was the first contract for topographic mapping in Saudi after the major triangulation programme across the whole peninsula?

We had a team of four surveyors – John Cripwell was the lead surveyor, then Roy McDonald, then a Polish origin lad whose name I’m sorry I have forgotten. Roy McDonald was the real joker in the pack – he loved telling jokes, and ended them with one of those infectious laughs so you couldn’t stop laughing yourself.

John was a South African, and he ran the programme in what, shall we say, was rather a ‘colonial’ manner. I got a real bollocking from him one day. Our Toyota trucks were really tough vehicles – they looked like something left over from WW2. They had one odd fault in the heat, the brakes quite rapidly became ‘spongy’ and mine needed attention. One day, John had to borrow my truck for some reason. Unfortunately, his style of driving was to drive on his brakes. Don’t think he believed in stopping for the locals. Well, you can imagine the rest, but fortunately that day he never actually hit anything!

Anyway, we sortied forth in our Toyota trucks, covering many kilometres of dirt roads. These dirt roads developed corrugations and you quite literally bounced along. It didn’t seem to matter whether you were going fast or slow. We usually had to do observations very early in the morning before the haze and ‘shimmer’ got too bad.

We were working to the triangulation scheme which as above had been put in a few years previously. But there was a problem. Most of the concrete block triangulation points had been stolen by the local Bedouin! Luckily, they didn’t know about the witness marks, so we got by! I remember John organised a big pow-wow with some of the local Bedouin chiefs to try to stop them removing the trig points. We sat on the floor cross-legged in their tent, eating dates and sipping ‘chai’.

I was also sent to Malta. Sorry, Rodney, but that was really a holiday! How I spun it out to a week I do not know! We were doing a survey for a proposed Marina just north of Valletta. It wasn’t even triangulation work – just some measured distances plus level points for two pairs of stereo photos. The Architect guys in charge also seemed to be on holiday. They had a lovely sailing dinghy . . .

I left Faireys in 1970 to take up a post first with the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (RCHME) and went on to pioneer the adoption and methodology of architectural photogrammetry in the UK (see Ref).  As a result, working in such a different field I lost contact with my fellow land surveyors and others that I knew at Faireys. A number of Companies got into close range and architectural photogrammetric work, such as Huntings and BKS, but I don’t think Faireys ever really did much in that direction?

To be honest, I don’t think I was a natural fit at Faireys. In the first place, for those days I was one of those unusual beasts – a Graduate from Glasgow University. I guess also I had quite a strong Glasgow accent, rather different from the ‘Thames Twang’ of most staff! Then, folk seemed to think I had a lot of opinions!

Can’t think why. Well, I can. Fairey staff were fantastically experienced, skilful, hard working and fast. But I think it’s true to say that in those days many staff had a ‘military’ background of some sort – ‘Ours not to reason why!’ So asking a simple question like why do you do it like that, could be misinterpreted . . .

But I hugely valued my time at Fairey Surveys and gained much practical experience. I hope this short ‘snapshot’ of a brief period will be of interest – and I hope it might trigger some other of the land surveyors to offer their reminiscences over a longer time. Even better, they might disagree with me!

Regretfully, I don’t seem to have any photos of survey work in progress, either of UK work or from the Saudi trip. Perhaps some others can contribute some photos of surveying operations?



O. W. Cheffins and J. E. M. Rushton


The Photogrammetric Record  Volume 6, Issue 35,  April 1970 (pages 417–433)


R.W. A. Dallas


The Photogrammetric Record  Volume 11, Issue 61, April 1983 (pages 5–27)



DALLAS  ‘Pass’ signed by Rodney Pringle

DALLAS  ‘Cassela’ hand stereo viewer

DALLAS   Saudi Arabian driving licence

Memories of Fairey Surveys Scotland

From John Scarrott

Further to your post celebrating Bill Clark’s 90th birthday, I have recently been sorting through my photo collection and attach a couple of photographs of Fairey Surveys Scotland Ltd (FSSL) staff circa 1974

Bill, Malcolm Eaton and I moved up from Maidenhead to Livingston in 1973 to setup FSSL, I was responsible for the Drawing Office

I recall that whilst waiting for our new office to be fitted out we were working from Bill’s flat in Livingston and had a contract with Bartholomew & Sons in Edinburgh to update elements of the Times World Atlas – Bill having convinced them that we were a competent and fully functioning company and could handle the project locally – as opposed to sending the work down to Maidenhead

That all went slightly awry when John Bartholomew himself paid a visit to check on progress and found me scribing on a make shift light table in Bill’s kitchen!

None the less we went on to have a very successful relationship with Bartholomew’s working on several other projects and also putting business their way when we employed them to print 50,000 copies of a contract we had won to produce the Glasgow Passenger Transport System map circa 1974 – that one was produced in a competent and fully functioning company!

Faireys Surveys Scotland Ltd – Staff circa 1974
L-R Bill Clark, Isobel (Secretary), John Scarrott, Malcolm Eaton, Neil, Dave, Linda and Isabel (our four trainee draughtsmen), Graham Longley

FSSL Drawing Office 1975

Photographs from Ulrich Münzer

Ulrich (Uli) came to Fairey Surveys for survey experience during two summers – June to September of 1967 and July to September of 1968, and lodged with Eddie Holmes during his time here.

He is now Dr Ulrich Münzer of LMU University in Munich, Faculty of Geosciences, with a speciality in subglacial volcanoes in Iceland. Details and even a photograph here:

He spends summers in Iceland, so can’t get to the reunions, but has sent in some photographs of his time at Fairey Surveys, and his reference from Lawrence Scott when he left in 1968.

Click on the photographs to enlarge.

Dakota Whiskey Charlie before its FSL repainting
Dakota Whiskey Charlie before its FSL repainting

Wild A8s.  John Churchard, John Parfitt and John Keay
Wild A8s. John Churchard, John Parfitt and John Keay

UM photographs_0007

Mosaicing.  Pete Sharman, Stan?, ?
Mosaicing. Pete Sharman, Stan?, ?

Kelsh Plotter, operator unknown
Kelsh Plotter, operator unknown

Lots of Kelsh Plotters
Lots of Kelsh Plotters

Zeiss C8 Stereoplanigraph, Tony Dady operating
Zeiss C8 Stereoplanigraph, Tony Dady operating

Wild A8 - Don't know who the operator is.
Wild A8 – Don’t know who the operator is.

Wild A8.  Harry Hodge?
Wild A8. Harry Hodge?

Great cars - and is that Peter Challis's Ford Anglia?
Great cars – and is that Peter Challis’s Ford Anglia?

Compilation Department 1968, Peter Challis in the white coat
Compilation Department 1968, Peter Challis in the white coat

Ulrich Münzer (foreground) and Eddie Holmes (left), probably at Farnborough Air Show
Ulrich Münzer (foreground) and Eddie Holmes (left), probably at Farnborough Air Show

UM FSL reference 1968

Drawing Office and Compilation in the 60s


Eddie Holmes and John Tompkins in Compilation
Eddie Holmes and John Tompkins in Compilation

Drawing office with Tony Furneaux & others

Photographs by Ulrich Münzer, 1966
Photographs by Ulrich Münzer, 1966

Top left, L-R: Dave Shave, John Keay, Ken McKenzie, Peter Challis     Top right: Peter Challis
Bottom left: L-R: Eddie Holmes, John Marshall                     Bottom Right: Eddie Holmes




John Parfitt photographs

Jayne Jupp has sent in some photographs of her father John Parfitt working in photogrammetry, and in a group picture.  The film crew in the first picture could be BBC South or Thames TV making a film about map making – does anyone remember?  All the people on the group photo have been identified, but not why or when it was taken.  Any additional information gratefully received, and will be added here.

Click on the photographs for a bigger picture.

John Parfitt with film crew
John Parfitt with film crew

John Parfitt on Wild A8
John Parfitt on Wild A8

John Parfitt 2

John Parfitt group photo
Left to right: Tony Dady, Malcolm Eaton, John Parfitt, Tony Apicella, Adrian Workman

Geophysics, 40 years on

Amazing that this bunch of reprobates is still around, telling each other tales of the old days.  A few of the old Faireys, including five from the old Geophysics team, got together for lunch the day of the FSL reunion in July 2013.  With many thanks to Carol and John Tompkins for the hospitality.


Back row, left to right: Derek Minter, Rob Wallace, Alex Copeland, Pete Lilley, Arthur Pinto Bastos.

Sitting down, left to right: Heather Smith (Harris), John Tompkins, Gillian Wallace (Edwards)

Wild A8 Stereoplotter – in use

This request is from a photographer who wants to find a Wild A8 Stereoplotter in use:

I’m a french artist and I work actually on the history of aerial photography.
I research a “Wild A8 Stereo plotter” and I would to know where I can find a “Wild A8 Stereo plotter” operating. I would like to make print with this.

Thank you,

David De Beyter

If you have any information that might be useful, please contact Mr De Beyter direct.  If you think someone else might have useful information, please use the Contact form to let us know.