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.

Aerial photographic map of Rhodesia

An email has come in from Ian Titchner, who has in his possession a Fairey Air Surveys aerial photographic map 3ft x 4ft (presumably a mosaic) of Salisbury in Rhodesia, which he is offering free of charge to anyone who would appreciate it.

If anyone is interested, please email admin@faireysurveys.co.uk, and we will pass your message on – the Reply/Comments feature seems to have a glitch at the moment.

The email is below:

My name is Ian Titchner, I’m 59 years old and live in Cornwall, I have no connection to Zimbabwe or Fairey at all. For several years now I have been in possession of a huge and splendid black and white photographic aerial map of central Salisbury, Rhodesia. When I say huge …. it is 3ft wide and 4ft tall, it has some of the (old?) road names super-imposed onto it, also the names of some “important” buildings. I had intended to put it on eBay assuming that it may be of interest to past or present residents of Salisbury, but when I found your website I thought I’d offer it here first. I guess that the photograph was taken in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s, but I am no expert! The scale of the map/photograph is 10 inches to 1 mile. Anyway, it’s one of those things that keeps cropping up annually and I keep thinking that I’ll put it on eBay and I never get around to it. I pulled it out again this morning and had a good look at it and noticed the name Fairey Air Surveys, hence this eMail. It has been neatly folded for donkey’s years so there is minor damage where the folds cross each other, that said it is in excellent condition given that it must be over 50 years old. Because of the size of it, taking a photograph would not really do it justice. My question is ….. does anyone want it? I don’t want any money for it, simply eMail me your address and I will post it to you, it needs to be in the hands of somebody who will appreciate it! If “Admin” are not interested, please feel free to share this eMail on your site, in case somebody else is interested in it. Needless to say, I only have one of these so ultimately it will have to be sent to the first person to contact me.

John Penrose (Jack or Pen): photographs

Mike Penrose has sent an email with photographs and cine film stills from his father, John Owen Penrose, otherwise known as Jack or Pen.

If anyone can provide information on any of them, please let us know by email (admin@faireysurveys.co.uk) or by using the comment form below.

Click on the photographs for a larger image.

Jack Penrose (Pen) with Rapide

Jack Penrose (Pen) with a Dragon Rapide.


Pilot Jack Penrose with DC3 Charlie Alpha

Does anyone know who the other people in the photograph are?

Update January 2021:  Ken Fostekew has identified some of these.  L to R: 1?, 2?,       3 Peter Sharman, 4?, 5?, 6 Engineer Jim Roe?, 8 Pilot John Penrose.  The others probably clients.


Unidentified plane, possibly Sierra Leone. From Jack Penrose cine film

Can anyone identify this aeroplane?  Is it a Fairey Surveys aeroplane?  Possibly photographed in Sierra Leone.  Update from Ken Fostekew January 2021:  This is a Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer, not an FSL aircraft, we used “Twin Pins” much later from Flight One at Staverton.


Unidentified plane (same as previous photo?). From Jack Penrose cine film.

Is this the same aeroplane as the previous photograph?


Anyone know who these people are? From Jack Penrose cine film.

Mike Penrose asks who is the man next to the aeroplane.  Possibly this is the same plane as in the previous photographs – note the blue stripe.  Update from Ken Fostekew January 2021:  The man on the left is Tom Kirkwood.


Image from Jack Penrose cine film

Another DC3 – Charlie Alpha again?

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


Railway track survey with Bill Cheffins

Ken Fostekew has found this photograph of what is presumably a rail track surveying platform using Eagle IX cameras.

Bill Cheffins is on the left of the photograph, but there is no information about the other people in the photograph, or of the survey job, location or date.  Can anyone fill in the details?

KF Bill Cheffins railway track



Click on the photograph to enlarge the image.

Happy Birthday Bix

Bill Clark in 1972
Bill Clark in 1972

Bill (Bix) Clark, who opened the Fairey Surveys Livingston office back in the 1970s, will be turning 90 on 5th March.

Bill Clark joined Fairey Surveys in 1947 following 6 years in Royal Engineers Surveys, then left after 10 years to work in the US, where he worked in photogrammetry.  He returned to the UK in 1960, and rejoined Fairey Surveys in the Photogrammetric Section.  He became Photogrammetric Section Supervisor in 1964 and transferred to UK Marketing as Assistant Manager in 1969, reporting to Marketing Manager Peter Forsey.

The opening of the office in Livingston followed the FSL contract to provide mapping for the planning of the new town at Stonehouse, south east of Glasgow.  Bill Clark became Managing Director of Fairey Surveys Scotland, and opened the office in November 1973.  It had a small map production unit equipped with a Zeiss Stereometrograph and cartographic facilities.

We understand that Bill played the trumpet, and that his nickname came from the jazz musician Leon BismarkBixBeiderbecke, who played the cornet and piano in the 1920s.

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





Fairey Surveys presentations 1959

We know the date and most of the people in the photographs, but not what the presentations were for.  Attendance?  Good behaviour?

Fairey Surveys presentations 1959
Fairey Surveys presentations 1959

Left picture, L-R: ?, ?, Ken Pinkney, Bob Embleton, Rex Ackland, Peter Challis, Dave Parker
Right picture, L-R: ?, ?, Bob Embleton, Ken Pinkney, Peter Challis, Dave Parker