The former chief technician at the RAF base on the Maldivian island of Gan will be telling the Heathrow Branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society about his days at the little-known but highly important tropical aviation crossroads later this month.

Vic Merrill, who is a former VC10, Comet and Britannia engineer and aircraft propulsion expert, was based on the island from 1966 to 67.

Gan is now a gateway to the luxury beach resorts and dive sites of the southern part of the Maldives, but the airport there dates back to 1941 when the Royal Navy began to build airstrips for the Fleet Air Arm.

It handled over control to the Royal Air Force in 1957 and the airport became a stopover on the reinforcement to the Far East Air Force.

It was extensively used by bombers, fighters and transports on their way to Singapore and other destinations in east Asia during the late 1950s and the 1960s.

Other foreign military forces, like the US occasionally used the facilities. However, as the 1970s dawned, the UK was withdrawing from its commitments east of Suez. By the end of 1971 the RAF Far East Force was disbanded and the major rationale for Gan was gone.

By 1975 British military aircraft using the base were a rarity and Gan was closed and turned over to the Maldivian civil authorities of the area.
The lecture – the final one of the 2012-13 season – will be held in the Community Learning Centre next to Waterside on Thursday April 25 from 6:15pm. It is also open to non-RAeS members (£1 admission).

Please contact David Beaumont on 07936 392799 or for further information and to register.

The lecture will be followed by the Branch AGM. If anyone is interested in joining the committee then please contact the secretary on the number above for more information.