On 9th May Nick Cowan came to talk to Members about his life in “The Fleet Air Arm and After,” but he had a new title for us: “Chance is a Very Fine Thing.”

Nick started his Navy career as an artificer apprentice at the age of 15 but eventually volunteered for aircrew. He trained at RAF Syerston and was posted to 826 Squadron flying Mk1 Gannets which, Nick remembered, had an engine life of 25 flying hours due to the contra-rotating propeller shaft bearings. He also flew Sea Hawks, Sea Vixens and Wyverns operating from HMS Eagle and HMS Ark Royal. In Australia at the RAN Air Station at Nowra he was an instructor and was impressed by the very high accident rate.

Home in England and retired from the Navy he became a production management trainee at Lucas in Birmingham but due to the recession there were no jobs at the end of it. However, he did get a position with the British Boot and Shoe Allied Trades Association as a trainee in the ergonomics department which led to his appointment as a  training officer.

The Fleet Air Arm And After


He moved to Perkins Engines as a training officer becoming Personnel and Industrial Relations Manager UK. Following a move to Phillips as Personnel Director he was an industrial relations advisor to Prime Minister Edward Heath during the miners’ strike.

Then followed a rapidly advancing career during which, among other things, he became a member of the Engineering Industry Training Board and the Employment Appeals Tribunal, the Main Board Personnel Director of Unigate, Director of the Bank Employees Association, Chairman of the West Lambeth Health Authority, was on the Youth Training Board, the Equal Opportunities Commission and Board Personnel Director of the TSB.

At this juncture he retired and became an undergraduate of King’s College London and Salamanca University gaining a BA in Hispanic studies - and he also ran the muscular dystrophy campaign!

Nick is a very energetic and enthusiastic man, as can be seen from this short, and incomplete, report of his interesting talk. Members wanting more detail may borrow the DVD from Richard Cannon.