Part 3 Gulf and retirement
Taff and Al Shepphard’s RAF careers had been broadly aligned since Vulcan days and both were now senior VC10 captains. The early 70s saw opportunities worldwide for aviators with their skills. Additionally, the RAF offered less progression for them from this seniority level onwards. Therefore, both were considering the seismic decision to explore opportunities to fly elsewhere.
In June 1975 they took the plunge and left the RAF (After 29 years in Taff’s case). After considering moves to the US and Hong Kong they both settled on joining Gulf Air in Bahrain. The airline flew VC10s and was expanding rapidly at this time. Being an ex-British colony, Bahrain had a large expat presence and although not an open society, it was significantly more liberal than its neighbours. It offered a tolerable proposal for day-to-day life for Marge and Kath. Finally, the tax-free salaries meant that they would secure their financial future.
Marge liked the idea of the sun and the children were by this time old enough for their welfare not to be a barrier. Lynne was starting university and Gareth had been at boarding school for 5 years by this time. The move was made and Taff and Al began flying VC10’s from Muharraq.
Taff was always conservative with his finances, but at this time he felt able to relax. A sports car was the first sign. The purchase of their bungalow in Wycombe Way in Carterton was another.
Taff returns to his Datsun 260z. It wasn't always sunny in Bahrain.....
3 years later the government of Bahrain announced that they would be setting up a Government Flight. The Emir of Bahrain was an Anglophile and therefore the coterie of RAF aircrew flying for Gulf Air were the obvious source for pilots. Taff and Al and several other ex-RAF pilots joined the new Royal flight, flying the Emir and members of his family around the world.
By 1979 however things had changed. Having had a brush with cancer, Marge had decided she would prefer to return to live in the UK. Taff was becoming disenchanted with the life in Bahrain and the flying (or lack of it) specifically. Never a massive fan of the sun, he spent a lot of time indoors to avoid the extreme heat. This, combined with the fact that he was not spending as much time in the cockpit as he liked, started him looking to make another change. There was a false start with Feyair – an Egyptian-owned executive jet business (It was never explained why Taff never gelled with the senior management of that organisation, though his combat service history, including a role in the Suez campaign possibly suggests an answer!) But following that, his friendship with John Tulip, who was by then at Shell, provided another opportunity. Taff happily started flying the Shell organisation’s executive Jet fleet, based out of Heathrow.
Although Marge had loved the life in Bahrain, they quickly settled back into life at Wycombe Way. Dad had become a member at Burford Golf Club and worked on his handicap, while Mum enjoyed recreating their UK social life.
Finally, on September 29th, 1982, Taff flew his last trip for Shell and retired from flying. He was approaching 55 and UK regulations stipulated that this was the upper limit for passenger-carrying pilots. His flying career had spanned 30 years and he had just over 10,000 hours of flying time under his belt.
In a complete change he and Marge next bought the sub-Post Office at RAF Abingdon. Taff wanted something to preserve their savings and so this seemed like a logical option. It was not without its stresses and strains. The Friday night necessity to financially balance the books caused anxiety, with several late nights trying to find missing pence.
Finally, at 60 he retired altogether and indulged his long-standing love of golf. He was Seniors captain at Burford in 1992. There were new grandchildren to see and places around the world to visit. Understandably maybe, once retired, Taff had no great desire to spend much time “Down the back” in aircraft. Instead, during the next 25 years they went on numerous cruises. Their social life remained enviably busy, with dinners and lunches being hosted on a weekly basis and their great friends were often fixtures around their large dinner table. Both Marge and Terry were self-taught cooks who became very proficient. They also worked well as a team in the kitchen. Terry’s speciality was always the “starters”.
Although they were both generally in good health, in 2010 Marge had another positive diagnosis of cancer. She decided that she would not undergo treatment and so for the next three years Taff looked after her and ensured they did all the remaining things they had planned. This included more cruising and spending time with Lynne and Gareth and their families.
Marge died in 2013 and after this shattering blow Terry lost a great deal of interest in the day-to-day. Friends rallied around though and he remained outwardly quite cheerful, continuing to hold some lunches single-handedly for a while. Gradually he became more infirm and the presence of Ally Buchanan, who had started helping out when Marge was not well became a critical element of support for him.
After a significant fall in 2018 it became obvious that Terry needed much more assistance day-to-day than Ally could possibly provide.
Gareth’s wife Susie’s late mother had bought an apartment at Richmond Village in Northampton and not only was this near Gareth, but it was also much closer to Lynne. It was vacant and represented an excellent solution to providing the care Terry needed. In 2018 he moved out of Wycombe Way, his base and home for 40 years.
He was profoundly grateful to the staff at Richmond Village and made several friends while he was there. Generally though, he preferred his own company, enlivened by visits from Gareth and Lynne. His oft-repeated phrase at this time was “look, don’t worry about me I’m very content”.
Happily, although his short-term memory largely deserted him, he always retained his older recollections. Gareth and Lynne would spend hours with him remembering, with frequent laughter, his long, event-filled and wonderful life.