Copyright:Don Gilham Location: Mildenhal, 1971
Here's a few shots of the return of the students following the US invasion of Grenada
As they block in.
From the George Miller Collection
Source:George Miller collection
In April 2006, I got this email from Steve Williams of Bridport, Dorset, U.K. He's one of those 'aviation nuts' from Britain ... here's the note:
There is one little story I will pass on that you may find amusing - or incomprehensible. In the 1960s and 1970s, before computer games and mobile phones took over the world, many (but by no means all) kids in the UK would spend their weekends spotting, or noting down numbers of whatever took their interest. I don't know whether this happened in the States of if it was a peculiarly British eccentricity. Some stood around station platforms in anoraks noting down locomotive numbers, a few spotted buses, one person I knew even started spotting policemen by the numbers on their shoulders. I am proud to say that I was an aircraft spotter.
Living where I did, this meant trips to Heathrow & Gatwick Airports, and occasionally RAF Northolt, and in the summer, coach trips to airshows, including USAF events at Mildenhall, Bentwaters and Lakenheath. Anyway, that sets the scene.
I have no idea who started it, but a fellow spotter started writing '40612' on the walls of any airport lavatory he used. I have no idea why this particular C-141 serial was chosen but through the early 1970's the habit started to spread among other spotters, and 40612 became a ubiquitous sight in almost every toilet at every airfield I visited. I honestly can't remember if I ever added to this as I am not a habitual wall-dauber, but I was a teenage boy with a warped sense of humour, so who knows? It even made the national press - who was the mystery graffitist who was daubing this indecipherable number, not just in the gents loos, but the ladies too?
Then I suppose everyone grew up and by the time I found myself working at Heathrow in the mid 80's it had vanished. I still smile to remember it though, and maybe some other middle-aged Englishman looking at your site might be able to shed a bit more light on the subject.
On January 7th, 2006, I got this additional note, confirming the story Steve provided earlier:
I been looking at your fabulous site, and I noticed the reference to "40612" being used as graffiti at many locations in the UK. Well, it was not restricted to the UK, as the numbers 40612 were daubed at places across Europe (I remember seeing it on a fencepost at Volkel Air Base in the Netherlands).
I believe it was even mentioned in the UK Parliament, but would need this check to ensure it is not just folk lore (or wishful thinking).
However, I can shed some light on the issue. C-141A 64-0612 was a regular visitor to Mildenhall. Some spotters from London (I shall with hold their names) used to travel up to the base by train most Sundays. 40612 was transiting the base on Sundays occasionally, with these spotters being most annoyed, as they wanted to see other examples. One of them started to write "40612" at places he visited (well, in the toilets of places he visited), and soon his colleagues started doing the same. This was circa 1968 - 1970 (from memory). When these spotters bought cars, they could travel further afield, and add this graffiti at locations they visited. It was at various places in central London too. A large road sign near RAF Mildenhall had 40612 scratched into the reflective paint, and this was visible for more than ten years - long after these guys had given up their childish practice. Some of these spotters are still interested in aviation, although their graffiti days are long since over. I hope this helps.
near RAF Mildenhall