‘MY father took me on my first air spotting visit to Middleton St George in a sidecar that he affixed to his bicycle,” says Bill Gibson, of Hartlepool. “I never saw another sidecar like it – it was similar to a small motorcycle sidecar which he clipped on to a very heavy bracket on his bicycle for the 40 mile round trip.

“He also used it to carry sea coal home from the beach, but that’s another story.”

Bill got in touch after Memories 456 featured pictures from RAF Middleton St George, which stirred his own memories of how, in the mid-1950s, he was an air-mad youngster who, after that sidecar introduction, regularly cycled to the airfield.

“Before I was 10, I ran an aircraft club with some of the kids in the street which started with meetings in our wash house but went on to include rides to Middleton St George,” says Bill, who was born in 1949.

One day, the club members saw a white Vulcan bomber circling in the skies above them, and, aged about 10, they all set off on their bikes to see it land.

“I don’t think any of us really appreciated just how far away the airfield was,” he says. “We negotiated a busy Stockton High street, and I recall seeing many red United buses there. By the time we reached Urlay Nook, we were thirsty and in need of a drink.

“There was a row of terraced houses almost inside the chemical works. After knocking on several doors to no avail, a kindly old lady answered and was delighted to see and talk to us. She had no problem with giving us all a glass of water, and, I fancy, a biscuit or two.”

Fully refreshed, they reached the runway only to discover the Vulcan had long since landed, but the sight of other aircraft made the journey so worthwhile that they returned.

“Although we were better equipped on subsequent trips, we still used to drop in on the kindly old lady for water and she always took so much delight in seeing us,” says Bill.

His last bicycle outing was during the Christmas holiday of 1963, when he was 14 and accompanied by his fellow Air Training Corps member Mick Spence. Unfortunately, most of the airmen must also have been on holiday, and so with nothing to see, they turned for home.

At Long Newton, the sun, and the temperature, were dropping, and then the light fell off Bill’s bike. They looked for somewhere to leave the bikes overnight so they could get the United bus home – but then they realised they didn’t have enough money for the fare.

“As we left the village was a police house,” says Bill. “We had no identification and none of our family members possessed a phone, so the policeman who lived there had to take us on trust. He believed our predicament, put the bikes in his shed and loaned us about half a crown each for the bus.

“Several days later we repaid his trust, arriving back at his house around lunchtime, returning his money and fixing the bike. Our ride home was completed in the afternoon, before the temperature plummeted.”

That marked the end of MSG as a military base – the last military planes left on April 13, 1964, and in 1966, it reopened as the civilian Teesside airport.

The highlight of the airport’s year was its airshow, which Bill attended by rail. He also booked his family package holidays to Spain from it in the 1980s.

“I recall being transported from the airport railway station to the terminal on a converted milk float when taking the package holidays even in the late 1980s,” he says.

“I still attend air shows regularly and have tickets for this year’s Teesside Air Show and the spectacular Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford.”