"Operation Teapot"

Pictures and text by Stan Weeks

For many decades there stood an enormous, three dimensional, teapot sign at Biggin Hill.  This was a landmark of such significance that anyone passing through the village couldn’t fail to notice it.  Perched regally upon its pedestal, it commanded the passer-by to attend the local Tea Gardens and purchase the good fare on offer.

Over the generations, in the vicinity of Biggin Hill, there lurked groups of mischievous young men who saw the teapot as a challenging ‘Prize’ to be had at all costs.  These shadowy, nefarious people included Biggin Hill’s World War One Royal Flying Corps, World War Two RAF fighter pilots and an insignificant group of 1961 government engineering apprentices.  These apprentices lived some 7 miles away at an apprentice hostel at ‘Coed Bel’, Lubbock Road, Chislehurst and it was here that the teapot was to spend a few of its days in ‘protective custody’.  Those apprentices were Stan Weeks (Cardiff), Pete Hing (Slough), Mick Belcher (Gosport) and Olly Hulf (Orpington) – all then aged about 20.

Stan Weeks

 Checking out the Teapot. 

Mick Belcher (dark jumper) and Pete Hing case the joint.


"Stan Weeks was born at Cardiff just three weeks after the Battle of Britain ended. During his childhood his father (WW2 RAF ground crew – elsewhere than Kent) would enthrall him with tales of Biggin Hill and the Battle of Britain.  Stan later became a mechanical engineering apprentice at Woolwich Arsenal and a resident of the apprentice hostel at Chislehurst.  He soon discovered his proximity to Biggin Hill and made numerous visits to the airfield – each one taking him past that highly conspicuous teapot.  It was whilst reading a book about the history of Biggin Hill airfield that he learnt of the teapot's acquisition by the RFC & RAF in both world wars.  This left him in no doubt whatsoever - he just had to associate himself with the history of that famous teapot and there was only one way to do it – he was going to have to organise his own private raiding party!"


Stan Weeks

"We have it!!"

(from left to right) Olly Hulf (conspirator), Pete Hing (conspirator), Patrick 'Paddy' Parry, CliveTattersall, Mick Belcher (conspirator), Stan Weeks  (conspirator), 'Gos' Gausby & Barry Martin


On Friday, 21st, April, 1961 Stan, Pete, Mick & Olly paid a visit to the teapot to photograph it in situ before its disappearance some 6 hours later.  This enabled them to observe that the teapot was bolted to the top of the pedestal - little obstacle for engineering apprentices to overcome.  Under cover of darkness they returned, climbed the pedestal, swiftly unscrewed the bolts, placed the teapot in the back of Pete Hing’s van and promptly made off with it to Coed Bel.


Stan Weeks

Pete in van with Teapot on roof

Our 'wheelman' (and van owner) Pete Hing sits in the vehicle.



The teapot had been freshly painted by us, as is evidenced by the shine. Our hostel 'grasshopper' symbol was painted above the word 'Teas' for posterity.


It was never intended to permanently deprive the owners of their teapot. The objective was to borrow it, re-paint it, photograph it and then return it.  The teapot was re-united with its owner within days and Stan Weeks personally apologised to them for anxiety and inconvenience caused.  He explained that he had simply ‘borrowed’ the teapot for the sole purpose of associating himself with its fascinating history.


Stan Weeks

"I could have used this to get it!"

Stan on his 1959 Matchless 650cc motorcycle

Stan Weeks

Teapot and Thames

The teapot in front of Pete's Ford Thames van