RAF Ground Crew Forum 1955-1970

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RAF Ground Crew Forum 1955-1970
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Re: RAF Bases and units

I served at Stradishall in 1960 as an Electrical Mechanical, Ground, it was a Hunter base then, 54 and I think 1 squadron. While I was there the catering officer who was due to leave the service, took a jet provost up for one last flight, we were told that he had a wet start but managed to start on a second attempt, but that he should have waited before attempting again, the turbine blades were damaged and he couldn't get full power. The crash barrier only half stopped him if my memory is right, and he later died of his burns.

My other abiding memory of Stradishall was when a couple of us were working in the emergency airfield lighting store. Snowy our corporal had wandered off to have a look at the crash barrier for some reason. A Hunter made a low pass over the airfield and hitting the wrong switch presumably, jettisoned his drop tanks, fortunately they were empty. When we reached Snowy he was understandably in a state of complete shock, and literally paralysed for some time. After he recovered, he told us that he saw the tanks dropping either side of him and was frozen solid, not knowing which way to run for the best.

I was then posted to RAF Akrotiri, a wonderful posting in those days as the island was not then partitioned. I spent most of my time looking after the 9KVA Meadows field generator sets. PSI paid us to attend family Barbeques down on the beach and run the generators, so they took precedence over everything else. Unfortunately due to a thick LAC not passing for his SAC I was posted in his place to El Adem, perhaps he wasn't as thick as I had first thought. I am not exactly sure of when I was there but it must have been about 1962-1963, because I was in the MT section as a sparky, and our Christmas Bar theme was a control centre for a rocket launcher, which covered a third of the billet. The other two thirds of the area we filled with model rockets and aircraft, including a wing tank from I think a Canberra, that we rescued from the dump, we stuck it up on a half built ramp, and then we ran out of time. George Batly who was co-ordinating the project had read an article about the missile called I think Blue Streak, being cancelled, had a flash of inspiration stuck a notice on the rocket stating that it had had to be cancelled due to lack of funds. The Group Captain gave us the prize for best bar, but the 5001 building squadrons' was much better than ours, but he thought they had an unfair advantage in materials and of course building skills. While I was there on I think a Sunday morning, either a Beverley or an Argosy misjudged the landing, it hit the old German block house, unfortunately a JT who had been tourex and had got a gash trip in it to see his old mates, did I think die, but again my memory is far from 100% these days.

Incidentally I saw Malcolm Smiths' entry, about his time at El Adem, I replaced him in the MT section, that was a blast from the past. It has been very nostalgic reading about El Adem, and I will never forget visiting J Brill RAOCs' cell at Bardia, the Mural is absolutely marvellous, and I was struck at the time how completely free of graffitti it was, and the respect the locals afforded it. Night guards on the bomb dump armed with a ******* handle bought back memories, and of course German Town, the MT clerk was a German and we had to pick him up every morning from there. Another German was Hans Voman, he was a really good bloke and was heavily involved in Desert rescue which was very MT section orientated. He had bought back two or three Volkswaggen scout cars which he had rescued from the fleets of booby trapped vehicles, it amused me that one of them had been built in 1939 the same year that I was.
Unlike us he had no problem obtaining spare parts for his vehicles. They were marvellous cars much better than a LandRover in the desert, and much easier to maintain.

After El Adem I was posted to St Athan a real hell whole, we had to clock in and out just like a civilian firm, but without the wages to compensate.
All work was to ASI standard with inspectors crawling all over you all the time. I managed to get an exchange to Central Flying School, Little Rissington which was an improvement, at least it was nearer home. I managed to get into the battery room full time on nights, which meant every weekend was a long weekend and no Parades or Billet inspections. Technical wing was housed in single rooms, on the other side of the road from the Main Camp. All I had to do was make sure the door was locked, the window catch was brassoed, and the curtains tightly drawn, so the Zobbit's couldn't see in from outside the block, as I was on the ground floor. During my stay there we took RAF Fairford back from the Yanks, watching the 111 Squadrons Folland Gnats' land on that runway was a picture, they touched down halfway down it and coasted to a halt without deploying chutes and still had room to spare. We were told it was the longest lit runway in Europe.