Reflections of Remembrance Sunday
The Association was fortunate enough to secure several places through RBL for the Act of Remembrance at the Cenotaph. For many of us this was the first time we had the opportunity to take part.
I joined the RAF in Aug 1976 as an Armourer mech. My basic training was at Halton and then posted to Coltishall in the Armoury in Feb. '77. A stint at Lossie on the Hunters (2 TWU), fitters course and then posted to 41(F) in May '82. Lots of detachments ensued with the annual pilgrimage to Bardufoss and Laarbruch. Along with varying trips to Villafranca, Deci and Vegas, I was eventually deployed with the Sqn to Bahrain in Oct '90 as part of GW1. After that, detachments to Incirlick living in tents. Although then posted to 6 Sqn in '93 still felt 41(F) gave me the best of times. Favourite parts of being on the Sqn - well I suppose there were too many to mention but living in a fishing hut in Malsevossen cooking up chilli con carn and making oobies comes close to the top. Even GW1 had its perks (as we check-in don't dig in) and getting the jitters because they had run out of John Smiths!!
Sunday was my first time doing the marchpast and as it was I had phoned my Dad the before to tell him I would be marching past with his medals on - (he's 99, captured at Dunkirk and then spent the next 5 years in camps). Shook him a bit I think. Anyway, I think we all did a sterling job at doing military waiting time and trying to keep in step.
I took over as SEngO on 41(F) Sqn in May 1985 following previous Jaguar tours at Lossiemouth and as JEngO on 20 Sqn at RAF Bruggen. 41 Sqn was a very different world to the strike-attack operations at Bruggen – no HAS ops and no QRA to support. However, with 22 Jaguars allocated to us we were always busy, especially with detachments. Highlights of the tour are many, but I would pick out meeting SACEUR, General Bernard Rogers, whilst on exercise in Norway, and receiving a written commendation from C-in-C Strike Command for our performance in our 1987 NATO Taceval in Bardufoss. Taking part in the 2018 Parade made me think not only of the sacrifices in 2 World Wars but also those with whom I served on 20 and 41, aircrew and groundcrew alike, who were taken before their time.
I joined 41(R)TES from the Aerosystems Course in 2014 as the BAE Systems embed at Warton. I took on the role at a time when many of the weapons I knew from my time on the GR4 were being ported onto the Typhoon. It was a unique position to have a first look at the integration work ahead of the Squadron at Coningsby. On reflection it was very gratifying to know that we were all shaping capability for the next generation, something particularly poignant during my last tour.
I had thought that I might get the chance to someday watch the Cenotaph parade from the sidelines, but I never thought for an instant that I would be taking part in the procession. The shear scale of the event was hard to grasp, even whilst we assembled on Horse Guards parade it was hard to judge the enormity of it all until the columns moved off. The silence was all the more stark against the hustle of an absolutely packed Whitehall just moments before. My thoughts turned to those I knew lost in training, on operations and to the scourge of natural causes like cancer.
My RAF career and how I got to 41 Squadron?
I joined the RAF in 1987 as an Aircraft Mechanic (electrical).My first posting was to 41(F) Squadron on Jaguars, then posted to 13 Squadron Tornado as a ‘Junior Tech’ after my Fitters course.
During my time I was lucky enough to go on numerous detachments to Norway, Canada, Spain, Sardinia, Germany, USA and Bahrain.
I left the RAF in December 1996.
What was the highlight of your time on 41 Squadron?
Definitely the month long detachment we spent in Texas, taking part in the WWRAM (World Wide Recon Air Meet) competition. Closely followed, if not equalled by the back seat flight in one of the T2 Jaguars.
What it meant to me to be there on Sunday?
A chance to pay my respects to my great Uncle who was killed at the Somme in WW1. Plus the opportunity to represent the association at the Cenotaph in this RAF100 year.
Joined as direct entrant 1961 as an airframe mech, 1961 Fought the cold war at Honington/Cottesmore working on all three V bombers.
1965 Served at Sharjah on Twin Pioneer and visiting aircraft of all breeds.
1967 At CSDE working in Supply Services Wing on Summary of Component Servicing Requirements.
1971 RAF(G) Wildenrath On 20 Sqn Harrier GR3 and Wittering Major Servicing the same.
1976 Leconfield On Jaguar Gun Mod Programme.
Managed exchange positing to Coltishall and was at formation of 41(F) Des.
1981, 6 mths Belize Harrier Charlie Delta Hide.
1982 617 Tornado’s on formation at Marham then 27sqn on promotion in 1985.
1987 Back to Coltishall as Flt Sgt ASF Jaguar Serv Until 1991
1991 Belize as Flt Sgt i/c 1417 Flt
1992 back to 6 Sqn as F/sgt ic A shift
1994 posted to St Athan as WO as an ISO 20001 Assessor
1996 back to Coltishall on 54 F Sqn and retired in 1998
What was the highlight of your time on 41 Squadron
Any detachment was a highlight! Best Focuses were extra special, beating the RAF(G) Sqns in the 1977 Bombing Comp at Lossiemouth was great and extra special for me was to represent 41 (F) Sqn as Red Flag Job Controller in 1981. Most memorable was that the Jaguars did so well in the gulf war and all involved during the conflict came home.
What it meant to me to be there on Sunday
Respect for those fallen in battle (any) and for those who served through any conflict on service and civil duty. I was able to pay respects for my family’s generation .
Moreover I was there to remember my 41 sqn colleagues that had passed on, though not necessarily in service.
From 41 Sqn I remembered John Thompson, Barrie Thompson, Dave Archer, John Mardon, Colin Middleton, George Maloney, Al Mathie, Piggie Ray, Jack Nabel, Wynn Evans and Peter Norriss plus all those who died in the Black Forest tragedy.
At the muster it was very moving to be back in the aura of the service family and of course to get familiar again with some serious military waiting time, how they managed to get us in the parade on time was a credit to all involved?
For me the muster at the parade was a pilgrimage which I was privileged and very proud to attend with my favourite Jaguar Sqn. I will not be able to attend regularly due to British Legion commitments in my own village. We are also very fortunate in my area to have regular Jaguar sqn reunion events but even so it was good to meet so many RAF Mates at the parade.
On the 11th of November this year I had the honour of taking part in the Annual Cenotaph Marchpast in London, this was the first time I’d taken part in the ceremony as a veteran.
In the slideshow above are two photos which I think encapsulate the day quite well. The first one is a group shot of 8 our members gathered on Horse Guards parade before the event. It captures the personal element of the event, in that it allows you to meet old friends for a chat and have some serious military waiting time. On that parade square I bumped into 20 odd old friends in the space of 1 hour, given the number there it seems an amazing number, but after 25 years in the RAF you forget how many people you actually know.
By contrast the second picture shows the collective nature of the event. It is taken from Column C of the marchpast, Graham Howard (a friend and colleague in KPMG) and his larger group are about 15 yards behind us in the same column. I think it shows 2 things, firstly the scale of the event but also the connections we share as a veteran’s community. We chatted easily with the Royal Irish Regiment contingent to our right, bantered mercilessly the RAF parachute jump instructors to our front and in turn took a severe ribbing from the ex-RAF Oman Stations association behind. The severe ribbing came about because of our comparative youth, most of those behind us were 80 years old! Simply put it was like being on parade 30 years ago but with more aches and pains.
Now most people have an intense personal reason for being there, a large number of veterans has their grandfather’s medals on the their left lapel, but for me it was a chance to remember old friends. One of the advantages of being a fast jet pilot in the RAF, aside from it being a darn good chat up line, was the humour within the community. Sadly that humour was, and still is, intensely sardonic and often tinged with a blackness that can seem aggressive and isolationist. But as I stood there looking into beautiful winter sun remembering friends lost, I counted 20 who had died in flying accidents. Bayo, Dickie, Jim, the Staish, Eddie, Spade, Flo, Pete, Dave, Kev, Billy, Des, Colin – and the list goes on. None of those names will mean anything to most of you, but to me they do. I guess many others on the parade had a similar moment squinting into that sun.
41 Squadron was once a Bloodhound Missile Unit. The hardware behind this part of our history is cherished and restored by Bloodhound Missile Preservation Group (BMPG).
The BMPG was formed with the objective of restoring items of the Bloodhound MKII missile system that are in the group’s possession. Currently these are a Bloodhound Launch Control Post (LCP) and a Type 86 (T86) radar.
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