James Blunt: Britain's failure to get troops into battle is pitiful
Our journey started 13 hours earlier at RAF Brize Norton. The Movements Officer was still on duty (it was 2am) to oversee our departure. We had been escorted across the orange-lit runway, past the old aircraft that I would later board, and led into a waiting room to find coffee, sandwiches and a brigadier reading in the corner.
I am, as I write, sitting nervously in an RAF Tristar circling over Dubai. The plane came into service in 1972, and is now about to go out of service, at 33,000 feet.
Tonight, we would fly to Hanover to pick up more soldiers, before refuelling in Cyprus, then on to our final destination – Camp Bastion in Helmand province. As we took off on the last leg, from RAF Akrotiri, my keyboard player, sitting beside me, said cheerfully: “It looks like you’ll get there this time! Third time lucky, huh?”
My second attempt was last Christmas. Due to heavy snow, our check-in had been moved from Brize Norton to East Midlands Airport, but boarding was delayed because of difficulties loading the packed meals. (Couldn’t the guys have been given them as they climbed the steps?) When we were eventually bussed across the apron, I saw an old charter plane in the distance and chuckled as I thought about the poor buggers who would end up on it. It was us. For seven hours.
Of course, it didn’t work, so a replacement part was flown in, and we remained on board, as not enough buses were available to take us to the terminal. The crew had to stay on the aircraft, too, so by the time the part was fitted, they had done too many hours and the flight was cancelled. I was told it took those soldiers three days to get into theatre. They were paid during this time, and I’m sure they’re grateful. But I’m also sure it’s not how you and I want our tax money spent.
I have attempted the trip with soldiers to Afghanistan twice before. We failed to get there each time. On the first occasion, we flew from London to Dubai, then sat on a runway for three days while they tried unsuccessfully to fix our broken aircraft. The soldiers were used to it, and in a way, they didn’t mind: it meant three fewer days being shot at. But the delay must have been wildly irritating for the men in Afghanistan who were waiting to be picked up and taken home to wives and girlfriends (and who, until recently, would see those lost days cut from their R&R allowance).
James Blunt / The Telegraph
The more important cargo – about 100 soldiers – was in the hall next door. We were to accompany them as they deployed to Afghanistan. A memory from a past life flooded over me: I had been here, 13 years ago, en route to Kosovo.
And for the troops going into battle that day without their buddies stuck in Dubai, it must have been life-threatening. The Special Forces soldiers who were waiting with me actually went online to buy civilian flights to Afghanistan with their own money.
From: Malcolm Porter, Upton-upon-Severn
Sent: Friday, February 24, 2012 15:08
Subject: Re: UKMAMS OBA OBB #022412
By the way, the CL44 Association is putting a bid in for the Guppy to go on display at Staverton - wanna help? We are all gathered at the RAF Club in London on the 30th June or at Monterey, California (Flying Tigers) in mid-May.
p.s. If anyone wants to see all of the colour shots of the STA146 we took around the world do get in touch.
I'm closely following your items about the RAF acquiring two used 146STA's. During my time with BAe, we trawled that aircraft around in every guise possible - we had a VIP cabin, a para role (free fall and static line) and full freight capability. We set it out in Medevac, A2A role, took it to ruff 'n' ready strips and for what? The interest [from Defence Departments] was dismal.
I emailed Peter Sedgewick 10 minutes ago (he was the chief pilot of the STA at the time) and told him that we had been too far ahead of our time. His reply cannot be repeated! (Pete Sedgewick was ex Beverleys but I forgave him.)
Australia confirms order for sixth C-17
Australia will acquire a sixth Boeing C-17A Globemaster III strategic transport aircraft in a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) deal valued at A$280 million ($297 million).
"The purchase of the sixth C-17A will double the number of C-17A aircraft available for operations at any one time from two to four," said defence minister Stephen Smith in a statement.
"The C-17A aircraft can lift very large and heavy cargoes over long distances providing a significant contribution to Australia's ability to reach and respond to events," said Smith. "A sixth C-17 will give the government increased options to support a wider range of contingencies that might require heavy-lift aircraft and will extend the life of the C-17 fleet by reducing the use of each aircraft."
Smith listed a number of missions that the Royal Australian Air Force's C-17 fleet has performed, including domestic and international humanitarian missions. The aircraft have also played an important role supporting Australian operations in Afghanistan.
The new aircraft will arrive in Australia early next year. In November 2011, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the possible sale.
From: Jack Riley, Urangan, QLD
Sent: Monday, February 27, 2012 00:10
As you know I am one of the few survivors who saw a piece of the action in WW2.
I have just been reading "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand and was astonshed to read the following :-
"Pilot and navigator error, mechanical failure and bad luck were killing trainees at a stunning rate. In the Army Air Forces there were 52,651 stateside aircraft accidents over the course of the war, killing 14,903 personnel. Though some of these personnel were probably on coastal patrol and other duties it can be presumed that the vast majority were trainees, killed without ever seeing a war theatre. In three months 3,041 AAF planes - more than 33 per day - met with accidents Stateside, killing nine men per day. In subsequent months death tallies exceeding 500 were common. In August 1945 690 airmen would die Stateside, 19 per day."
The remarkable thing is that the war with Japan ended that month. The author is talking about training on B17’s but mostly on B24 Liberators which caused particular problems. I had no idea of these figures and I suspect few others would be aware of them.
Whilst we deplore a single casualty such numbers are mind- boggling when the enemy is not involved in any way aren’t they ?
Sea King helicopter arrives at National Maritime Museum Cornwall
The National Maritime Museum Cornwall has taken delivery of one of its largest exhibits this week, welcoming a 70ft long, 16ft high, six-tonne Sea King helicopter through the doors in Falmouth.
Squeezing in with just 1½ inches of clearance, the chopper, which has been retired from service by the Ministry of Defence, will be used as a hands-on, interactive exhibit in a major show at the museum exploring the role of Air Sea Rescue.
The ship was heavily laden with Welsh Guardsman and the Sea Kings worked together to winch the injured.
Following her time in the Falklands, she was based just down the coast from Falmouth, at RNAS Culdrose, on the Lizard Peninsula.
Technicians at Augusta Westland carried out the restoration, with further support for the project from the Ministry of Defence, the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and Vector Aerospace.
“We can’t thank everyone enough for their time and investment,” said the Maritime Museum’s Exhibitions Manager Ben Lumby.
"We look forward to opening the doors to the exhibition on March 16 to see how our visitors react to this new, powerful and important exhibition.”
Reflecting this multi-agency response to the unfolding emergencies around Britain’s coastline, the Sea King has been painted in an unusual combined livery of both the Royal Navy and RAF Search and Rescue colours.
Prior to her new role as a museum exhibit, the Sea King had a long and distinguished career in the Royal Navy. Entering service in 1970, she served in the Falklands War, operating with other Sea Kings on the afternoon of June 8 1982 when three bombs hit the RFA Sir Galahad.
Search and Rescue opens on March 16 and examines the history and role of the various organisations, past and present, who make up the UK’s Maritime Rescue Services.
From: Joseph Gillis, Grand Mira South, NS
Sent: Monday, February 27, 2012 12:33
Subject: Pics of Herc 342
This is the Herc that caught on fire in flight during air to air refuelling in Florida this week.
Lucky to get it back down safely and all the crew got out okay. Just a bit expensive; probably will be a write-off.
New members joining us recently are:
Andrew Downard, Ballarat, VIC, Australia
Neil Jones, Maidenhead, UK
Mike (Jock) Rowan, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Les Birkett, Cambridgeshire, UK
Leslie Bowl, Kidderminster, UK
Neil Middleton, Ipswich, UK
Stephen Lewis, Abu Dhabi, UAE
James Cunningham, Fareham, UK
Bill Girdwood, Carlilse, UK
Ed Arsenault, Kingston, NS, Canada
Shane Moffitt, Brisbane, QLD, Australia
Welcome to the OBA!
From: Vaughan Jones, Blenheim
Sent: Monday, March 26, 2012 14:49
Subject: New Zealand News Items
Good morning Tony,
Attached are some interesting bits from the RNZAF Air Movements world, with a focus on Air Movements Christchurch (taken from the latest Air Force News magazine).
I look forward to the next newsletter!
Operation Antarctica - The Harewood Terminal Team 2011/12
On 12th September last year the new season's Terminal Team met at the Christchurch Air Movements Terminal for the start of our Pre-Deployment Training. The NZ Tri-Service contingent for the Harewood Terminal Team (HTT) comprised six Army, one Navy and nine Air Force personnel. Joining us were two RAAF personnel from Darwin and Amberley, which proved to be a good opportunity to further our working relationship with our Australian counterparts.
The season started on 01 October. Coming from an Aviation Refuelling background with no Air Movements training I had just three weeks to learn about aircraft specifications and loading restrictions and familiarise myself with the variety of vehicles which we would operate over the next five months.
With our new skills and knowledge, the team was set to work immediately. "Constructing" air cargo pallets was our main task - each was a 2.25 inch (60mm) aluminium pallet with a building surface of 104" x 84" on which we stack the freight. The freight comes as numerous different sized boxes and other odd shaped items. Construction is a step-by-step process taking into account weight, size and shape to ensure competed pallets are airworthy and no damage will occur during flight. The construction is much like a 3-D Tetris game!
The main aircraft we worked with was the C-17 Globemaster III, flown by the US Air Force. The C-17 holds 17 pallets, up to 130 passengers and [has] a payload of 100,000 lbs.
As well, the US Air National Guard operates LC-130s, ski-equipped Hercules, stationed at McMurdo which rotate through the Harewood Terminal on a regular basis. Their LC-130 and our RNZAF Hercules each hold up to 6 pallets and 70 passengers.
Larger loads that require a combination of two or more pallets are called a pallet train or marriage. Some of the more difficult pieces of equipment that we laoded did not require pallets: an EC-130 Eurocopter operated by Helicopters New Zealand, four Ford E350 4 x 4 modified vans specially built for Antarctica, two Snowcats and an MT 865C Challenger bulldozer weighing just over 50,000 lbs. The Challenger is the primary vehicle used for transporting freight that can't be flown from McMurdo Station to the South Pole. That trip is called the Trans-Antarctic Ice Trip , made by four Challengers with three sleds each.
Due to the 100th anniversaries (See inset) we have had many high-level dignitaries travelling to and from Antarctica, including the King of Malaysia, the CEO of the Italian Antarctic program, the Italian Minister of the Environment, the Director of the National Science Foundation and an American three-star General. We also looked forward to our first northbound passengers of the season; 12 Emperor penguins!
I have thoroughly enjoyed the season thus far, making many new friends and broadening my knowledge. I have more of an appreciation for my fellow trades in the NZDF. Harewood is a great posting and every day is a new experience. From a logisticians point of view, I encourage those who are looking for something new and different to come and give Harewood Terminal Team a go as you will not be disppointed!
By LAC Rory Hosegood / RNZAF News
The Antarctic Passenger Terminal is where we process all passengers heading down to Antarctica.
At the time of writing we had managed 1.6 million pounds of freight and transported 1,864 passenger so far this season. We were ahead of last year's stats! The aim is to send 3.4 million pounds of freight by the end of the season; and we are proud to say that we are well on target to acheiving this.
On 22 February the unit (eleven 209 Sqn permanent staff members in Christchurch) paraded at the Air Movements Christchurch flagstaff, along with 10 USAF aircrew form the C-17 and Ski-Hercules squadrons, 18 NZDF personnel who were augmenting the Harewood Terminal Team for Operation Antarctica and 20 personnel from No. 40 Squadron who were then based at Christchurch undertaking the B757 ice flight.
We held a simple commemoration. I read out the narrative of the earthquake day, one year ago and at 1251 hrs we had two minute's silence.
(By W/O Warren Tindall, Unit Warrant Officer, No. 209 (Expeditionary Support) Squadron, AIr Movements Christchurch, and Deputy Detachment Commander, Harewood Terminal Team, Operation Antarctica.)
We also acknowldged our American friends , whose support and encouragement and thoughts during this disaster helped lift our unit to stay strong and focused. We appreciate their continued friendship and support.
Travel to Oman for former RAF Veterans
One of the main purposes of the Association is to once again foster the camaraderie that we all experienced during our original times in Oman. Tours in Oman were like no other and one thing we all had in common was the camaraderie and of course; that barren inhospitable land.
Membership of the Association is open to both military and civilian personnel who served time on either Station. At present we have both Army and RAF 'lads'. To submit an application to join the Association please complete the On-Line form, click on the banner above to get to the website.
Plans are on the drawing board to arrange an RAF Masirah & RAF Salalah Veterans Association reunion in the areas of one or both of the bases.
From: Steve Richardson, Trenton, ON
Sent: Sunday, March 11, 2012 21:28
Subject: RCAF Mystery Photo 022412
I am only picking out the guys that I know from the RCAF Mystery Photo 022412:
Air Transportation Workshop - Winnipeg, 25-27 April 1988
That's it, for now!
From: Thomas Geoghegan, Folkstone
Sent: Monday, February 27, 2012 12:37
Subject: Queen of the Skies
Hi Tony ,
I had a feeling it wouldn't be too long before the VC10 was due for phasing out, what a wonderful aircraft, the pride of British aviation, good old Vickers at Weybridge.
The "Moonship" or "Moonrocket" at Muharraq
I remember putting the door-sill protector in place as we were pushing a few pallets off, unfortunatly I inserted the "pip pins" in the wrong way round, causing the "top man" AQM to nearly burst a blood vessel, particularly as he was doing his best to impress a dolly bird lady AQM of how wonderful he was. Had to get the chaps from VASF to hacksaw the pins out and replace
To open the rear cargo door, I as the squadron hobbit, was raised onto the shoulders of corporal Harry Sutchcliffe and as the door slid open lots of ice fell out all over Harry, not a lot of H&S then.
A few months later as a civvy working for BOAC, I was posted to Technical Block A, and re-introduced to the VC10. The World's No.1 airline loved this aircraft, even though across the way in the Wing Hangar was its rival, the Boeing 707; a much loved aircraft also.
I remember a very sad day when some uncaring idiot decided to scrap a standard VC10 on the maintenance base right in front of the offices using a "wrecker" to mutilate the beautiful machine to bits. It almost caused a mutiny. There were some ladies in tears and lots of very angry staff.
On the introduction of other aircraft types to the airline, the remainder of the VC10's went on their way to Abingdon. I wasn't too pleased when I saw them all parked up later on, but was delighted that some of them found a new role. I loved seeing them fly "RAF" style like great fighter aircraft.
Will forever remember this great "Queen of the Skies"
I recall the first RAF VC10 to arrive at Muharraq. That particular aircraft was pax-cum-freight with quite a few new AQM's on board.
From: Peter Clayton, Wroughton
Sent: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 04:57
Subject: A Visit to Boscombe Down
I went on a visit to Boscombe Down recently with the local Royal British Legion Branch.
It was very interesting but we were not allowed to take cameras into the hangars etc., but they had a nice Harvard in one of the hangars, my Father flew them in Keyna during the Mau Mau troubles back in the 1950's.
I sat in the rear seat one day for a short taxi but I never went up in one.
I attach a photo of the Boscombe Down visit taken by the static Lightning, that needs a bit of a clean up! That's me under the roundal.
I also remember the first Britannia to visit Eastleigh airport at Nairobi, it was apparently the second largest aircraft in the world then and of course known as the 'Whispering Giant'.
From: Michael O'Brien, Ulaan Baatar
Sent: Saturday, March 24, 2012 22:48
Subject: RE: The Next OBA Newsletter
I’m sure you’ve heard about that bearded bloke’s “chicken dinners” [Col. Sanders]? Well, I was in Nepal last week preparing their airlift DG for their peacekeeper’s deployment to South Sudan UNMISS, and the third of 3x Ilyushin-76 ‘frames had a “pigeon dinner”!
I did not know that... Sandwiched between Russia and China is the country of Mongolia. With a healthy economy and expanding wealth inside the country, Mongolia is rapidly becoming an investor’s “hot spot” in the global arena. There's an incredibly high demand for city housing in the capital of Ulaan Baatar.
The mineral resources in Mongolia are enormous, providing rich supplies of copper, coal, gold, and possibly even oil. The country became the most prolific copper provider on the globe with the discovery of the world’s largest copper mine, which is expected to provide over $100 billion of ore over the next forty years.
He’d just parked and I pointed out to the Captain that he’d reduced the Kathmandu Airport bird population by at least one on landing.
My biggest worry was that the airframe would be declared u/s and I’d have to delay my departure to come here to Ulaan Baatar, where I’ve got 10 sorties commencing 28th, and the birds here are considerably bigger - eagle-sized, and that’d definitely spoil your day!
All the best,
From: Andrew Downard, Ballarat, VIC
Sent: Monday, March 26, 2012 19:51
Subject: RE: The next OBA newsletter
A thought for a new segment: "The Mystery T Shirt Competition".
I found this very old and disreputable specimen being used as packing materials.
Perhaps a 2 part question, firstly where was the T Shirt from and secondly what were the consequences of being caught wearing one?
PS a certain Ian Envis is banned from submitting answers!
From: Gerry Davis, Bedminster
Sent: Monday, March 19, 2012 14:21
Subject: MoD Charters of the 1960's
Well, how many of you remember some of the airlines that we worked on that have long since gone into the history books? Some of these had contracts to operate passenger flights, while others had cargo contracts. Then there were those which operated one-off charters.
Throughout the whole of the 1960’s, I had the pleasure of being involved with quite a few civilian aircraft turnarounds, especially freight charters, whilst serving in the UK and abroad.
There are of course many Airlines who operated these charters. Below I have listed a few. I often wonder how those Movers fared who, after leaving the RAF, joined these airlines which subsequently disappeared, as they all did. Let’s see if I can jog your memories:
British Caledonian 1928 - 1988
Dan Air 1953 - 1992
Invicta Airlines 1965-1969 /Air Cargo 1969
I can recall some of those not mentioned quite easily, as I, with others, were amazed at how some of them operated (shoestring, springs to mind). There were those that landed and leaked oil all over the place. Many internally were in a terrible state, with ripped floors, and smelling of their last animal charter. I cannot recall one charter in those far off days that had either adequate or sufficient tie down materials. I remember several airlines borrowing RAF chains and strainers, together with load spreading material. Although these items were signed for, they were never returned in the quantities issued. I can also recall “Loadmasters” using washing lines to (attempt) secure the loads; sometimes the cargo was not being secured at all!
Then there were those aircraft operating as freighters, which came in with a full complement of seats! Thinking back I remember struggling to get large items through the passenger doors, and jamming the freight between the seats with several large items left off of the aircraft.
Looking up the list of defunct British airlines is like looking through a family album. It was doubly interesting as there were so many different types of aircraft, with all their different loading techniques. The majority of the aircrews, as I recall, were mostly very friendly to us Movers.
With some of the aircraft, those that had a nose wheel, you had to make sure the ‘Pogo stick’ was in place, or the plane might tip up. There were those that had a spar to overcome, and having to lug the cargo over it. It all fills me up with memories of those days of long ago, which now seem to have been quite exciting.
I expect it is just as exciting for the movers of today. As I recall, we took it in our stride and got on with it.
Aah, the memories...
Skyways of London 1946 - 1962
British United Air Ferries 1963-1981
British Eagle 1948 1968
UK MoD signs on for 8th C-17 Globemaster III
Boeing has announced that the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has signed an agreement for the acquisition of an additional C-17 Globemaster III aircraft.
This latest order, announced 28 March 2012, will bring the Royal Air Force (RAF) fleet of C-17s to a total of eight.
The RAF C-17s are operated by 99Squadron at RAF Brize Norton. C-17s are used to support Operation Herrick, the transport of large equipment and troops to Afghanistan. RAF C-17s also delivered relief supplies following devastating earthquakes in Haiti and Chile and provided humanitarian relief following floods in Pakistan.
Boeing is scheduled to deliver the eighth C-17 later this year. The RAF received its seventh C-17 in November 2010, and the fleet has logged more than 74,000 flight hours.
From: John Holloway, Shrewsbury
Sent: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 06:20
Subject: NSRAF Cosford
First proper meeting this year for us at Cosford; good turnout to listen to one of our members Alan Bowden give us a talk and slide show of his time in the mid-fifties.
He was stationed in Libya at RAF Idris and was attached to one of the Army Air Observation Posts. They had five Austers and he often did duties out in the desert probably a hundred or so miles from Idris.They would prepare a rough landing strip for the Austers to come into and these were used to spot for the artillery on the practice sites.
He said most of the rocks they had to clear to make a landing strip were small meteorite rocks and it seems that collecting these is a big hobby for some people and had he known at the time he could have made a furtune at a fiver a piece !!
He was at Idris when we went into Suez in October 56 and there was a major evacuation of civilians and married families just in case carried out with mainly Eagle and Dan-Air Hermes and Yorks and even RAF Beverlies which I thought weren't in use yet; I never saw one when I was in the mob.
They also looked out for locust colonies. They lived very rough when in the desert; all their supplies were in tins including even toilet rolls.
This newsletter is dedicated
to the memories of