In mid November 1980 I was tasked as part of a half team (3 people) to travel on a VC10 to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. For those who don’t know, Nellis is 16 miles outside Las Vegas. The task was to deliver a load on behalf of a Government Agency who are located halfway between Newbury and Reading! We were to stage via Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada, to deliver an aircraft pallet load of urgently needed duty free alcohol! Then continue via McClellan Air Force Base, Sacramento, California and then eventually to Nellis.
From Nellis we would then travel on to Barksdale AFB to meet up with another half team. The task then was to recover the personnel and equipment of 9 Squadron who operated Vulcans. Ultimately everything had to be returned to RAF Waddington, Lincs. This was after the culmination of Exercise Giant Voice, an annual bombing competition hosted by SAC (Strategic Air Command) Wing, USAF.
As part of my team we were taking a sergeant with us on his very last task – a swan song, Hope Irvine. I didn’t really know him that well as we all belonged to a team of six and consequently we normally flew and worked together. I also ascertained that he lived in Lincoln where he owned and ran a fish & chip shop.
We departed Brize Norton on the 19th November utilising XV103. The flight to Goose was uneventful and took just over five hours. The weather at Goose was a pleasant -2C with no real lying snow. Once we were parked we quickly had the freight door open, attached door and sill guards and then offloaded the pallet which was fortunately right by the door. Everything was then stowed away and the aircraft secured for the next leg. I might add that we had to do everything pretty quickly as from experience, if the freight door is left open too long in freezing conditions the condensation around the door seals may freeze and then the fun begins trying to lock the door.
The RAF Support Unit at Goose Bay is located in two very large aircraft hangars. In earlier years they used to house any V-Bombers staging through. Now they can still accommodate a dozen Tornadoes, all the support equipment and still have room for a couple of C130s. Whenever possible, the aircraft are put inside in winter months because of the severe conditions outside. Until you get used to it, unloading/loading a C130 whilst indoors is a novelty.
We then departed Goose on time for McClellan AFB in California. McClellan was part of US Air Force Logistics Command and is located 7 miles outside Sacramento, the capital of California. There was very little to offload here and all of what we did was for the use of the RAFLO (Western) USA who was based there. As we had a fixed arrival time at Nellis it was also an excellent place to night stop on security grounds.
Flight time from Goose was 6hrs 20 mins. I was lucky that the young Flying Officer Team Leader who was with me knew the RAFLO and so we were able to meet his family that night. (Incidentally, McClellan AFB closed in 2001 and the RAFLO is now located at Travis AFB, near San Francisco).
The next morning (20th) saw us depart McClellan for Nellis AFB. A flight duration of all of one hour. On arrival we were directed to a remote spot on the far side of the airfield. This again was on safety grounds as well as security as no prying eyes could really see what was happening! Over the years I enjoyed these kinds of tasks as because of their sensitive nature there was always the minimum of bureaucracy and any ground or loading equipment needed of any kind was always there in abundance.
By the time we had finished offloading the aircraft, there was just ourselves and the Ground Engineer left. The VC10 was heading off in a different direction in the morning and we were going to connect with a C130 to head on to Barksdale AFB, Shreveport, Louisiana. USAF transport collected us from the aircraft and delivered us to Base Ops from where we could meet a taxi to go “downtown”.
To get things in perspective, this was my third visit to Nellis in 7 years but I had never managed to get off the base before. This time we were definitely staying “downtown” and had been booked into Aladdin’s on the famous “Vegas Strip”.
It certainly is the city that never sleeps and the casinos operate 24 hours a day. Once inside there are no windows or clocks and a constant ringing of bells is heard from the slot machines. Neil Diamond was actually appearing at the Aladdin but when the choice is to use your allowances to see him or convert to food and alcohol there is no competition! As most RAF visitors do in Vegas we started at the bottom of the strip (Circus Circus) and worked our way up popping in to most of the Casinos. If you play it right and are at a slot the same time a waitress passes you get a free drink. By the end of the night we had finished our trek to the top of the strip by calling in to Excalibur’s and then across the walkway over the strip to the MGM Grand. Eventually we retired to Aladdin’s, which was next door for a few hours sleep before preparing to go back to Nellis.
I had agreed to call in on Hope, who was the sergeant on my team, to make sure he was both up and about and ready for breakfast. His room was on the ground floor and when he let me in he was up and covered in shaving foam being halfway through his ablutions.
His room was in semi-darkness as he had the curtains closed and the TV was switched on. I stared at the TV which was showing live “feed” of a fire at the MGM Casino which was next door. Hope shouted from the bathroom that it looked serious! I then opened the curtains to be confronted by a real “Towering Inferno!”
Across the quite large expanse of waste ground and a car park smoke was pouring out of the building. I could see several helicopters circling and landing on the roof. Others were flying around the hotel at different floor levels and people on the balconies were also being winched out and up. I recognised Hueys and Sea Kings (Jolly Green Giants) of the USAF and other smaller types from the Sheriff’s Department and other civilian owners.
One after the other the larger helicopters were landing in the car park in front of me and disgorging those rescued. The whole scene was surreal. I then told Hope to look out the window, all he said was it looked better on the TV!
MGM ablaze – Aladdins opposite right out of shot. Note the helicopters
Jolly Green Giant Lands outside our hotel window to drop off survivors from the roof
Notwithstanding all this excitement, we had to eat and pack as the base had confirmed our C130 was on time and so we had a deadline to meet. So, in the middle of all this excitement we had to climb in a minibus and follow the detours to get back to Nellis, leaving a smoking building in our rear window.
In the following days when the situation clarified it transpired that sadly 85 people had lost their lives in what was the third most tragic hotel fire in the USA. Most were from smoke inhalation. It was an electrical fire and began behind the refigerated display coolers in a dining room and spread very quickly to the foyer, blocking any exit. The hotel also did not have a sprinkler system. A total of 18 helicopters were involved in the rescue and 9 of them were from the Rescue Squadron at Nellis. As well as recovering survivors from the roof they were also dropping off fire fighters and equipment at the same time.
So, later that morning (21st) we boarded C130 XV291 and flew on across to Barksdale AFB, a flight time of 3 hrs 45 mins. We hardly knew the crew as we had just climbed aboard before start up and setting off. We arrived at Barksdale on a Sunday evening and it was already dark, wet and miserable. On Landing we were not met by a “Follow me” vehicle and had to follow instructions from the Tower. The Tower itself was an 80 foot building with a control room on the top. Eventually we reached a floodlit apron and were directed to a parking spot by following the beam of a searchlight operated from the Tower! We eventually halted opposite a row of parked B52 Bombers. We shut down the aircraft and patiently waited for someone to meet us, hopefully with a power set so as to see what we were doing inside the aircraft.
20 minutes later still no appearance of anyone. The crew were getting a bit “tetchy” and none moreso than the Aircraft Captain. The rear of our aircraft was open and so some light filtered in. The Captain then turned to my pal Hope, the lowest rank on the aircraft, to “Go and bring one of those power sets from over there”. His response was “No chance!” The Captain, quite taken aback by this said “I am ordering you!” Once again Hope responded in the negative. Just as things were looking ugly, Hope, who was as fed up as the rest of us said, “If I go over there I will be shot by a trigger happy Military Policeman!”
Unknown to the Captain the B52s opposite were rope fenced off and had signs in front of them stating “Use of deadly force is authorized”; this was because they were armed with nuclear weapons! A frosty silence ensued and no apology was given. Transient Alert eventually turned up with a power set and a crew bus.
The flight crew and ground engineer then departed for their hotel whilst we went looking for the other team. We found them in an aircraft hangar where all the equipment left by the Vulcan Detachment was prepared ready for loading. The other team had flown up on a VC10 from Homestead AFB in Florida where they had deployed a Nimrod detachment. On arrival at Barksdale they had reloaded the VC10 with passengers and baggage of 9 Squadron which had now departed for Waddington via Gander.
The amount of equipment left in the hangar to be recovered by 2 x C130s looked horrendous. The aircraft we had arrived on was roled “Flat Floor” meaning it had a winch fitted and was primarily roled to take wheeled vehicles and the like ranging from cylinder trolleys, power sets, and hydraulic rigs up to a kitchen sink. Once we had the C130 half loaded it was obvious we were going to struggle to get everything in. It was then that the penny dropped! The two C130s we had to load were Mk1 whereas the C130s that deployed the Squadron were Mk3. A Mk1 is 15 feet shorter!!
It took six great minds and a lot of cussing and effort to finally complete the loading of the first C130. You don’t just throw things on neither and when finished the aircraft has to be in trim to fly. The second C130 aircraft XV191 had also flown up from Homestead and this aircraft was roled to accommodate 5 x 108” x 88” aircraft pallets. A Mk3 could carry 7. Once again an awful lot of effort was expended in making everything fit and leaving nothing behind. Add to this the fatigue we were now feeling as it was now about 4am and several sense of humour failures had been encountered!
We eventually loaded the five pallets to the C130. Although no weight limits were exceeded the pallets were built to their maximum limits and so the minimum clearance inside the aircraft was realised. This left some 6 ins down the sides and some 10 inches over the top between the load and the roof in the wheel well area. Forward of the load just two side para seats could be fitted. Aft a further set were intended to be used but could not be securely anchored to the floor! This whole effort would be derailed if we did not have a sympathetic and flexible Loadmaster and Aircraft Captain willing to take the load with the highlighted limitations. That, we would know later in the day when we met them back at the airfield.
So it was that after an exhausting long night, 6 untidy, greasy, tired individuals headed for their hotel. The other team had managed to bring along a slab (24 cans) of Budweiser and so we shared the contents as a “Sundowner”. After a few hours sleep we were washed, refreshed and heading back to Barksdale. The first task being to despatch the C130 we had arrived on and the happy crew. Not long after the crew of our aircraft arrived.
Fortunately they were quite flexible and with only a few observations which we addressed they accepted the load. The Aircraft Captain was quite new and did have a sense of humour. Whilst passing up their bags which we squeezed down the walls of the aircraft he pointed to his new stainless steel Samsonite and said “Look, MAMS proof!”, intimating a previous case has suffered damage at some stage.
Of the total of 66 Hercules acquired by the RAF, 30 had been modified (by Marshall of Cambridge) to C Mk 3 standard with fuselage lengthened to L-100-30 standard
One of the RAF's Hercules C Mk 1's (designated C-130K for procurement) with air-to-air refuelling probe, as adopted at short notice during the Falklands campaign. Half of the RAF fleet of Hercules was so-equipped.
The cause of our grief - 2 x Mk3 deployed the load and 2 x Mk1 were tasked to recover the same!
Usually after take off the Air Loadmaster carries out a check of the rear of the aircraft. Checking for security of the load, any hydraulic leaks and the levels in the reservoirs. This time the checks were carried out on start up and once he was happy he vacated by the side para door and we locked ourselves in. The reason being that he could not climb over the load once airborne. Soon after this we were on our way to Gander, Newfoundland. The flight took 5hrs 25 mins and any food and drinks for the team at the rear were passed over the top of the pallets. On arrival at Gander we were able to open the back side para door and proceeded to pass out all the baggage. One of the cases seemed to be wedged in quite firmly and a strong tug was required... off came the handle but the suitcase remained in situ. We eventually go it out and guess who it belonged to? We sheepishly passed out the suitcase followed by the handle. The Captain just looked stunned! The corporal on the team asked, “Is it still under Warranty Boss?”
Downtown Gander we checked in to the Albatross Hotel. The RAF had been using this hotel for several years and a unique smell pervaded the corridors. This in fact was due to the fact that the Cubans also used this hotel when night stopping on their way to and from Angola. The smell was from their saving allowances and cooking their own meals.
Once settled in, washed and refreshed three of us met up and headed over the road to the Gander Mall. A very small affair compared to many in the USA but it did have a supermarket called Canadian Tire where all manner of hardware items could be purchased. On our way through the Mall, who should we meet but the Aircraft Captain. He was clutching a large paper bag and promptly said, “You can’t break this” and dropped it on the floor. Inside was a teddy bear for his daughter! Great to see he maintained a sense of humour. After a few beers in a local bar we retired for the night.
The next morning we were still getting updates on the MGM fire and the tragic results. No more dramas and we were all ready for the flight back to UK. The procedure of locking ourselves in was repeated and off we set for RAF Waddington where we arrived some 6hrs 40 mins later. On arrival at Waddington a last minute addition to our task was to recover to Lyneham a Henley Hercules 10,000 lb forklift weighing over 14 tons. However, the timber dunnage required to spread the weight of this piece of equipment was not available so we couldn’t recover it.
Finally, after an eventful trip with several unplanned events, we departed for Lyneham and home. This task had proved quite a challenge to recover the load from Barksdale back to UK. Leaving equipment behind was not an option and you have to deal with the hand you are given. With a lot of ingenuity and sometimes short tempers, we managed to recover all there was without endangering the aircraft or their occupants (including us). In this instance the task still only was accomplished with sensible flexibility from the aircraft crew.
The team had decreased by one as we departed Waddington for Lyneham. Hope had got permission to remain at Waddington and go directly home from there to start his terminal leave. I never saw him again.
Artist Ralph Heimans has rendered a lifelike Duke of Edinburgh in the Grand Corridor at Windsor Castle, where the monarchs spent their weekends
From: Ian Envis, Crowborough, East Sussex Subject: Trying to Trace Dave Taylor - Former Movements Officer
I'm after a favour on behalf of a good friend and former C130 driver - Harry Burgoyne, who is trying to trace Dave Taylor, a former Mover and obviously Loggie. Bob Dixon and I can recall Dave but have no idea where and what became of him post the 1980s!
Harry's request follows:
"Next year will mark 50 years since 100 Entry of Flt Cadets graduated from RAFC Cranwell. We are holding a reunion on 26 Feb 22 and trying to track down old comrades. One is Dave Taylor who was a mover and held the post at McClellan AFB in California if I recall correctly. I certainly met him and had a drink or two with him whilst passing through that part of the states in the Herc... I just can't remember where!"
If you can help Harry and the guys from 100 Entry Cranwell it would be much appreciated. I will advise Harry of any results...
From: Simon Baxter, Louth, Lincs Subject: Re: UKMAMS OBA OBB #033121
Interesting to read my old friend Dave Green’s letter last month re chatting up ladies with my equally old friend Mark Attrill. The very thought brings to mind two eunuchs discussing the Karma Sutra! Just a little joke chaps. Congratulations on your respective retirements. I’ve been in that hallowed state since 2017 and love every minute of it.
All the best, Baxter
From: Len Bowen, Chisholm, ACT Subject: Re: UKMAMS OBA OBB #033121
Thanks for the last newsletter. Sorry I haven't been very productive over the last few issues; unfortunately, wife Penny has been in hospital for a bowel cancer op then further complications off and on since mid Feb 21. Many of my old MATU ALT1 Team from 1980/81 will remember Penny from the BBQ's in our on-base MQ. She seems to be getting better - if only she was allowed a large G&T to wash down the disgusting hospital food. I've tried some, and US MEs would be an improvement!
A belated WWII insert (sorry). My late father, Sgt Bill (Taffy) Bowen was on 209 & 210 Sqns as a Rigger/Air Gunner. The first photo is of him on a Sunderland wing in Iceland early in the war, and also one of him much later in Borneo, when he was a Flt Lt Air Traffic officer at Kuching and up country at Samangang in 1964. He really didn't remember having a fag in his mouth while refuelling the 230 Sqn Whirlwind Mk 10. "Well it was only AVTUR!" was his response when Mum wrote to him about the batch of 35mm slides he'd sent home to South Wales!
Once Penny is home, I hope to get my Mojo back regarding input to the Newsletter - you would not believe the old photos & slides I've dug up in between daily hospital visits..
Best regards, Len B
From: Norman Stamper, Torrevieja Subject: Tommy Brown
Shocked to hear about the death of Tommy Brown. I first met Tommy when he was a young ‘Mov Op’ in 1981 at RAF Gatow . We were a small Movements team lead by W.O. John Guy, with me as the new Sgt, Cpl Steve Joyce, SAC’s Mick Sullivan, Pete Cosgrove and Tommy Brown, Later joined by Jim Rodgers.
Tommy was a lively and cheerful character who enjoyed life to the full. I am sure we all have some wonderful tales to tell. After about a year in his company he was sent off to the ‘Movs School’ to complete his ‘Controllers’ course followed by a posting to Gutersloh.
I met Tommy again in 1998, I think, he was on his way back from the Balkans to Lyneham, then last, of all at the annual ‘Top Table’ farewell for Tommy, Pete Cosgrove and myself at RAF Lyneham Sgt’s Mess in 2003.
My condolences to Tommy’s family.
From: Chris Goss, Marlow, Bucks Subject: Stories of HRH Prince Philip -and- My First Tasks in a C130
Only one and a bit stories from me Tony. When I was SAMO at Northolt, I was told that I would never have to handle the Queen. Wrong! Scott Rogers and I had to handle HM in the VIP Suite at Heathrow and two things happened. Firstly we received a phone call from Sqn Ldr Ops at Northolt just as the Queen and Prince Philip were approaching us. When I answered, he said, "You are never alone with a mobile phone!" When I told him I could not speak right now he asked why not? Well he soon ended the call when I told him why! Secondly, having to remind Scott, a first tour Pilot Officer at the time, "Salute, salute!" which he did just as HM and HRH went past.
First times with a C-130? 14th March, 1985, Lyneham to Gardemoen and back. Did not make a note of the frame number, reason for the task or whom I was with! 8th April, 1985, it was C130 XV179 Lyneham to Keflavik and then a diversion to Gander due to head winds, it was for Exercise Trumpet Dance at McChord AFB. Did not get back until 17th April after diverting to Winnipeg and then Gander as we went u/s. Seem to remember this was my first trip with Delta Team - I have fond memories of partying en-route with Jim Bissell but will say no more!
From: Bryan Morgan, Abingdon, Oxon Subject: Duke of Edinburgh
My two stories re the Duke relate to his visits to No 1 Parachute Training School at RAF Abingdon in the early 1960s and then his flag stop at RAF Gan in 1970.
On his visit to Abingdon, he was escorted into the training hangar which had received a severe buffing up beforehand, through the main centre doors and viewed the parachute ground training on both sides. When he reached the centre of the hangar he paused and, without saying a word, shot off at right angles and strode up to a large cupboard on the side wall. He opened the doors and, to everyone’s horror, a selection of about 20 brooms and shovels fell out at his feet. He turned to the School OC and commented on the lines of, “I wondered where you kept them all”.
For his flag stop visit to RAF Gan on a Sunday afternoon, returning to the UK from Australia, we set up a reception of all ranks in the Corporals' Club for which I was Officer i/c. Our previous enquiries revealed the Duke was very partial to a G&T so, not wishing to provide him with locally made tonic which had a decidedly salty flavour, we had 24 bottles of Schweppes flown in from Lyneham. These were kept under lock and key and beautifully chilled on the due day. When I asked him if he would like a drink to start his visit he said he could murder a pint - not surprising, I suppose, given the temperature and no air conditioning. The 24 bottles were later divided into 3 groups of 8 for the Officers Mess, the Sergeants Mess and the Corporals Club respectively. The Station Commander then introduced him to Nancy, of the WRVS, who was the only female resident on the island and ran the station library. I was out of earshot to their conversation but there was some ribald laughter and when I enquired later of Nancy as to what their conversation covered she tapped the side of her nose, winked but said nothing.
The Duke then proceeded to talk, in turn, to the eight groups each comprising a selection of ranks and DOE personnel. He left each group in howls of laughter. When he came to leave to return to his aircraft he turned around and said to the assembly, again with a twinkle in his eye, how much he had enjoyed meeting everyone and how sorry that we would all be missing out on a particular Christmas present that year!
He departed Gan leaving some very fond memories behind him. Those, who initially were disgruntled at being on parade on their day off, were left utterly charmed. One airman was heard to say later that that had been the best day he had spent on the Island.
RCAF Operation Boxtop - March 31st to April 6th, 2021
From March 31 to April 6, 2021, a Royal Canadian Air Force CC-177 Globemaster III and its 12-person crew based out of 8 Wing Trenton conducted several air-lifts from Yellowknife, NWT to CAF facilities in Alert, NU. In total, nearly 22,000 kg of cargo was delivered. On top of that, the team beat their target of 125,000 L of fuel and ended up transporting more than 166,000 L of fuel.
From: Jeremy Babington, Frome, Somerset Subject: My First Task in a C130
My first task in a C130 was with Bravo Team UKMAMS on 2 October 1974. We conducted a TCW offload at RAF Benson and then recovered complete with Landrover on XV 299 back to RAF Lyneham. Flight time was 15 minutes!
Unremarkable and possibly my shortest ever C130 flight. Altogether I flew on 30 different C130s. Sad to see them departing RAF service but inevitable.
Take care all, Jerry
From: Mark Attrill, Tallinn Subject: Stories of HRH Prince Philip -and- My First Task in a C130
I did not have much contact with the Royal Family until my return from the Far East and a posting to RAF Turnhouse (Edinburgh Airport) as OC Supply, Movements and Operations in December 1991. I then made up for 'lost time' meeting every senior member of the Royal Family (with the exception of HRH Princess Diana) over the course of the next, extremely busy, eighteen months. In fact, at one stage, I had met HRH the Princess Royal so many times there was a rumour that I would invite her to my wedding!
During this period, I met HRH Prince Philip on several occasions - I do remember one wet and windy night being 'bollocked' by the Prince for organising the delivery of "wrong kind of HS.125" for his trip to Aldergrove - It was one of the light grey versions with the full Defensive Aids Suite fitted for Northern Ireland Operations - he would have preferred one of the 'white' jets and no amount of explaining that the new jet was for his own protection seemed to work. I never worked out whether he was pulling my leg or genuinely grumpy that night but I obviously retired quietly.
The second 'task' is a little trickier - My first task in a C-130. The first time I encountered the RAF C-130 in a 'working' capacity was when I was 14 years old and living in Dhekalia SBA. I was one of several volunteers that agreed to help the UKMAMS Detachment at Kingsfield Airstrip to load the personal baggage of British tourists being evacuated to RAF Akrotiri during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in July 1974. If I recall correctly, we worked for three full days transporting baggage from 'Happy Valley' (not to be confused with the Western SBA Happy Valley) up to Kingsfield.
My first 'official' C-130 task (in uniform) took place on 16 July 1980. I was holding at UKMAMS after Initial Officer Training and attached to Fg Off Ian Russel's Team. We were tasked to deploy a RAF Rapier battery from RAF Laarbruch to the RA ranges at Benbecula on XV186. The aircraft went u/s at Benbecula and we were forced to nighstop for two days - I had never travelled that far north before and clearly remember being taken aback by the hours of daylight - Ian was, of course, from Scotland so took it in his stride. I also recall an interesting night in the 'Dark Island' which seemed to be the central hub for nightlife on the island. Seems like yesterday as I recount this tale!
Kind Regards and Stay Safe, Mark
From: Richard English Subject: My First Flight in a C130
Good stuff, I was a Gannite and first flight in a C130 was to leave Gan as the runway was under refurb so VC10's couldn't land.
VBR, Richard (Air Radar)
From: Steve Byatt, Marlborough, Wiltshire Subject: Stories of HRH Prince Philip
I was stationed at RAF Akrotiri in the early 90's during Her Majesty and Prince Philip's visit to Cyprus, when she became the first reigning British monarch to visit the island since Richard the Lionheart conquered it on his way to the Crusades in the Holy Land in 1191.
Many preparations were made across the camp and indeed the island, bits of the camp that were never swept now needed urgent and thorough sweeping and everywhere smelt of fresh paint in the weeks leading up to the visit. I cant recall if we volunteered or were volunteered (i suspect the latter) but do remember SAC Scott Roberts and I being tasked with VIP duties for the departure.
After eventually locating our KD No.1's and and spending longer than normal at the ironing board, we arrived at the steps of a VC10 (VX107) on Akrotiri pan around a hour before departure to be given a brief lesson on official car door protocol, before a quick dress rehearsal and then a period of standing around in the hot sunshine. Scott was to open the car door for her Majesty, I was stationed on the opposite side for the Duke of Edinburgh.
A Rolls Royce eventually appeared at the top of the entrance to the pan, and slowly made its way down to us. Everything seemed to go smoothly and before long we were heading to the Lash Inn for a celebratory pint.
The next morning one of the locals ('John the Bank' - his name was John and he ran the currency exchange inside the air terminal for the local Barclays branch) came running in waving a newspaper in his hand and shouting 'Steve, Steve, you are on the front page'. Most of the newspapers had been covering the Royal visit event and by chance I had made it to the front page of Alithia, the 6th most popular daily newspaper in Cyprus - fame indeed!
I'd love to embellish this story further - in reality it was the briefest of encounters but one which does stick in my memory for obvious reasons.
Steve Byatt, Avebury, Wiltshire
From: James Gallagher, Oxford Subject: My First Task in a C130
My first C130 flight, captained by Flt Lt Payton, was with Kilo Team from RAF Wittering to Decimomannu airfield, which is, as I am sure you know, about 20 miles from Cagliari in Sardinia. From memory, we were carrying Harrier ground equipment. The trip took four hours and we landed on a warm and pleasant February evening.
My most endearing memory of the trip was of the little family-run hotel we stayed in. Over the next few years and many trips to Sardinia, our team got to know this delightful family. The food was amazing too - pasta with everything of course!
Onwards and Upwards, James
From: Len “Woody” Wood, Pembroke, ON Subject: Stories of HRH Prince Philip
My story of HRH Prince Philip - In 1973 I was a private soldier in 3 Royal Canadian Regiment, CFB Petawawa. HRH Prince Philip was going to present our unit (3 RCR) with new colours on Parliament Hill, Ottawa that summer. HRH would present our colours, we would Troop the Colours, followed by an all-ranks reception in the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.
At the reception, a group of us privates were at a stand-up table awaiting to have a beverage. HRH came to our table introduced himself as a fellow soldier and asked if he could join us for a beer. Although it was only for a short time, it was a great experience and one I'll never forget. How often does a Canadian soldier, especially a private, get the opportunity to shake hands with royalty? He made us feel that we were talking with just another soldier and nothing more. He was extremely well respected and always will by my former unit, The Royal Canadian Regiment. Pro Patria!
Take care & stay safe, Woody
HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH Prince Philip departing Ottawa, 1973
From: George Graves, Carlisle, Cumbria Subject: My First Task in a C130
I'm not sure if this was my first C130 task but it was a very early one; I was on FEAF MAMS 1967/69 so it was during that time. We were bound for Fiji, the task was taking a load out, staying the night and then returning next day with a load.
It's so long ago that I'm not sure of the cargo, but I think it was equipment belonging to the Royal Navy who were exercising out there. I can only remember one other team member and that was Tony Dunphy.
The interesting thing about this trip was, when we were approaching the Herc at Changi, we heard music and singing and when we climbed aboard we were greeted by about 20 Fijians in song with their guitars. It was the Fijian national rugby team and they had been on tour of Singapore. They really appreciated their lift home as they weren't so well known in those early days. They sang most of the way to Fiji. Some of them arranged to meet us later on that evening and showed us the best night spots of Suva. A great trip!
From: Barry Tappenden, Shortstown, Beds Subject: Stories of HRH Prince Philip
HRH Prince Philip’s visit to Jesselton, March 1965. When Prince Philip visited the troops in Borneo, he landed at Jesselton and a full MAMS team was dispatched to handle his luggage etc. When we approached the aircraft, we were told very politely but firmly by two escorting “bods” that we weren’t needed! Nice day out though!
From: Jim MacKenzie, Gatineau, QC Subject: Prince Philip
I'll send this one along that came from a friend I worked with in Ottawa:
I had a great laugh this morning I'd like to share. Our next door neighbour is the widow of a former head of the RCAF. One of his pilots was assigned to fly the royal couple around Canada, and of course that pilot invited the Prince up to the cockpit. After a while he asked if the Queen would like to come up too?
Philip replied, "No, she wouldn't - If it doesn't eat oats and fart she's not interested!"
Cheers - Jim
From: Mike Lefebvre, Burton, NB Subject: Stories of HRH Prince Philip
Reminiscing... On one of Her Majesty's Canadian tours, our Squadron was tasked to transport the limousine from Ottawa to Fredericton. She was driven to a DC9 awaiting her arrival, the limousine was then driven around the corner and 2 motorcycles, the car and her RCMP entourage boarded the C130. The DC9 left first and we flew to Fredericton as fast as possible while she went for a relaxing flight giving us a chance to deliver her wheels to her next stopover.
The Presentation of the Prince Philip Trophy for the Top Gun in the Battalion. My beautiful wife, Geraldine, is in the background.
Also on the evening of September 27th, 2002, we were invited to the Lord Beaverbrook Hotel in Fredericton to meet with Prince Philip, who was the Commander in Chief of 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment. We were divided into groups of five couples and told to have a drink in hand and be as natural as could be. The first man in the group, standing in a horseshoe formation, was to introduce himself and the remaining couples in his group. We were next to him and when the Prince arrived to our group, our rep did as asked. When the host turned to my wife and introduced her as the Regimental chief clerk, they (Prince Philip and her), shook hands and he then turned to me and said “...and you live off her?”. What could I say? Nothing of course!
During the same evening, a young female clerk, also shared that the Prince made the comment to her “that she should be home making babies”, unbeknownst to her at the time, she was expecting her first child!
From: Ian Berry, West Swindon Subject: Gwyn Jenkins - HRH Prince Philip - C130 First Flights
As you know I was intrigued by the jottings of both Dave Bernard and Ian Envis concerning the passing of Gwyn Jenkins (OBB #033121). I too knew Gwyn and he was my boss in Cyprus where we were both in the JABC (Joint Air Booking Centre). I knew Annie; my daughter at that stage was also a toddler, hence the link. He was not just my boss but a good friend. Like myself, he also took an interest in military vehicles and accompanied me to the Vehicle Depot at Akrotiri where I had a good friend in the RAOC, Bob Burt, who was a SSgt Vehicle Specialist. On his strength he had two Scorpion CVRTs and let both Gwyn and myself have a "clutch" in one. When it reappears I do have a photograph of Gwyn in the turret as tank commander whilst I was the driver. When he took ill it was a great shock, moreso the speed of his repatriation and then the news of his death. I too attended his funeral at RAF Halton and the wake afterwards in such an impressive Mess. I am a bit thrown over dates though as even though I returned to the UK a few times during my tour in Cyprus the dates 26-31 July 1978 in my log book look the most obvious. I stayed for that period with Ken Browne who lived in Aylesbury and was still serving at High Wycombe at that time. I also recall seeing and speaking to Gwyn's Father who just looked like a rather older version of Gwyn. He was in uniform, RAOC I think, and was a major. It was all so sad.
In 1969 whilst I was serving my sentence at RAF El Adem, it was announced that HRH the Duke of Edinburgh would be staging through on a Comet of 216 Sqn after his tour in Africa. Weeks prior to this event things began to happen and I do remember MPBW demolishing the VIP toilet and building a new one, tiles as well! A couple of days before the event an Argosy of 70 Sqn also arrived from Akrotiri full of delicacies, potted plants by the dozen and more. On the day, Keith 'Plonk' Sharpe and myself were nominated for VIP duties and adorned our whites. Three lads from VASF did the same. The Comet arrived and in went the steps, panic as always ensued - was it the right height? Would we get a hole in one? We did and then quickly lined up alongside the bottom of the steps whilst the Duke was met by the Station Commander and other 'Klingons'. The Stn Cdr throughout my tour was a lovely guy, Peter Terry, he finished up as CAS. He was sadly shot in the face by the IRA, but survived the ordeal. Meanwhile, back at ELA, the Duke I assume 'christened' the new toilet. I don't think he touched the crab sandwiches! 90 minutes later he was on his way again. Once he was on board, we removed the steps and waved him goodbye. Sadly all the potted plants flown in from Cyprus had to be returned on an Argosy the next day. Complaints were received later that some of the plants had arrived upside down in their crates. How sad! All this nausea for 90 minutes. As my career progressed I discovered this was not a 'one off!'
My first flight in a C130 was on board XV301 on 21st June 1972. We had picked up the aircraft in Calgary and flew back to Lyneham via Gander. Other stats include the fact that I flew in 57 of the 66 C130s we had bought. Eventually I also accrued 2069 flying hours on the C130K. That does not include the 1 hour flight on a C130J.
Keith Sharpe and self - VIP duties in front of HRH's Comet 4
Sir Peter Terry was at one time the Station Commander El Adem,
From: David Powell, Princes Risborough, Bucks Subject: Prince Philip and Me
The only time The Duke of Edinburgh directly crossed my path was at about 8.30 am on Thursday 25th February 1965, in the High Commissioner’s Residence in Tanglin Road, Singapore. The Duke was an a 3 day visit to the Island which included a ‘Services Day’ with visits to the Army, Navy and RAF Changi, where a display of examples of all the aircraft operating in the Far East Air Force had been assembled. This included RNZAF Bristol Freighter, RAAF Canberra and Sabre. So quite a seriously important day for the Station. The Duke was also going on to visit Sarawak (Kutching), and possibly Hong Kong.
At the time I was the token incredibly junior Pilot Officer, sometimes found in the Supply Control and Accounting (SCAF) at RAF Changi. Shortly before the visit, I was tasked with obtaining the Duke’s Royal Standard which would be flown while he was actually on the unit. These things don’t just turn up in his hand baggage. It became apparent all too quickly that this was not a straight forward case of demand a flag, get a flag, fly a flag and send it back.
The problem was that there was (or still is) only a relatively small number of these Standards. I think it was six in total, and these were already being spread around the place for the Far East visit. This meant only two for Singapore. So by accident (my usual career planning tool), I became a sort of Duke’s Flag Officer Singapore. The only way we would get through the day was to have one standard ready to fly as he arrived while the one at the unit he just left was promptly hauled down and dispatched to the next but one location.
So on the appointed day, having confirmed that Flag A was still flying at the High Commissioners and Flag B was ready and waiting at the Duke’s stop, Army, I was positioned at the High Commissioner’s with my (t)rusty Vauxhall Velox, code named Gertrude (goes every ruddy time requited under dire emergency) parked outside.
At least having had the sense to be in full Number 6 Service Dress, I was waiting as directed, in one of the HC’s offices with A N Other, who I now assume was the Duke’s gofer. When in came the Duke for a quick chat with his man and to pick up his script for the day’s visits. I came to the ‘alert’ and, when spotted, just said ‘Good Morning Sir’. However, as I was not scripted for the day’s performance, the response was non-committal Royal ‘Grumph’. Which was probably code for ‘What’s that bloody Crab doing there, I thought I was going off to see the Pongos?’ Exit Duke, stage right, with his brief.
I then waited for the A Flag to be hauled down, boxed and handed over. I rattled back to RAF Changi, where the SCAF had been fielding an ever-escalating series of phone calls from the Navy. The Admiral had woken up asking ‘Got the Standard Ready’ to be told: a) No, b,) the Crabs have got it, and c) some stores bloke called Pole is responsible and he appears to have done a runner!
So, the next item on my agenda, having pacified that the all was (fingers crossed) according to plan, other than fielding Navy (various) phone calls, was to wait until the Duke had left the Army and was heading for us. Then the primary task was to double check that Flag B was now on the way to the Navy Base. This was probably the most critical bit of the day’s play. Namely, the risk that Army would be euphoric with the success of their event, and forget to hand Flag B on to the Navy. This risk was compounded by the Navy turning up and, as Senior Service, waiting to be given the Flag. Then once RAF Changi had said goodbye to the Duke, it was down with Flag A, into Gertrude and return it to the HC. So, that’s my, all be it, fleeting contribution to this topic.
Take care everybody, second jab this afternoon! And, the lovely sailor’s expression I was reminded of in the condolences on the final earthly departure of The Duke of Edinburgh, namely to wish you all: “Calm seas and a following wind”.
David Powell F Team UKMAMS 1967-69
RNZAF deliver relief supplies and PPE to Timor-Leste
Humanitarian aid and disaster relief supplies and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will help the people of Timor-Leste dealing with the impact of severe flooding and a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Aircrew on a Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules delivered 7.5 tonnes of equipment and supplies to Dili, Air Component Commander Air Commodore Shaun Sexton said. The relief supplies and PPE are part of $2 million in support to Timor-Leste announced recently by the Government. "It is a difficult time for people in Timor-Leste who have been dealing with the impact of severe flooding while also experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases,’’ Air Commodore Sexton said. "This is the second Hercules flight to Timor-Leste recently where we have delivered PPE which will be used by health workers treating patients. Unfortunately, some of Timor-Leste’s PPE supplies were damaged in the flooding and they needed more supplies as there has been also further spread of the virus.’’
The PPE includes hand sanitiser, goggles, biohazard waste bags, thermometers, gloves, gowns and surgical face masks. The humanitarian aid and disaster relief supplies include solar lanterns, water purification tablets, water pumps, generators, family hygiene kits, and mother and infant kits.
From: Dave Bernard, Bicester, Oxon Subject: The Prince Phillip Duke of Edinburgh
I have had the privilege, good fortune and honour of meeting the Duke of Edinburgh on 5 occasions. On the first occasion, I had completed the Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award while serving as an ATC cadet. In those days, 1965, Gold Awards in the UK were presented by the Duke at Buckingham palace in the exact format as a full investiture. Three of us had endured the trials of this challenging award and arrived at the palace together and were queued together to receive the parchment from the great man; I was last of the 3. My 2 colleagues were announced by name and from White Waltham and so was I. The Duke asked me if we all lived at White Waltham and I said no, that we had together completed the award through the ATC, the headquarters of which was at RAF White Waltham. He immediately turned around and said to one of his high-priced aids, “This looks like another ruddy cock-up to me”, while I stood there listening to the lame responses being given to the Duke before being allowed to ‘bow out’.
I had the good fortune of serving a prolonged attachment to 216 Sqn at RAF Lyneham and during The Queen, Duke and Princess Anne’s visit to the Far East during February and March 1972. In those days 216 Squadron operated Comet 4C aircraft. And so it was that the 3 Royals, a large number of household staff and the support crew, including me, flew from Kuala Lumpur to Labuan where the Royal party would join the Royal Yacht Britannia to sail back to the UK. The aircraft was full to capacity and beyond with 8 of us standing up in the small area forward of the dome freight bay in our Number 6 khaki finery. There was nothing to hang on to during the 2h 25m flight duration. During this flight Ch Tech Taff Cutter experienced severe chest pains and the services of The Queens physician (a 2* admiral) were called for. With Taff recumbent and being treated in our tiny space life was becoming very uncomfortable. On landing at Labuan, we, the crew, were lined up to be presented to the Royal party. The Duke had visited his Royal household aft of the VIP suite and asked where we had been during the flight. He was told that we were “standing room only” by the Squadron boss, Wg Cdr Basil D’Oliveira. The Duke was astounded and asked what effect this had on the aircraft trim and was then told that one of our number was suffering a heart attack. “Good grief, no ruddy wonder he is having a heart attack having had to strap hang like travelling on the underground - and at 30,000 feet”. It was the Duke who insisted that Taff Cutter be transferred to the Royal Yacht for treatment and return to the UK in the lap of luxury. It was the last time that the Royal family travelled by 216 Sqn Comet 4C.
On the final occasion I met Prince Philip was when serving in the headquarters British Forces Cyprus. Part of my duties were to assist with arrangements for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting – CHOGM, which took place during 21–25 October 1993. This onerous task concluded with a ‘meet & greet’ cocktail party at the mess at Dhekelia barracks, and my wife and I were invited. Two large circles of couples were formed with HM The Queen to be introduced to those assembled, in their best finery with medals; while HRH the Duke doing the honours to my group before ultimately swapping over with HM. The Chief Fire Officer, Barry Hall, had the misfortune of having me as his boss stood next to me. As always, the Duke was particularly interested in those bearing medals and orders. He asked me where I had served in the Gulf War and I responded with tales of TSW and the locations in which it served. He then moved on to Barry Hall and asked where he had served during the Gulf War. Barry replied, “here in Cyprus”. He went on to tell the Duke that all UK Staff serving in Cyprus had qualified for the Gulf medal. “Unbelievable – were you at any risk - sunning yourself on the beach here?” thundered the Duke and immediately broke off to pull aside The Queen. We could hear the Duke bellowing dismay that the medal had been authorized for all UK staff serving in Cyprus.
Best wishes, Dave
From: Mike Stepney, Stewarton, East Ayrshire Subject: My Twenty Minutes with HRH
The Japanese Emperor Hirohito died in January 1989. His funeral took place on 25th February 1989 with upwards of 120+ heads of state/heads of governments/deputy heads of state and members of royal families in attendance. One of these was HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, who attended on behalf of the Queen. There was considerable opposition to HRH, or any other royal from the UK attending this funeral, given the Japanese atrocities conducted across the Far East during WWII. However, HRH did attend, and considerable attention was given to his time in Japan by the British press. Much consternation was voiced by the large numbers of ex Japanese POWs in the UK and elsewhere (Australia and New Zealand especially), who also wanted the funeral boycotted.
On the Friday afternoon of the funeral, I was visited in my office at RAF Kai Tak by CRAF HKG. This timing was rather unusual, and I was wondering what screw-up/upgrade/indulgence or other movements issue I was going to have to sort out however, my concern was misplaced as he proceeded to brief me on a VVIP transiting Hong Kong on the following evening. A QF146 was scheduled into Kai Tak at 22:00hrs for a QTR - refuel and uplift of documents. On-board would be HRH and his equerry, and I was to be in attendance to ensure that things went smoothly. There were to be no official Hong Kong dignitaries, or any other military representatives present during the transit. Also, no details of the VVIP passenger were to be conveyed outside of a small group of need-to-know individuals, as there was concern that, had it become open knowledge that HRH was passing through Hong Kong after attending the emperor’s funeral, it was feared anti-Japanese public demonstrations could ensue; Hong Kong having suffered considerably under almost four years of Japanese rule during the war.
Come the Saturday evening, and right on time, the 146 taxied onto the stand at the refuelling point. The documents from the embassy, which should have arrived by the time the aircraft landed, were still adrift somewhere and I advised this fact to the co-pilot as he disembarked. He was none too pleased, and he left to organize the refuelling activity with the ground handling staff muttering something about movements! The equerry arrived at the aircraft door and introduced himself and I also advised him of the delay to the document delivery from the embassy; he promptly headed back down the aircraft to advise HRH. The embassy staff had been given clear instructions and civil airside escorts assigned to lead them to the aircraft.
Shortly thereafter, HRH appeared at the door and asked if he could disembark and stretch his legs! I was clearly not going to say no and asked him to accompany me to my Land Rover at the front of the aircraft away from the ground handlers and general hubbub around the aircraft. This he did, and for the next twenty minutes or so we stood talking about the RAF in general, the weather, Hong Kong in particular, Land Rovers and other worldly topics, though nothing was discussed about the funeral!
He was impressed watching the Cathay Pacific Tri-Stars completing their tight right hand turn as they approached the runway and straightened up crossing the piano keys in front of us. I mentioned that rumour has it that Cathay captains are so used to this approach they do it one hand on the stick and the other holding a can of Tiger beer… that got a laugh! I found him extremely easy to talk to and with a sense of humour.
Eventually twenty minutes late, a much-harassed lowly UK embassy clerk arrived at the aircraft with the documents and handed them on-board. ‘This will be my bedtime reading’ HRH advised, and we headed back to the aircraft. We shook hands and he thanked me for looking after him, and then boarded the aircraft. The co-pilot having completed the refuel and finding all the tyres present and correct, thanked me for keeping HRH from wandering too far from the aircraft, I looked at my watch and said, ‘another RAF movements on-time departure then’, no comment! Departure documentation signed off, door closed, engines started, aircraft ready for taxi.
It turned out that the documents that were delivered by the embassy were first edition faxed/telexed front pages of the main UK Sunday papers (no internet in those days), to allow HRH to see what he was going to face on arrival in UK. HRH was clearly concerned about what the British press were going to publish about his attending this funeral, especially so, given that the Far East ex POWs were adamant that HRH was not to bow or demonstrate any visible sign of honouring the emperor during the funeral.
The 146 departed on time, notwithstanding the late arrival of the documents. The embassy chappie had a bit of a tizzy fit when I told him he had kept HRH and the aircraft waiting for 20 minutes. I just had to end the evening on another high!
Best regards, Mike
From: Andrew Spinks, Falmouth, Cornwall Subject: My First and Last Flights in a C130 - and - Story of HRH Prince Philip
As always, many thanks for all you do to keep us in touch, not least with the entertaining newsletters which I am sure we all read cover to cover.
My C130 stories are in 4 parts really, although only one part answers your specific request so null points for following the brief! I first flew in a C130 (XV187 as it happens) in 1968, as a CCF cadet doing circuits and bumps - I was probably airsick. I then flew with UKMAMS on a C130 in the summer of 1972. I was a Cranwell cadet at the time and spent a week with MAMS at Abingdon (thanks to Bryan Morgan), during which I was shoved in the back of a Land Rover for a crack of sparrow-fart’s start for Lyneham and thence to a tactical strip at Milltown during an exercise.
But the first proper MAMS C130 task for me was a Missex, the unglamorous but all-too-frequent task which appeared in blue chinagraph on Pat Mackenzie’s (later Mike Perks’) board in the Ops Room. The initial euphoria of seeing a 2-day blue task on the board (blue denoting overseas) quickly faded to gloom and despondency when we saw it was a Missex. For those not aware, the Missex was a Bloodhound missile exchange between RAF Germany (where they were operationally deployed) and the missile’s servicing facility at RAF West Raynham in God’s county (Norfolk). It was an interesting and tight load. This particular task was a double Missex on 9 and 10 October 1975 from Lyneham (empty) to West Raynham (load missiles) to Laarbruch (unload one lot, re-load the lot requiring servicing) and back to West Raynham (night stop, wow, not quite the overseas one as advertised). Same shuttle next day to Laarbruch, back via West Raynham, then empty to Lyneham. I suspect we might have double dipped with the Duty Free at Laarbruch but quite what we did with the first run’s duty free I can’t remember.
An illustration of an Airfix 1:72 model showing a Bloodhound missile being loaded into a C130 - not quite the correct procedure!
F Troop then was Terry Alfonso, Syd Avery, Glyn Jones, Dave Whyke and Dinger Bell I think so there was some ingenuity in the team for such challenges. I am sure I was considered very green as a new arrival (no comments please Syd) but, as first tourist movers were not posted to Team Leader posts in those days, I actually had some experience (tours at Thorney Island and Masirah behind me) so knew the C130 quite well. I remember one of the afore-mentioned saying, as I was checking one of my early MAMS C130 loads before signing the Trim Sheet “You won’t have time on MAMS to check the load, Boss, just sign the Trim Sheet”. Well, I managed to check the load on every occasion over the next 3½ years and was grateful that I did because there was an incident on one Belize-bound C130 that I had signed off. I was able to recall precisely where the DAC had been loaded and how it had been restrained; I suspect an answer of “I didn’t check it” might have had serious consequences.
My last flight in a C130 was in April 2003, flying out of Baghdad on a USAF mission on Gulf War 2/Iraqi Freedom; sadly, that was probably my last time airborne in Fat Albert. But 35 years between my first and last flight - and over a thousand hours in between - is something to bore the grandchildren with.
I have a Duke of Edinburgh story but it is not a particularly interesting one as I never got to speak to him. I was posted to the RAF’s AMU in Ottawa at the time (top team, Geoff Beare, Clive Bishop, Mal Palfrey and me) and Prince Philip left on an Andover of The Queen’s Flight. The photos do not really show the Duke’s face but it was definitely him! Much later as an Air Commodore, I was in the same room as the Duke but, again, we did not have a chance to converse. So I never heard at first hand any of his renowned wit.
Keep up the great work Tony!
Kind regards, Andy
From: Brian Everett, Darlington, County Durham Subject: Stories of HRH Prince Philip
Over the years I had met Prince Philip on two or three occasions and exchanged pleasantries - or rather he spoke, and I listened. I was lucky to have been invited to the Royal Garden Party at the Palace on a couple of occasions, but it was only on the first of these, when I was still in the RAF, that he mentioned Malta. Some years later, when I was presented to the Queen, she also mentioned her time in Malta, so it was obviously a very memorable time for them, but then it should have been they were newly married! Another tenuous connection was that we had both lived in the same area of Malta but in vastly different settings. Whilst they occupied the lovely Villa Guardamangia in 1949, which has long since remained unoccupied and in a derelict condition, we lived 20 years later in a somewhat rundown flat on Guardamangia Hill until we moved into married quarters at Luqa.
I later met Prince Philip when I was invited to the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association Dinner in London and he was the Guest of Honour. The only other tenuous connection is that we both flew solo for the first time on the 20th of December 1952 – now that does make me feel old!
Wishing you all the best,
From: Brian Harper, Glenwood, NL Subject: Stories of HRH Prince Philip
My experiences with HRH Prince Philip are as follows:
1) At St. John's International HRH arrived on a BAe-146 on a visit to personally present the Duke of Edinburgh's awards to the local winners. The next morning we called the Air Canada start crew to restart the 146 but they were concerned that no one was sitting in the left cockpit seat of the aircraft. I told them to wait. A short time later, RCMP cars arrived with their blues and reds flashing. HRH stepped out of one of them, boarded the aircraft and took his position in the left seat. The start crew were quite concerned and asked me if he actually flies the aircraft. "Of course", I replied.
2) When in Gander, HRH was staying at the Albatross Hotel with all the usual hangers-on, including members of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). In the RAF Detachment office at that time were myself and the detachment commander, Flt Lt Nick Abbot. Nick left for a meal break and shortly afterwards some ground crew came into the office and invited me to accompany them to the Albatross Hotel for a wind-down beer or two. I waited for Nick to return from his break and extended the free-beer invitation to him - he replied that he did not do ground-crew parties!
On arrival at the party room in the hotel, HRH was there and we chatted for a while about Newfoundland and the wonderful Newfies. Air Vice Marshal (Major General) Gordon Ockenden was also there, it was a good night. The AVM asked where the detachment commander was and I made his excuses for him. The next morning, Nick asked about the night before, so I told him all about it. Soon afterwards, the AVM came into the detachment office and suggested I go for a coffee, which of course I did. I returned a little later to find a very subdued detachment commander!
From: Paul English, Sparcells, Swindon, Wilts Subject: Stories of HRH Prince Philip
I had the honour of doing VIP duty for HM and HRH when they visited Belfast to present the RUC with the George Cross in 1999. They arrived at Aldergrove and I was on hand with the royal umbrellas; forecast was likely to be inclement.
As I was escorting Prince Philip, he turned to me and said, "The weather looks pretty terrible Corporal."
Following royal etiquette... "Your Royal Highness, there is a saying here in Northern Ireland, if you can see Lough Neagh, it's going to rain, if you can't see it, it's because it is raining!"
He laughed and said, "I will have to remember that one!"
I only found out recently he had qualified on 59 different aircraft types during his flying career.
From: Gordon Black, Swindon, Wilts Subject: My First Task in a C130
Although I was stationed at RAF Lyneham from Jan 1969 till April 1970, my first Herc task was on NEAF MAMS in May 1972. As you can see from my log book, the task was to change over Trucial Oman Scouts from Salalah to their FOB in Firq, a desert strip in the hills near Nizwa Fort. We never used seats, just seat belts attached to floor points and spent the time making sure they didn’t crap in the urinals! As they’d usually been up-country for about 3 months, they and their bedrolls had a distinct odour!
From: James Cunningham, Fareham, Hants Subject: Gwyn Jenkins
I just wanted to mention that I also had the great pleasure of knowing Gwyn Jenkins and his lovely family. Thank you Ian for the memories. By the way Ian, do you remember you and Henry Downes having the dubious honour of being sent off as spectators at a big interservice rugby game at Akrotiri? I think the referee was Air Commodore Lamb. Great days! Hope you and Sue are well. Jo and have just moved home, my number is 07896-364776 give me a shout sometime.
Thanks Tony, as always stay safe!
Best regards to all readers, JC.
From: David Powell, Princes Risborough, Bucks Subject: First C-130 Task(s)
Following your last bumper newsletter, you also asked for some ‘First C-130 Task’ stories. So this is a four for one offering. As background, when the C-130s started to come into service, most of our tasking continued on Britannia, Argosy and Belfasts. It took some 9 weeks just to rack-up F-Teams first four C-130 tasks,
I’ve already recounted our very first C-130 task in a 2015 Newsletter under ‘scary trips’. To recap this was 14 Nov 1967 in a USAF C-130E to try out the JATE tie down scheme for a 105 Field Gun. Flying low level, the turbulence caused the gun to start doing airborne press-ups. I swear that there was daylight between the large wheels, one either side, and the aircraft floor. We just piled in and started adding more chains to whatever and wherever we could until the beast was subdued. (C130E 7845 of the 37th TCS, P1 Col. Reeves, Colerne-Keevil)
Our second C-130 adventure was a precursor to what would become the bread and butter of C-130 MAMS tasking: squadron moves. In this case 18 Sqn. For three days, 18th-20th Dec 1967, F-Team, with Flt Lt Thomas of 36 Sqn, shuttled backwards and forwards on Herc 181 across the North Sea: Lyneham-Gutersloh; night stop; Gutersloh-Newcastle Airport; Newcastle-Gutersloh, night stop; Gutersloh-Aclington; Aclington- Gutersloh; Gutersloh-Aclington, and empty Aclington-Lyneham.
My only real memory of that task was the arrival at Newcastle Airport. I can’t remember why we went there; possibly because of difficulties in the unit persuading Customs to come out and provide clearance at RAF Aclington. However, once it was realized that we were just humping loads of very used GHSE and spares back home, then the OK was given to use RAF Aclington.
When we arrived at Newcastle Airport with the first load we were met by an HM Customs Rummage team, more used to dealing with booze smugglers down at the docks, armed with crow bars and wanting to do a strip down search of the Hercules. That was sorted by inviting the head rummager to sign for our country’s mega million brand new aircraft so that the slightest dent or scratch could be charged to him. Also, I wasn’t happy with his team’s steel studied boots so would they kindly please go and find and put on some Wellingtons or pad around in their socks. Finally, as the load was returning very well used UK kit and not new imports, they could put away the Customs Import Duty paperwork! I have often wondered if they were on commission? They left.
The 3rd task was a bread and butter Binbrook-Leuchars squadron (5 Sqn Lightning) detachment move. But, the 4th task did hit the headlines. This was a consequence of a hurricane, the Great Storm of 15 Jan 1968. Then, it was central Scotland's worst natural disaster since records began, with nine people in Glasgow alone killed. With 100s of roofs ripped off there was an urgent need for tarpaulins. One of the knee-jerk ‘Must be Seen to be Doing something Minister’ solutions was to set up an airlift flow from RAF Binbrook (presumably sitting on a mountain of ex-WWII canvas sheets) into Glasgow Airport, then called Abbotsinch. F Team, was dispatched from Lyneham via Binbrook to Abbotsinch (we travelled on Herc 168, P1 Flt Lt Dyson of 36 Sqn). And, I seem to recall Robbie James and his team Golf(?) set up the outflow end at RAF Binbrook. Our task was to off load the tarpaulins we had sat on for the trip north and set up an airhead for ‘the big flow’, which after just one or two loads fizzled out. So we were recalled home (by train to Oxford) on the 23rd Jan 1968, This was a bit of a downer as I had fixed a date that evening with the very attractive red-head who operated the Solari (remember the clitter clatter noise they made) split flap electro mechanical arrival and departure boards at the Airport.
David Powell F Team UKMAMS 1967-69
From: Len Henry, Abingdon, Berks Subject: Stories of HRH Prince Philip -and- My First Task in a C130
I had the pleasure of meeting Prince Philip on 2 occasions. The first meeting was on 15 Mar 72 RAF at RAF Gan. The Queen together with the Prince and Lord and Lady Mountbatten were on a tour of the Far East (as far as I can remember) and we had lunch with the party in the Officers Mess. (Attached is a photo of the assembled company, I am in the back row second in from the right, and a front copy of the menu, for your use as appropriate.) In the evening a selected few were invited to dinner on the Royal Yacht anchored in the Blue Lagoon. Not me unfortunately, but our SAMO, John MacDonald, was one of the lucky ones.
The second time was during a Royal Visit by the Queen and the Prince to RAF Brize Norton on 21 Nov 91. The RAF Movements School (RAFMS) took part in various displays in a hanger and I had the honour of introducing the Queen and Prince Philip to members and students of the RAFMS. We were just introducing WRAF personnel into the trade and the Prince was interested in that and spent an inordinate time chatting up a WRAF student. The old smoothie! Quite a memorable 2 days.
My First C130 Task - this was on 3 Feb 75 on XV217. A really uneventful return trip to Trondheim in support of Ex Hardfall. My mobile team (India) included Dave Barton, Liam, the leprechaun, Devlin and Keith Smith. Regret my dying brain cells can't recall the other 2 members of the team, perhaps if they read this they might let the OBA know for next time. I suppose the most important lesson I learned from the trip was how to manipulate, legitimately, F6663s to our advantage. Do you think Dave had a hand in that?
(Included in the attachments is a copy of my Northern Ireland flag. I am sure you could find a way to introduce it along with the RAF flag next to my name)
Very best wishes to you, Len
(Not wanting to disappoint you Len, I have included the Northern Ireland/RAF flag set next to your name above - but, the protocol for the country/ air force flag sets next to names in the briefs, is that the country that you are currently a resident of takes precedence)
From: Neil Middleton, Ipswich, Suffolk Subject: My First Task in a C130
My first task on the C130 was on XV182, we set off on the 12th June 1971 at 20:10 in the evening. We flew from Akrotiri to Luqa to pick up an engine for a Canberra, then flew on to Irakilion (Crete) to drop it off, then flew back to Akrotiri, arriving back at 04:55 next morning. The start of a total of 1169 flying hours on NEAF MAMS.
From: Bill Franklin, Luton, Beds Subject: HRH Prince Phillip with my father
HRH Prince Phillip with my father (the tall one) at Silver City Airways base, Lydd Ferryfield Airport, in the late 50's
From: Clive Price, Brecon Subject: FIrst C130 Memory
I remember going to the Americans at their RAF Fairford base to be shown over the Hercules that the RAF were buying. We were shown how to open the rear cargo doors manually; all those dials and levers and the sequence to be used. It was followed by a nice lunch in the base mess. I also have certificate of competence duly stamped somewhere in the house. The funny thing is we never had to use that skill as there was always a loadmaster to do that for us.
Best wishes, Taff Price
From: Linda Baxter, Perthshire Subject MALM Terry Boothby
Does anybody remember my dad, Terry Boothby? He was a MALM then went on to help set up and work on 4624 Squadron, unfortunatly dad died six years ago but I would love to hear stories about him to keep his memory alive.
(To send an e-mail to Linda, click on the flags next to her name above)
55 Years of UKMAMS
When you deploy on operations or exercises around the globe, it’s vital you have the right kit, in the right place, at the right time. For 55 years, this has been the job of UK Mobile Air Movements Squadron (UKMAMS), and today we hear their story. The interviewer is Pilot Officer Amy Casey.
Bob Dixon 34:00
Ian Berry 23:15
Gerry Davis 28:30
Royal Air Force InsideAIR/BFBS
In May 1965, Brian Robson was miserably homesick after working nearly a year in Melbourne, Australia, but he couldn’t afford a plane ticket home to Wales. Forlorn and desperate, he came up with a madcap idea: He could fold himself into a crate and ship himself via airfreight to London for a fraction of the fare.
That’s how 19-year-old Robson ended up inside a wooden crate with his suitcase, a flashlight, a Beatles songbook, a pint of water and an empty bottle to hold his urine. He persuaded two friends in Melbourne to nail him in, and he figured he’d be home in 36 hours.
As one might imagine, that’s not what happened. Instead, 92 hours and more than 8,000 miles from where he climbed into the crate, Robson ended up in Los Angeles and made headlines around the world when a startled airport cargo worker peered through a knothole in the crate and spotted the teenage stowaway. He was in such bad shape, he needed medical attention.
Now, 56 years later, Robson, 75, has written a book about his misadventure titled “The Crate Escape,” which will be released this month. He said he has also signed a movie contract with a British production company. After decades of relative anonymity, Robson said he decided to put himself in the spotlight again for his harebrained scheme in part because of something that has been nagging at him for years: He wants to track down the two Irish pals who sealed him inside the crate and called a truck to take their cash-on-delivery cargo to the airport.
Paul and John (Robson doesn’t recall their last names) worked with Robson as ticket collectors at the former Victorian Railways in Melbourne, he said. “We’d all been hired at the same time and met on the flight from the U.K.,” recalled Robson, who grew up in Cardiff, Wales, and lives there today. “In 1964, I was looking for an adventure, and the Australian government was looking for workers,” he said. “I signed up out of stupidity, thinking that I could stay for the two years they asked me to commit to. But when I arrived there, I wanted to go home immediately.”
Man seeks pals he once persuaded to ship him around the world
Robson said he was unimpressed by the “rat-infested hovel” he lived in, and he couldn’t stomach the food. “The first meal they gave us was some sort of liquid with a lump of fat in it,” he said. “It was horrible. I told John and Paul, ‘I’m not staying here.’ ” He soon learned that he didn’t have much choice. Robson was told if he didn’t fulfill his two-year commitment, he’d be required to reimburse the Australian government for his airfare to Melbourne and he’d have to pay for his own ticket back to the U.K. “I made about 30 to 40 Australian pounds a week, and the airfare home would have cost me between 700 and 800 pounds,” he said. “There was no way I could come up with that kind of money.”
Robson figured he was stuck. He attempted to stow away on a ship bound for Britain, but he was caught and sent to jail for 10 weeks, he said.
Then 11 months after his arrival in Melbourne, he saw something interesting while he was with Paul and John. “There was a sign up for a removal company in the U.K. that said, ‘We move anything anywhere,’ ” recalled Robson. “I told my friends, ‘Well, they can move us.’ ” His friends laughed, but Robson kept thinking about it and couldn’t sleep that night, he said. “I thought, ‘This has to be possible — if this company can move things, well, why can’t I?’ ” he said.
The next day, he hatched his foolhardy plan: He would buy a crate, and his friends could send him through freight on a direct flight to London. “At first, they wouldn’t agree to help — they thought it was too dangerous,” said Robson. “But I soon talked them into it.”
On a May morning, he got into a crate measuring 36-by-30-by-38 inches that he had purchased for 5 pounds, he said. He situated himself next to his suitcase and hung his flashlight on a nail inside. At 120 pounds and 5-foot-7, it was a tight fit, Robson said. “I took along a pillow, a hammer in case I needed to break out, a pint of water and an empty jar,” he said. “I didn’t take any food because a human that eats has to relieve himself.” At the last minute, Robson decided to bring a Beatles songbook. He said that John and Paul nailed the top onto the crate and labeled it 'Fragile! This Way Up! Handle With Care!' “But, of course, none of that happened,” he said.
After he was flown in a turboprop plane from Melbourne to Sydney, Robson said, he had to sit upside-down in the crate with his suitcase on top of his head for 22 hours until he was loaded into what he thought was a 707 jet. He was relieved when he heard the roar of the engines in the jet’s cargo hold, because he thought he was finally on his way back to Britain.
But Robson was unaware that because the flight to London was full, he’d been loaded onto a Pan Am flight and routed through Los Angeles. “It was horrific. I was hallucinating in the cargo hold because I couldn’t breathe properly,” said Robson. “It was pitch black and there was no air pressure. All of my joints and muscles seized up. What was it like? It was as near to death as I’m likely to get.” Still, he said, he wasn’t tempted to use his hammer to break out of the crate while in the plane. “What would be the point? I’d have been in the hold of an airplane with nowhere to go,” he said. “I’d probably have been worse off.”
When the plane landed at the Los Angeles airport, he had been curled up inside the crate for nearly five days.
He tried to check his wristwatch for the time but dropped his flashlight as soon as he turned it on. “Because of my cramped position, I couldn’t control my muscles,” he said. “The beam of the flashlight went through the crate slits, and two airport workers saw the light. I knew then that I was in the States because they were speaking with American accents.” One of the workers peered through a knothole and shouted, “There’s a body in there!” Robson recalled. “I’ve never seen anyone jump so far in my life,” he said. “The FBI and the CIA were called in, and that’s when they opened up the crate and got me out.”
Robson, who was too weak and dehydrated to walk, was taken to a Los Angeles hospital, where he stayed five days. Doctors told him that if he had continued to London inside the crate, he wouldn’t have survived the flight, he said. Robson could have faced charges of illegally entering the United States, he said, but officials instead chose to send him home to Wales, where he had wanted to go all along.
“Pan Am flew me home first class, and I had a nice meal on the plane,” said Robson. “My parents were extremely pleased to see me, and they were also extremely angry that I did what I did. Then the press showed up, so I didn’t leave the house for a week.” News reports at the time said he was still weak and limping when he arrived in London.
Although he won’t divulge personal details about himself, Robson said that once the publicity ended, he went on to have a family and lead a quiet and happy life in the U.K. He retired at age 60, but decided three years ago to write a book after a film company approached him about doing a movie, he said. Robson said he hopes the renewed interest in his crate caper will lead to a reunion with his two Irish friends. “I look upon this as a silly teen prank gone wrong, that never should have happened in the first place,” he said. “I have no desire to go back to Australia, but I’ve been around the world many times since then.”
He laughed when asked how he prefers to travel these days. “Let’s just put it this way,” said Robson. “I will never again get into another crate.”
The Washington Post
Robson at home in Cardiff, Wales, wrote a book with an offer for a movie, "The Crate Escape."
Brian Robson returned to London in May 1965
Cargo handler Gary Hatch shows how he found Robson
Nurse Betty Bjornson feeds Brian Robson in hospital in LA
World's Scariest Near Misses
It's been almost 10 years since our very own Rob Davies had to hit the silk when his Mustang P51 "Big Beautiful Doll" was screaming out of control towards his certain death back in July of 2011. A French Skyraider, with a French pilot, had a mid-air collision with the Mustang. Rob's very quick thinking was the only thing that saved him on that day. He told me afterwards that, when he eventually got home, he took all of the bottles of French wine he had in the house and poured them down the sink - right after changing his underwear!
This newsletter is dedicated to the memories of: Ross Foster (RAAF) Gary "GPJ" Hunt (RNZAF) Wg Cdr Harry Binns (RAF) Wg Cdr Keith Carley (RAF) Alex "Eddie" Siddons (RAF) Alan "Speedy" Soane (RAF) Roland "Rollie" Tasse (RCAF) HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh