The UK's first four new-generation strike aircraft touched down at the Royal Air Force's Marham base in Norfolk on the evening of 6 June, with the Lockheed Martin F-35Bs having completed a nonstop flight from South Carolina.
Flown by pilots from the RAF's 617 Sqn, the short take-off and vertical landing F-35Bs had departed from the US Marine Corps' MCAS Beaufort base, accompanied by Airbus Defence & Space A330 Voyager tanker/transports.
The UK Ministry of Defence – which had previously said 617 Sqn's lead aircraft would be transferred from the USA "in the summer", says their arrival occurred two months ahead of schedule. It adds that this "provides an opportunity for support staff to get a head-start in getting the aircraft ready for operational service at the end of this year".
Operations at Marham will be supported by a Lightning Team UK organisation which includes BAE Systems and Lockheed, plus F135 propulsion system suppliers Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce.
Describing the F-35 as "the most advanced and dynamic fighter jet in our history," chief of the air staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier says: "With its stealth and other world-beating technologies, the F-35 Lightning takes the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy to a whole new level of capability."
The UK plans to declare initial operational capability with the F-35B by the end of this year for land-based missions. First trials of the STOVL type aboard the RN's aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth will be conducted off the US east coast prior to this milestone, with the UK's carrier strike capability due to be reinstated in 2020.
Lockheed has so far delivered 15 F-35Bs to its UK customer, and the MoD says its potential requirement for the Lightning II remains for up to 138 examples. Further 617 Sqn aircraft will make the transatlantic flight later this year. Its other examples and around 150 RAF and RN personnel are currently at MCAS Beaufort and Edwards AFB in California, supporting training and test activities.
(Today, June 28th, saw Britain's next-generation F-35B fighter jet fly its first sortie from RAF Marham.)
From: Clive Price, Brecon Subject: My Memories of RAF Abingdon
I missed the boat a while ago regarding Memories of RAF Abingdon... I had spent four years at RAF Odiham; two as storeman on a helicopter squadron and two in the supply squadron. In March 1966, I completed the Movements basic course, and within three weeks was posted to UKMAMS at Abingdon.
I arrived on Thursday 7th April, one day before Good Friday and the Easter weekend. At the guardroom I met Flt Sgt Gus Walker of UKMAMS who advised me to clear off for Easter as the squadron was desperate for airmen to send to Zambia for the Oil Lift.
The following Tuesday, I presented myself to the UKMAMS CO, Sqn Ldr Jacobs, who remarked that the more qualified and seasoned movers were the norm for the squadron, but as they were so short of troops I could stay for now.
A day later I was with Flt Lt Nigel Healey (a name many oldies will remember) at RAF Colerne loading pallets onto a Britannia freighter. First stop Gander and on to Trenton and then home.
It was normal back in those days to wear a prestige gaberdene summer uniform when travelling to North America; the only only one in my size had Flt Sgt stripes on it. To save the bother of calling in the tailor, the Supply Officer had me promoted local acting Flt Sgt (unpaid). I was on my way!
It only took another four years for me to make corporal!
Taff Price F Team (1966-70)
From: Pat Rowney, East Tytherton, Wiltshire Subject: Op Ablaut Memories
Memories of Operation Ablaut (The Evacuation of Cyprus - 1974)
Just prior to the start of Operation Ablaut, my team (Golf) and I had been in Blantyre, Malawi, for a week or so loading a Herc/Britannia airlift recovering a Royal Engineers detachment that had been carrying out some civil engineering tasks for the local government. We recovered on the last Britannia which left on the Wednesday and took the slow route home via Nairobi, the Seychelles (where the aircraft went sick for a couple of hours) Masirah and Akrotiri. We eventually landed at Fairford on the Saturday morning (Brize runway was being resurfaced throughout Op Ablaut) to be met by a deputation from MAMS Ops who advised that we were to return directly to Akrotiri to help with an evacuation.
Not being aware of the recent developments, we were somewhat surprised to discover the extraordinary events that had occurred during our flight from Cyprus to the UK. When we left Akrotiri it was all peace and tranquility and by the time we landed a full scale evacuation was taking place. Explaining that we had just come from Akrotiri and had been travelling for 3 days we asked the Ops team that we be allowed to delay our return. They relented with the quid pro quo that we came into work at Lyneham the next morning to meet the first of the evacuation flights and then return to Akrotiri departing after lunch. This we duly did and I can recall the world’s press watching the arrival of the first aircraft carrying evacuees before we boarded a Herc leaving on the Sunday afternoon.
During the operation there were a number of innovations and authorised overloads in the way that passengers and freight were moved and one of these was carrying 2 x 4 tonners on a Herc which was a very tight load and took most of the available space, including that needed to deploy the fold-down toilet at the rear of the aircraft.
By chance, the flight that we took back to Akrotiri was carrying such a load and the significance of this did not become apparent to me until about an hour outbound from Lyneham when I found that I needed to use the toilet and the only option was to do this with it in the stowed position. Those of you conversant with said toilet will understand the contortions that it takes to clamber up and squeeze into the space between the roof and the toilet to do your business, also having to carry this out in full view of other passengers as the curtain could not be deployed. Fortunately the only passengers were the other members of Golf team who found the whole performance a source of great amusement. Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that this was not going to be a one off event as I had contracted a nasty case of Malawi tummy and ended up having to use the toilet at 30 minute intervals for the whole of the flight.
By the time we arrived at Akrotiri I was feeling dreadful, dehydrated and running a high temperature. We were met by an old friend Kathy Wenham who was the DAMO and I asked her to take me directly to sick quarters so that I could get some treatment before starting night shift. Rather unhelpfully, all I was given was a painful blood test which rendered my left arm nearly useless, some tablets and advice from the MO to ‘take it easy’ when I explained that I was due to start work a few hours later.
Taking it easy was not an option as I was part of the team running the Akrotiri end of the Kingsfield shuttle on Alpha pan which, at its peak, kept up a schedule that had an outbound load 14 mins after the inbound which arrived 11 mins after the previous outbound. As I recall outbound loads were predominately ammunition and inbound were evacuees and their baggage – many of whom were still dressed only in swimming costumes having come straight from the beaches. As my Malawi tummy persisted for the whole operation, I made a point of keeping hold of the keys for the shift mini when working as I still needed to visit the toilet at 30 min intervals. As a result, I developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of the toilets on Akrotiri airfield and was regularly to be seen shuttling between Alpha pan and the nearest loo.
Alpha pan was, despite the high tempo, a fairly smooth operation with few disruptions and, until 46 Group put a stop to it, notable for each succeeding inbound flight beating the record for the number of pax carried in a Herc.
There was however, one exception to this smooth flow, when a couple of Swedish Hercs arrived and were parked amongst the other aircraft on the pan. I was told by Ops to arrange for the next inbound from Kingsfield, which would be carrying Scandinavian pax, to sort and transfer their baggage directly to the Swedish Hercs. The idea was to circumvent the baggage bottleneck back in the passenger lounge and speed the loading of these visiting Hercs. However, when the Kingsfield inbound arrived and I endeavoured to put this plan into action I learnt two things very quickly. First was that having un-netted the baggage on the ramp and asked one of the passengers to translate the request for everyone identify their bags in an orderly fashion, it became apparent that a good number were not Swedish or even Scandinavian and did not understand what was happening.
My request for an orderly sorting of bags rapidly degenerated into a free for all once the non-Scandinavians saw what was going on and dived in to try and find their own belongings. Even worse, and the second thing I learnt, was that to speed loading at Kingsfield, passengers baggage was being moved on the flight after the one that they travelled on. I was therefore confronted with some 100 plus irate passengers none of whom could find their bags and thought their belongings had been irretrievably lost. With the need to get on and launch the next outbound I took the only action available and together with Gerry Phelan rapidly loaded everyone on buses and sent them to the terminal, having warned Pax Ops on the radio that they were about to receive a bunch of severely disaffected passengers. I also relayed my own disaffection with a patently unworkable plan which had badly disrupted what had been up until then a well oiled operation (and amongst other things delayed me from a much needed visit to the loo!).
The rest of the evacuation ran fairly smoothly and my only other recollection was towards the end of the detachment being asked to unload a geriatric CL44 carrying a consignment of blankets and blood for a NGO. This elderly aircraft had some rather large holes in the floor covered in plywood sheets which had been covered in blood spilt at some stage during transit, which made it very slippery and unpleasant to unload. However, in the best MAMS tradition we got on and finished the job.
We eventually got back to Lyneham after some 10 days at Akrotiri and nearly 3 weeks since we had a day off. All of us in Golf Team had lost our Malawi suntans as a result of working nights for the whole of the operation, and I was over a stone lighter courtesy of the bug that I had picked up in Blantyre.
CAE has delivered a new C-130J Fuselage Trainer (FuT) to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) at Richmond Air Force Base, the company announced on 15 June. The trainer has already been accepted into service.
The new FuT will provide a safe and realistic training environment for C-130J loadmasters and rear crew. The RAAF will also be able to network with C-130J Full-Flight and Mission Simulator and other training assets to provide full-crew mission training and rehearsal in a virtual environment.
The design and development of C-130J FuT was led by CAE, which included leveraging simulation software from other C-130J training programmes and modifying the development to meet the RAAF’s training requirements.
Airbus Australia Pacific provided the physical hardware by using two ex-RAAF C-130H airframes to recreate the fuselage of the C-130J aircraft and Lockheed Martin provided consulting services and spare parts used in the production of the fuselage trainer.
I have memories of my only tour on Surface Movements which was from 1977 to 1979. This meant a posting to Woolwich to work in the Arsenal at Movements Unit London. I was billeted at Woolwich Garrison (The Royal Artillery Barracks), which was an experience in itself. The unit's main function was to transfer Red Star parcels between London mainline railway stations. For example, a package arriving from Scotland at Kings Cross Station that was destined for Cornwall would be transferred to Paddington Station. All the drivers at the unit were civilians who lived in and around London and working with them gave me an insight into the various routes through the city.
We were also responsible for collecting items from civilian contractors that would then be transported to Lyneham or Brize Norton for on-move overseas. Another aspect was the completion of Short Sea Warrants for drivers and vehicles using ferries to take goods to the continent.
It certainly was an experience and a chance to find out more about London. Because of the security situation at that time, going to the stations meant working in civilian clothes and using a yellow vehicle to blend in with the railway vehicles.
All-in-all, it was an interesting experience, a change from the norm before being posted to the Movements School at Brize Norton and later a posting to Gibraltar; more stories for another time.
From: Basil Hughes, Pattaya Subject: A Newspaper report stirred me to get my two fingers to work.
This all happened before the formation of MAMS.
After returning from my Germany posting and now a substantive corporal who had signed on for 12 years, I was posted to 16 MU Stafford Transportation where part of my duties consisted of training AC1’s to pass a direct board movements course. It was there also I did my explosives course and then my surface movements course.
I was very happy at 16MU, building boats in my spare time, but then someone at the “top” remembered that I was a shipwright by trade and I was called into the Squadron Leader's office and very nicely asked about my previous experience, especially about wooden hulled MFV’s. I later found that the one on Kiritimati (Christmas Island) wanted work doing on it.
Shortly afterwards I was informed that I was being posted to "Christmas Island" and was presented with a copy of the Official Secrets Act to sign.
So, in late 1964 I found myself outward bound eastwards. It was a very long trip although the stop at Singapore was a great relief but the food at Townsville was appalling. Nadi was just a small coral island and I think I drank too much coconut milk there. Finally, we landed at our destination; an island 70 miles long and 30 miles wide with a massive coconut plantation. The highest point above sea level was 5ft.
"Operation Grapple" was the code name for the UK's nuclear tests and the only "protective clothing" we had during the tests was a piece of welders glass. I spent a year on that Island
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On leaving the island after one year, I and a few others flew to Hickam AFB and transit billets – we were very tired and “crashed out" on our pits. Next morning following a much-needed shower we headed for the mess to be met by an American who had more stripes on his arm than I had ever seen before. He looked us up and down and we could see there was a problem.
"You Grapple?" he enquired, and at our reply of yes the attitude changed. He told us to help ourselves to whatever we wanted then sit over there and he will explain things to us. There's plenty of fresh milk so help ourselves to as much as we want. Fresh milk! Then he and another sergeant came over and wanted to take a photo of us.
It appears that the normal dress in the mess was shoes and socks and a shirt and shorts or trousers. We were all wearing Christmas Island normal casual dress, flip-flops and lungi’s (wrap around colourful skirts) He gave us a lot of very good advice about what and who to avoid if we went out to have a look round and arranged for us to have a tour which was great as our guide was one of the shore patrol who showed us all the places we would get cheated. Our guide said that it was better to spend time just showing us arround than having to get us out of jail to catch our flight that night. The massage place was great but there was a problem with the bar because one of our squadies was under 21 so he got “merry” on Coca Cola.
Early the next morning we were on a flight to San Francisco and then that evening onwards to New York and then London. I was tired and London was very wet and cold.
My next Posting was Abingdon and the Early MAMS Flight (Flt Lt Spiers) Sgt Dan Archer and Sgt Mitch Mitchel
From: Roger Blow, Crown Point IN Subject: Memories of the USA
I remember one overseas trip with MAMS was to the States in 1967. I think the team officer was John Furney. My memory is getting fuzzy but I believe we landed first at Norfolk, Virginia, then spent the night leaving the next day for Fort Worth, Texas. We were met on a desert air strip by a Texas sheriff in a huge car. He was about six feet six and dressed, as expected, in cowboy boots and Stetson with a revolver on his hip (I knew all Americans dressed this way!).
We spent the night in Fort Worth where I first encountered America’s racism. Some black students were attending a high school prom in the hotel and the locals did not appreciate their presence and made their disapproval known.
Next day on to San Jose, California. Drank my first tequila that night in the bar and wished we could have arrived one day earlier to see Johnny Cash perform there. We rented a huge Ford Galaxy the next day and drove into San Francisco. I had never driven a car that large (somewhat bigger than my little Austin A35!). Going uphill in hilly San Francisco, pretty much all I could see was sky. Downhill wasn’t much better but going into a parking garage via a spiral ramp I was afraid I would be scraping both front and rear fenders. Fortunately made it to a parking space without a dent.
In 1967 San Francisco was at the height of the flower power movement. Weird beatnicks and hippies all over the place. We definitely felt over dressed. It was quite eye opening. I don’t remember much else about the trip except we all went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant and none of us knew what we were eating and had to have a waitress explain everything.
That trip had a big influence on me and I’m sure contributed to my emigrating to the States as soon as I left the mob. I’ve been here 44 years now and love it in spite of its problems; even married an American and became an American Citizen. Thanks UKMAMS!
From: Christopher Briggs, Coventry, West Midlands Subject: Memories of the USA
I seem to remember it was 1980 that the NATO Chiefs went to the USA for their biennual conference. As I was at Northolt at the time, I was tasked by, I think, Flt Lt Gerry Keyworth (my memory is not so good these days).
Anyways, I duly arrived at Brize Norton to be met by the aforesaid and one other whose name I cannot remember. We boarded the VC-10 well before any VIPs.
The VIPs arrived, boarded the aircraft and off we went on our little trip. During the flight, the Loadie asked us what we wanted in the way of food and drink. I piped up, "A pint of bitter please." About two minutes later a pint of bitter appeared. I was in total shock as military aircraft are supposed to be alcohol free, but as this was a NATO Chiefs flight, booze was allowed. Yippee, so I had a few!
On approach to Andrews AFB, the Loadie asked us if we could hold the cupboards shut on the unit full of drinks etc., as the doors were faulty, so we were the only people standing whilst the aircraft landed, health and safety went out the window...
We parked next to Air Force One and scrambled off the VC-10 post haste to unload the baggage only to be told by the Yanks it was their job. Oh dear, what a shame!
We then had three joyous days off in Washington seeing all the sights and of course the usual Five-Star hotel to go with it.
The moral of this story is not all tasks that the Movers have undertaken involves actually working!
From: David Taylor, York Subject: Memories of the USA
Memories of my first trip to America replay like a scene from a bad movie. It happened during a visit to Shepard Air Force Base, Wichita Falls, Texas. Yet another exercise - “Brightwater”, this time. This involved elements of the British and American armies, at nearby Fort Bragg. Some new type of cannon, I seem to remember. Something that was supposedly much more efficient in the art of wiping out human beings. We’d carried it out in the Britannia, along with the troops who would operate it.
We offloaded the whole caboodle at Shepard, consigning it into the capable hands of the respective military establishment, getting on with our own work, preparing the aircraft for its onward flight. Upon completion of servicing and securing our aircraft for the night, we were invited out by the American crew who’d helped refuel our Britannia. An invitation we gladly accepted. They took us by car to Oklahoma city - over the Red River and across the State line - where, for a change, we visited the odd bar or two.
We’d left The Piano Lounge, or some such, after a bit of a scuffle, one of our hosts having been threatened by a Latin type. Apparently the girl he’d been attempting to chat up was this guy’s sister, and he had taken umbrage to the fact that our host had possessed the audacity to approach her. The two of them got into it, the Latin was floored, we felt it prudent to leave.
We were now cruising round, looking for somewhere interesting, when a police car passed us at speed, red lights flashing, siren howling. Real Hollywood stuff. But there was a problem, for it suddenly chopped across our bows and screeched to a halt. So did we, little choice in the matter. We’d have come to a stop for sure if we hadn’t. A very sudden, and embarrassing stop.
"Out of the car!" a voice commanded. We obeyed. Let’s face it, they were actually pointing guns at us, just like on TV. For what, a minor traffic violation? I was aghast. There were two of them. Not a tall thin one and a short fat one, but they wouldn’t have looked out of place if they had been.
"Keep your hands in sight, and don’t move!" ordered one.
"Up against the car and spread those legs!" demanded the other.
They looked at one another, as did we. It was like something out of Police Academy. But they still had guns pointed in our direction.
Had the second also reversed his opinion I think I’d have cracked up, despite the threat to life and limb. As he didn’t, I decided to try the confused-English-gentleman-abroad trick.
`Excuse me, officer. Could you please explain what is going on?’ Alec Guinness at his talented best. And it worked!
"From outa town, huh?" He seemed rather more amiable, and I thought I detected a slight hesitancy in his manner.
"From England, actually," I replied, proudly. I gave him a smile, to show I was friendly.
"That so? Well, up against the goddamn car, limey, before I bust yur mouth." Ah well. It almost worked.
Never did discover the ins and outs of what it was all about for we left early next day, after we’d checked out the inside of the Precinct House, making a statement on events as we saw them in that bar. Could only assume the Latin had a relative on the local police force. Maybe the chief, who knows. Not a very auspicious introduction to a country. But that wasn’t typical America, was it? I mean, we’d just been unfortunate. Wrong place at the wrong time, kind of thing. Right? Well, we had, hadn’t we?
Next trip across the ‘pond’ was much better; Canada and the United States with Lord Louis Mountbatten, in his role as Chief of Defence Staff. A real privilege. After the usual positioning flight to London Heathrow, with the night spent in a nearby hotel, it was over to Gander, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, before crossing the border to Washington, and Andrews AFB. Next ports of call were at the US Naval bases of Norfolk, Virginia, and Jacksonville, Florida, before departing back to LHR, thence Lyneham.
We would occasionally be required to line up in front of the aircraft at the end of a tour like this, to be thanked by the VIP, often to be presented with a gift on his behalf, on completion of the tour: cufflinks, a bottle of whisky maybe, or something equally useful. But I do recall one Tory politician who seemed to think an autographed photo was something we might well treasure! No names, no packdrill. It was a long time ago, and believe it or not, I never once wondered what happened to that photograph. Well, you wouldn’t, would you!
From: Mike Stepney, Stewarton, Ayrshire Subject: Memories of the USA
Herewith a (perhaps not so) little ditty regarding one of my US trips… or should I say detachments. I had the good fortune to visit the US on many occasions with the RAF and also on many private holidays. Only States that I have not as yet visited in the US are North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Alaska. We did Hawaii on our way home from Kai Tak in '92.
In the early 80’s, due to the almost permanent detachment of numerous RAF Phantom FG.1 and FGR.2s in support of the post Falklands conflict, the UK Government of the day decided that a requirement existed to fill the gap in the UK Air Defences. Given the immediate requirement, an order for 15 aircraft replacements were required in an ‘off-the-shelf’ purchase. Suitable aircraft were identified (ex USN Phantom F4J aircraft – designated F-4J (UK)) and were purchased. The aircraft and all supporting engineering /spares etc. were stored at Naval Air Station North Island San Diego, where RAF technicians and engineers from RAF Wattisham spent 12 months prior to the delivery of the aircraft, working on and learning the new systems. The RAF crews also spent a few months living in plush condos learning the ropes on the new aircraft. The ex USN aircraft differed considerably from the RAF version in that they were fitted with General Electric J79 GE-10B engines, US avionics and many other US navy driven operating systems, many of which would be redundant in RAF service.
As an aside, the F-4J(UK) had a greater top speed of Mach 2.1 as opposed to the Rolls Royce Spey-engined FGR.2s which could muster Mach 1.9.
From a deployment capability, the main difference in supporting the F-4J(UK) away from MOB was that the aircraft required a large volume of compressed air to start the engines. HP air would normally be supplied at sea by the navy carrier compressors, or in the case of USN aircraft operating from land bases, via a very large and bulky ground support air compressor – not compatible with movement on anything smaller at the time than a C5 Galaxy!! As Tiger Trail 1 approached and at the eleventh hour, it appeared that no one on the F-4J(UK) purchase team at MOD had thought to consider the implications of attempting to operate the aircraft away from its MOB. Investigations concluded that we could not pre-position air compressors at the assigned ferry stops, which meant that we would have to use a more mobile compressor which would fit in the C130 and this became the subject of a very urgent purchase from a US supplier. Clearly, there was no published tie-down scheme with which to refer, so for loading and tie-down, rule of thumb was quickly adopted.
RAF Wattisham was the designated UK operating airfield for these aircraft – they were formed as 74 (Tiger) Squadron, and from mid- 1984 until early 1985, the F-4J(UK) aircraft and associated spares were ferried/air-lifted from the US to UK under Operation Tiger Trail one through six, with each ferry operation running approximately once each month. From my perspective, I had the task as OC Tech/Mobility at Wattisham to work with the planners, review the load priorities ahead of each Tiger Trail, then direct the US end of things with load prepping and eventually flying back with the last trail in December 84. UKMAMS were not especially involved in this operation as there were sufficient trained ‘Movers’ operating at Wattisham, and they took turns in working either at Wattisham or NAS North Island San Diego during the six months of the operation. In any case, UKMAMS were still very much stretched with the on-going Falklands air-bridge and other support operations.
All went well on TT 1 through three with a C130 Hercules assigned to each trail and overnight stops dedicated at Wright Patterson, Ohio, and Gander, Newfoundland, prior to the pond hop and landing at Wattisham. However, TT 4 had a slight mishap, and TT5 suffered a major problem.
The process we adopted at each departure airfield including the two night stops, was to connect the compressor to the first then the second F4J, get them started, then wheel the (now very hot compressor) to the rear of the C130 and load it on the ramp. Its weight was just within limits. A Tirfor winch had to be used as each C130 was loaded front to back with freight in a flat floor config, which denied us the use of the aircraft winch. The aim was to get airborne as soon as possible after the F4Js departed. This method was adopted with all six Tiger Trails and it became a pretty standard OP for us. The only snag that we had experienced to date was at Wright Patterson with TT4, when the loading team decided that they could cut the tie-down time of the compressor if they pre-positioned the floor tie-down points and used a 5K net as the restraint rather than the strops and chains we had used in the past. Only problem they found was, as they tightened the net a large portion of it began to melt as it wrapped itself around, and stuck to, the approximately 30cm diameter extremely hot stainless-steel exhaust pipe of the compressor! You live and learn! Thankfully I was not on that aircraft; I had more pressing work at San Diego!
The original spares purchase included six of the monster MBO compressors, which eventually headed for the UK six months later by sea! I have my suspicions that the US were trying to off-load some of their surplus junk… but that’s just my personal view.
About ten minutes later we saw the aircraft on its straight-in approach – nothing looked out of the ordinary, no smoke, all four Allison’s turning, all wheels appeared down and it made what appeared to be an uneventful landing. The aircraft taxied to its recently departed parking bay and shut down engines.
I made my way to the rear of the aircraft where the loadmaster had lowered the ramp and was shouting over the noise of the APU… the gist of his discussions seemed to point to a major issue with one of the large boxes loaded at the rear of the aircraft, a metal container that housed a F4J Radar unit. The tie-down chains that had been used to secure the container were in various stages of disarray, with some adrift and some still attached to the load. The Loadmaster was somewhat ashen in colour, and after a short period explained what had happened.
The aircraft was approximately fifteen minutes airborne when the captain commenced pressurisation. At about the same time the Loadmaster, who was at the front of the aircraft heard a loud bang from the rear and immediately worked his way back to check the load. On reaching the rear he observed the Radar transit box had appeared to be ballooning and to have grown in dimension! Some of the tie-down chains appeared to have parted - only four of the six original chains remained to secure the load. One tensioner was broken, and one floor point was hanging from another tensioner. He also advised that it looked like the remaining four chains could have parted at any second and he immediately advised the captain who declared an emergency. The aircraft descended to an altitude where it could de-pressurise and return to NAS North Island.
Unfortunately, we did not have the benefit of digital or phone cameras in those days so there was no opportunity to get an evidential photo. The offending box was off-loaded and put into a secure holding area at the base pending an investigation. As the box was sealed on arrival at the airhead and had an in-date ‘move by air authorized’ certificate attached, a senior USN officer was summoned to take control of the proceedings. By this time, with two F4J’s heading north east without support and given the seriousness of the C130 situation, priority signals were flying back and forth to the transit stops, Command, Group, Lyneham, Wattisham, et al!
The TT5 aircraft arrived from UK serviceable (quite a feat in those days considering the operation schedule the ‘Alberts’ were experiencing supporting the Falklands). A night stop for the crew and all was well for a 09:00hrs (local) departure for the leg from NAS North Island to Wright Patterson which was an easy seven-hour leg with usually great views of the Grand Canyon en-route.
The two TT5 F4J’s departed followed shortly by Albert and on time however, about half-an-hour later, just as we were about to complete the departure documentation , Base Ops called advising that the C130 was returning and had declared an emergency, they had called for a direct-in approach and for emergency vehicles to be on stand-by. No details of the problem were forthcoming but very quickly the emergency services were at the end of the runway to meet the aircraft.
RAF Lyneham conducted their own investigation and inspection of the aircraft on its return. It was found that some of the floor restraint points required replacing as a precaution, but nothing too serious from an engineering standpoint.
I have always enjoyed tasks to the US, and the transit via Gander was something to look forward to especially, as there was usually time to recover from any excesses on the night stop, on the next leg, going east or west! Other US tasks I was involved with were mainly when I was at UKMAMS and I managed visits to McChord AFB in Seattle, Albuquerque New Mexico, Nellis AFB Nevada, Wright Patterson AFB Ohio (and its fantastic Air Force museum), to name a few.
One of the most memorable trips was my initial flight out to North Island, San Diego, where the Captain of our C130 managed to get air traffic clearance to fly down (not into) the Grand Canyon. We followed the Colorado River for the best part of an hour and could see some of the large black inflatables taking tourists down the rapids. Volent Rodeo at Pope AFB North Carolina in '87 was also memorable for all the right reasons, whereas a Det Cdr task shuttling between Holmstead AFB Florida and San Juan, Peurto Rico – supporting a Nimrod detachment in '87 also brings back memories, or perhaps nightmares would be a better description! Another story for another time, perhaps?
Official visits to the US did not stop when I departed UKMAMS, and I managed a number of trips to Dallas, TX, when working on an RAF IT infrastructure project in the early 90’s, though unfortunately the flights were civilian, and the routes did not take me via Gander!
After an inspection, it appeared that no damage had been caused to the aircraft floor points and the following day, the Captain was happy to depart with what remained of the load, in a bid to catch up with the F4J's; we on the other hand started an investigation at North Island as to what caused the container to expand as it did - breaking a tensioner and snapping a floor tie-down point takes some doing, and given the Loadmasters description of the expanding box, it would appear that had the aircraft not depressurized, one or more of the 10,000lb chains could have snapped and would probably have flailed around the cargo area; that did not bear thinking about!
It turns out that this was a "special to type" pressurised Radar container filled with inert gas to ensure no dampness/sea air (ex US carrier-based aircraft spares), would get into the delicate electronics. It transpired that it was fitted with a pressure release valve which given the in-flight incident, appeared not to have operated correctly. The item was sent to the USNs specialists and in early February 85 we received the results of the USN investigation.
It appears that the valve within the container was working as advertised. The container consisted of a base that the Radom is attached to, and then a metal box cover is lowered onto the base and bolted into place; the inert gas is then injected. What had apparently happened was that whoever mated the box to the base had put it on the wrong way - front to back if you will, and the radar support frame snagged the pressure relief valve causing it to jam in the closed position. Just goes to show that not all load incidents are the fault of Movers!
From: Michael Craner, Yeovil, Somerset Subject: Memories of the USA
I have fond memories of contact with the USAF and the USA.
In 1969, I was a Loadmaster on 36 Sqn at Lyneham and on September 28th I flew to Gander, Andrews, Chicago and JFK on Hercules XV191; this was a double-crew training flight.
Gander was always a very good night stop. At Andrews AFB we had a great party at an American colonel's house. Chicago was a brief stop but we did manage a short walk about in the Windy City. I was not feeling very well, I think it was some dodgy chicken that I had in a meal box from Andrews.
When we reached JFK It was arranged for me to see a doctor, I was given a full examination and much to the delight of the other crew members I was grounded for seven days. We were accommodated in the Royal Manhattan Hotel within walking distance of Broadway.
Next day a message from the powers that be at Upavon: “You do not have Pax. You have a D category loadmaster on your crew. Return to base. The sick loadmaster will be recovered when he is fit." For a short time I really felt for the other crew members, perhaps they should have had the chicken also?
On leaving, I was given $3,000 out of the imprest and after the crew left I inquired if the Royal Air Force Hercules had left and was told it was an hour outbound.
By this time I was feeling better and went walkabout in the big city. I found a place called "Bills Bar" in the Garment District and I spent some time with good food and drinks watching nice young ladies modelling clothes for prospective buyers.
The week included the Empire State Building, the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Broadway and Central Park. I visted many bars in the evenings, all in the name of duty. I did my very best to spend the $3,000.
At the end of the week I received a message from Upavon, to visit the Lexington Hotel on Lexington Avenue, and make my self known to the captain of a VIP Comet and to come home with him. The Comet flew home via Gander and went U/S which was a good ending to one of the best weeks ever! The $3,000 - what $3,000?
From: Allan Walker, Burnley, Lancashire Subject: Memories of the USA
There are a few memorable moments I can recall involving flights into the USA. Most when on UKMAMS and later when I was OC Airportabiity at JATE Brize Norton.
The first was in support of Red Flag. Having arrived at Nellis AFB it was decided that we would stay the night in the “Original” Stardust Hotel. As Imprest Holder I was despatched to book the required number of rooms. On arrival I was met with 6 check-in points, each with at least 20 people at each After about an hour I reached the front of my queue and asked if it was always this busy. The reply came back “No, We have just reduced the room charge to $7.00 a night for the Christmas Season.” As we were not on Rate Ones for this trip the RAF gained and not us!
On the way down to Nellis we flew along the Grand Canyon. The ”Herc” was flown below the edge of the Canyon and it was amazing to look up and see the top of the Canyon above us whilst looking right down into the Canyon. Unfortunately I cannot find photos to prove this did happen.
The second was when I was at JATE and we were tasked with a visit to Lockheed’s in Marietta Georgia to inspect work being carried out on the C130. The RAF had decided to extend the main cargo hold by inserting a “Plug” behind the main cockpit area. This as far as I remember increased the number of 108 Pallets from 3 to 5. A tour of the Manufacturing facility was amazing as we could see how the Herc was manufactured from raw metal sheets to the finished product. Also being worked on was a similar extension to the American Cargo Master.
There were several more trips but my memory cannot recall where to and I cannot find my Log Book to confirm. One of these trips did however end with a visit to Dallas to see the Street where President Kennedy was assassinated.
As always please convey my regards to all Movers, Past and Present. Keep up the good work, wherever you are in the World.
From: Clive Price, Brecon Subject: Memories of the USA
The Air Race - (no sound on the last part)
Went there many times but the most memorable task was support for the Daily Mail Transatlantic Air Race in May, 1969. The starting point of the race was the Post Office Tower in London and the finish line was the Empire State Building in New York.
Our Harriers could land anywhere and picked a coal yard at St Pancras Railway Station in London instead of an airfield - you should have seen the dust cloud!
When the Harrier landed in New York, the pilot jumped onto the pillion seat of a motorcycle for the final dash to the finish line and won the race!
We stayed in the YMCA on Lexington Avenue and saw all the sights. Then we moved on to Andrews AFB to demonstrate the Harrier to the US Marines. I was told that most of aircraft instruments had packed up by this time and the pilot had to perform "seat of the pants" flying. We ended staying a week in Washington and even had a reception at the British Embassy.
The worst USA trip I had was when we flew to Hawaii with two "beer and bed stops" on the way, arriving at Hickam AFB at midnight, offloaded and then left at four in the morning to fly home. All we saw were the airfield lights. The boss, Dave Powell, posted a postcard in what turned out to be a trash bin. Big chuckles all around!
Taff Price F team UKMAMS (1968-70)
MY TIME IN THE R.A.F., 1943-1947 An Air Mover's Story in Eight Parts Norman Victor Quinnell, 1925-2008
Part Eight - Return to the UK - April 1947
The pattern of work, interspersed with hours on the beach, continued uneventfully until towards the end of March, when Sonny Tofts from Air Movements and I were among a dozen from RAF Changi given notice that the time for demobilisation was near and by mid April we would be boarding a troopship bound for the UK. So far as I was concerned it couldn’t be slower than the journey out. Although in 1947 the system was flowing smoothly in the UK, abroad a demobilisation date was not quantifiable or reliable, being dependent upon local conditions, the availability of others to fill the posts, and transportation. Some people had to serve months longer than others, but, oddly, we were given an opportunity to extend our stay on a voluntary basis.
At long last a concrete runway or runways were planned to replace the pierced steel plating, and presumably accompanied by permanent airfield buildings. A large British contractor was to undertake the work, but the RAF, or more likely the Defence Ministry, needed people to check that it was done to the required standard. I guess it was easy, and clearly profitable, to lay concrete a quarter inch thinner than the specification, or there were similar dodges. It seemed that volunteers would, in effect, be demobilised, then re-employed, and repatriated at the end of the job. The whole explanation was so uninviting that even those with no responsibilities refused to consider it an option.
A preferred form of adventure was already to hand for some. One did not have to go to the UK to be ”demobbed”; it could be done in any Commonwealth country. A Sergeant Freeman decided he would go to Australia as an emigrant, as did another one with a WAAF fiancée. Two other characters wanted to return to the UK by working their way through Canada, or to stay there if they liked it, so were sent to Vancouver. If you were free the opportunities seemed great, though no one was allowed into the States.
Still, I had to think about packing. Whereas I had arrived at Changi with a large kitbag of stuff and a full side pack, the amount of extra clutter that had accumulated over 16 months was considerable. There were books, photographs, presents to take home, material and some clothing and shoes for Rosemary, shirts and shoes for me, consumables such as sweets, and probably a bottle or two of spirits or liqueurs which were tax free. There were also a lot of spare forces clothes, khaki shorts and “Aertex” type shirts etc, that might be useful in future and apparently did not have to be handed in.
So a visit to a secondhand stall and shop in town produced a tin trunk of suitable size which was relatively unbattered, and although no name was painted on it may have had an interesting history. A padlock was an extra. To get it to the Air Booking Centre and from there a gharry to camp I had to employ a pedal rickshaw, holding the trunk on my lap. I had an intense dislike of rickshaws, especially the non mechanical ones pulled by one man, considering them liable to be mown down by motor traffic, but taxi cabs were far too expensive.
As soon as I tried a dummy run with packing I realised the trunk was barely large enough and additional room would have to be devised. From consultation it seemed that a padlock provided a minimum of safety and it was best to enclose the trunk in a wooden crate, easily made from the material that arrived at Freight Section. Eventually everything was gathered together and the trunk filled, save for a lot of books. Unwilling to leave them behind I found a number of rectangular lidded tins they could be put in and these could be layered between the trunk and the crate. It was all done in an afternoon, including painting number, name and, I believe, home address on the trunk and crate.
There was the last day of duty on the airfield with the farewells to those such as Mr Chan, and Ruby, the great helpers, beside the drivers, Officers, and the odd wireless operators in their small hut. An evening of celebration in the Mess, and the next day was a matter of pay and general documentation at HQ, then waiting at the appointed place for transport to the docks in the afternoon.
At around 4 o’clock we joined an orderly throng on the dockside. The majority were Army, a few hundred, then RAF, and, rather surprisingly, a small number of Naval personnel who we thought would have gone on naval vessels. Altogether, perhaps about eight or nine hundred. There was the usual segregation by “calling” and by rank, Officers in cabins, NCO’s in the upper deck, and others on lower ones, and I’m sure there were bunks rather than hammocks. We kept our kitbags but all trunks and excess baggage was piled on the quayside for later stowage. The boat was the SS “Otranto”, a medium sized twin funnelled liner converted to a wartime troopship. I think it had been a P&O ship, and was almost twenty years old. (Memory holds the date 1928, with plates on the lifeboat davits indicating they were made by Taylor & Co., my uncle Kingsley’s family ).
The boat set off that night and for most of the voyage the conditions, including the food, were reasonably good. There was a canteen from which snacks, drinks, etc., could be purchased at set hours, but not alcohol. One could stay below or look for a place to sit on the deck with the hordes, smoking, reading, playing cards, and discussing the future. I had not only a wife but an 8 months old child to support once I left the RAF, and while I might have been able to go back to the Post Office, I had no desire to do so.
The time passed quickly enough and within a week we arrived early one morning at our first port of call, Bombay. More troops were coming on board, but to our surprise we were to be allowed ashore during that time. No doubt whoever was in charge couldn’t imagine anyone jumping ship at Bombay, but only a couple of dozen of us ventured onto the streets for a few hours. We had no rupees, but there would be no problems bartering in Sterling. With limited time I kept to the more official areas and ignored the shops. There were some impressive squares and buildings which I photographed but seem never to have made accompanying notes, and now have no idea what they were. One may have been the railway station, another photo was of a statue of Queen Victoria, now probably banished to some remote historical park.
I don’t remember the days as boring, though there was very little to do. Up around seven, breakfast at eight, then a walk around the deck before taking up a space on it, or returning to the bunk and snoozing. Each day a DJ ran records programmes between eleven and midday and again in late afternoon or early evening. They were mostly request records so popular ones were repeated time after time, blaring out on the “tannoy” system so that eventually the DJ refused to play certain ones more than once a day. Charlie Barnatt’s very noisy swing number, “Sky Liner”, was the first to suffer a ban. At least twice a day there was a short programme of ship’s announcements, which included progress and position, any entertainments, though I can’t recall what they were, and a summary of world news, so we were not isolated from events.
It took almost a week before we were in the Red Sea, and then it was only recognisable by the increase in shipping, and the number of dhows, often sailing in small fleets. I had never realised the Sea is around 150 miles wide.
It took a couple of days to reach a coaling station so that the boat could replenish stocks. The “Otranto” was a coal-burning vessel. By that time we were well into the Red Sea, and I’ve always been rather uncertain as to where it was, and the operation took place during the dark, but it may have been Port Sudan, half way along the Red Sea. Certainly it was only two or three days later that we tied up for a day at a quay in Port Suez to await our place in the queue for the Canal. No one was allowed off the boat, and the reasons were soon apparent.
The boat was assailed on both sides by hawkers. There were those in bum boats or small dhows lined two deep on the seaward side, while others thronged and jostled on the quay. A mayhem of shouting and throwing up ropes to which baskets were tied to deliver goods. Fruit - melons, oranges, dates, etc., were bargained for, sent up in the baskets and the money sent down the same way, and there seemed to be no cheating on either side. Quite extraordinary stuff was available; clothing, magazines. daggers, small carved wood boxes, concoctions of aphrodisiacs in envelopes and in bottles, especially those supposedly containing Spanish Fly, and those were probably fraudulent. Occasionally cuffed by their elders, a boy and girl of eight to ten years would simulate (?) intercourse on the quayside, hoping to have coins thrown at them.
Come nightfall and the noise died away and the small boats departed. I am not sure that a handful of troops were recruited to do shifts of guard duty during the night to repel any would be boarders, but by breakfast time we were on our way along the hundred miles to Port Said, and interesting to have land so close to each side of the ship.
There was no tarrying at Port Said, and the journey through the Mediterranean was quite uneventful, apart from seeing Mount Etna giving its regular displays of activity while we sailed past Sicily. By this time we were well aware of the significant change of temperature and wearing pullovers or whatever extra clothing that could be mustered.
Gibraltar was passed at night and the next day the weather worsened to a Biscay storm. The ship rolled at astonishing angles, of which I tried to get one or two photos, but for the most part everyone huddled below decks, with some sympathy towards the 30% who were seasick, and for whom the regular programmes of popular records had little appeal. As always, I escaped seasickness, ate meals as usual, but found the rolling restricted my mobility and two brief periods on deck were quite enough.
The third day found us in calmer seas and by late afternoon we were in Southampton Water, giving way to the “Queen Mary”, which sailed past us to her particular berth. By the time the “Otranto” had tied up against a quay it was dark, and we were to stay on board overnight.
More Relevant Stuff
Judy and Don Lloyd (RCAF) on the steps of the Legislative Building in Regina, Saskatchewan, on the occasion of their Granddaughter's Grade 12 graduation ceremonies.
Yours truly (RAF) spending the day with daughter Kimberly and Granddaughter Winnifred
Congratulations to Bernie and Helena Hurdsfield (RAF) who celebrated their 50th on June 22nd!
Grandad Bernard Connolly (RAF) taking a well-earned nap...
Bob and Sarah Adam (RAF) recently celebrated their 6th Anniversary
Peter Clayton (RAF) moonlighting in Singapore
Arthur Taylor (RAF) 1932 - 2018
Andy Robicheau (RCAF) 1949 - 2018
David Stevens (RAF) 1942 - 2018
This Newsletter is Dedicated to the Memories of Arthur Taylor (RAF) David Stevens (RAF) Andy Robicheau (RCAF)