RAF airlifts 102 people who had fled Afghanistan to UK
The RAF has airlifted more than 100 people who had left Afghanistan and were in a neighbouring third country to the UK. The Ministry of Defence said the two flights had landed safely in the UK carrying 102 people who would receive support to begin their lives in Britain.
Repatriation flights and individual relocations have been running since the end of August, but this was the first military relocation of eligible Afghans and British nationals since the end of the Kabul evacuation. Among those airlifted were vulnerable Afghans who come under the the UK government’s relocations and assistance policy, a scheme for former locally employed staff and British nationals.
More flights are scheduled to arrive in the UK in the coming weeks.
The defence secretary, Ben Wallace, said the flights “mark the beginning of what will be an enduring effort to relocate and support those who need our help. In August we worked tirelessly to airlift more than 15,000 vulnerable Afghans and British nationals from Kabul to the UK. As I made clear at the time, our commitment to the Afghan people did not end there. We are determined to do right by those who supported our armed forces for so many years and others who are at risk.”
The MoD said the UK was working with international partners to make sure that as many routes as possible were available for those eligible and that the flights signify the start of “the next chapter of that effort”. The ministry said the Home Office would process and support the newly arrived Afghans, who would be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK with funding allocated for schooling and healthcare.
The Foreign Office has also helped nearly 100 British nationals to leave Afghanistan on Qatari flights since the UK’s last Kabul evacuation in August.
The news comes as Human Rights Watch said Taliban officials had forced thousands of people from their homes and land, breaking international law under which collective punishment is illegal. Many of the people targeted were members of the Shia Hazara community and others had connections to the former Afghan government. HRW said that property and land seized in this way was often redistributed to Taliban supporters.
From: Andy Spinks, Falmouth, Cornwall Subject: Re: UKMAMS OBA OBB #093021
Reference OBB #093021, another great read. I was very impressed, indeed humbled, by the stories on Kabul evacuations by all 4 nations.
It is nice to see Air Mobility getting so much praise – we all know the good jobs we have done in the past but this was probably a more demanding operation than any we have been involved in previously. A superb job by all involved.
All the best, Andy
From: Brian Hunt, Brighton, East Sussex Subject: Re: UKMAMS OBA OBB #093021
I really enjoyed this newsletter. Some great articles and a good feel for what air movements in Afghanistan was like in the last weeks of the evacuation.
We were accommodated in a complex of rooms, shower facilities etc., created from sea containers. One evening we were subject to a rocket attack, one missile hitting the end of an accommodation block. We closed up, doused the lights and bunkered down in the the dark in the centre of the complex while a roll call was made. As we all settled down in the dark with our head lamps and a book to await the all clear there was a tap on one of the external doors and the plaintive cry of, 'Pizza delivery'! Someone had ordered a pizza just before the incident started and this poor little man had been sent out through missile and mortar rounds to complete the delivery. It gave a more lightened edge to the situation!
Best regards, Kevan
From: Kevan Lawrence, Doncaster Subject: Re: UKMAMS OBA OBB #093021
The newsletter was interesting and amusing as usual, a credit to you.
A few years ago I worked in Afghanistan for Dyncorp, an American company. We were based at the airport in Kabul and our accommodation wasn't far from the terminal building. The area had a few small shops/cafes/food outlets around it.
From: Fred Martin, Godalming, Surrey Subject: Faux Pas
Regarding Jim Mackintosh’s post about the faux pas by the London District Garrison Sgt Major; I was subjected to a similar situation by my own Station Warrant Officer (SWO).
It was early 1963 and I was walking with a colleague from my billet to the Air Movements section at RAF Khormaksar. It was 0745; our shift started at 0800. We heard this voice bellowing at us “You two, come here!" We turned and there was the newly posted-in SWO with a look of rage on his face. “Where do you two think you are going?"
I calmly replied, "On duty, sir.”
He raged again, “And are you aware of the time?”
I calmly replied, "I am, sir"
His face was turning red and his eyeballs were almost popping out, much in the same manner as a square bashing Drill Instructor. "And do you know what time you are supposed to be on duty?"
With complete calm reassurance I said, “I do, sir."
Now this is not the way a humble SAC would address an apoplectic SWO. However, I knew that despite the fact we were wearing our red and black movements control arm bands with our KD uniforms, being new to the station he appeared to have no idea that as a 24/7 flying station there may have been a few of us who worked shifts and not the regular station hours of 0700 to 1300. He had assumed we were late for work rather than early. I suppose he had joined the RAF when our front line aircraft were Sopwith Camels and not quite up to date with the modern service. He looked rather embarrassed when I explained that we were air movements shift workers and didn’t start until 0800 on that day!
From: Mark Holland, Market Drayton, Salop Subject: Military Younger Years - The Way We Were
I used to use a Kodak disc camera and had some great pictures from Beirut of the team in front of badly shot up "flying cucumbers". We used to fly to Beirut every Tuesday on the meat run from Akrotiri dropping fresh fruit and veggies. However, over the years, those pictures were all lost.
Then one day, while watching TV, I saw this "me" in a documentary that was all about the Falklands War. You'll be able to recognise the Mover (no hat, rather obvious!). So, I rewound and did a screen dump. 1982 seems like a long, long time ago!
Mark "Dutch" Holland
From: Michael "Barney" Fielder, Huntingdon, Cambs Subject: Military Younger Years - The Way We Were
Picture attached is myself with the late ‘Ozzy' Oswald, may he rest in peace.
We were just enjoying a normal night in Barrack Block 69, RAF Wildenrath, 1980 issch. I cannot remember the exact date as I had a bottle of Asbach and a can of beer in my hand!
From: Russ Carter, Caldercruix, North Lanark Subject: Military Younger Years - The Way We Were
Photo of myself in 1988 serving with JHSU at Mount Pleasant (Falkland Islands) with John Pert and an army type.
Not exactly in the first years of service but one of the few times anyone had a decent camera.
Keep up the great work. All the best
Some UKMAMS Passport Photographs Circa 1969
From: Gerry Davis, Bedminster, Somerset Subject: Military Younger Years - The Way We Were
The 16th of October, 2021, was the 65th anniversary of my joining the Royal Air Force; the 29th entry, Boy Entrants at RAF Cosford. I was 15 years and 2 months old at the time - so young and inexperienced in life’s richness, it has been a learning curve ever since.
I started off as trainee ‘stacker’, an RAF Supplier II. Little did I know that this would lead me on to a career in Air Movements and following onto another career in civil aviation.
The attached photo is of me taken in Fulton Block at Cosford in 1957. I had just moved into a 4-man room on the third floor of Fulton block, where the picture was taken. The second photo was the service dress hat with Cosford hat band that I wore throughout my training.
I am still in touch with two of the lads that shared that same experience with me.
From: Liam Devlin, Port Talbot, West Glamorgan Subject: Military Younger Years - The Way We Were
Thank you for continuing to produce the OBA Newsletter, I always look forward to reading it. Here is my contribution for the next edition.
My first Movements tour was on FEAF MAMS in 1963. I spent a lot of time in Borneo, loving every moment of it.
Two photos: The first was of me booking in passengers for a Twin Pioneer from Brunei, a clipboard and a number for the passengers, we couldn’t pronounce their names! I was there on detachment with Sgt Joe Grey and Cpl John Waller.
When I was a scruffy kid living in Belfast my mother often said "You look like the wild man of Borneo!" So, on detachment at Sibu, Sarawak, I went along to one of the native long houses with Fg Off Tony Mullen and Geoff Gilson, when we were introduced to this Iban tribesman. I took the picture to send to my Mum to show her what a real ‘Wild Man of Borneo’ looked like!
The tattoos on his body showed how many heads of his enemies he had removed!
From: Terry Joint, Murcia Subject: Military Younger Years - The Way We Were
Basic Supplier course RAF Hereford, December 1965 - I'd do it all again!
From: Len Bowen, Chisholm, ACT Subject: Military Younger Years - The Way We Were
After a couple of OBA Newsletter deadlines missed, I think it is about time that I got back on the horse. This is a fairly quick and easy one. Two from my Borneo days in 1965/66; as captioned.
No 1. About to go on my first - but by no means my last - Bev air drop 'up country'. The spiffy bush jacket & slacks didn't last very long however, and by the time I was well into my tour, jungle greens and a side-arm were more the "Dress of the Day"
No 2. Note, however, the No 1 SD Cap. Even if one is flying into a potential war zone one must always look one's best, old boy!
Yes. As someone said "Once we were young, and warriors"... and bloody stupid, too, when I could have stayed back on Labuan at the beach or in the bar on my days off, not go galivanting 'out bush'. But just think how boring that would have been for twelve months... not to mention sun burn and liver damage!
Back to the present; first day out of 'Lock Down' here in Canberra, after several months of closely curtailed in-activity. Not fully 'liberated', however, as we are surrounded by New South Wales, also still coming out of an even heavier lock-down State-wide. Still getting my head round our new 'freedom', but at least we can now travel more than 5 km across the ACT to see our two sons and our granddaughters. Penny & I are both double-vax'ed and have the certificates to prove it, so hopefully today is the first day of our 'New Normal'.
Kind regards to you and all our readers.
From: Dougie Russell, Carlisle, Cumbria Subject: Military Younger Years - The Way We Were
1981 - Brize Norton. At -27ºC, it had been the coldest night in decades. We had to borrow a Land Rover from the Tactical Communications Wing (TCW) which was en route to an exercise in Northern Norway as none of our own vehicles on base were winterized.
The other guy sitting on the bonnet is Howard Thomas.
From: David Powell, Princes Risborough, Bucks Subject: Military Younger Years - The Way We Were
Reference Military Younger Years, and they don't get much younger that this!
I found this photo lurking in the happy memories shoe box. One newly commissioned Pilot Officer Powell, late 1964, trying to look intelligent as the recently arrived Acting OC SCAF at RAF Changi.
I suspect I was saying something like "My that's an impressive typewriter you have there, SACW Lyn Hibbard. Just two questions: what am I supposed to be doing here, and where does this pen go? Oh, and why do you have a cool air conditioned office, and all I have is a noisy and wonky fan hanging from the ceiling?"
David (Three Jabs!) Powell F Team UKMAMS RAF Abingdon 1967-69
From: John Guy, Northampton Subject: Faux Pas during my military younger years!
How many remember the mass pay parades for corporals and below? In this respect I refer to the early 1950’s when the pay parade would be an undercover massed fortnightly meeting of the junior ranks, usually on Thursday at 11.00 hrs. Although it was called a parade, in my experience it was much less formal. Normally with the Station Warrant Officer (SWO) in charge. He would suggest that we fall in, in threes, in alphabetical order, listen out for our name and when heard reply in a loud clear voice "Sir! xxx SAC Guy."
One occasion in particular still remains in my memory. On hearing my name I replied with, "Sir! xxx SAC Guy" and made my way to the paying officer's table, was given the money, I saluted and turned to depart when I was confronted by a very furious SWO stating that whilst the male & female officers both wear blue jumpers, the difference being that the female is identified by the two lumps under hers which according to the SWO I failed to spot and should have addressed her as Ma'am and not Sir!
Hence one very embarrassed female paying officer and the undersigned.
To conclude, sometimes our pay would include a two shilling coin which we had no choice but to hand over to be paid into a station charitable fund.
From: Richard Lloyd, Dunfermline, Fife Subject: Military Younger Years - The Way We Were
This is yours truly in 1967, 54 years ago, outside the Movements Sqn building at RAF Khormaksar.
Judging by the brownness of my knees I was past my 23rd birthday.
My boss was Dick Whitworth and I shared accommodation with Jock Drysdale and Dave Benson.
I had a fine time broadcasting for AFBA, collecting flying hours, sunbathing and drinking beer!
From: David Alan Power, Lyneham, Wilts Subject: Military Younger Years - The Way We Were
Four pictures from Masirah, Oman.
Included is one of myself with some of the locals outside Air Movements, RAF Masirah, May 1974. The white mooney is an old steward friend of mine, Bob Manning.
From: Kevin Koslowski Smith, St Neots, Cambs Subject: Military Younger Years - The Way We Were
1983 Brize Norton traffic crew room, running eating a Marathon between loads!
From: John Bell, Birmingham Subject: Military Younger Years
Early 1966, MAMS (just before UKMAMS was formed). All togged up for the sea survival course.
From: Ian Berry, Eastleaze, Swindon, Wilts Subject: The Way We Were…
I joined the RAF as an Admin Apprentice at No.3 School of Technical Training, Credenhill, RAF Hereford, in January 1965. I was the second entry of apprentices to form at Hereford after a gap of a few years.
Still at Hereford were the last two entries of Boy Entrants, Nos. 50 & 51 Entries. As 50th entry were now the 'Senior Entry' a few of them entered our barrack block and threw their weight around along with our china mugs! I still recollect one of the biggest thugs was a guy called Tony Gale!
My own time there was pretty good but the feeling of joy and relief on 'Passing Out' (graduating) was a genuine high.
The picture is of myself in the Apprentice Band, I even made the Royal Tournament that year as the 'warm up' act. That was as well as the AOC's Parade at RAF Gaydon and half-time entertainment at Hereford FC during the FA Cup Round.
Ed: I refuse to respond to the above accusation on the grounds that it might incriminate me!
From: Dave Salmon, Springfield, OR Subject: Military younger years
This photo was taken around the end of October 1972, on the day of my Passing Out Parade after the first 6 weeks at the Royal Signals Army Apprentice College Harrogate.
I joined at age 15 years and 3 months, as a Special Radio Operator Voice apprentice. The training consisted of military training and trade training, radio operation, morse code, typing, aerial erecting etc, as well as school work, maths, English and military history.
Almost 6 months in, February 1973, I decided it wasn’t for me and left. It was clear even then that being a Crab rather than a Pongo was more to my liking.
I eventually spent almost 25 years as an RAF Mover. I definitely made the right decision and never regretted leaving the Army.
All the best
From: Fred Martin, Godalming, Surrey Subject: Military Younger Years - The Way We Were
My first passport photo taken at the Air Ministry, London in July 1961 whilst I was on the Air Movements course at Kidbrooke after finishing basic training at Bridgnorth. My occupation on the passport was described as "Government Official" this was apparently in case any civilian air trooping flight we were travelling on was forced to land in an unfriendly country .
Six weeks later I was on my way to Aden for two years.
All the best
From: Barry Tappenden, Shortstown, Beds Subject: Military Younger Years - The Way We Were
Hi Tony, hope you're keeping well and fit!
The first photo was taken at RAF Hereford back in 1961. I joined up as a Boy Entrant, Supply, 43rd Entry, A Flight, 3 Squadron. I managed to escape the clutches of the Suppliers and traded my hat for Air Movements (one of my better “moves”).
The second photo is as Station Warrant Officer (SWO) at RAF Uxbridge in 2000 after 39 years.
From: Stan Seggar, Sheffield Subject: Military Younger Years - The Way We Were
Here's a picture of me, 50th Entry Boy Entrants at Hereford in 1964. I have vivid memories of when we were in those wooden billets and in the winter months going to the outside toilet building and having to break the ice to get a wash and shave!
Then there was the bath house about a half mile away, once again frozen in the winter. If we were lucky it wasn't fully occupied when water was available.
What a luxury it was when we moved into the modern barrack block - it felt close to being in an hotel, although breakfast in bed wasn't in the cards!
From: John Guy, Northampton Subject: Military Younger Years - The Way We Were
My first ever Christmas away from home and in the Air Force.
In 1951 there was an urgent need to enforce service strengths in the Middle East. Thus straight from square bashing in November 1951, as an AC1 u/t Storeman, Non-Tech, I arrived at RAF Fanara MEAF 15, Egypt (Suez Canal Zone).
On Christmas Eve I was on guard duty with fixed bayonet to my .303 Le Enfield rifle charged with 5 rounds. Guard duty over, I returned to my tent to find that I had missed the early morning traditional cup of tea brought round by the Senior NCO’s, but the Christmas lunch was one not to be forgotten.
Lunch would be at 13.00 hrs, served by the officers. Dress would be No.1 Home Dress (best blue). Yes, really! The meal was good, the service excellent, but what happened next frightened me to death. For some reason a tangerine was thrown at an officer immediately followed by a barrage of whatever one could lay their hands on at all the officers. For their own safety they made a sensible retreat. Being a very junior airman I worried what the reaction would be from Station Headquarters. Strangely, there was no reaction whatsoever.
Some years later I was to be in the position of serving the airman their Christmas meal, but not necessarily on Christmas Day.
From: Tony Gale, Gatineau, QC Subject: Military Younger Years - The Way We Were
4th December, 1970, Kindley AFB, Bermuda, waiting for a C-130 to arrive to take us down to Nassau in the Bahamas. In the photo are Flt Lt Steve Taylor, SAC Tony Gale (self) and Flt Sgt Don Wickham.
Steve was a gourmet/foodie and no matter where we ended up in the world, we always ate like kings! He retired from the service shortly afterwards, opening a business called Kitchenalia on the High Street in Abingdon where he sold all manner of exotic cookware. Using his squadron connections, he would give the teams heading to certain areas of the world a shopping list of items to bring back to the store. The team members made a handsome profit, so too did Steve; a win/win situation all around!
Don, on the other hand, was the polar opposite to Steve, being a fish and chips man along with the ubiquitous cups of tea. Among his many attributes, he was like a father figure to the younger team members and was always putting our welfare uppermost in the face of adversity.
One of the many memories I have of Don took place in Malaysia. It was Exercise Bersatu Padu and our "enemy" were the Nepalese Gurkhas - a formidable foe. We were on the first aircraft to arrive from Changi at the jungle airstrip known as Penerak. Don's organisational skills saw the headquarters tent up and the tea brewing on the stove some twenty minutes after we landed - just as the first aircraft carrying the main force arrived from Singapore.
Very happy days!
From: Stephen Davey, Tadcaster, North Yorks Subject: Military Younger Years - The Way We Were
This photograph was taken at RAF Abingdon in 1970 at the end of my Air Movements course; I was 19 years old at the time. I returned to Leuchars after the course and was posted to Brize Norton the following year.
We went to a wedding near Wantage last weekend and travelled through Abingdon on the way and that's the first time since May 1970 that I've been back there!
From: Howard Farrow, Swansea, Glamorgan Subject: Where are they now?
Have you any idea how I can get in touch with Ray Beastall?
Howard (Taff) Farrow
RAAF Loading Up New Skills
FLGOFF Robert Hodgson writes: The 23SQN air movements team at RAAF Base Amberley has supported the deployment of an ADF construction team to Fiji to help rebuilding efforts following Cyclone Yasa late last year. The cyclone caused significant infrastructure damage and, throughout this year, the ADF has supported the immediate emergency response and the longer-term reconstruction effort.
23SQN air movements, in coordination with Air Mobility Group aviators and aircraft, was at the centre of the team effort in the August deployment of construction engineers and their equipment to Fiji.
23SQN Independent Load Inspector CPL Adam Parrington said, “Teamwork is extremely important in our workplace. The senior members of our team love helping build the skill set of the newer generation of movements’ personnel. Seeing the growth in skills and confidence of our people is a reward in itself.”
The daily flight board predicts a large part of the air movements team’s schedule. Managing diverse loads and different aircraft is all part of the job.
Some loads are easier than others, and the particular task to deploy the construction engineering team required close cooperation between air movements and the 35SQN C-27J Spartan loadmasters.
CPL Parrington said the cargo, including a vital water desalination unit, had to be loaded by hand, which ensured the maximum utilisation of the space available within the aircraft. "We often work closely with the 35SQN loadmasters to ensure all requirements are met. The ‘loadies’ will direct us as to where and how they want the cargo loaded and constrained to meet the criteria.”
The result of their teamwork included the aircraft properly and safely loaded with the vital equipment to assist the Fijian reconstruction effort.
Boeing’s Legendary Chinook Still Going Strong At 60
In the early ‘60s, I was on 437(T) Sqn, RCAF Stn Trenton, Ontario flying as a loadmaster on the Yukon. On this particular trip we were flying a training mission from Trenton to Gatwick, Düsseldorf and return.
The Aircraft Commander, was a fellow we shall call S/L “Suddendrop,” a newbie, F/L “Mac” was the co pilot and the lead FE was an old WWII vet F/S “Bob.” He was an outstanding fellow who had served with the RAF during the last Germanic unpleasantness. When we sold the Yukons, Bob went with them and hauled horses etc. from Europe to South America. The rest of the odds and sods aboard, although a pleasant group, need not concern us.
During the flight to London, F/L Mac told us that this was to be his first visit to the Misty Isles and wanted to explore London with “the guys,” as he’d heard what grand fun we were rumored to have. F/S Bob told him, “Stick with us, Sir, we’re gonna do it up brown.” Alas, it was not to be.
Upon arrival LGW at zero dark thirty and a quick trip to Duty Free, at least two 4-40-45 clubs were formed (4 guys, a 40 ouncer of adult beverage, consumed in the 45 minute train ride to Victoria Station), We then cabbed it to our fave digs, the Piccadilly Circus Hotel, arriving in fine fettle.
As we were checking in and sorting the start time for the night’s activity, Suddendrop surprised Mac with the news that he had made arrangements for two tickets for the theatre and expected Mac to attend with him and leave the unwashed to their own devices. Eye rollings and silent curses from Mac.
In the evening, we all set out and, as you can expect, quickly broke up into smaller groups so as to move more quietly and surreptitiously through Soho and environs seeking XXX delights. Somehow, Bob ended up at the Lord High Admiral Pub, not too far from Victoria Station, that had been a watering hole for the troops during the war, and still attracted guys like Bob. There, Bob fell into the company of some RAF types and celebrated as one would imagine, shooting watches etc.
Too soon, it was time to return to the hotel as showtime was in a matter of hours. To toast his departure, one of the RAF guys bought Bob a large whiskey and with a shout of “Per Ardua Ad Astra,” Bob downed the drink in one swell foop! Now, Bob had been drinking beer all night, and, with the offer of whiskey, he foggily prepared his stomach for a shot of Canadian Rye...
The Lord High Admiral by Tony Street
...instead it was treated to a bolt of cheap Scotch and went into rebellion. Racing for the front door and the sidewalk where he could rid himself of this Scottish Demon, he crashed into a passing Bobbie and projectile vomited over the immediate real estate. “Well, well, wot do we have here, then?” was the last thing Bob remembered hearing.
After the theatre and a late dinner, Suddendrop and Mac returned to the hotel and, along with his room key, Suddendrop was handed a note asking him to call the London Metropolitan Police Department, K Division. Upon doing so, he was asked if a F/S Bob was a member of his crew and, if so, please come and get him as “He’s rather drunk and stroppy.” Mac told us later that the cab ride was very quiet and was amazed at how much anger a small London taxi could contain.
Upon arriving at the gaol, they were taken to the place of Bob’s incarceration. It was a damp, fetid, most likely rat-infested place suitable for Jack the Ripper, Professor Moriarty or Fagin but not a member of Her Majesty's Service, but there he was. On the floor.
Now, even when turned out parade ready, Bob was not the most photogenic person one could imagine, he was skinny and balding (hockey stick with sparse hair?), with a bad comb-over as well as having the start of a dowager’s hump. Add the FE’s lament, cracked, dirty and broken fingernails and we’re getting there. Picture poor Bob lying on the cell floor, passed out in a fetal position covered in his own projectile matter and having to hear, “On your feet, F/S Bob, that’s an order!” shouted by Suddendrop. Bob rolled over to escape the noise.
“Damn it man, on your feet, we haven’t got all night,” went on Suddendrop. When this elicited no response, Suddendrop made a fatal error. He stepped toward Bob and nudged him with his shiny shoed foot.
Bob leapt to his feet, grabbed Mac by the arm to gain his balance, and shouted, “You saw that, Sir, he kicked me! You saw that!” An “Oh S**t!” moment… Bob now owned Suddendrop.
On arrival at the aircraft later that morning, it was painful to see Bob in such a bedraggled and hung over condition. He should have been anywhere but there. Timbuktu looked good. The brightest spot on F/S Bob’s horizon was the fact that Suddendrop was somewhat solicitous to him what with having “Kicked the s**t out of me, last night,” as he would have some believe. Handy to have primed witnesses at a Courts Marshal.
Things did not improve as the day lengthened, it was Bob’s turn in the FE seat and, as we prepared to flash up the Yukon, it was odd to hear Suddendrop in the left seat, turn to Mac in the right seat and announce, “Would you ask the Flight Engineer to commence the start up checklist.”
“Yes Sir, Flight Engineer, please give us the start up checklist.”
“Yes, Sir, Startup Checklist in hand, are the pilots ready?
“Are you ready, Sir? asked Mac of Suddendrop.
“You damn well know I’m ready, Mac, are you?”
“Both pilots are ready, Engineer.”
“Starting the checklist, Sir.”
Halfway to Düsseldorf, F/S Bob repaired to the crew rest for a coffee. He bent his head towards me and whispered, “Tony, I’m in a world of hurt!”
“I don’t doubt it, by the look of you.”
“That’s not it, I’m broke. I don’t know where my money went last night, but I don’t have a sou and we’ve got two days in Düsseldorf, what to do?”
In normal circumstances, one would approach the skipper and ask for an advance from his funds and sort it upon returning home. However, this approach was, given the circumstances, out of the question.
I said, “I’ll see the S/L on arrival and get an advance and share it with you, OK?
“Fine,” said F/S Bob. Then the second FE piped up, “Get me some too, as I found some XXX delights last night and I’m flat also.”
What price friendship?
As we were checking in to the Duisburger Hof, I approached the S/L and requested a $100.00 advance. He hemmed and hawed and asked, “What do you need with so much money? Your per diem rate is $7.25 and we only had two more days on the road.” I avoided answering by suggesting that if he was reluctant to assist his crew member, I could always go to the Canadian Embassy and see if someone there could help. He coughed up. We were good to go!
After the usual hotel “de-briefing” over a jar of Canadian Club, we set off to the town center to start our crew rest. Leaving the Hof, we turned left and stopped into our regular gasthause where we spent a couple of friendly hours. Then it was time to eat. We wended our way through a dark park that was about a half block wide and a block long. On our left was the convention center and on our right was a large, dark and foreboding, four storey building. Ahead were the bright lights and troubles of the high street.
It appeared that the convention center was hosting a home show, as just to the left of our path was a large tethered balloon floating about 50 meters above us, advertising a DIY store. The winch platform was held to the ground by a dozen or so sandbags, with the cable retaining the balloon above us.
It was never discovered who waxed poetic and declared, “Just like the Krauts to restrain a free floating object that is obviously desperate to slip a few surly bonds. Let my balloon go-go” (Disco was big then).
With the same instinct that allows fish and birds to change course in a blink, wordlessly, we all started to remove sand bags. There were four of us, there must have been 20 of them.
It wasn’t until we were down to 4 or 5 bags that the platform started to quiver in anticipation of its release into inner space. “Just one or two more, men” cried our leader (No telling who he may have been), “Freedom is at hand!”
Just as one corner stared to lift from its surly, the shrill note of a Polizist’s whistle pierced the night, accompanied by the white, seeking rays of his torch--rapidly getting bigger! Where did he come from? No matter, we broke and ran.
Some time later we were ensconced in a pub on the high street scarfing down schnitzel and white wine and reliving our most recent moments of terror. Just as we sat back in our chairs and waved for another flagon, a Polizist car with its roof lights flashing glided to a stop in front of the place. And, what to our wondering eyes did appear? Two huge, black leather clad, truncheon-carrying cops. They bored right in on our table as a hush descended over the place.
Another “Oh Sh*t moment for the log book!
The cops started in by asking us the obvious questions as we sat dumbfounded, with stupid looks plastered to our faces. Fortunately, one of our group spoke German, having done a tour with one of our fighter squadrons. He left the table and led the fuzz over to a corner where an animated discussion ensued. Ten minutes later he returned with a smug look about him, as the cops departed.
He explained, “I told them that we were not the perps. The guys the watchman was chasing were, indeed, us. However, I explained that it was us who came upon the hoodlums who were the guilty ones, who fled at our approach. We were chasing them down to make a citizen’s arrest but lost them in the crowded high street. Of course, they didn’t believe a word, but what could they do?”
On departure for the Land of The Round Door Knobs, as we waited for the crew bus, we asked the doorman what the dark, foreboding building was. He said he didn’t know what it is now, but a few years earlier it had been Gestapo Headquarters. Eyeballing the situ, it became apparent that had the balloon actually gained freedom, with the prevailing winds and its rate of ascent, the winch platform would have pendulummed into the side of the third storey windows of the old Gestapo headquarters. Even with our efforts, the balloon would have been thwarted in its pursuit of slipping surly bonds. The best laid plans….
This Newsletter is Dedicated to the Memories of: Mick Jones (RAF) Wayne Russ (RCAF)