From Oblivion To Here

From Jaguars and Buccaneers to Harriers

The story of how I came to end up on the third fighting squadron must go back to two squadrons’ previous, I was whiling my time away maintaining the new Jaguar aircraft that had come into service and reasonably happy with my lot when a posting came out of the blue and I had less than twenty four hours to pack up my old kit bag and get on the road.

My new charge was the mighty Buccaneer and 208 at Honington but despite an adventure or two I was never really happy or settled and longed to be back taming the new beast I had left behind at Coltishall.

So when it came up in orders that they wanted Jaguar bods for Germany I immediately put pen to paper and persuaded my boss to sign it.

Shock of my life:

I got the shock of my life when the posting came through and it was for the mysterious Harrier that I had heard so much about but never imagined that I would ever get to work on it.  Before I had time to blink my kit was packed into boxes and the movement order confirmed, so in little more than six months after I had arrived at Honington I was on my way again.
In keeping with the everyday goings on in the RAF, just before the off I was told that my flight (yes MY, all the others on the flight were only on it to keep me company!)

just before the off I was told that my flight (yes MY, all the others on the flight were only on it to keep me company!)
couldn’t land at Wildenrath and we were going to Brüggen

So we landed at the place that I thought I was going to end up, the home of the Jaguar in Germany.  Because the base was not used to handling this type of flight it took ages to get my bags and get through customs, such as they were.  Then we had to wait for the bus to Wildenrath, when it arrived there were only a handful of us that actually wanted to go there anyway.

What do you mean its shut?

Having perused the piece of paper in my hand I deduced that after getting a couple of signatures I would go and introduce myself to my new squadron chums.

The hangar was a further route march from the General Offices and even more surprisingly closed when I got there, there were aircraft on the flight line but the hangar doors were well and truly locked.
I also now found myself at the furthest point away from my kit that I could be and as yet I didn’t have anywhere to lay my head.

So I set off back to the guardroom, during this trip I noticed that a good number of the locals were on bicycles and made a note that maybe I should get one. Now dear reader you will no doubt not be surprised to hear that once I had collected my kit and bedding I had yet another long trek to my temporary accommodation and from there some distance to the airman’s mess as I had not eaten since the meal on the flight from dear old blighty.

Having negotiated the woods and heating pipes of RAF Wildenrath I found my bed and introduced myself to my new room mates none of whom were on 3 (F), who in turn introduced me to Becks beer in the NAAFI, yet another ouch in the making!
The next morning I set off in search of a squadron, what relief when I found the hangar open and aircraft being prepared for flight.  I was to work on the flight line for the first part of my time on the squadron and I was introduced the line chief, a man who would have such a profound influence on a lot of my life for the next ten years or so.

GDT & first deployment

Before I could go out on deployment I had to attend Ground Defence Training
Before I could go out on deployment I had to attend Ground Defence Training to learn how to look after myself, lets face it the Soviets were not that far away now.  Sadly whilst I was sat outside listening the the fire lecture news trickled through that we had lost ‘Juliet’, the pilot had managed to eject but the bosses aircraft was a write off.  The subsequent Board Of Inquiry determined that the engine had failed following advice from a cartoon character (unfortunately this will only mean anything to those there at the time).
The first deployment followed and this being 1976 it was the hottest summer for many years.  I managed to blot my copybook by forgetting my steel helmet although I was bailed out by the aforementioned chief.  The experience was an eye opener as I had not even operated a helicopter from a deployed location let alone a front aircraft, weapons and all.

Formula 1 and another Station move

One day on the flight line I heard a couple of the lads talking about going to the Formula 1 race at the Nurburgring, so I asked if they had room for one more, little did I know how important this race would turn out to be nor did I know how that chance remark would lead to a friendship that has lasted to this day.

It transpired that the Harrier had out stayed its welcome in the western region of Germany and was to move to Gutersloh which was much nearer to the iron curtain, I suspect it was tactical though as this station made it much easier for the F1 fans to get to the Austrian Grand Prix but still being able take in ones like Germany, Holland and Belgium.  So it was that in April of 1977 we packed our bags and set off along the Autobahn for pastures new.  However we hadn’t been there more than five minutes when we had to deploy to practice for the forthcoming Queens Silver Jubilee Celebration, and where did we deploy to, you’ve guessed it – Wildenrath.

Not a full tour & the ‘Here’ bit

During the latter part of 1977 it became apparent that I had been selected for further training at RAF Halton in the U.K. during 1978, there were two options available 1. Finish my tour and get the next available course on my return to the U.K. with promotion backdated to the original date.  2.  Go home early and do the course as planned.  After much deliberation I opted for option 2 thus leaving many good friends behind.

David Holmes