1990

Meanwhile back to the story, and there was still the constant terrorist threat from the IRA Swanton Morley was always considered a soft target mainly because there was not much of an RAF Regiment presence and the targets although not military equipment but rather all the Central Documents and Servicing records were processed and stored here, so more of an inconvenience if the unit was targeted. Nonetheless we still deployed RAF Police and Airmen on the entrance road to the station in times of heightened alert. Proper fortified bunkers were used with armed guards, SLR (Self Loading Rifles) still being current at that time, and extra live guard training as well as annual weapon certification.

To make sure we understood the severity of this undertaking, this little booklet was our bible, along with rules of engagement and various other bits of official certification


I told you there were more bits of paper, don't sound so surprised, I could fill this page with stuff like this, but will I spare you.

By now I was deeply into spares and learning things that could have served me well in my previous postings, always the same though in my opinion. In the course of my work, I had to contact the procurement managers for my project at MOD Harrogate, a warren of Nissen huts and pre-fab buildings. My first visit had been arranged to visit the establishment, a fellow spares officer C/T Roger Wigley would take me up there and introduce me to mysteries of where procurement was played out, so that in future I could be clued up on who to talk to. Learnt a lot about the correct way to arrange such visits, get the right paperwork authorised, collect Rate 1's having pre-booked accommodation prior to setting out. My first visit was all arranged for me and off we set in my friend’s car, arriving in time for lunch at a pub, then meeting all the right people who made me welcome, this was a two day visit, so we both retired to our Bed and Breakfast to unpack our gear. Followed by a night out in Harrogate, eating out and having a few drinks in initially the conservative club (I was not a member) and then several watering holes later, retired for the night. Good family accommodation and a superb full English breakfast in the morning, before completing our business at MOD Harrogate. A brilliant experience and was actually in pocket from my expenses. I would during my years at Swanton Morley, make several trips up here.

As well as predicting spares for the E-3D AWACS, I also took on the task of writing a soft consumables manual, necessary because the petrol's, oils, greases, adhesives and the likes were all American products and the UK wanted to use approved MOD equivalents which were in use by the UK Military. This necessitated me having to visit the MOD in London, where along with other officials, we would discuss my findings, and an expert in this field would tell me which products to substitute for the USA products. Normally these visits would be of one day duration and an early start for me, MT transport to Norwich rail station and on to London, returning early evening and picked up by RAF transport and returned to base. Several London visits were for two days duration and I stayed at the Union Jack Club, near Waterloo Station.

Managed to retain this receipt for a three night stay, £15 a night, hate to think what they charge these days, but bet it's an arm and a leg in comparison.

As I said earlier, the Americans were operating the AWACS airframe in Europe, and had a wealth of computer data available to us, especially on component life, so it transpires somebody thought it would be a good idea to ask the Americans if they would mind us getting copies of the stored data which was relevant to us and our machine. It took a few months of getting permission, but they agreed that if we took out some large reels of data tape, they would copy what we wanted onto them. Straightforward it was not, the yanks used a different computer data system than the British, now there's a surprise. We had to involve a member of the Small Systems Computer team to ensure that we would be able to use the data being copied. A team of three, me and another spares forecaster a Computer whizz kid all authorized to make a 3 day, 2 night  visit to a NATO air base at Geilenkirchen in Germany. Tickets to be collected on arrival at London Heathrow.

Armed with the newly issued NATO travel order, we set off for London by train, from Norwich Rail station, leaving plenty of time to get a beer before the flight. Arrived at LHR and went to the British Airways booking kiosk and were informed that the flight we had been booked on, was actually overbooked and they had arranged for us to fly Club Class with Lufthansa instead, first and only time I ever travelled luxury with the Forces.

Which was swapped for this one

Accommodation in Geilenkirchen had been pre-booked for us and very nice it was too, a lovely little hotel a friendly atmosphere and a nice bar which was well attended in the evenings. RAF Personnel stationed here, working on the AWACS, would collect us from the hotel after breakfast, and drop us back after work, a very good arrangement indeed.

A most enjoyable little trip, we came away from here with enough data to last a lifetime. Sampled some nice German beer at lunchtimes too

1991

By now progress had been made regards my little AWACS projects and several trips to St Giles Court, MOD,  London followed, where the team got together and reported progress or otherwise. My work on the Soft Consumables catalogue had reached its completion and I was thanked by all the top brass, for a good job. The UK RAF team from Seattle attended a few of these meetings, so was always a good time to catch up with how the new aircraft was progressing. I was fortunate that I knew one of the guys working on this team, he would bring over some one off posters and photographs that Boeing had printed, which took pride of place back in our office at Swanton Morley. I still have several 10 x 8 glossy prints of the original aircraft livery scheme and a large artistic illustration of what they had envisaged when the aircraft came into service.

Things back at Waddington were gearing up for the arrival of the first new machines from Seattle, all the support bays for avionics. electrical and engines were being finalized. A few visits to Waddington were required, to pass on information that was of help during this time, also volunteered to help out in the electrical bay, setting up test bays for new equipment, all in the hope that I might actually get a posting here, but with only two years left now, just a dream. It was somewhere around this time that our married quarter was getting refurbished, a first in 20 years that involved us as a family, double glazing of the UPVC type, fitted carpets instead of squares, a complete revamp in fact. Took about two weeks to complete, but what a difference it made. My wife had settled well into her Norwich job Center job by now, and my son was still living with us. Social life was good here, even took in a Mediaeval banquet at a local priory. The Sgt's mess had several good functions which we attended, Burns night and several others.

1992 saw one of my mates from work, retire, he had been responsible for provisioning spares for the Lynx, Gazelle and Puma helicopters during his stint at Swanton, so now he was on his way, I was asked to take over his helicopter workload, with a good few months handover. Followed him around his haunts, MOD Harrogate where I met the procurement Officer for these machines spares.

Once a month we had to attend Westland’s helicopters meetings in Yeovil, Somerset, staying in B&B at nearby West Coker. a lovely accommodation with a brilliant landlady and the best full English breakfasts I can recall. I would arrange to meet the Harrogate Officer at Paddington Rail Station and the both of us would travel down to Somerset, all on rate 1's of course. £13.50 a night B&B and the rest for night time pub visits, a lovely time was had by us both.

The Helicopter team at Westland's. Yeovil, Somerset. Me 3rd from the left and my mate Al extreme right. The applecart was about to be upset regards this arrangement though, and typical of the MOD and saving money on all the wrong things, it was decided that as there was a military base nearby at RNAS Yeovilton, I should use this as accommodation for future Westland's visits, no more rate 1's. Well I had to go and try this arrangement out and see if it posed any problems. Arrived for one such meeting and booked myself into RNAS Yeovilton, only to find out that as I was just a mere Sgt, and the equivalent naval rank was Petty Officer, that is where I was billeted, a basic rating block, even having to collect my own bedding on the way. If I had been a Chief Tech then I would have been afforded the equivalent of Sgts Mess accommodation.  On my return to Swanton Morley, I requested a word with my flight Commander and handed him a neatly typed account of my experience at Yeovilton, explaining that as I was a Sgt and entitled to appropriate accommodation, i.e. Sgts Mess. and felt this was not good enough, and requested that any future visits to Westland's was as before, B&B. Low and behold I managed to win that argument and the status quo was reinstated. My mate Al might have had some input on this decision, but never did find out.

Both the Helicopters and AWACS projects were to see my time out in the RAF, not a posting I would have chosen for myself, but nonetheless reasonably enjoyable, and I certainly learnt a hell of a lot about provisioning and gained a lot of friends in the process. My last year or so, saw me being deployed as a Guard Commander, station duty with work on the gate alongside the RAF Police, armed guard duty at this time of heightened security alert from the IRA, routine load and unload of live rounds was second nature back then. Also was employed for a week at RAF Ely Hospital in Cambridgeshire, responsible for a team of guards on the hospital gate, excellent mess there, with personal menu's filled in each day, memorable for lots of reasons. But now in 1992 it was time to think, resettlement and what courses could I make use of for demob and back to Civvy Street. There were lots of seminars I attended, mainly down London, but it seemed if you did not want to be a security guard or work for BAE in Saudi, then the choice was very limited. Not only that, but in these days, there were no RAF certificates that equated to anything outside at all, not even NVQ's, so nothing there for me. In the end I made the decision to continue my computer skills gained at work, by attending a month’s course in Essex, where I gained lots of City& Guilds qualifications for my efforts, stayed down Essex at a B&B which I had a hard time convincing my Education Officer was the only course of its type available, but got her signature on the paperwork in the end.

Earlier during my time at Swanton Morley, I got myself signed up for a year’s day release at Norwich City College, doing Technical Authorship, and Technical Writing, a brilliant course with practical work as well, really enjoyed the course and came out with another bunch of City and Guilds certificates.

Completed this course in July 1991, a good experience being educated at a non military establishment was novel, and break from pounding a desk for one day a week. The students Union bar was also good value. Still had no idea what I really wanted to do when I was demobbed. Now it was time to find out all about monetary matters, what to do with my pension and gratuity, the accounts department worked it all out for me, and the matter was discussed with my wife before making any decision to which direction we would take. My full military pension was not actually payable till age 55, and I was being released at age 48, so 7 years to wait for that full pension. I won't go into detail here, but we chose the best package available at the time.

Now to think about 10th January 1993, my last day in the RAF, bearing in mind my wife had a job down here in Norwich, and would have to apply for yet another transfer back to Lincolnshire, my son was in the process of moving back to Lincolnshire as he had just got himself a job back home, so he moved into our own house back in Louth, and my wife started looking for accommodation, somewhere nearer Norwich, till a transfer to Lincolnshire was available. This turned out to be a few years before a suitable transfer came her way. Looking at my chuff chart at work, the days were flying by now and putting my house in order was the order of play. Handed all my work projects over to the guy who was to be my replacement and made sure he had all the introductions to the right folks. Managed to fit in a few weeks leave to sort things out back in Louth and ask around about what type of jobs were available to me, the answer was not a lot to be honest, fine if you were into caring, or a farm worker, but techie wise, nothing apparent.

The final round up and my final piss up was held in the Rugby Club at Swanton, a few mates attended, but due to the nature of the work, half of them were on the road somewhere, got presented with a enormous crystal brandy glass, engraved with the dates I was in the mob, a glass that still survives today. Job done, work finished and a month’s resettlement leave to play with, lots to do, my mind was in a somewhat confused state by now, this is the final act and I felt utterly depressed for the first time in my life, not knowing what the future would hold, out of my comfort zone after 22 years of ordered confusion and still years of work left till retirement.

The final part of the play, saw me having an interview with my Station Commander, this was compulsory and where he got to say his thank you to me for all my sterling work over the years, a handshake and presentation of my 22 years in a blue plastic A5 booklet that was very concise to say the least. Last but not least my final visit to SHQ to collect all my paperwork and discharge documents and the final insult if not realisation that I was actually very near to being a mister, they took my ID Card, Form 1250 from me and issued me with a Station temporary pass, required as I still had my married quarter to hand over.

1993

By now my wife had moved into a flat in Norwich and my son ensconced in my house back in Louth. I was busy preparing our married quarter for hand over and arranging for our household effects to be moved back home, boxes to pack, appliances disconnected and loaded on to the removal van and gone. One more night in this now empty quarter faced me after all the cleaning of what was left, my wife had come back from Norwich to help out with this chore, and was extremely grateful for it too. Early rise, Barrack Warden on the doorstep along with the families officer, took approximately half an hour and that was it now, no house key, only armed with my temporary pass, I sat in my fully laden car, cleaning materials from the night before and after what seemed like an eternity, started the engine and departed RAF Swanton Morley with sad heart and a feeling of being lost, watched in my rear view the Station Gates diminish till they were no longer visible.

Hello Mr Evans and goodbye RAF, 22 years of my life gone just like that, so swiftly it was unreal and continued to play on my mind for months after. So cold and clinical an end to a career. Would I do it all over again, yes I would, thoroughly enjoyed the rough with the smooth and gained such a lot in many ways. I still keep in touch with anything Lightning and was so glad to have had the opportunity to work with the finest bunch of people at RAF Binbrook, which was my favourite station. I am still in touch with a few guys from these heady days back in 79-85, each one has much the same memories and fondness for the Lightning.

As it is now, I have had full employment since leaving the RAF and retired from work December 2009. I still have my memories of the good old days, and reasonable health thankfully. My interest in Lightnings still continues with regular visits to Bruntingthorpe Airfield in Leicester where the Lightning Preservation Group have a Q Shed and 2 Lightnings which still do fast taxi runs throughout the year. I was introduced to the LPG from my pal Pete O’Callaghan (ex 5squadron ) who lives just up the road from me. Have enjoyed doing engine changes etc., and the odd leckie problem on occasion since 2009 and was made an Honorary Member of the group in 2014.

Hope you found this account a worthwhile read and would appreciate and email to let me know your views or comment on any of the content. 

 
Kind Regards David

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