I have been reminiscing. A sometimes dangerous pursuit which has the potential to stir up ghosts from the past and, when one has as many years behind them as I have, there can be a great many ghosts lurking in dark spaces of the mind, waiting to resurface. However, my thoughts today have been of mainly pleasant memories from a particular period in my life that I never quite appreciated or valued at the time as much as I should have, in hindsight.
Throughout the decade of the 1970s I voluntarily served as a soldier of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. More accurately I was an airman in the Royal Air Force, but it was impressed upon us that first and foremost we were soldiers.
While internet surfing today, as it was extremely wet outside, my meanderings led me to RAF Scampton, home of the No 617 (Dambusters) Squadron of WW2 fame. Scampton was my home base for two separate postings totalling a period of four years out of my overall service commitment of nine years. During my years there, Scampton was a busy operational station at the forefront of the NATO nuclear deterrent force. This was still well within in the Cold War period. The station was one of the home bases to that superb British aircraft design from the mid-1940s, now retired of course but in its day decades ahead of its time, the Avro Vulcan bomber. ...But more of that another time.
RAF Scampton is now the home base of the Red Arrows, the world renowned Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team. There is a dual connection here for me. As well as serving at Scampton, I was also privileged for a very short time, about three months (before I was promoted out of the position), to serve with the Red Arrows when they were based at RAF Kemble in the English Cotswolds as part of the Central Flying School. I spent three very pleasant years in all at the CFS, based at RAF Little Rissington, both bases (LR and Kemble) being located around Bourton-on-the-Water, an outstandingly beautiful part of the country.
If you are not familiar with the work of the Red Arrows then I guarantee that you will be amazed by the video below. I got to work with these guys (well not actually these particular guys as the ones I knew would all be retired like me now) and could watch them practice on many occasions while I was there.
The aircraft have changed also since my days, as have some of the patterns and manoevres but there is still no better flying to be seen anywhere in the world, now, or at any time in the past. The Red Arrows are top of the heap when it comes to aerobatic flying.
I don't have many images of myself from those years but even though it is fairly unrecognisable, I am proud to be part of the Base Groundcrew image below (highlighted by red arrow, no pun intended) from the official Red Arrows 1976 publicity folder.
Coming back down to earth, I should add that my views on life and my opinions have changed greatly in recent times with an increasing awakening to the prospects facing us all in the future. Without enumerating the reasons here, I can say that I now accept but do not condone the need for any form of flying by anyone, now, or in the days ahead and look forward to the time when it will be neither affordable nor necessary and perhaps not possible, to indulge in that particular form, or indeed most other currently predominant forms of travel/transport.
Think globally, act locally.