Harrier Diary 8
The No 1 (Fighter) Squadron Operation Corporate Diary
Reproduced by kind permission of Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Squire, Chief of the Air Staff
Monday, 12th to Sunday, 18th July
Gp Captain Bill Wratten holds his first O Group on the Monday morning. He has no specific news from the UK. There are doubts, however, that the rest of the roulement will go according to plan.
The weather remains cold with frequent snow showers. On 13 July, members of the Welsh Guards are clearing snow from the runway when we scramble a GR3. The Sidewinder AAMs jettison on take-off causing serious injuries to 11 soldiers. I watch it from the hill beside the ops wagon and race down to be of assistance. A SAS NCO, waiting for the C-130, sets up communications with HQ BFFI in Stanley to summons additional medical assistance.
There will be a Board of Inquiry in due course but I secure permission for the pilot to remain flying. I also secure continued authority to fly t 100ft over the islands and start to produce documented concept of operations for the Harrier Detachment.
Monday, 19th to Sunday, 25th July
A Press Party visit on the 19th and we mount a flypast for the inhabitants of Goose Green.
On Tuesday 20th, General David Thorne visits the detachment. He is a most charismatic man. The troops view him in awe.
The weather is superb - extremely cold with snow still on the ground but beautiful clear air. BBC/ITV visit us on the 21st including a dawn sequence of reveille, which is not so much to the liking of some of the troops.
On Friday we pen the squadron beer tent just in time for the following morning sees the weather change. The wind lifts the taxy way and engine test-pan. Peter Dodworth completes the BofI into the Sidewinder incident and Mr Jeremy Lett arrives from AIB re. my accident at San Carlos!!
To the cathedral on Sunday evening which marks 2 weeks away from home.
Monday, 26th to Sunday, 31st July
The week starts well with fair weather and the news that Gerry Honey will relieve me for a few weeks in early August. Harry Benson from Time Magazine arrives in Stanley and we agree to set up a photograph of a GR3 hovering over Stanley Harbour. This is arranged for the Tuesday but, in the event, poor weather and poor positioning of the Lynx helicopter results in a disappointing photograph.
Wednesday was a disaster. Strong winds blow down three of the hangarettes and damage aircraft in the process. We are fortunate that no one is injured.
Strong winds throughout the rest of the week prevent a planned visit to Invincible and so MCSU put on special supper. The standard of their cooking has been excellent and they provide a great morale boost.
Sunday, 1st to Friday, 6th August
I spend Monday night on Invincible and return in foul weather the following ay to greet AOC 1 Group - Air Vice Marshal Don Hall - who has arrived for a brief visit. On the Wednesday, I accompany him in a Gazelle to visit landmarks around the Islands, including San Carlos, Goose Green and Bluff Cove. We lunch on Sir Bedivere.
Gerry Honey arrives on 5 August. The weather is pretty kind and after drinks on Sir Bedivere he sleeps not a wink in the tent which threatens to collapse at any moment. Another aircraft is damaged overnight.
The handover is completed on the Friday morning and I depart on time in the C-130 bound for Ascension. However, about halfway there is a fuel transfer problem and we have to divert to Montevideo. There is a possibility that all the documents will be seized and we are instructed that all classified papers are to be jettisoned into the sea. I am carrying the original Combat Reports, which I cannot give up. Fortunately we are not searched and spend a quiet couple of hours in the warm night air while the Hercules is refuelled.
At Ascension the VC10 has waited for us and we set off, albeit a few hours late, for Brize Norton. There, the AOC 18 Group - Air Marshal Sir John Curtis - and the Station Commander - Pat King - are there to meet me as are Dad and Betty who have travelled down from Devon.
After an hour or so we set off on the last leg to Wittering in an Andover of No 115 Sqn. There are just the 3 of us on board - Pat King, myself and Bill Mahon. At Wittering, Carolyn, Christopher and Richard are still up along with most of 1(F) for an impromptu party.
I return to Stanley on 15 October for a further 2 months before being relieved by OC 4 Sqn - Tony MacKeon.
During that time, the F4s of 23 Sqn arrive and take over responsibility for the defence of the Islands.
On my final sortie (6 Nov), I have to eject following engine failure. I am picked out from Stanley harbour by the SAR Sea King. Medical examination reveals no back damage and once the BofI is complete, I return to UK.
Postscript Spring 1985
I go back to the islands again in the Spring of 1985, shortly after the opening of Mount Pleasant Airfield, as PSO to AOCinC Strike Command - ACM Sir David Craig. It is fascinating to see how things have changed, and yet the Falklands themselves remain quite unaltered.