Black Buck 1 returns

Vulcan Diary 2

The Vulcan Engineering Detachment on Ascension Island Diary

Reproduced by kind permission of Sqn Ldr Mel James, Commander of the Detachment in 1982

1st to 11th of May 1982

Saturday 1 May

1. 598 turned round on pan and refuelled to 90%. Bowsers a problem particularly due to lack of adequate bulk facility. Aircraft states to be passed to OC Eng Wg nightly for simplified Opstat signal, namely tail number, serviceability state, time to recovery, hours to next servicing. At approx 1300 hours, 6 x Sea Harrier in pale blue scheme with 809 Sqn badges arrived. Tanker trail from Yeovilton to Banjul, Gambia (6 hrs), night stop, then Banjul to ASI (3 hrs 15 mins). They passed over the fleet on arrival to announce their presence. At 1445 hours XH672 landed (Sqn Ldr Milligan) in front of Martin - XH672 had stayed with Martin throughout the whole trip. At about 1452 Martin landed (no victory roll!). Quite a welcoming party for him. Crew whisked off for Int debrief followed by Eng debrief. Defects: No2 Frequency Changer, possible probe leak (no leaks apparent and probe test 'S'). 18146 no run up. (Fledermaus radar threat picked up, MK10 pod switched on and jammed the X-band signal!!!)

Night off!!

Sunday 2 May

Very quiet day since no flying - awaiting full unit reports of raid. Seems to be good news. Spares delivery today. Box of spares on Belfast. Other small spares by Herc + S type trolley pm plus a complete window unit full to the brim!! (Who asked for that - no window used so far.) At 2340 21 x bombs arrived by Herc. Fuses etc taken on S trolley to bomb dump, 1¾ hour round trip with no springing on S trolleys. Bombs on carriers left on pallets forward of C130 parking area. Since it was dark, and against CO's instructions, decided to arm up the bombs in situ. Major problem getting fusing data, did not know what state bombs in 598 were left by Waddington. Attempts to contact 1 Group failed. Dragged Bob Wright away from the Exile Club to open Ops box to check. Checked but no gen. Eventually found signal in Nose Hangar Ops Room giving fusing details. Arranged for hire of crane from Pan Am for 0300. Bombs on S types by 0430. Tails on and bombs moved by 0520. Just crutching up the last carrier at dawn when signal arrives changing fusing details. Waited to confirm with CO. Disappeared with Arm team for a break/shower/shave. Reappeared 1000 hours 3 May, aircraft stats now passed at 0600 and 1800 hours.

Monday 3 May

1000 Returned to airfield. Fuses to be changed. After a long arduous discussion with OC Eng Wg, Stn Cdr and USAF Base Cdr convinced them that it was safe to changes fuses under the aircraft. Unfortunately being daylight created great deal of interest! In the meantime pitot head had been changed and leak checked before I returned.

1130 Thanks to help from Kinloss armourers, refusing now complete and bombs recrutched. I left a message for Galtieri on one of the time delay bombs from Denise and the boys.

1200 607 and 598 BF'd. I stood down for lunch with OC Eng, OC Supply, OC Regt at Exile Club. Returned to Two Boats for kip, returning to airfield at 2000 hours. First 1 Sqn Harriers arrive.

1300 VC-10 with 21 x 1000 lb bombs. UKMAMS delivered to dump.

1430 Functionals after aircraft moved into combat position - slightly different tonight.

pm Cpl King taken to hospital with pain in kidney area - will be kept in. Aircraft refuelled to 100%.

2215 Ops crew check weapons. Food loaded on board.

2240 Crews arrive and change on the pan.

2230 Engines start. No crew-in snags.

2345 Taxi sequence commences. 607, 598 at slots 3 and 5 respectively.

0030 Return to Two Boats. 598 RTB after 3½ hours if all well.

Tuesday 4 May

0315 598 RTB no problems en route except John Reeve in 607 forgot to give the code signal for first hookup successful and Monty had to ask if all was well before RTB!! Alternator shut-down problem (finger trouble) and 6th seat parachute. Aircraft AF'd and 'S' by 0500.

1000 598 refuelled to 90%.

1030 Learned attack complete, 607 RTB also heard confirmation of first strike. 16 craters on airfield. Strung along centre of runway. Tower, POL and part of ASP destroyed. Arm team despatched to prepare bombs for move ie onto S type trolleys. Can't fully prepare until fusing details for next sortie known. Now have permission to prepare bombs on this side of runway on back road out of the airfield.

1533 607 land, Flight Time 15 hr 46 mins. Parked aircraft on opposite side of apron due to parked C141. Underestimated slope on pan. John Reeve had to use extra power to taxi into slot causing loose dust/gravel on taxiway to be blown into intakes of XL233 opposite. After vacuum of intakes no problems envisaged. Bill Lloyd on 57 now has polythene over all his intakes!! Defects: Red Steer pressure caved in - looks as if the extra long sorties are too much for the Red Steer pressurisation system. Standby Artificial Horizon toppled - signal demand from Waddington. Cpl Webb also confirmed Westinghouse pod U/S - demand from UK. 18228 continual signals received typical of F-14 lock on. CU changed.

1800 Still no word on fusings for next sortie so bombs wrapped up for the night. Aircraft state on signal 598 'S', 52 hours to minor, 607 U/S ROS + 3 hours, 101 hours to minor.

2000 Trades of personnel required for extended duration at ASI passed to Monty, as follows:-

1 x NCO A Tech A
1 x NCO A Tech P
1 x NCO A Tech E
1 x SNCO L Tech AR
1 x NCO Supplier/Movements
4 man Weapon Preparation Team as per original nominal roll.

2030 Stack for the night.

New equipment, new working conditions!

Wednesday 5 May

0400ish Torrential rain intermittent until 0730!!

1000 Start work - late start at instigation of Monty. Red Steer arrived last night on 02 demand for Fly Away Pack. Changed by Reg Parkinson - awaiting standby artificial horizon and pod.

1200 No word of fuse settings so bombs returned to bomb dump on far side of airfield. Designed a little bomb motif which Chf Tech Dave Lindo is cutting out of cardboard as a stencil to be painted on port side of nose as below:

1500 OC Eng Wg and I bored with hanging around so we went up to Two Boats for a swim, returning in time for OC Eng to attend 1700 hour daily conference. Rumour from John Reeve that he has been asked to provide a fuel plan for a RTB. Options would appear to be as follows: 2 x Vulcan stage Ascension - Dakar - Lajes - Waddington requires no tankers. Stage Ascension - Lajes - Waddington requires 1 tanker each. Leave Vulcans at Ascension if possibility of returning to ASC. In any case FS Packer, Len Develin and John Devlin would remain behind to look after things. Only a rumour at this stage, Monty disagrees with it and C-in-C Task Force may also.

1710 Down to Georgetown via Two Boats to collect Reeve crew to see the Beating of the Retreat by the RM outside the Exiles Club at 1800 hours. Super evening and music of course. Hitched back to Two Boats with army land rover - you never walk for long around here before you get a lift. Monty gave me a signal from TF at 1710 requesting gen on fusing options available for 607.

1900 Down to bomb dump with Sgt Hancock to count up all fuses available as follows: No 947 Qty 57, No 79 tail pistols - Half hour delay Qty 8, 1 hour delay Qty 8, 6 hour delay Qty 9, 36 hour delay Qty 6. Sent signal to CTF at 2200 via Group Captain.

2200 Stood down - returned to Two Boats to find room absolutely crammed with beds, Herc crew + Nimrod crew + 809 Sqn + Monty crew and me!!!

Thursday 6 May

0700 809 Sqn blokes depart noisily - good luck to them, they are a good bunch. Monty has also moved out somewhere?

0930 In to airfield. Only messages concern change of SOP for pod being delivered for 607. 18 Sqn blokes met today include Tom Kinsella, Cherry Willingham and Martin Tokeley (Engines) - all ex 101. They've set up a MASH 18 Sqn (Mobile Air Support Helicopters) on the fringe of the pan - they're also setting up a black market in cheap cool drinks in competition with MT and cheap cigs!!

1500 598 is beginning to sit very heavily on its undercarriage now still carrying its original bombs and only about 4 inches of oleo showing. It desperately needs a trip of circuit bashing to recharge the oleos. Lots of chat about going home for a week or so but I've stopped believing all rumours now. More Red Steer spares in - just as well. They can't take a 15 hour trip. New ECM Pod arrived for 607 and loaded. OK. New stud 7 for additional ECM threat.

Friday 7 May

0900 Seems the Gp Capt has been looking for me. Message received that 4 pax coming from Waddington. I deny all knowledge though guess that they must be the bomb prep personnel.

1300 Both aircraft to return to the UK. Don't know which crews yet but 598 must be downloaded. 607 is more or less OK after RS change. Standby artificial horizon changed on 607 but the new instrument seems to have blown a transformer and the system is still U/S. Section 2 to fly agreed with Monty.

1400 Attempt to download S trolleys using Navy Iron Fairy failed. Had to book Pan Am crane through Lonnie. In the meantime 607 towed out onto the pan ready to crew in for 1630 departure. 607 apparently no charge up of EHPP for brakes but only needed a top-up - could have been a 2 hour delay.

1600 598 downloaded and bombs transferred to bomb dump. ECM pod remained on because it is not up to current threat requirements.

1700 Martin Withers taxi with 2 x Victor. Have been so busy no time to give Martin a message for home. Looking at a 1700 crew-in for 598 but tug is across at bomb dump towing S trolleys with bombs from 598. Eventually obtained Victor tug which was doing nothing!

1715 Attempted to move 598 but tow bar broke! Nosewheel is about 4' deep in the tarmac.

1730 John Reeve started up. Road behind pan blocked off. Clouds of dust and grit as John taxied out of the rut into the pan. CO not too pleased but nothing could be done about it.
1800 Following Victor crew-in problems. 598 eventually taxied out. The crew-in and prep was dangerously quick in my opinion - not sure the rush was necessary.

1900 New tow bar (normal type) ordered 01 by signal. Estimate 4ish hours to point of no return but I can't see them coming back here. It was hoped that Victors could land at Banjul in daylight apparently but that's just bad luck. Moved out of SECO hut into E14 bungalow, Travellers Road, Two Boats.

Saturday 8 May

Late up today. Obviously a day off. No expectation of Vulcans here just yet. Graham Packer had tow bar welded this am by USAF Support Unit!

0900 Confronted by Sgt Clive Atkey from Marham and his 3 merry men - they are the 4 pax arrived 0500. Martel experts. Now know that 612 and 597 have been fitted out as Martel launchers. First successful firing of dummy Martel over Cardigan Bay on 6 May from 597!! Quick resume of requirements for Martel shows aircraft must be parked on safe heading so we will have to do a deal with the Nimrods.

1000 Long explanations to both OC Eng Wg and Stn Cdr that Martel crew are not capable of prepping 1000 lb MC bombs and vica versa. 4 Martel men can stay. Also talk of a Martel Flt Lt being sent out but no confirmation.

1300 Walk up Green Mountain. After 30 minutes picked up by Graham Packer in the LWB and taken up to the Red Lion. Walked the rest of the way to the top, past cattle pens, pig farm, vegetable plot, through lush vegetation past the 19th Century water trap and up through the bamboo jungle to the new pool at the very top. What a magnificent afternoon. On the way down photographed 18 Sqn (ZA707) dropping off parts for the new search radar. Soon the standard route up the summit will be blocked off due Radhaz. Must send a print of the op to 18 Sqn and JHSU (Plt Off N Cromarty) RAF Odiham. Photo of John Hathaway at the Two Boats en route down.

1700 Bar-B-Q at Two Boats Club. Excellent chicken and steak from the BX. Received my first letter from home while there about 2030 hours!
2 x Nimrod with flight refuelling probes arrived.

Sunday 9 May

0800 Awake and down to breakfast. Shower afterwards. Almost certainly another day off.

0900 Call in from OC Eng. Met S/L Johnny Walker ME2 from 1 Gp sent as Armourer expert by VC10. Stn Cdr/OC Eng convincing him he can't and needn't stay. Sgt McClellan from Coltishall (BL755 expert!) also arrived - another 4 man team. He will have to train up armourers already present on BL755 upload/download procedures. Apparently needs annealed copper lugs and an Armament Officer to release the SHUs Have to get round that using Armourer SNCOs, I'm certainly not qualified. Sgt Hancock helping Nimrod Armourer load 1000 lb bombs. Some talk of Vulcan authorised to carry BL755 but no schedules (even in draft form) and no training weapons to practice with! Nimrod also told they might get Harpoon - US sea skimming weapon for which no APs or notes held by RAF at all!!! Letter from Denise today posted 1 May!!

1330 Walk with Monty down to North East Bay - 3.2 miles. A little paddling, photography and watching 2 families building a beach cottage. Good afternoon. Fascinating watching the black fish going for scraps of dead fish and scores of crabs. Birds in abundance this afternoon - Canaries, Mynah birds, and South African pinkish bird not unlike a wren in size and general shape. Lift back in LWB. Can't be bothered with tea tonight.

1700 Heard that flight trials Victor/Nimrod held today. Nimrod sorties approx 9 hours. Belfast brought in 202 Sqn Sea King HAR3 X2593. Personnel lodged in our old block.

Monday 10 May

0900 Down to the line to see if any news. Refuelled one of our air coolers, built up the tow bar which arrived Sunday not much else to do. OC Eng Wg informed me that Gp Capt Price insists Martel-armed Vulcans remain at the side of the Nose Hangar for ease of guarding. Groundcrew are now doing all the cleaning fatigues at Two Boats to relieve Nimrod and Victor personnel. Spud Murphy organised a trip to NASA site this pm. Future visits possible (max 6 in party) - phone 8456 and ask for Pauline! 3 Harriers including XW919 and XZ129 now on Ascension CAP duties. Long range search radar on Green Mountain now active so the normal route up to the Dew Pond is closed off. Late pm aircraft control zone imposed around ASI as per normal large airfield. 2 Harrier pilots reprimanded for flying over the Governor's residence!! Long range Herc with refuelling probe also due in any time.

Tuesday 11 May

8 personnel loaned to Victors this morning to reorganise their GSE and bottle farm. Martel man Sgt Clive Atkey sorting out his extra GSE which arrived yesterday. Safety equipment tent being relocated today by Cpl Edmonston and GSE Cpls. Went up to Green Mountain with the aid of a TCW 4-wheel Mercedes truck. Walked around the top with Dick. Noticed a C-5A in today from the mountain but very little movement otherwise. Went to the Two Boats Club evening and watched BBC 1 News Sat/Sun on video and film "The Lady Vanishes" - very funny.

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