Change in Command at RAF Cranwell
February saw a change in command at RAF Cranwell with Gp Capt Dave Waddington taking over the post of Station Commander from Gp Capt Nigel Wharmby,
"It is both a privilege and a delight to assume command of RAF Cranwell and No 3 Flying Training School," said Gp Capt Waddington. "RAF Cranwell is where my career began back in 1985 and I still have vivid memories of my officer cadet and student pilot days here, including being taught to fly the Jet Provost by the then station commander. Never did I think that one day I would be following in his footsteps.
"In the few days that I have been in command I have already been impressed by the quality of the people who work here and their enthusiasm, both those in the Royal Air Force and the many civilians who support us," he added. "RAF Cranwell is a complex place, not just responsible for multi-engine pilot training but also rear-crew training for all types and many other units are also based here, most famous of which is, of course, the Royal Air Force College. We also have many people deployed on operations and supporting them must be my first priority.
"As I have lived in the area for several years, I'm well aware of the excellent links the Station enjoys with the local community and I attach great importance to reinforcing these further. So, it is a diverse job and I'm sure it will be a real challenge, but also tremendously rewarding."
Gp Capt Wharmby, who left RAF Cranwell on promotion to Air Commodore, has taken up a new post at Air Command, RAF High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire.
Before the change of command both Gp Capts were given the opportunity to sign the 'Survivor Wall' in the Survive, Evade, Resist and Extract (SERE) class room at RAF Cranwell. The wall, a large survival based montage emblazoned with the words Knowledge, Strength, Honour, Courage, Resilience, Endurance, Hope, Determination and Belief, qualities essential to any Survivor, is there to instil into the RAF's young aviators the ethos required to survive and to highlight the need for these qualities in the face of adversity. The students who manage to pass the course get to sign the wall on their final day with SERE Flight.
There is also an area reserved for people who have been cited and awarded medals for gallantry, been involved in an aircraft crash, been injured and returned to duty with honour, or have given services over and above to the world of SERE. Those who have already signed include the former AOC 22Gp AVM Dick Garwood who was DFC from Gulf one; TV survival expert Ray Mears and numerous others from the Second World War, Korea and the Falklands War right up to the present day.
Looking at the names of those already on the wall serves as an excellent motivation for the RAF's newest aviators and it is only a matter of time before those graduates who have signed as having passed their training come back to sign again following conspicuous action, bravery and or crashing and surviving.
The outgoing Stn Cdr, Gp Capt Wharmby, qualified as a survivor from his Harrier Ejection and an extremely difficult, brave recovery while his replacement, Gp Capt Waddington qualified as an ejectee and a survivor of POW Captivity during Gulf War One. "On the 19 January 1991 I was piloting a Tornado on one of the first missions of the campaign to liberate Kuwait. We were flying at night, low level and very fast. As we arrived in the target area a guided, surface to air missile was fired at us and, although we manoeuvred to avoid it, the explosion was near enough to shatter the canopy and cause catastrophic damage to the aircraft," said Gp Capt Waddington.
"I was knocked unconscious in the front but Sqn Ldr Robbie Stewart, my navigator behind me, managed to eject, Fortunately, the system is designed to automatically eject the other crew member at the same time and although we were both badly injured, we were very lucky as, at the time, we were one of the fastest ejections that had been survived.
"I was captured by the Iraqis the next day and taken to Baghdad where I was held for the next six weeks, which included being interrogated by some of Saddam Hussein's henchmen. It was, of course, a great relief to be released and a few months later get back to flying."
To make the signing of the wall more significant the two Gp Capts were also joined by Sqn Ldr Robbie Stewart who is now retired. Sqn Ldr Stewart is also the proud father of Flt Lt Kirsty Stewart, the first female to fly with the Red Arrows.
Mark Fairhead, the SERE Flight Training Officer, would like to extend an invitation to all ejectees, crash survivors and those awarded for Gallantry to visit the SERE Flight at RAF Cranwell, sign the VIP Book and of course the Survivor Wall. He can be contacted on 01400 267395.
1. Gp Capt Nigel Wharmby signs the Survivor Wall.
2. Gp Capt Dave Waddington, the new Stn Cdr at RAF Cranwell, signs the Survivor Wall.
3. Pictured in front of the Survivor Wall are, from left, Sqn Ldr (retd) Robbie Stewart, Gp Capt Dave Waddington and Gp Capt Nigel Wharmby.
Editor: Ruth Vernon
Photographer: Matt Stevenson
RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2010.