The groundcrew were the vital factor in keeping the aircraft serviceable and speeding turn-arounds to maintain the sortie availability

Harrier Diary 7

The No 1 (Fighter) Squadron Operation Corporate Diary

Reproduced by kind permission of Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Squire, Chief of the Air Staff

Wednesday 23 June

The Captain has instigated a Unit Inquiry into the Dunnose incident, to be presided over by Cdr Air. Last night the issue was included as an item on the ship's CCTV broadcast. I am highly suspicious of the motivation and I am uncertain as to whether I will be able to see a copy of the final report. I intend to send a working party to Dunnose Head to help clear up if necessary.

The clocks are put 4 hours to save overtime payments for the RFA crews!!

Thursday 24 June

We start the process of compiling the combat reports. At the same time I attempt to get agreement to reduce the number of pilots to 12 total.

Friday 25 June

The next week will be particularly dull. The Command is very cautious over flying in poor weather and all the flexibility in deck operations has gone. Procedures are suddenly rigid and "Charlie Times" are mandatory. It all seems trivial and unnecessarily dogmatic.

Fleet reject any proposal to reduce crews and I attempt to get support from Fred Trowern. At the same time, I commence the writing of the Record of Proceedings.

The Argentinean Government will accept the UN Resolution 502 on 28 June and all the (F) personnel from MV St Edmund go ashore to set up a base at Stanley.

Captain Middleton is increasing the pressure on us to disembark. He has indicated that he will take Hermes close to the Islands to ease the process.

Wednesday 30 June

I hear from Tim Cockerill on DSSS of Keith Holland's accident. It seems so tragic that after our unique experience that he should perish. It is terrible news and being so far away, and mail taking days if not weeks to get a letter to Angela, it is hard to know what one can do.

Thursday 1 July

I go ashore by Sea King to visit Stanley airfield. The conditions are very primitive and fuel and communications are inadequate to support an operational capability. It is a battle to get resources ashore.

Ship's Commander, John Locke, offers me a case of NZ whisky if we will go in the next three days at cost price. I squeeze him into letting me have 3 cases - free - if we go by the 4th.

Hermes and Invincible put on a flypast of 16 Harriers to mark the departure of Admiral Woodward. Jerry Pook leads the GR3s while I watch in Stanley.

Sunday 4 July

The day of disembarkation has arrived. The morning's briefing is preceded by an exchange of plaques and farewells with Captain and Cdr Air. We flypast in "Flying One" before landing at Stanley where conditions are better but still pretty meagre. There are heavy snow showers but the snow covering is a considerable blessing for it covers the mess left behind by the Argentineans.

We will spend the next few weeks steadily improving the facilities. For the moment power generation for lighting etc, is the major problem. The godsend are the arctic heaters for the tents without which conditions would, indeed, be miserable.

Monday 5 July

Snow showers prevent any routine flying but we hold 2 aircraft at RS10.

In the evening, we all go down to Sir Bedivere, where most of the aircrew are accommodated, to have a drink with those who are departing tomorrow. The teamwork has been marvellous and I would much like to be going back with them, but I have the other half of the Squadron to lead and that is a privilege. It has been a remarkable experience and we shall have a very special Guest Night when we all get home. We must ensure that all those we have borrowed are not forgotten.

Tuesday 6 July

The first Sea Harriers from Invincible arrive to assist us in holding Q. They also issue an invitation to visit and dine with 80 on Saturday night.

Forty two personnel of 3(F) Sqn arrive to start the handover. Of the aircrew remaining, only two are from !(F). Gavin Mackay flies for the first time in weeks and he will leave on 8 July.

Extensive visit programme in the offing starting on 7 July. Stn Cdr for Stanley - Bill Wratten - due to arrive 10 July. At that stage, I will relinquish the post of senior RAF officer and the true process of building a properly structured station will commence.

On the Saturday (10 July) we visit Invincible for a splendid evening and stay the night. I meet Prince Andrew (twice!!).

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