First Vulcans arrive on Wideawake airfield

Vulcan Diary 1

The Vulcan Engineering Detachment on Ascension Island Diary

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

27th to 30th of April 1982

Tuesday 27 April 1982

1. 5 Detachment Eng personnel (FS Packer, CT Murphy, Sgt Barter, SAC Chapman, SAC Lowery) departed Waddington at 1500 hours by Andover CC2 to emplane BZN VC-10 for ASI. VC-10 departed 1800 hours. Also on board Operations Team (S/L Montgomery and crew).

2. Remainder of ground party 25 personnel departed in 2 x C130K at 2230 hours and 0330 hours 28 April, RR4216/4897 respectively. First C130K RR4215 equipment only.

3. VC-10 staged via Banjul, Gambia and Dakar Senegal. C130Ks staged via Dakar, Senegal. On RR4216 food provided for first leg only. Stock of sandwiches and Coca Cola acquired from Air France, Dakar using local imprest of detachment Accountant Officer.

4. On arrival at FHAW, very limited arrival brief on pure administrative arrangements (pay books, post office etc.), Admin Office comprises tri-service clerks and RAF Admin S/L Graham Griffiths (ex SCA), 1 x Wg Cdr Admin. Base control is RN Capt McQueen AVM Chesworth 18 Group, Gp Capt Price (OC Marham). Supplies controlled by Sqn Ldr Neil Campbell, Engineering by Wg Cdr J Morgan 18 Group (former OC Eng Wing Waddo). Elements of FAA are omnipresent. 3 x Wessex HU5, 845 Sqn and 6 x Sea King HU5, 846 Sqn continually bring stores and personnel from ships offshore. Various companies of Marines and Army personnel also present. 34 Marines from SS Canberra were placed at our disposal 28/29/30 April for guarding armed aircraft. Some assistance also rendered by 3rd Battalion Paras before flying off to Canberra.

5. Personnel accommodation at Two Boats village, almost in the centre of the island near Green Mountain. Village of single storey SECO hut type dwellings. Natives extremely cooperative and helpful. They invited combines forces to use their village hall, club, pool etc. Accommodation for airmen/SNCOs in 6 man tents outside village hall on waste ground. (All ground here looks like waste ground - volcanic ash, cinders, charcoal, extremely dirty and dusty on the airfield.) Accommodation for Officers is 3 line astern SECOs on the south-west edge of village at the top of the slope looking down on English Bay, SS Elk, SS Canberra, HMS Hula(hospital), SS Uganda, HMS Intrepid, 1 x Type 21 Frigate etc, huts have showers, toilet, 2 x wash basins each end recently installed by DOE St Helena. Field telephones for inter-site comms installed by Cable & Wireless.

6. Message from HQSTC not to take LWB fortunately too late. LWB loaded at front of first C130K. On arrival MT very tight, LWB was only detachment vehicle. Following arrival of 2 x Sherpa by C130K, one allocated to Ops Crew for crew ferry etc.

7. Meals; field kitchen facilities on Victor line. RN providing food at Two Boats in Village Hall. Own fighting irons essential - glad we brought them!. Food also available on American base near airfield, Volcano Club, food drink plus BX open limited hours to UK personnel.

Thursday 29 April

1. XM607 and XM598 arrived approx 1800 hours. Both are saturated in condensation including bombs due to long soak at altitude followed by rapid descent into semi-tropical conditions. (Daytime temp varied so far 77°F - 95°F)
2. XM598 serviceable!! XM607 ARI 18146 can change R88 camera motor running continuously - NFF finger trouble, No 1 tank would not accept fuel. Not true, No 1 tank was full, only fault at top end reading 300 lb low.

Friday 30 April

1. We're on! Both aircraft serviceable. 607 by 0300 hours. DSSS phone message passed at 0001 hours giving estimate of serviceability by 0500 then confirmation passed at 0300 hours. Both fuelled to 90% at this point and awaiting night for top up. Since 598 was serviceable, accepted as functional. 607 moved to enable functions at 1600 hours NB all moves to be coordinated with Ramp Manager, Lonnie or his assistant, Benjy. Eng control also book bowsers, tugs etc. 607 gave similar snags with Monty in control on No1 tank but situation explained on total contents. John Reeve not happy so elected to take 598 as primary. Functionals complete aircraft prepped for move to action stations as shown on diagram. With no pan markings and concept of spacing plus inexperienced tug driver, considerable hassle getting aircraft into position. (Ramp Controller complained that C130, VC-10 could not move safely - I offered to taxy them personally).

2. Ops crew arrived at 2100 hours to check carousel and bombs before crew-in. 2130 crew arrive at aircraft and dress for flight. Considerable noise on the pan with 60 KVA plus cabin cooler operating at 2500 rpm!! Crew in 2200 hours formally. 2230 hours engines start - ALL ENGINES. The pan is now a mass of anti-coll lights and engines, power sets and coolers running - the noise is incredible. Telephone/telex blackout on Island commenced 2100 hours. 2250 taxi sequence commences. 598 followed by Victor followed by 607 last out. All 11 tankers away without using reserves! Last aircraft airborne 2310 hours. 607 have a crew-in snag. No ECM pod run up. Fixed by Cpl Webb - CB tripped on X-band cheeseboard. Suddenly a silent empty ASP - that was the most incredible sight I've ever seen!

3. Reeve/598 returning, burning off fuel @ 20,000 lb/hr. 5000 ft airbrakes out and undercarriage down. 2 hr 15 min later 598 touches down. Problem is that John Reeve shut his DV window quickly as his turn to taxi approached, but in doing so trapped part of window seal. The noise produced by the leaking seal was too bad to cope with for 15 hours so they aborted. DV window problem rectified in 10 minutes. Also had 1st pilots intercom weak and variation in fuel consumption from tanks. First snag NFF headset serviced. Second snag diode failure in system - safety item not in use, removed and cables secured. Airbrake snag down to fuse problem. 598 recovered 'S'.

4. Victor turn rounds and refuels continued through the night. Stood down at 0630 hours 1 May when it became clear that the trail was working satisfactorily. Woken at 0815 by John Hathaway who reported strike successful and aircraft returning.

See: Vulcan Diary 1 gallery

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