Black Buck 1 returns

Vulcan Diary 3

The Vulcan Engineering Detachment on Ascension Island Diary
Reproduced by kind permission of Sqn Ldr Mel James, Commander of the Detachment in 1982

12th to 24th of May 1982

Wednesday 12 May

Visit to line am but no news and very little activity. Late morning call from Monty ref fuzes on bombs dropped so far for BD people going south - info already passed 2 days ago! Late afternoon info Sqn Ldr Sherlock/Flt Lt Turfrey, Waddington Ops, arriving VC-10 evening. Montgomery crew to return UK VC-10 13 May to keep up Vulcan currency. Learned on news that Argie POWs from South Georgia passing through Ascension tonight on way to Montevideo. Confirmed gen later - POWs brought to Wideawake from ships by Chinook. Aircraft on pans to be ringed by MT with headlights on to ensure Argies can't see aircraft on pan. Argies photographed in Eng Control hut and checked out by Red Cross. Put on Varig DC-10 and flown out. Sherlock VC-10 now delayed to 0200 ETA because of DC-10 movements. Letters from Denise, Mum, Dad posted 10 May received today. LWB up Cross Hill today back of Georgetown.

Thursday 13 May

Woke up to sounds of Dave Stenhouse, Monty, John chatting to Sherlock/Turfrey - joint basic briefings. Appears options being looked at UK are Vulcan tankers being pursued by BAe Woodford. 597, 612, 391 already to come out ECM/Martel equipped - studies on Sidewinder fit and also Pavespike. Sorties could include Martel + bomb bay full of chaff only! Bill Perrins returns from duty on Night Ops to reveal signal arrived 0850ish 2 x Vulcan to deploy ASAP. Could be a 2100ish arrival. Must ensure groundcrew rest this pm. Currently all armourers including Martellites over at bomb dump, 9 on jetty helping Navy Catering Office unload fresh food supplies, rest on Two Boats fatigues. Have moved into Bill Perrins bunk in anticipation of their departure but they might stay now.
ETA now 0300 14 May!

Friday 14 May

Awoken by John Hathaway at 0045 - they will be one hour earlier, one aircraft only! At 0235 John Reeve arrived in XM612. 5 x hang up on centre bomb station having jettisoned because of fuel consumption, several other snags and list estimate for 5 is 1200Z. In fact the hang up is complicated one and OC Eng/OC USAF insist the aircraft is towed to the end of runway 14 to download - they can apparently spare the last 3000 ft of runway if anything goes wrong. With help of OC Eng and his land rover + Pan Am crane all complete by 1030. Aircraft towed back to pan and parked next to Nose Hangar with difficulty. Defects then rectified - Rudder feel, HRU, Red Steer (!), 18146, NBS markers, complete check of centre bomb station with carrier plugged in - no defects, must be a problem with carrier. Signal sent through OC Eng at about 1800Z. Aircraft still has Carousel snag so aircraft declared U/S - S at ROS +2. Monty hoping to fly it tomorrow. Aircraft refuelled to 85% normally then to 100% through probe then back to 85% - no problems except that with all tanks full total contents indication is low. Martel ARAM looks good although carrier is dreadful. Crew suspected Martel cause of 10% fuel increase but not that likely. 5 new sorties in UK with Martel increased consumption by only 1%. Must be combination of contents/tanker problem. Lots of rumours, news from UK. XM651 is undergoing conversion to tanker at Woodford (subsequently discovered to be incorrect should be XH561). Sidewinder/pavespike being looked at and aircraft with bomb bay full of chaff only. Stacked at 1900Z with estimate for Martin Withers arrival of 0500Z tomorrow.

Saturday 15 May

607 Withers arrived 0448. Fuel state as follows:

Port Starboard
No 1 1000 800
No 2 1300 1300
No 3 900 1000
No 4 1200 1100
No 5 900 600
No 6 1300 1400
No 7 1200 900
Total 7800 7100
Full Total 14900

WBS x 2, tail chute stream, probe leak inside radome, 18228 noise, co-pilot's intercom. No ARAM fitted. No 1 port tank still under reading about 400 lb. Bombs still intact. Apparently no major problems. Carousel found to be U/S. Estimate ROS + 2 hours.

Spent afternoon recovering a turtle shell from a beach near north East Bay - the smell was indescribable but apparently 100 times better than when first discovered and separated from the rotting flesh!! Monty hoping to fly 612 tomorrow.

Sunday 16 May

0800 start with FLMs to B/F 612 for priority. Signal early morning reference fuel state of 612 and its maximum contents puts a stop to it. Attempts to explain John Reeves precarious fuel state on arrival from UK have led 1 Gp to ask whether aircraft tank has partly collapsed and the aircraft cannot be properly refuelled. A full analysis shows total content to be under reading by about 1000 lbs, the 4 Gp starboard group contributing the discrepancy. Defuelled 4 Gp and stage refuelled to prove the point.

Following figures are of interest:-

1 Tank 4 Tank 5 Tank 7 Tank
Bowser A/C B A B A B A
1000 1050 1000 1050 1000 1100 1000 975
2000 1975 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000 1875
3000 2800 3000 2950 3000 2900 3000 2750
4000 3750 4000 3900 4000 3700 4000 3650
5000 4500 5000 4800
Total Bowser 18,975 Total A/C Ind 17,900

A full check made of all Groups going from 85% to 100% refuelling through the probe. Total 100% contents indicated as 73800 whereas actual is near 74800, about right. Only tanks in 4 Gp starboard which all run light show any discrepancy at the top end only. When empty tanks in 4 Gp Starboard show empty therefore trimming not necessary. Details notified to 1 Gp. Monty happy, John Reeve ? By pm it is clear there is a show on. In spite of a U/S C-141 and Victor attempts to shut us out, we managed to park the aircraft for functionals and start. 607 clear. 612 rear RWR head change. At 1900 called to see Gp Cpt Price. SASO on phone for me through Ian Fairhead - pylon for Martel to be removed immediately, Estimate 1½ hours for removal from Waddington. Set out immediately on both aircraft. Both aircraft completed in 1¼ hours but show delayed by 24 hours!!! Holes in wings covered in speedtape. Shutdown by 2200 hours and aircraft returned to Nose Hangar.

Monday 17 May

Moved FAP tent down towards aircraft and obtained an extra tent for control/accommodation. 2 tents sent out from Waddington disappeared. 2 x Red Steer arrived by Herc to replace U/S items. No chance of trip tonight now - Nimrod/Ramrod trial.

Tuesday 18 May

Monty flying 612 today. Hoped to get a Victor playmate en route St Helena. After much fussing got away fairly smoothly at 1045Z. Sent for door seal - 2 NRVs require replacing. Left with 85% and returned 5 hours later as I was about to report overdue aircraft. Had taken on 10,000 lb fuel. In the process probe damaged. Rivets sheared on nozzle but nozzle still hanging on. Also canopy leak. Door seal replaced by 2015 and no joy changing probe - still leaks.

Wednesday 19 May

After probe change, fuel check flooded radome. Still cannot be aligned properly. After examination of S and U/S probes it is clear that inner pipe of U/S probe has been pulled forward about ½' causing distortion of the flange on the Y-shaped pipe in the radome. New Y-pipe demanded from UK. Colander also bent and knocked about during refuelling!! May have been the last straw after the Reeves trip down here. Also just to keep the pot boiling, RN investigation started with the "acquisition" of a fridge my blokes collected yesterday. It was left with stale food in in the old kitchen tent (rusty cat). Kitchen moved over the road nearer the sea and all gas cooking and refrigeration. It was assured by C/T Parkinson that bearing in mind the state of the fridge it was not required. Navy called in SIB, watch this space!! Notified that Monty will take 607 RTB tomorrow. McDougall will return on the same VC-10 he arrived in!!

2000 Informed by Monty that 607 departing 0800 tomorrow!! All groundcrew informed. FLMs/Armourers 0300 up to download and BF.

Thursday 20 May

0430 Up and down to airfield.

0520 607 just about ready, pushed out 0630 after departure of VC10 and arrival of C141.

0815 607/Monty depart.

1030 Air spares arrive. E7A probe spares 0500Z 21 May. Informed Withers/Crew + Sherlock+Turfrey departing pm on VC10. Reeve taking 612 tomorrow. No details for us yet (ie groundcrew). Possibly leaving FRP and bombs behind. Lunch in commissary.

1800 Message from Bill Sherlock. Called to see OC Det (Gp Cpt Price). Phone message that no Vulcans or personnel to leave ASI! Withers crew/Sherlock/Turfrey were packed and I had vacated the bungalow and moved up with Reeves crew. Moved back to E14 and expecting Herc crew in at 0000. All change! Passed message to Bill if 607 returns no bombs please! Met Pat Fitzgerald today - ex 3 Gp Herc pilot tells me he keeps in touch with Reg Malcolm, Rick Harland (also Herc pilot 30 Sqn). Bed at 2230.

Friday 21 May

0800 Met Herc crew in bungalow - they have no eating irons or sleeping bags.

0900 Signal confirms Vulcan det to hold at ASI. Y-trunking for 612 flight refuelling arrived but U/S - bashed in ends. OC Eng Wg sent off abrupt signal about state of packing and pre-examination. Re-demanded. No word of 607 returning. New probe fitted to cut down recovery time.

1130 Lunch and collect flying suit at 2B.

1235 Airborne in ZA707 "Bravo Papa" - 20 minute run to QE2 to download stores. Hovered over QE2's helipad at 1248. Down at 1255. S/L Freeman.

1330 Mail arrived - letter from Mum and Dad. Tents have eventually arrived from Waddington but no poles. Informed Waddington are buying 2 ice boxes from 2 Ton Club and sending them out. Saw Pat Fitz, Rick Harland passed through last night - sends his regards.

1630 Letter to Den written - mentioned Pat Fitz, Chinook trip. Must remember VC-10 lunch next letter!! Sgt Hancock down to airfield to see a Lt Col. Spent 3 hours discussing how to fit SNEB packs to Gazelles. The Army have never used SNEB and only had the manuals.

2000 To Exiles for the evening.

Saturday 22 May

Day off!! Until informed 1700Z that tanker available to return 612 to UK at 0200 tomorrow. Everyone in by 1800 to download, BF change refuelling Y-pipe etc. Pipe in at 1830 and replaced satis but probe internal leak. Probe changed again. Aircraft moved 1950 and functioned by Withers crew at 2230. Withers crew + 3 Martel then depart by VC-10 RR2603 at 0100. Still no confirmation of remainder of groundcrew 18 Gp want 12 men to stay.

Sunday 23 May

Confirmation from Air Commander to Gp Capt Price that core of 12 personnel must remain at ASI for 'possibility' of Vulcan return. Work out 12 bodies with Bill Sherlock, approved by Wg Cdr Morgan, as follows:

FS Packer NCO
Sgt McErlain ATA
Sgt Vincent ATP
Sgt Hancock ATW*
Cpl Tonner ATW
Cpl Edmonston SE Fitter
C/T Parkinson LETA
Cpl Garside LTAC/AR
Cpl Webb LTAR
Cpl Lean LTAR
Sgt Barter ATE
SAC Lowery FLM
Sgt Devlin Suppl

* Later learned that Sgt Alfonso arriving on Flt 2608 to allow Sgt Hancock a 48 hour handover.

Further complication : during the night on return of personnel to Two Boasts after departure of 612, LWB caught fire at about 0315 hours almost certainly due to a lighted cigarette butt dropped in a rubberised mat. Vehicle damaged to extent that at least 2 rear bench seats and backs plus canvas roof require replacing. Vehicle taken to MTSS for recovery. Wg Cdr Morgan informed. Asked to conduct an Inquiry and submit report to Gp Cpt Price. Spent rest of day obtaining statements then typing up report. In meantime JD booked 15 remaining Vulcan eng party on Flt 2608 departing ASI on 24 at 0425Z.

Packed and changed by 2000. Signatures obtained on statement by 2100 passed to FS Packer for onward transmission to Stn Cdr.

Bill/Graham to bed 2330 but I stayed up reading. Sgt Hancock collecting me at 0215 in 3 tonner for ferry to airfield. At 0145 Herc crewman came in from Bungalow D23 to get Bill Sherlock to phone Wg Cdr Thornton in Ops (677). Woke Bill and went to phone with him. Apparently DSSS message from 18 Gp - possible deployment of Vulcan ETD 24 1500Z!! Down to Ops(with bags). Phoned 18 Gp who confirmed. Told them all detachment would stay to support Vulcan particularly as it was planned to deliver aircraft without bombs. At end of DSSS call, 18 Gp Wg Cdr Ops had received a fresh signal cancelling the Vulcan!! Proceeded to Nose Hangar.

Monday 24 May

Checked in at 0300Z. Boarded aircraft at 0345Z. Take off in VC10 XV101 at 0410 hours. Arrive Dakar 0720Z Flt Lt Johnston (same aircraft and captain as last week's luncheon!). Depart 0855 arrive Brize Norton 1430. Phoned Den. Chris Pye on 12 hour standby.

Monday 14 June

598 and 607 RTB Waddington. Heard only 3 Chinook lost on Atlantic Conveyer.

Following signals received 1 May

Vulcan Detachment from Officer Commanding and all personnel at RAF Waddington:

My sincere thanks for your efforts in support of a magnificent achievement. Warmest congratulations on a team effort which has been unsurpassed in the history of the aircraft.

From the Fleet:

It was extremely heartening to see the magnificent effort of your Vulcan Crew this morning. The courage and professionalism displayed in delivering a copy book attack in the face of heavy defences were in line with the highest traditions of the Service. Old Vulcans never die.

See: Vulcan Diary 3 gallery

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