Having passed-out as a Boy Entrant Air Wireless Mechanic from Cosford (34th entry) in December 1959, the Central Flying School (CFS) was Ray’s first posting and it was to an icy cold and rather desolate RAF Little Rissington Guard Room that he reported for duty on the 29th of the month. For the first three months, he was assigned to the Scheduled Servicing Flight but, following a difference of opinion with the Senior Technician in charge of him, he was moved down to 2 Squadron (Vampire T.11s) as a ‘punishment’. Some punishment as working with the guys there was such great fun, something akin to life with the Crazy Gang as they were always messing about – except when working on aircraft of course. It was during his two-year stint on Vampires that Ray encountered the Hunter as 2 Squadron was responsible for handling the CFS Hunter F.4s and T.7s when they visited from their operating base at Kemble.
And so, on 3 April 1962, Ray sadly departed his beloved ‘Rissy’ for RAF Innsworth to be kitted out for a two-year tour at RAF Khormaksar, Aden. Five days later, he and thirty or so other airmen, plus a couple of officers, who were gathered at this transit camp, were transported by train to Southampton Docks, there to board HMT Nevassa (one of two troopships still plying the seas) together with No. 42 Commando and a Parachute regiment. This was the penultimate sailing of a British troopship, both the Nevassa and Oxfordshire being withdrawn later in the year. Routing via the Med, Malta and Port Said, the voyage took ten days and as this tally was deducted from the 730-day duration of a two-year tour, it was perhaps the only positive in going by sea - apart from the six hours in Valetta’s Gut of course!
On disembarkation at Steamer Point, those destined for Khormaksar were taken by RAF transport to the airfield and assigned transit accommodation to await their unit allocations. Subsequently assigned to No. 8 Squadron, Ray moved to the aptly named Hunter block, one of three newly constructed and comprising four-man, air conditioned rooms. Once settled in at the squadron, his main tasks were the first line servicing of the unit’s Hunters (14 x FGA.9s, 4 x FR.10s and 2 x T.7s), with secondary responsibilities for general activities on the line; starting, marshalling, etc. All of his tour was spent with ‘Hate Eight’, the squadron’s rather unkind nickname, and he travelled with it on the regular bi-monthly detachments to Bahrain and Sharjah, plus one special detachment to Eastleigh in Kenya. On the subject of nicknames, he was commonly known as ‘Ginge’ or ‘Radfan Red’. A keen photographer, his camera was always by his side and a selection of his endeavours are contained within these pages.
After what seemed an eternity, the two years were over and he returned to the UK and a posting to another isolated outpost where English was not the mother tongue - No. 4 FTS at RAF Valley on the island of Anglesey. What had he done wrong to deserve two on the trot he thought! To add insult to injury he was assigned a desk job working on the introduction of a new Hollerith punch card servicing record system but this fortunately came to an end after six months and he was off on his Fitters Course at Cosford. In October 1965, he could hardly believe his luck, a posting back to Rissy - just like coming home! For the first six months he worked on the Varsities of 2 Squadron, the Vampires having departed in 1963. Following marriage to his lovely wife Rosemary, they moved to a hiring at Eastington, half way between Rissy and Fairford. A request for transfer to the CFS Gnat detachment at Fairford was accepted and he started work the Course and Red Arrows aircraft in May 1966. Later in the year, the detachment moved to Kemble where Ray was able to maintain his interest on the Hunter, the base being home to 5 MU, one of two major Hunter storage and maintenance bases (the other being 19 MU at St Athan).
Ray decided to leave the RAF in May 1967 but still retains very fond memories of the people he had the pleasure to meet and the aircraft he used to work on.