Living in the North of Scotland with little in the way of "interesting" jobs, or so it seemed as a 17 year old at the time, I became intrigued with the lifestyle of those from RAF Kinloss (two miles outside of Forres) and decided one day to visit the Careers Information Office in Inverness and join up.
This is a quick summary of my time in the Royal Air Force.
RAF SWINDERBY 1972
I signed on the dotted line and took the Queen's shilling in September 1972 and was off for Basic Training at RAF Swinderby as L8102323 AC McInnes. Here I learnt to march in step, shoot straight, toe the line and keep my nose clean. A great bunch of lads from all over the UK made this "square bashing" period really enjoyable.
RAF COSFORD 1972-1973
Trade training was next up and I was off to RAF Cosford to learn the art of being a Teleprinter Operator within Trade Group 11. I obtained a Distinguished Pass in my Procedures exam and whilst my instructors expected the same in my Manipulations, it was not to happen. Nerves overtook and I just made the grade at the end of the day - 625 depressions in 5 minutes with 0 errors in the heading and 2 corrected in the text. Was I worried? Not a bit, I was now Leading Aircraftsman (LAC) with my much coveted "sparks" badge.
Training out of the way (or so I thought) it was off to the real world and a posting to Head Quarters Strike Command at RAF High Wycombe. "Forget all you learnt in training - we'll show you the real way" was one of the first statements I heard and the other being "if you can hack Wycombe, you can hack anywhere". The first statement was not exactly fact but yes, whilst every new Communications Centre (Commcen) visited thereafter did have its own nuances, the basics were the same. The second statement bore out some truth. The complexities of a Major Commcen like that found at STCOC (Strike Command Operations Centre) when fully mastered held me in good stead throughout my career
RAF MASIRAH 1974-1975
Having sent my "Blue" uniform home to Scotland I had to spend some of my last days at Wycombe in civvies. Well, how was I to know someone was going to kick off in Cyprus. Eventually boarded the Britannia at RAF Brize Norton and headed (via Cyprus) for the sun; sea; sand and Carlsberg lager that was - RAF Masirah. Situated off the east coast of Oman, this was my home for 9 months. 300 + guys and the two white women who manned the Mission to Military Garrison club. I still have fond memories of the place and the espirit de corps here was like no other. Everybody was in the same boat and just got on with it
Managed to get a trip to Muscat for a day on a 46 Sqn Andover and a bomb around the Island in a Bell Helicopter that some Oil company were giving as a thank you for them enjoying a couple of days in MAS. Final escape was on a Nimrod taking part in an end of exercise flypast in Karachi, Pakistan. Landed and could smell the place but was not allowed off the aircraft.
RAF WEST DRAYTON 1975 - 1978
After nine months in the sun it was three years at RAF West Drayton. Three years out of trade and employed as a Computer Operator in the L1 Building's Computer Bureau. For the geeks, the computer was an ICL 1902A mainframe. Met Lesley, who at the time was working in the Medical Centre. Undertook a two-week detachment to the War Headquarters at HMS Warrior, Northwood on exercise and spent three months in my Green Goddess whilst billeted at the TA Centre, Cribbs Causeway, Bristol.
No. 6 Signals Unit 1978 - 1980
Promoted to Corporal, its was then off to No. 6 Signals Unit, RAF Rudloe Manor and yet more time spent underground. There are a couple of sites on the web that mention the underground caves and what goes on in them. Needless to say, a lot of these are wide of the mark. Yes, there is an underground rail system that had its own branch line from the Box Tunnel and yes, the marks of shells being dropped are still visible on the platform. Yes, there were underground Hospitals and the like originally and no, there are no aliens! I was straight back off of honeymoon in 1978 and off back to Cosford for a Telegraphist training course.
No. 2 Signals Unit 1980-1981
Lesley got promoted to Corporal and posted to the Hospital at RAF Halton and after nine months I eventually got a posting to No. 2 Signals Unit, RAF Stanbridge. This was one busy place with the old white "ticker" tape everywhere.
JOC MAASTRICHT 1981-1984
It was time for another overseas posting and with no guarantee of us being posted together; Les left the WRAF and became a plain old missus. The posting turned out to be to the Joint Operations Centre Maastricht in the Netherlands. Home however, was amongst the locals in a block of flats in Liege, Belgium. Once again, being overseas is a totally different Air Force, and a great time was had by one and all. The working conditions were the pits, stuck inside a mountain with tunnels that were hewn out of bare rock. It was like a rabbit warren and you could always tell whom the new boys were - walking around totally lost. An eye-opener into the workings of NATO. Selected for promotion at the end of my tour. Ross was born in the RAF Hospital Wegberg, West Germany (as it was then).
Posted back to the Headquarters at High Wycombe with my "letter" for my third, it was another year before I actually got three stripes up. So, here I was back where I had started and little to nothing had changed. I think the paint was still the same.
RAF GIBRALTAR 1986-1989
Off overseas again and this time to that lump of rock otherwise known as Gibraltar. Decided to drive myself down through Spain and arrived at the frontier post with one almighty impressive piece of real estate in front of me. Spent an enjoyable three years down in the sun and Costas. Awarded the Personal Commendation of the Air Officer Commanding upon my departure.
No. 840 Signals Unit 1989-1993
Posted to No. 840 Signals Unit, Lindholme (parented by RAF Finningley). Spent 99% of my time "locked in the back room" specialising in all things Communications Security (Comsec). Bought the house in Hatfield Woodhouse and Kyle was born in Doncaster Royal Infirmary.
RAF SCAMPTON 1993-1995
Off to RAF Scampton and the home of the Red Arrows. Spent the first few days looking skyward watching the free shows. Applied and was selected for "Exercise Long Look" - a four month exchange posting with the Royal New Zealand Air Force. Was based with the Defence Communications Unit at the Headquarters in Wellington and was billeted in heaven, RNZAF Shelly Bay. Travelled all over New Zealand by boat, car, plane, bus, helicopter.
RAF WADDINGTON 1995-2000
When Scampton was closed under the Defence cuts I was posted to the other side of Lincoln - RAF Waddington. Spent my last five years service here once again locked away in the Station's Comsec Vault. Carried out numerous regular trips to Aviano Air Base, Northern Italy in support of NATO's E3 Operations. Spent two months in Bahrain in charge of a TCW Detachment sorting out the comms whilst we pulled out of Dhahran after the Khober tower bombings. Managed a short trip to Las Vegas before PVR'ing.