Flight Engineer Memories – On the Squadron during the 70’s

This article missed our Issue 20 Newsletter this year due to a bit of an Editorial overload. So in fairness to stalwart Association member Trevor Paterson who put in the effort to write and deliver in person the words about his time on 24 Squadron as a Flight Engineer during the early seventies, it now time to give it a proper airing.

Trev Paterson 2011 Reunion







“After celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain I also feel like One of the Few as Flight Engineers and Navigators are now surplus to requirements on the Hercules J model

So; for the benefit of the present members of the Squadron and previous members on the squadron before and after the seventies I will recall some of the life and activities we enjoyed on the Squadron in the Seventies and whilst at our reunion dinner at Brize Norton I noticed a lot of members and their ladies who were on the Squadron during that period so it was obviously a good time to be on the Squadron as we all wished to continue those friendships by joining the Association!

After completing Air Engineer training at RAF Topcliffe, I was posted to the Hercules at Lyneham in February 1971, and, as there was no conversion places available at that time, I was sent to 24 Squadron to hold until a course became available, Richard Bates was the Squadron C/O at the time, The Engineer Section was run by Jim Bates and I found all the Engineers very helpful, I went on MCT trips, low level trips and the odd route flight, this period was very useful as it gave me confidence before going down to Thorney Island on the conversion course in September 1971 as I was allowed to sit in the seat under supervision on the odd trip!

I arrived back at Lyneham on 24 Squadron in February 1972 with a total of 115 hours, on the A/C. After a few days settling in I was off on my first trip, dropping 1 ton containers across at Keevil, near Melksham, looking at my log book; it seemed we were flying nearly every day for 2 or 3 hours doing MCT or Tactical drops, in my first month on the Squadron I I had done 60 hours flying, so it was quite busy in those days, with my first route trip to Masirah Island, in the Oman, via Akrotiri in Cyprus and as many present here this evening will remember, the first port of call was the Movements shed. There was a little bar there, where all the inbound crews would meet up usually to the coach drivers disgust ; we would spend 2 hours to wind down as our flights were usually early morning departures from The UK. Eventually we would go to our respective accommodation in the messes usually arranging to meet in the evening for a meal at one of the local kebab houses, usually Chris’s.

Next morning it was off to Masirah, where we would meet up with the same Britannia and Belfast Crews we had met at Akrotiri for a few cleansing ales. Sadly, in November 1971 we lost one of our aircraft at Pisa in Italy, with the loss of the crew and a large number of Italian paratroopers a special service was held on the Squadron on 6th November last on the 40th anniversary of the accident where a new Roll of Honour was unveiled with the names of the 6 crew who died in the accident.

Mike Hardy took over command of the Squadron in July 1972 from Richard Bates, we were very lucky in those days as we had very good execs and section leaders and It was a happy time on the Squadron as we had plenty of varied trips and all the sections had a great bunch of guys, if we were not allocated a flying duty or sim.  We would all come into the Squadron, to chat about incidents we had flying, another very popular pastime on the Squadron in those days was the game of UCKERS, there were some really good players, but I did not really understand the game so read my manuals instead!! We had lots of parties because we had a good entertainment committee Roger Payne was our leader and I was the Bar member, there always seemed to be an excuse for a Barrel on a Friday afternoon and as most of us lived in the messes, quarters or in the case of some of the young pilots they had a little pad at Kellaways farm nearby! Therefore driving was not too much of a problem!

The Squadron seemed to be involved with a lot of overseas exercises and Relief operations in the early 70’s I remember Khana Cascade; a relief operation in Nepal and the Pale Jade exercises, a deployment of fighters to the far East through Masirah and Gan to RAAF Tengah in Singapore plus a lot of Squadron deployments to Norway.

Khana Cascade

Khana Cascade

Apart from swanning around the world we also took part in a lot of Low level Tactical exercises, one of these was known as JATFOR; this involved formations of 3 aircraft taking off and forming up when all airborne, sometimes up to 20 aircraft and heading off down to the South west low level route, but quite often the weather would deteriorate, so we would be ordered to PENETRATE this meant climbing up through cloud IN FORMATION, there was a procedure , but we had to hope that everybody was following the same procedure when we broke out of cloud there were aeroplanes everywhere and Air Traffic were going mad! Eventually this foolhardy exercise was given up!

1974 was a memorable year, Clive Evans had taken over command of the Squadron from Mike Hardy and as I mentioned earlier the Squadron was a good socialising Squadron and I remember one such event, in July 1974, Roger Hale, one of the Captains, was having a party in his house in Devizes when his phone rang around midnight, it was Lyneham Ops asking if any crew members were at his party and was told to get them all to report to Lyneham at 7:30 that morning to be sent out to Akrotiri as Passengers as The Turkish Army had invaded the North of Cyprus!

We left Lyneham on a comet of 216 Squadron, arriving in the afternoon at Akrotiri , all the tourists who had been staying at resorts at Famagusta and Kyrenia had been evacuated and were camped on the stations sports fields, Our crew was one of the first to start the evacuation most of the passengers had left their hotels with minimum possessions, just in the clothes they had on at the timer every aircraft was full to max capacity, one of the tricks we learnt as the evacuation progressed, was when French Air traffic asked us on entering French airspace if we had any French nationals on board, we would say Yes even if we did not have any, as they would clear us direct from Nice to Calais!, which saved us about 30 minutes.

Another memorable event that year was the Crosscheck exercise with No 435 Sqn RCAF at Namao, near Edmonton in Canada, we took 2 aircraft; Roger Payne, Roger Hale, Dick Gould and Phil Sharman were the Captains and W/C Clive Evans led the party, we had some really interesting flying and Socialising, with a trip up to Whitehorse in the Yukon, which I am sure those reading this will recall with good memories of that exercise.

1975 was another year which brings back fond memories, 7O Squadron had been withdrawn from Akrotiri, so it was decided to set up a Hercules detachment at Akrotiri, I was lucky to be asked to go on the 24 Squadron Crew, with Roger Payne as my Captain for the month of February. We did a lot of flying mainly down to Masirah and Salalah, with the odd trip to Seeb, Bahrain, Malta, Khartoum and Nairobi, for some reason, which I cannot remember, we picked up £5 in allowances when we went to Seeb or Salalah, which helped our social activities back at Akrotiri, where we had made friends with some of the staff of MPBW, who had their own club, and we spent a lot of very enjoyable evenings with them in their club!.

The Canadians came to Lyneham in April 1975 for a Return Crosscheck exercise, again an excellent week of Flying and socialising. Also in 1975 there was a Dock Strike and we had a crew detached to Kinloss in Scotland and we flew food and animal fodder, mainly hay to Kirkwell and Sumburgh in the Shetlands from Leuchars and Lossiemouth for a few days.

Another interesting trip that year was a trip out to Hong Kong to take a company of Ghurkhas up to Korea, to act as The Honour Guard at Panmunjom on the Korean border. We landed at the USAF base at Osan, and stayed overnight in Seoul , the hotel we stayed at was the Hamilton Hotel in Itowan, very nice with a large bar and dance hall, we thought it a bit strange that towards midnight the girls were offering to buy us drinks Malcolm Maltby the Captain; thought this was a bit odd so I asked the Army Officer from the Embassy, who was looking after us was this the norm, he then told us that there was a Curfew from Midnight till 6am in Seoul, due to the short distance from the Border with the North, and they were probably looking for somewhere to stay till the morning!! So He ordered us to refuse their hospitality as we were representing The UK and therefore should avoid any bad publicity!

1976 was my final year on the Squadron before being posted across to 242 OCU, one event that comes to mind was the First  Belize War as it was colloquially known, Guatemala, a neighbour had threatened to take over the country, so Britain deployed troops and Harrier jets to deter them, so we flew down there via Gander and Nassau in the Bahamas, I was on Pete Elders crew and all we did was the Nassau-Belize shuttle for 10 days Staying at the Nassau Beach hotel, which I expect some members will remember the Harvey Wallbangers whereas other crews were unlucky to be doing the Nassau-Gander-Lyneham shuttle!

My final swansong on the Squadron was a States trainer which unfortunately was required to return home via Barbados to pick-up a load, where we had a Real prop gitz seal leak and had to spend 3 days there

I really enjoyed my time on 24 Squadron in the seventies, which am sure you can realise it was a lot different for life on the Squadron in the 90’s and today, but the experience gained in those early years helped me to continue my career as Flight

Engineer later on 10 Squadron VG 10’s and in civil aviation with Cathay Pacific for 20 years on Tri-Star’s and the747.


2 Responses to “Flight Engineer Memories – On the Squadron during the 70’s”

  1. Mike Lythgoe Says:

    Excellent Trevor ! You may remember that I was the Nav on at least two of your adventures – Crosscheck, with Roger Hale (do you recall the SAR diversion en route to Whitehorse ? ) Also, on Roger Payne’s crew to the Oman in February 1975. I still have the 25lb Howitzer shellcase from the SAS Battle of Mirbat found at Salalah ! May not make it to the 2013 Reunion but will be there next year. Best wishes, Mike

  2. Peter Lee Says:

    Great Memories. If I may recall correctly, both Mike Hardy and Roger Payne eventually worked for Cathay Pacific with Mike as the DFO.

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