Daily Archives: 15/03/2010

Vulcan 607, Rowland White

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Following reading Rowland White’s book thePhoenix Squadron and at the suggestion of my cousin Glynis, plus my interest in the subject, I obtained a copy of Rowland White’s previous book, Vulcan 607.

This book gripped me from the outset, telling the story of when in 1982Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic, which Britain held sovereignty since 1833, having taken over from the Spanish, who were sold the islands by the French for £250,000 in 1767, who had  claimed the islands for themselves in 1764. Argentina regarded the Falklands as theirs, calling them Las Islas Malvinas.

The military junta of Argentina saw the return of the Falklands as strengthening moral of their country and planned to take Las Islas Malvinas with a quick invasion, especially as Britain had only a small garrison to guard the islands, and anyway, Britain was relinquishing sovereignty to other countries within their Empire.

An Argentinian entrepreneur and scrap metal merchant jumped the gun on the junta before they could finalise plans, by landing on the Falklands for its’ rich pickings of old whaling ships and equipment. The result was a hasty invasion by Argentina, and a British reply of “no the Falklands are ours”.

It was decided by the British Government that the sovereignty of the Falklands would stay in British hands, and despite many days of the USA trying diplomatic means to solve the problem, war broke out.

Britain assembled a task force of naval ships, and the army to send down to the southern hemisphere, and the RAF were tasked with a special mission to show Britain meant business, to show that Argentina were vulnerable to strikes by British Forces, and to have the Argentina junta having to redeploy their forces to protect their mainland.

The result was the longest ever bombing flight ever undertaken at that date.

This well researched book tells the story of how the RAF undertook the task, the training, the modification of old soon to be scrapped Vulcan planes, the operation itself.

Avro Vulcan bomber of the RAF

I was gripped by the story, better than a action fiction book, with true heroism throughout, as the story unfolded. I practically read the book in one sitting.

Yes it was my history, and the whole thing made a lot of sense to me, as I recalled driving passed RAF Waddington only a few years before the conflict began, seeing the Vulcan’s sitting waiting to get airborne, and I remember the pride in my heart on arriving in Saudi Arabia for work in early 1983, only months after the conflict had ended, and seeing the Argentinian flag flying above their embassy, proud to be British.

Rowland White writes that RAF Wing Commander Simon Baldwin, the flight commander of RAF Waddington, had stated “only 30 percent of what was being reported was accurate”, when reviewing the TV, newspapers and media after the event, I think that the book makes it near 100 percent.

Yes the book captures the story and history of the RAF’s involvement, and good it was, but as I read I began once again to think that the book is from the British point of view, and yes I am British and nationalistic as you are to your country, and I wonder what are the views of the Argentinians, their story. Perhaps the book only gives 50 percent of the story, the British side.

Oh well, that leads me further on, more research and reading to find out.

My interest in the RAF and flying

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It was in the late 1970’s that I worked for NCR, a computer manufacturer, and I was tasked to design, write the software to customers requirements, install, train the customers staff, and maintain the installation thereafter.

The area I covered from my base offices in the UK, Nottingham and Leicester, covered a vast area, from North and South Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, down to the south of Liecestershire, from caravan manufacturers to a door-to-door cosmetic selling organization, and often I found myself driving hundreds of miles to visit my customers.

Often my journeys, especially through Lincolnshire, would take me past RAF airfields, and since a small boy I had a fascination of aircraft, mighty birds in the sky.

At RAF Coningsby, the B1192 road I took to my customer in Wragby, passed the end of the runway, and there was a convenient lay-bye, where I could stop and watch the fast jets, Phantoms, take off, looking directly up into their jet exhaust and afterburners. (click to see map).

At RAF Waddington on the A607 road from Grantham to the City of Lincoln, the massive Vulcan bombers of the RAF “V” Force, stood ready to launch at minutes notice on their dispersal pads near the end of the runways, ready to retaliate against Soviet Block targets with nuclear weapons should NATO be attacked. (click to see map).

At RAF Wyton on the A141 near Warboys, English Electric Cambera’s, RAF reconnaissance planes flew low over the road as they came into land. (click to see map).

At RAF Wittering, the V/STOL Harrier Jump Jets, would fly over the A1 road. (click to see map).

At RAF Alcanbury, further south on the A1 road, USAF U-2 spy planes, with their albatross length wings glided in to a now closed airfield. (click to see map).

So many more airfields I would pass, fascinated by the power and beauty of the aircraft.

My love for knowledge of aircraft has stayed with me all these years, and reading, researching books, visiting museums on aircraft, gives me great joy and happiness, although my interest does not or has not become an obsession. As I discover more in my research, I need to fill in the blanks, find out more about information presented to me.

It is now I appreciate the art of reading, PhotoReading, allowing me to absorb so much information quickly, and when reading normally after PhotoReading the book to get specific information, getting so much more enjoyment.

Reading fictional books like Biggles, a pilot flying mid world war planes, solving problems and having boyhood fascination capturing adventures.
Living in Kingston upon Thames, the home of the Hawker Hurricane, led me to read about the history of the iconic aircraft, and visiting museums, the Imperial War museum at RAF Duxford, the old airfield and race track at Brooklands, the Royal Naval Fleet Air Arm Museum, RAF Uxbridge and the RAF Museum in Hendon.

As I read, one piece of information has led me to another, to another, to the book Phoenix Squadron by Rowland White, which I wrote about in my blog a few days ago. Then my cousin Glynis, read my blog and suggested that I read Rowland White’s other book, Vulcan 607, as her husband Dave had been involved with them, and my mind went back to those early days as I passed RAF Waddington, with those big jets, the Vulcan’s, just waiting to reach for the skies.

I had to buy the book.