Welcome to RAF Cosford

It was 1986 and the Regiment were at the time the RAC Centre Regiment at Bovington providing support to the RAC Centre courses both at Bovington and at the Gunnery School at Lulworth. Often as well as providing support to the courses, we were called upon to support Keeping the Army in the Public Eye (KAPE) events. An independent F Squadron, when not covering up Dave Lomax fcuk ups were sunning it up in Cyprus and I am sure they have many tales to tell, I wish they would tell me!

For my sins, I was in Vehicle Squadron based at Bovington. Thankfully, I was in Light Track Troop (I say thankfully that I was in Light Track Troop as the Heavy Track Troop Leader was Paddy Keogh, who to be fair frightened most men to death!!) responsible for the CVRT (T) and the Fox and Ferret amoured cars. Mick Misun was the Troop Leader and other troop members from memory included Bob Ball, Ginge Inwood, Andy Davidge, Al Webster, Rob Libby, Scouse Curran, Geordie Rowlands, Andy Gardener and a chap called Howe.

Welcome to RAF CosfordThe trip to RAF Cosford in Shropshire was to be a huge Tri-Service KAPE exercise mainly aimed at encouraging school leavers into a career with the Armed Forces. It was necessary to find accommodation outside of the camp due to the amount of people involved in the event far exceeding that available at RAF Cosford. Most of the Army personnel were accommodated in nearby Wolverhampton in a large tower block belonging to Wolverhampton Polytechnic.

The 'PolyTechnic' Tower was adjacent to Molineux Stadium, which is home to Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and from my room which was fairly high up I was afforded a good view of one end of the pitch. More importantly, we found out that there was a 'Happy Hour' in the Polytechnic bar every evening between 1800-1900hrs with Kronenburg 1604 at 50p a pint. Needless to say we took great care to attend the bar every evening we were there, no doubt impressing the students with our ability to drink vast quantities of lager very quickly!

For the event the three Services were required to set up and man a number of displays.

The Royal Navy were providing:

  • Static displays

  • Some good looking WRENs

  • A fly past by a Royal Naval Air Sea Rescue Helicopter

  • Steve George RN and some Royal Marines dangling from a helicopter

  • A Submarine simulator!

Steve George RN

The RAF were providing:

  • Static displays

  • Some good looking WAAFs

  • A fly past by fixed and rotary aircraft

  • Their Drill Display team

  • The fcuking Red Arrows!

The fcuking Red Arrows!

The Army were providing:

  • A very fat Lt Col from the RCT

  • Some WRACS!

  • A couple of Scorpions

  • 3 very old smoking Chieftain tanks!

3 very old smoking Chieftain tanks!

The tanks were taken to RAF Cosford by tank transporter and we followed in a mini bus. At the end of the day they were safely locked up with the tank transporters in a huge aircraft hangar at the end of the runway. We adjourned to the Polytechnic bar and got hammered!

The following day, with sore heads we went back to RAF Cosford where we were met by a very fat Lt Col from the Royal Corps of Transport who was the Army Liaison Officer for the event. He told us that we were to be the penultimate display and would be required on orders to carry out a simulated quick attack onto a position in front of the large temporary grandstand where there would be up to 6000 school leavers sat watching!

Keep orf the grass!!!

At the time, RAF Cosford was a thriving glider school for the RAF and had its own Volunteer Gliding Squadron. To allow smooth take off and landing the grass that surrounded the runways was in pristine condition, so therefore we were surprised when 'Fatty' told us that we were going to be driving across it. To avoid too much damage we were to avoid making sharp turns in order that we did not create something like SLTA! He told us that he had assured the Station Commander, a very keen glider pilot that it would not be a drama and then followed the statement with a question "Will it?". We assured him that we would do our best!

We conducted first parades etc on the tanks and the Commanders devised a plan of sorts. We decided that the Scorpions would conduct a sort of Recce with one eventually marking the FUP while the other would move around to provide Fire Support. The Chieftains would then race towards and enter the FUP, close down and assault the enemy position. Once on the objective, the two Scorpions would continue to advance searching for depth positions and prevent any enemy reinforcement. It was decided to do it all very quickly with loads of Flash Bangs, thunderflashes and both 76mm and 7.62mm blank. Selected audio transmissions such as contact reports and orders would be played over a loud speaker to the enthralled crowd.

Welcome to RAF CosfordPlan in place we waited for the opportunity to practice it in front of a few spectators and some Top Brass who were charge of the event. The sun was shining as we lay on the grass outside of the huge hangar at the end of the runway. The RAF had laid some metal track way across the runway to allow us to cross it without causing any damage (Pity they never had enough for the grass as well!). We continued to wait while some bloke in charge inspected everything at the main display area. Then, with a resounding roar, a Tornado aircraft came racing in over the top of the hangar at about 100 feet which frightened the crap out of us all before heading towards the grandstands, pulling sharply up and emitting a bloody great big flame from its exhaust. As it disappeared towards Wales the hangar telephone rang. It was the Fatty from the RCT, "Ok chaps, mount up and lets show them what the Army can do.....just remember no unnecessary turns please on the grass" he told the nodding Bobby Ball who had answered the phone. "Mount up chaps.......and remember no mad sticking!! " shouted Bobby Ball. I clambered up into my Scorpion with Rob Libby in the Gunner's seat and we had a chap called Howe driving. We were going to be the Scorpion that identified the enemy position, so with out pyrotechnics and 76mm blanks ready we moved out of the hanger. With the Scorpions leading we advanced across the grass towards the viewing area where eventually, in accordance with the script we were contacted by the enemy made up of some RAF blokes throwing some smoke grenades, Schermulys and thundeflashes. After a high speed reverse, I sent the contact report over the radio which boomed out over the speakers. We then moved quite close to the currently empty grandstand and fired off a few 76mm blanks.

Meanwhile, smoke billowing from their straining engines the 3 Chieftains were moving into the FUP marked by the other Scorpion. The tank troop leader was giving orders on the radio and from head up positions in the turret we could quite clearly hear them over the speakers. On arrival, in the FUP there was a short period when Fatty gave a commentary on what was happening. Once finished, the assault was launched where we moved forward and provided some serious fire support with 76mm blank. Once the tanks were on the objective we moved slightly closer to the grandstand whilst Fatty from the RCT explained to the imaginary audience what was happening. Once the objective was secure it was announced that the quick attack display was finished. We were to remain in position whilst the finale roared overhead....the Red Arrows! Well as it happened on this rehearsal the Red Arrows never turned up but they would be here on the day!

Fatso briefed us over the radio that everything was fine and that there would be another rehearsal after which we could go backy to the Polytechnic accommodation. We returned to the far end of the airfield and on orders conducted another faultless performance! Satisfied that we had got it together we were told we could park up and get away. We were required to be back at Cosford fairly early the following morning for the actual event.

On arrival at the Polytechnic, due to the fact that we had carried out a further rehearsal it was too late to shower before the Happy Hour so we entered the bar as we were. Well talk about fight the women off! We of course got plastered and at the end of the happy hour we showered and decided to go into town. On the way past Molinieux having had 3 pints of cheap lager and like a git I attempted to jump between two bollards, slipped and dislocated 2 fingers on my right hand. A pissed Rob Libby who had drunk 8 pints of cheap lager put them back in...fcuking ouchhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

Unperturbed but in pain, I carried on drinking and eventually got into bed at about 2 in the morning, really drunk! Well strange bed and all of that I awoke in a pool of piss.......with a sore head and a fcuking sore hand! This potentially was a drama but I placed the mattrass against the luke warm radiator and hoped for the best, oh and I almost forgot the sore hand was going to make it difficult loading 76mm blank rounds on the advance to contact!

We made our way back to RAF Cosford, all of us suffering very badly and entered the hangars where the drivers did the first parades. I sat in the corner and felt sorry for myself. We were not expecting to do out bit until at least 1600 so we had a long wait. Unfortunately, we could not lie out in the sun as a rather disappointing misty rain had descended. Oh well, I nursed my poorly hand and curled up in the cab of one of the tank transporters in the hangar.

Rob LibbyAfter a good kip, I was aware that somebody was asking, me to wake up. Rob Libby (Pictured right) was shaking me "Will.....we are on matey" he said. Getting up I needed something to drink and my hand was hurting badly. Getting in the Scorpion I asked Rob what we had to drink. He pointed to the crate of beer in the bread basket! "Is that it?" I enquired. "Yes" he replied laughing. He pulled the ring pull on a can of Carlsberg and passed it to me. "Bloody Hell I need this like I need a hole in the head" I exclaimed. "Go on" he said "It will make you feel better..trust me". Like a twat I knocked it back and yes it did actually make me feel slightly better. So I had another..........and another. Rob Libby also decided that it would be foolish not to join in so he quickly topped up from the night before!

With the engines running, we waited and waited, Rob drinking because he liked it and me to try and numb the pain in my right hand. Eventually the radio crackled into life. Fatty told us that there was a drama as the Station Commander was not happy that the tanks do their thing as it has been raining quite heavily and the grass was very wet. He feared that the grass would be churned up and his gliders would not be able to land. There were discussions taking place to try and sort it out. Eventually, Fatty informed us that the Station Commander had been convinced that with limited turning on the grassed areas damage could be minimised. That, with the fact that we were here at great expense with the waiting crowd expecting to see the action, Fatso with his career on the line spoke on the radio very slowly "I WILL REMIND ALL OF YOU TO AVOID UNECESSARY USE OF THE STEERING WHEEL AND MINIMAL TURNS AT ALL TIMES.........MOVE NOW ". "Fcuking steering wheel!" Rob Libby exclaimed throwing another can down his neck........"What a fat useless twat".

The two Scorpions raced across the damp grass with the Chieftains lumbering behind. On contact we went through the contact report etc. The grandstands were full with open mouthed 6th formers who must have been mightily impressed with the troop of Chieftain tanks struggling across the wet grass, sinking quite deeply into it the drivers being firced to stick left and right to advoid the worst of the wet areas!

The orders were relayed over the speakers indicating the intent and Fatty gave his brief explanation. The assault was launched and slightly slower than normal as I was loading with my left hand we fired a couple of 76mm blank and then at high speed we moved to our position close to the grandstand. As we raced along parallel to the stand, young Howie stood on the brakes causing us to spin sideways and continue moving for at least 5 metres sideways on with the gun facing the grandstand. Pristine grass was being ripped from its roots in front of the track as we continued or slide totally out of control, the grass forming a large turf! Holding on for dear life with my good hand I briefly caught sight of a very angry Station Commander grabbing the fat Lt Col around the neck. Eventually, we came to a stop facing the grandstand with a 76mm blank round in the chamber. The temptaion was huge it has to be said but we cleared guns, not without difficulty as I had to open the breech with my poorly hand. Rob Libby laughing about the grass hiccupped and announced that he needed a slash. Sliding inside the turret he grabbed an empty 76mm case and filled it up. I too then took the opportunity to fill a case as well. We decided that we had best simply stay where we were, now wet, cold and very slightly drunk. Glancing through the sights we noted that actually this was good as amongst the 6000 or so audience there were a large number of girls! (Note: It should be noted that the age difference between us and the school leavers then was not as great as it is now....I have already had one Gary Glitter joke!)

Undoing the clamping knob and using the Commander's sight I was able to scan left and right and have a good old look, only interrupting this to go to the loo in another empty case. The assaulting Chieftains were now static, grey smoke rising from the engine decks and the position secure. Everybody waited and then with a huge roar and lots of red, blue and white smoke the Red Arrows flew over, did a couple of loop the loops and headed home before you could say Fcukingggggggggggg hell!! We meanwhile, were still drinking, peeing and of course scanning!

Welcome to RAF Cosford

Then, to our absolute horror we heard over the loud speakers Fatty inviting the crowd to look at the wagons! Hoards of kids were running towards us, I looked at Rob Libby who had gone white, I then looked down at the row of pee filled 76mm cases in the bread basket and also went white. I looked up to be greeted by the first of the kids peering down at me through the open commander's hatch. "Whats that" the spotty kid asked pointing at the row of cases. "It's the fcuking toilet yer daft twat...now get out the way and let those girlies get on" Rob Libby volunteered!

I just sat there with a very sore hand!