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Confessions of a mender

I served with 766 Squadron, R.N.A.S. Yeovilton, in 1956. During those days the Squadron was equipped mostly with the Sea Vixen F.A.W.I., with a few exotic Mk. 2’s filtering through. Then the awful memories of bitter winter nights, hangar doors open both ends, finger–tips spotted with blood from pricking them with locking wire. Numb hands struggling with the radar system hydraulic–connections, fumbling about with test rigs, dummy loads, power supply units etc. ad nauseam.

On the credit side, there was the ultimate haven, the “Line Shack” (a sort of naval caravan) with its seemingly endless supplies of egg sandwiches and hot Boveril. On a few naughty occasions innocent looking Sarsons vinegar bottles full of – er – well, it was made from local apples (still is I hope).

I remember one night working on a Sea Vixen which had had the seats removed, when I fell asleep. I was equipped for my task with a little “line pack”, a sort of electricians basic tool kit in a natty little red box. While I was in the land of nod the aircraft was towed across the hard standing to another hangar at about 0300 hrs. and preparations were under way for a morning sortie. Needless to say, all tools must be accounted for before flying is permitted. Where was line pack number so–and–so? Where the hell has Mills got to? Luckily there wasn’t a war on otherwise my eventual discovery could have caused me a lot more grief than it did. I deservingly got a lecture I shall always remember. And another one not long after!

In order to re–connect a replacement “indicator” unit in the “coal hole” it was generally considered most expedient to lie upside down on the observers seat and grope about for the relevant Plessey plugs. I had just finished my second successful grope when about two shillings in assorted loose change, plus my comb and some keys, came cascading down about my ears, coming to rest under the seat and among some bits of adjacent radio equipment. Exit one otherwise serviceable Vixen from the next couple of sorties while some irate armourers remove the seat and retrieve the rubbish (a long and unpopular job not without hazard). Oddly enough I was not put on a “technical charge” although everyone had to stitch up all their pockets (you were supposed to anyway!), and prove it to one’s superiors for some time afterwards. One found oneself something of a pariah for some weeks after the event.

Still, it wasn’t as daft as the pilot who dumped his refueling hose on top of Exeter Cathedral, was it? Or the bloke who wrote off XN648 one afternnon, having the same day grounded another Vixen after an in–flight error necessitating a complete flap–change? (we all make mistakes). No names, no pack drill, but I don’t think he flew again!

Written by ROGER MILLS

 

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