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Normal Topic Patrington Reminiscences (Read 8,057 times)
Simon Pollock
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Patrington Reminiscences
28.07.2008 at 20:03:35
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http://www.raffca.org.uk/php/index.php?page=the-lightning


I've not visited the FCA website for some time, and consequently have only recently read Kelvin Holmes' excellent piece on 'Controlling the Lightning'.  In fact, as a direct result I paid a visit last week to RAF Patrington (currently called Holmpton) and did the 'Bunker Tour' of the R3 - fascinating.  Anyone else done the visit?  Patrington was my first operational tour in 1972, straight from Bawdsey, and my colleagues included Kelvin, Bill Vant, Ian MacDonald, Pete Singleton, Bob Moore, Helen Hughes and many others.  Kelvin had mentioned aircrew on ground tours, and Bob Moore, ex Canberras, was one of those and had been on the Bawdsey course with me; I remember he wasn't vastly amused about the whole thing, but mellowed later!

I recall my instructors (to get us to operational standard) were FS Dave Price and WO (Mr) Levitt, both excellent controllers, of course.  Richard Jenner added quite a lot of flavour in his post following Kelvin's, referring to the F111s.  My own recollection of a particular scary event was when I was still under training, and the CC gave us out of the blue a virtually complete squadron of USAF F4s wanting PI's (presumably from Bentwaters or Woodbridge)! I exaggerate, but there were certainly 5, and they immediately asked for 90s, Alpha control using one of them as tgt and the other 4 fighters, but not together.  Of course I didn't have a clue how to set it up, but my instructor worked it out - he got me to split them into a singleton (tgt) and a 4-ship (ftrs) running parallel on the same heading, displaced about 25 miles with the ftrs in front by about 20 miles.  I then turned the first ftr in through 90 degrees, and lo and behold, he was on a good 90, tgt crossing ahead 4.  He almost immediately called Judy, and I repeated it at 1 minute intervals for the other 3; unbelievably they all worked!  I could never have repeated it, and luckily, when I qualified, I never had to.

It was most strange re-visiting our workplace after 35 years, seemingly so familiar but also very different.  The place where we spent a lot of our time (the rest room!) is now a briefing room and I struggled to remember it as it was.....didn't it have easy chairs, a few tables, coffee equipment, an aquarium and soothing scenery pictures (and, of course, the squawk box)?  Interestingly the tour guide pointed out to me the one common feature in all the R3 buildings - the officers rest room door handles were always solid brass!  I'd never noticed.   I also learned far more about the R3 than I'd known before; I had no idea, for example, that all the walls, roof and floor are of 10 ft thick reinforced concrete, and the whole building is resting on a bed of 20 ft deep shale!

I also tried to locate the Officers Mess, but sadly it seems to have gone, in what is now a mobile home park.  The MQs are still there, which reminded me of what in retrospect was a pretty crazy watch system we had; an 8-day cycle of morning/evening, then afternoon/night, with a sleeping day, then repeated with a 2 day break (unless, of course, there was an exercise called).
 
Going back to Kelvin’s Lightning story, I noticed  the pictures of him on the Fire Brigade console and also in the CC position; does anyone know the origin of these photos?  Photography down the hole as I recall wasn’t exactly encouraged in those days, so presumably they were for publicity purposes.

I left Patrington in late 73 I think, possibly early 74, for the ill fated West Drayton where we launched the Linesman project; not my favourite tour.  Next to Boulmer in 76, then Buchan in 78.  I changed Branch in 1980 to Engineer, leaving the service in 87.  All good times but FC have the strongest memories.  
My biggest regret....never flying in the Lightning (surely the best post war fighter we had).  I came very close when on APC detachment in Malta with 5 Sqn, but stangely the queue in front of me for a "burner climb" flight in the T-bird was all female, and I never made it.  However, I did later get a flight to Offutt, Nebraska in the bowels of a Vulcan!

Best wishes to all who were there.

Simon Pollock
  
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Tony Pleasant
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Re: Patrington Reminiscences
Reply #1 - 05.08.2008 at 10:38:50
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Yes Simon, Maggie and I went to an open day at Patrington about 2 years ago. Quite nostalgic.  I was posted there from Christmas Island in 1959 as an LAC and enjoyed the area enormously, Maggie was there 6 months later in accounts before she commissioned.  Played darts for the Railway Inn and took part in many death defying trips from the camp to the village as pillion on a Matchless motorbike.  Withersea was our favourite haunt when we had the money!!! The local was the Burns Head run by Billy Bolton selling bottled Family Ale  that Billy assured everyone had a baby in every bottle? Cheers Plez
  
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Kelvin Holmes
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Re: Patrington Reminiscences
Reply #2 - 13.08.2008 at 11:36:49
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Simon,
        thanks for your comments and good to see all those familiar names again.  Happy days but such a long time ago!  The bunker photos were taken as part of a recruitment campaign with ads appearing in the Sunday colour supplements and the like.
I would like to visit the Holmpton R3 but live a long way distant; in fact just a couple of miles from the Sopley R3 which a secure document storage facility (not open to visitors),
all the best
Kelvin
  
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Robin van Geene
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Re: Patrington Reminiscences
Reply #3 - 19.02.2009 at 22:37:29
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Add to your list of people from '71-72 Jim White and his stories in the crew room. Lofty as a Flt Sgt, Paddy Gaw, Bob Livingstone (who I met again 20 years later at RAF Northolt) "Black Jim" Walton, Vin Laundon who took his balsa wood models in to work on during night shifts. Funny to think that was all 37 plus years ago.
  
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Kelvin Holmes
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Re: Patrington Reminiscences - Black Jim
Reply #4 - 17.03.2009 at 12:43:01
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So there I was in shorts and T shirt cleaning my car on a Sunday morning when someone called that there was a phone call.  So I went in the Mess and took the call.  In came Black Jim and there I was improperly dressed: cost me a severe telling off and an extra Orderly Officer.  My reasoning that it could have been him on the phone did not wash. I still feel hard done by!   Cry
  
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Andy Bentley
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Re: Patrington Reminiscences
Reply #5 - 29.04.2011 at 03:19:13
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I went to Patrington as a young LAC in 72, I remember Sqd Ldr Paddy Mcguirk throwing Cliff Horobin and Adrian (forget Surname) off the bridge for throwing things at each other when they were bored. They were both Flt Lts I think were on there ground tours.
  
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Tony Pleasant
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Re: Patrington Reminiscences
Reply #6 - 29.04.2011 at 06:50:19
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I was wondering why I only recognised the odd name e.g. Paddy Gaw ( who used to teach poker on night shifts!!)  I also was a LAC fresh back from Christmas Island.  Then I looked more carefully at the dates.  I arrived in June 1959 and left in June 1960.  OOPS. Plez
  
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Alan Shield
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Re: Patrington Reminiscences
Reply #7 - 17.11.2011 at 18:15:29
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Enjoying a tour at Patrington during 1972/74 I was manning a control position when the one of the lightnings which were RTB and aprox., 5mls from the UK Coastline  actually declared a 'pitchup'.
By the time the controller replied "Say again" the Pilot had ejected.
The time was 1100 hrs and the weather good as the pilot drifted on his parachute and landed in Holmpton Village.
Just to add to the interest, this particular pilot was either German or Dutch on an exchange tour with 5 Sqdrn. Someone from the village gave him a lift to the the R3 site where the Duty Policeman reported to the CC that he had an un announced guest.
Can anyone else remember this story?
  
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