Celtic Illumination, part 82, ladies, wives and women.
Valley was, and still is, a huge station. It is set out in almost a triangular format. Along one side would have been a line of red and white aircraft, Gnats and Hunters and eventually Hawks, where baby pilots were taught how to be fast jet pilots and where fast jet pilots were taught how to be instructors. Many young people might look at a fast jet pilot in their best uniform, probably with a sword hanging off their hip, the wings emblem standing out proudly on their chest, and secretly hope that one day they could dress like that. According to the fast jet pilots I knew, the best thing about being a fast jet pilot was the luxury to leave the top button on your best uniform open. You may think this weird, but in a military situation, where everything has to be constant and proper, this would be regarded as panache. It was a tradition carried over from the world war two chaps and the Battle of Britain days. If you know a fast jet pilot, just ask them if they leave their top button open, and I bet you they will smile.
Perhaps here is a good place to explain the air force to you. Don’t worry, it’s me, but there might be questions later. If you look at the structure of the air force you will probably think that the whole rank and trade system could be quite confusing and complicated. Smoke and mirrors dear heart, smoke and mirrors. The air force has two positions, no more and no less. One position is fast jet pilot and the other position is failed fast jet pilot. No other trade, rank or position exists in this equation.
What is a helicopter pilot? Told you there would be questions. A helicopter pilot is a failed fast jet pilot. What is a cook? Okay enough with the questions I hear you say. A cook would love to be a fast jet pilot with their top button undone, but he, or she, didn’t have enough educational qualifications making them, yes you’re correct, a failed fast jet pilot. Now you can begin to understand the attitude of air traffic control officers who are all failed, fast jet, pilots and carry a huge chip on their shoulders because of it.
The other important fact you should know is that one function of the armed forces is to maintain and promote the class system. You will often hear people complain that Officers have ladies, NCO’s have wives and the other ranks have women. Many officers, especially air traffic control officers, or failed fast jet pilots as I like to call them, would spend much of their careers pretending to be posh. The British class system is not only the most evil social construction I have even come across, but it is empty, nothing more than pretence.
You can understand that if you were in that environment it would be very hard to go against it, so in a sublime way, all officers were sucked in to the illusion. It is a very fascinating subject and one facet of it that particularly interests me is the use of language. If you’re serious about looking into it then George Orwell’s essay ‘Politics and the English Language’ is a great starting point. If you don’t believe me then ask yourself how many people buy a house these days? Correct, none. Everyone invests in property. Walk in to an estate agents office in the UK and say ‘Hello I want to buy a house.’ The grovelling snake oil salesman will slide up to and ask “And what sorts of property are you interested in investing in sir?”
So having explained the structure of the air force, and the British class system, to you, in less than five hundred words, and by the way that explanation can represent any air force in the world, I shall continue detailing Valley.
Across the airfield was STCAAME, the strike command air to air missile environment. Here fighter squadrons would come in and, using Jindivik’s from Llanbeder, would practise firing air to air missiles. A Jindivik is a remote controlled aircraft that would tow either a ball of phosphorus flares, for heat seeking missiles, or a radar target, for radar homing missiles. Jindivik’s were made in Australia and the word Jindivik is an Aboriginal Australian word meaning ‘the hunted one.’ Some of the more devious fast jet pilots would wait for the ball of phosphorus flares to go out and then fire the heat seeking missile at the Jindivik, and you thought I was naughty setting fire to some gorse bushes, which of course I never did. I wasn’t even there at the time.
Moving on around to the third side of the airfield you would find the helicopter squadrons. One was for training search and rescue pilots, navigators and winch men, while the next helicopter squadron, sheltered by a big hill, was 22 squadron. The big yellow, search and rescue helicopters you may have seen. The hill was known as TACAN hill, because it sported a huge radar dish, the tactical air navigation system.
Now that I look back, I can see the work of the double top secret cabal organising my preparation and training to become the world’s leading Master Candle Maker, Chief of the Clan O Neill and the King of Ireland. For as you all may be aware, today, Prince William, the future King of England is employed on the search and rescue squadron at RAF Valley. What you may not know is that almost forty years ago, standing on the other side of Tacan hill was the future King of Ireland, requesting permission to be accepted as a volunteer on the Desert and Mountain Rescue Service.
Then, its full title was the Desert and Mountain Rescue Service but as the empire had gotten smaller the teams are now known as the Mountain Rescue Service, and referred to by the members as ‘The Team’. I was standing before the then team leader, Jack Baines, asking permission to join his team. He called another fellow over, Colin ‘Pib’ Pibworth, who took me away to a small office and sat me down at a desk. At the time I wasn’t aware, but Pib was one of the most respected rescue men in the whole of the air force. He had served all over the world, and when he would pull up a sandbag, he would tell some hair raising stores.
Jim Matthie had given me a good idea of what the teams did, but Pib was now going to make it very clear to me. “Our job,” he said, being very careful in his choice of words, “Is to rescue aircrew whether they have been shot down or left their aircraft.” He was waiting for me to show that I understood what he was saying. I nodded. “No matter where, or when, it happens, we go. Every pilot and navigator getting into an aircraft understands that if they crash, or bang out, we will come and get them, no matter what.”
I was nodding away, Pib continued. “Our second duty is to recover or destroy any sensitive equipment that the aircraft may have been carrying.” I nodded. Pib spun a form around on the desk so that it was facing me and offered me a pen. “You will be accepted as a trialist for six weeks during which time the team will assess your capabilities. If after the six week trial you are successful you will be offered a place on the team as a Novice. After about a year, if you successfully complete your training, and are still alive, you might be invited to join the team as a full member. Completing and signing this form states that you understand everything I have just said to you.”
As I filled out the required fields on the form, thousands of questions were pouring through my mind but I was able to answer them all, by myself, all on my own, for I had listened to Pib. To say that I was pumped would have been an understatement. After the ‘I have the honour to be your moist obedient servant’ I signed my name. Pib shook my hand and I was taken away to be issued with my kit.