So This Is It Then…..

So, here I am, 11th December 2012, my last day in Her Majesty’s Royal Air Force, my last day as an RAF Photog.  From tomorrow, (on a date I’ll never forget what with it being 12/12/12) I start my new life as a proper strawberry mivvy (civvy), and I leave my military career behind.  It’s a sad day, exciting I know, but also sad.

The people are the thing that I will miss the most There is a camaraderie within the Armed Forces that I don’t think many people outside are fortunate to experience, and the friendships you make in the military last a lifetime – my best mate lives 300 miles away and we don’t see each other for months on end, but she’s been my best friend for more than 10 years and when we do get together, it’s like we’ve never been apart.

Over the past 15 ½ years I’ve shared some fantastic times with the people that I’ve worked and lived with (and some not so fantastic times).  Chilling out in Barbados, waiting for 2 RAF Regiment Officers to finish their cross Atlantic rowing endeavour.  Having a chat and a laugh in helmet and body armour at 3 am waiting for the all clear at our base in Lashkar Gah, Helmand, Afghanistan.  Wind-up snail races after Christmas lunch in Afghanistan. Cross-country ski-ing in Bavaria, followed by swimming in the local outdoor (heated!) pool in the snow. Social evenings in Timmys Bar in the Falkland Islands – and doing the Timmy Dance to the tune of “We’ve got to get out of this Place” when one of the people on the Flight went home.

I’ve also been so fortunate to have had some fantastic photographic opportunities too: photographing Henry Allingham returning to France for the first time since he left at the end of the First World War. Photographing Mike Tindall with the Webb Ellis Cup after we won the Rugby World Cup. Photographing Royalty.  Air to air shots in a Hawk, and in a Hercules C130 of a Tristar refueller.  Standing on the tailgate of a Hercules on a regular basis, filming paras in training jumping out the back.  Filming and photographing the RAF Football team tours in South Africa.

I’ve been so proud to have been a Royal Air Force Photographer too – a trade that is a breed apart from many of the others (it might have a lot to do with all the photographic chemicals we used to use!)  A lot of people in the military don’t quite understand us, or the benefit that having professionally trained photographers and videographers serving in the military can bring.  I started this blog to try and raise the profile and understanding of the trade, and I hope I’ve helped in a little way.  I now intend to pass the baton of blogging about it to one of the guys still serving, more details when the new one is up and running.

RAF Photographers are special (I know I’m biased, but they are!)  from an early (RAF career) age they are expected to think on their feet and work alone – as soon as they are able to walk (like a photog) they are sent out on photographic tasks on their own around the unit and beyond, having to make decisions on how to go about completing the job, without their line management breathing down their necks (mostly!).  This generally seems to make for very independent, friendly and creative people, who can cope with pretty much anything the world throws at them – so long as they get the freedom to take the mickey out of each other on a regular basis, and eat biscuits at 10 am and 3 pm, whilst playing cards or Uckers!

I truly have some fantastic memories, and some fantastic life skills that I have gained from my time in – confidence in myself, an ability talk to pretty much anyone, to be able to use three letter abbreviations with ease and of course the most valuable skills that anyone in the military learns – the Art of Banter.  Life without banter would be so boring, and the British Armed Forces do it so damn well.  I’m so, so proud to have been a member of the best Armed forces in the world, and so proud that I had my chance to do my bit for this country that I love, I will always be grateful to the Royal Air Force for giving me that chance and allowing me to have so much fun along the way.

Sergeant Heidi the Photog signing off…… xx

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10 thoughts on “So This Is It Then…..

  1. Heidi

    Enjoy your retirement and thanks for the blogs, I did 22 in the RAF and like you am extremely proud of that time. Although I was an aircraft engineer by trade I was also (and still am) an amateur photographer so I know the enjoyment you get out of it, one of my fondest memories is standing on a British Touring Car grid just before the off and being allowed to take as many pictures as I liked.

    I am now fully retired so the photography now plays an even bigger part of my life and last year I got the chance to join John Hopkins (BSB Rider) at Cadwell Park and the shots I got of him over the mountain are thrilling, sadly I can’t sell them because MSV says so!

    Please don’t make the mistake I made when I came out and try to put your RAF career behind you, you can’t it is part of you and as a SNCO you are a member of a very exclusive club which you had to work very hard to gain membership of unlike members of other messes at RAF Stations who gain membership just because they are there.

    If you get the chance to join any associations associated with your service life I can thoroughly recommend them as it maintains the tie with what will probably be the bets time of your life.

    All the best for you new life.

    • Thank you, the RAF has been a massive part of most of my life, due to my dad being in too, and I definitely intend to keep involved as much as I can and intend to get involved with RAFA and to get myself down the RAFA Club soon 🙂

  2. What a good skill you have credit to the RAF and the trainers what a shame its all ending with the constant cutbacks. It my company it is so easy to see who the ex RAF Chaps where (we have a few) and how well skilled they all are in all disiplines. Loved the photos.

    • Hi John, Thanks, I’m glad you liked my photos, all down to my RAF training and experience (mostly ;-)) and it is definitely a shame, I loved my time in the RAF, and being an RAF Photographer was fantastic, so proud to be one. Now I’ve got to try and make it on my own!

  3. I have just stumbled across your blog and I have to say I love it!
    I am only 17 years old and thinking about going in the RAF Defence School of Photography as I’m really interested in it! I have a great camera but I’ve not had much chance to use it and photography has always been a great interest of mine. I love nature, and the world and I want to be able to go out there whilst doing something for my country!

    I’m wondering is it hard to get into the RAF in this section? And if you need certain requirements to get in?

    It would be a great help!

    Thanks!

    • Hi Jess, sorry about the delay, I’ve been away and only just had a chance to log on. It can be a bit of a challenge to join up as an RAF Photographer – there are only around 150 RAF Photographers now and they are only recruiting a few each year so competition is very tough at the moment. the RAF Careers website will have the basic qualifications you need to get in but it’s worth researching as much as you can about RAF and military photography, and also build up your confidence in interacting with and photographing people – you need to have a sense of humour and the ability to think on your feet!

      Heidi

    • The process can take anything from a few months to more than a year – my stepson is in the process of joining up (as a different trade) and started the process last August, and now has a provisional date of November. I did hear of one lad who had been waiting 2 years to get in as a photographer, so be prepared for a wait and use the time to get plenty of experience!

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