RAF Cosford Air Show 2012

I thought I should blog a few of my photos from what was my last ever Air Show as a member of the RAF!! It was a busy few days, getting set up on the Friday and Saturday, and a long old day on the Sunday – 0600hrs start, 1830hrs finish, but luckily it didn’t rain as bad as last year!

RAF Police Motorbiker

The RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team – if you’ve read my previous posts you’ll know that I used to work at the Parachute Training School, where these guys are based.

The underbelly of a 6 Squadron Typhoon from RAF Leuchars

Old & New – Typhoon display over some of the static aircraft.

The Red Arrows display past the Cosford Air Traffic Control Tower. For the 2012 season the Red Arrows displayed with 7 aircraft, and performing standard flypasts with 9.

The Tornado Role demonstration shows the capabilities and uses of the tornadoes ion their ground defence/attack role

The Blades Aerobatic Display Team sign posters for fans at the RAF Association “Wings Appeal” stand

The Airfix Model stand – buy your model and build it there!

The RAF Association Wings Appeal stand

All eyes skywards for the Tucano display

The Tucano Display aircraft in its 2012 paint job

I can’t remember what these aircraft are, but they look pretty J

The Blades Display

So, that was my last Air Show as a serving RAF Photographer, I don’t think I did too bad for an old Sergeant whos only been doing video for the past 3 years! And there’s loads more photos from my guys, just have a look at the RAF Cosford Air Show page on Facebook for the rest! https://www.facebook.com/#!/rafcosfordairshowofficial


Step 2 in the “2 Steps to Civvy-dom” program (that actually has a few more little steps to go)

Wowsers! What a day! 12 June 2012 – the day the RAF confirmed that they were happy to let me go! Those of you who have read my previous posts will know that earlier this year the latest round of the Armed Forces Redundancy Program was announced and the Photographic trade was well and truly in the firing line, with an initial requirement for 25 photographers to go.

Initially I (who if you cut me through the middle I would have “RAF” written through me like a stick of rock) hadn’t even contemplated that there could be a life outside of the RAF this side of 2027 (the year I WAS due to leave the RAF). But once they announced it, the idea of volunteering for Compulsory Redundancy grew on me and I applied. For many reasons really, most of which I won’t go into here as I’ve waffled on about them enough in earlier posts https://rafphotog.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/should-i-stay-or-should-i-go-now/ and https://rafphotog.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/step-1-in-the-2-steps-to-civvy-dom-program/

So that all brought me to this morning, around 8.05, pretty much as early as my boss was allowed to call me into her office and hand me the cream envelope and let me read the contents. I’d pre-warned her that there was likely to be tears and to have tissues on hand, and I’d brought some of my own. I’ve got this reputation, I think from when I was teaching, that I’m a tough old bird, and people sometimes are surprised when they see me cry. But the truth is that I’m a soppy, emotional cow, with the breaking strain of a soggy kit-kat when something hits me. Pathetic really!

Back to this cream envelope, it was pretty thick with a wad of paper in there, and when I opened it and read the important sentence, which they’d put in bold that says “you have been selected for compulsory redundancy” the waterworks started! Not because I was gutted to get it, but more that it signified the end of what has been an awesome career. But also tears of happiness as I’ll be actually able to live with my husband, something that I think some “normal” couples who get to come home to their significant other on a daily basis, might not appreciate. If you’re lucky enough to see them every day, you are so, so lucky – and in a few month’s time, I will be too!!!! Yaaay!!!

Once I’d got over it and signed the acceptance letter I headed back round to the Photo Section where I work to tell the guys that unfortunately (or maybe fortunately – they might be glad to see the back of me!) they’re going to be getting a new sergeant sometime in the near future. I’m gutted for them really, they’ve just had to get used to me and then I’m off, but I’ve enjoyed working with them, they’re a good bunch and whoever replaces me will have a good section there.

The next step was to call Mr Photog, who, over the past few months, has done a great job of hiding just how desperate he was for me to get the redundancy, because he know how much I love being an RAF photog. I could hear the joy in his voice, so happy that he finally gets his wife home with him, and no longer at risk of going back out to Afghanistan, which was his biggest fear. We’re both also pleased that now I finally know where I stand, we can start planning our future, and start at looking at bigger houses, to replace the small flat we have near his work, for us and the boys to live in full time.

Then there were more tears when I phoned my parents. My dad was in the RAF himself, and they both knew how much my career meant to me, but they also know how much my husband means to me, so they totally understand all the mixed emotions I’ve been having to deal with. But they too were chuffed as it means no more operational tours and no more hours of motorway driving for me and Mr Photog.

Soon all the phone calls started, from others who had applied, to find out who had got what, so soon the word was around that less people got it in the photographic trade than first thought, so at least there was some positive news. Facebook has been going crazy this evening! Overall across the RAF there was a larger percentage of those who applied, than those who didn’t that got it. I think more than 70% of the personnel who got redundancy had applied, much better than the last round of redundancies a year ago.

After a morning of letting it all sink in I went along to a Resettlement Brief, to find out all the important information, like what courses are available to help me train for promotion to civvy, what assistance is there with getting on, paying for and getting to said courses, and the most important this, how much leave will I be entitled to??? In theory, with all the leave allocated for training courses, what’s left of my annual leave, and the additional leave allocated before termination (sounds so final!!) it looks like my last day in uniform could be somewhere around September/October time, with my exit date being 11th December 2012.

Wow. I’ve only got a few months of tying my hair in a bun and putting on the funky blue/grey gear and bovver boots, and having to wear headdress on a daily basis. No more saluting. No more getting gassed in the “respirator Testing Facility”. No more worrying about my dodgy knee not coping with the fitness test.

Plans for the future? Well, no concrete ideas yet, just a few things I’m considering, the main one being maybe go to university for a 1 year full time Film/TV production course that I’ve got my eye on, followed by either trying to get into the broadcast business, or teaching – either photography or video, not sure yet. I’m lucky in that I’ve got options, and I’ve also got a wonderful husband who will support me in whatever I choose to do.

Whatever I do, the future is definitely bright, the future is no longer blue – but I think it might be pink J

T’was the Night Before R-Day…..

Just a quick blog post to say “eeeek!!” because tomorrow could be the start of a brave new world for me if I get the letter that says I have been selected for redundancy.

Just after 8 am tomorrow I’ll be in my Line Managers office, likely to be decimating her box of tissues as I blub away. I know it’s going to happen, whether I get it or not.

Those who have read my previous posts on the run up to redundancy will know that with the complications of being in the Armed Forces and married to a civilian who lives 200 miles away, I’m looking forward to being able to actually live with my wonderful husband. But, and this is a big but, I love, love LOVE being an RAF Photog – I know I’m biased but I do think it’s one of the better jobs in the Forces, I get paid to do a hobby in an interesting, sometimes exciting environment, working with great people, for a “firm” to be proud to serve in.

The British Armed Forces are fantastic, and whatever happens I will always be so proud to have spent a large chunk of my working life with them, be it 15 years with redundancy, or 30 years if I don’t get the letter.

So, on the eve of this big day for myself and numerous others in the Armed Forces, I’d like to wish good luck to everyone who is in the bracket, and I truly hope that everyone gets what they want, be it staying in, or leaving to start something new in the future. Good luck all!!

Tales from the slightly blunt end…. Part Two

Following on from my previous blog post, here’s a selection of some more of my work from my time at HQ Personnel & Training command at RAF Innsworth. As before all images are taken by me and are Crown Copyright.

RAF Regiment Rowing the Atlantic: Two RAF Regiment Officers decided that rowing 3000 nautical miles from the Canary Islands to Barbados sounded like a good idea, and from the start we got involved with helping to raise interest in the endeavour before, during and after the event, and did quite a bit of work alongside Sky News and one of their reporters.

Early on in the boys preparation there was a chance for a photo opportunity with Nell McAndrew on the Thames to raise public awareness of the row.

A spot of training down off the coast of Teignmouth, beautiful still waters – not exactly the best training for the massive waves they had to endure in the middle of the Atlantic!

During the training session off Teignmouth the lads decided to have a dip.

Departure from La Gomera in the Canary Islands

Mark being reunited with his little girl in Barbados, who was a bit shocked at his appearance after 70 days at sea.

The lads having a well deserved beer, wearing t-shirts arranged by Matts dad, paraphrasing Sir Steven Redgrave!

Lithuanian Guard: The RAF took their turn covering the Baltic Air Policing mission, based out of Šiauliai air base in Lithuania, an interesting base to visit, as it was a former Cold War base, readied against the West. Pictured is a Lithuanian Soldier (airman? I’m not too sure!) mounting guard on the RAF Tornados, I was loving their issued sheepskin coats, very handy in the -20 degrees temperature!

Some of the RAF Fireman obligingly showing me some snow angels in Lithuania!

Officer on Parade: No real story to this one, just a nice shot of an RAF Officers sword

Doctor at Sea: I went flying with the Search and Rescue boys from Wattisham, out over The Wash to take some PR photos on a training sortie with an RAF doctor. They winched us down onto the deck of a civilian ship, and then back up again, which was a novel, if somewhat nerve-wracking experience as I was hanging out over the sea from the strop holding a cable leading to the winchman on the deck, much the same as the way the doc was being winched down in the photo below.

I took this one laying on my belly hanging out of the door of the Seaking – which was fun!

Another out-of-door shot, lying on my stomach!

Heli-med exercise – don’t worry, it’s only a dummy!

D-Day 60th Anniversary: I was fortunate enough to be on board the MV Van Gogh (which hasn’t had much luck since, what with going into administration, minor dinks and a food poisoning outbreak!) with a bunch of veterans, as we sailed across the English channel to remember the work of those who took part in the D-Day landings and to commemorate the lives of those who didn’t make it back. There was a church service, a small flotilla with some landing craft and the Lancaster from the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight dropped poppies from her bomb bay on the ship, very moving.

Isle of Man TT’s: An RAF Technician competed in the TT’s so we went along with Sky News to cover his participation, a cracking weekend!

Henry Allingham: I know I’ve blogged about Henry Allingham before, but he was awesome! This was when a bunch of trainee Aircraft Technicians were taken to meet him down in Eastbourne – he sat and talked for 2 hours solid, and had them all enthralled!

RAF Football Association Tour: The RAFFA went to Pretoria in south Africa for their annual tour and as well as training and competing with local teams they also ran a training day in one of the Townships for local kids. I say local, some of them walked 3 hours to get to the football stadium it was held in – so humbling, the lads couldn’t believe the impact they had on the kids.

They also visited the Sunnyside Shelter for Orphaned boys, which was the chosen charity for the RAF FA that year.

I don’t really do many aircraft pics, most of my stuff is people pics, but I thought I’d put a couple in to finish up!

The first one is a King Air training aircraft, photographed over RAF Cranwell.

And this is the Hawk trainer from RAF Valley – paint it red and it’s the same jet as a rather well known display team J

Well, that’s kind of a pictorial history of some of the highlights of my time at RAF Innsworth, carrying out the role of Command Photographer. It was a great tour, with loads of fantastic travel, but I was glad to get to the end of my tour so I could know where I was going to be from one week to the next!

Tales from the slightly blunt end…. Part One

Well, only a couple more days until the redundancy letters get issued and then I find out my future. Do I get to keep the job I love but have to keep commuting at weekends, or do I get to live with my wonderful husband full-time and decide what I actually want to do when I have to actually get a real job? I still can’t second guess the decision either way, all I know is that there is an envelope with my name on it sat in a secure location, waiting for me to open it during an interview with the boss on Tuesday. Whatever the result, whatever the letter says, I hope the Wing Commander has a box of tissues handy as I’m pretty sure I’ll be in floods of tears!

Now I’m potentially looking at the end of my RAF career, I thought I’d have a look back at one of my most enjoyable postings, when I was the Command Photographer for Personnel and Training Command (now amalgamated with Strike Command to form the new Air Command), based out of RAF Innsworth, near Cheltenham. A brief explanation of Headquarters Personnel and Training Command (HQPTC) is on Wikipedia here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_Personnel_and_Training_Command but in a nutshell it dealt with personnel administration and training, and I was privileged enough to be the main photographer for the Command from March 2003 until I went to the Falklands in September 2005.

During my posting there I was fortunate enough to get involved with photographing some pretty high profile events, and I’d like to go through a couple of the more memorable ones here, along with some of my favourite images taken during my time there. All of the images shown here are taken by me, and are Crown Copyright.

A day out at the Palace: I was asked to go along to Buckingham Palace with one of the reporters from the RAF News, to take photos at an Honours and Awards ceremony, where a number of RAF personnel were to receive decorations from The Queen, including these two pilots pictured below. I can’t remember exactly why they received their Distinguished Flying Crosses, it was to do with their work in Iraq, but I really like this picture, I thought I’d try something a bit different from the usual shot, and it worked really well. It was a good day out, it felt quite funny walking in through the gates at the front of the Palace, all togged up in my Number 1 “best blues” uniform, and strolling across and into the palace, with all the tourists taking photos of me!!

Ypres Retro Rally: I went to Ypres in Belgium for a couple of days with the RAF Motorsports team to cover their participation in an endurance rally around the windy roads, It’s a truly historic route, taking the cars around a lot of the war cemeteries containing those who didn’t make it home after the First World War. Pictured below is one of the drivers reflected in his wing mirror, and the Cloth Hall in Ypres (Ieper), which was totally destroyed by artillery fire in the Great War and rebuilt exactly as it had been, a stunning building. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloth_Hall,_Ypres

Warby: If you’ve read my blog post about Wing Commander Adrian Warburton https://rafphotog.wordpress.com/2011/12/11/sunday-afternoon-black-and-white-films-perfick/ you’ll know all about this guy, if you’ve not read it, please do as it’s quite a story and too much for me to write here! But we worked on the task, researching it and meeting those who knew him, for a fair few months before the reburial, these photos are some of the many that I took over the whole duration of the events.

Royal Air Force Association Annual Conference: I attended this event along with one the RAF Photographer who was the main MoD Photographer, covering both the conference and the parade and drumhead service on the seafront at Bournemouth.

Inter-services Tennis Championships: The year I covered this event it was held at All England Lawn Tennis Club Wimbledon, and at the same time they were also filming the movie “Wimbledon, the one with Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst, which was quite interesting to watch, peeking over the top of the wall between courts number 2 and 3!

Microlight Champion: A Wing Commander based at RAF Innsworth had been crowned the World Microlight Champion so I got a chance to go flying with one of his friends in order to take some air-to-air photos of the World Champion flying over Gloucester Cathedral. I was quite surprised at how safe I felt and it turned out to be a pretty good aerial photographic platform as there were no windows to deal with!

Reunited with the Wreckage of his Spitfire: In 1944 Leonard Williams had to bail out of his damaged spitfire over the Italian town of Montemurlo, where he landed in a (friendly) farmers field and was looked after before being collected and returned to his base. In 2002 the wreckage of the aircraft was unearthed, and then 59 years after the crash he was taken back to Italy where he was shown the wreckage. He also returned to the farm where he landed and was introduced to the daughter of the farmer who looked after him. She was about 6 at the time and had always told the tale of the “man who fell from the sky” which had become something of a local legend in the town. Leonard and his family also found themselves subject to a lot of local media interest and were hosted with a civic reception of around 200 people. Wikipedia entry on Leonard, who after his RAF career went on to become the Managing Director of the Nationwide Building Society! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_E._H._Williams Interestingly he told me that when he bailed out he had to turn the spitfire upside down so he could fall out (no ejector seats back then!), but his parachute pack got caught, so he had to climb back in to unhook it! Then when he did finally get out of the cockpit he actually slid along the fuselage and smashed into the tail of the spitfire breaking his legs. When he landed and was found by the farmer he forced himself to stand up through the pain and salute the farmer, who then took him into the farmhouse and fed him plenty of the local homebrew spirit to take the pain away!

Blue Peter: Liz Barker went to Linton-on-Ouse to fly backseat in a Tucano training aircraft to be filmed for an episode of Blue Peter. She was a nervous flier and I think this photo of her waiting for her flight shows it! But she did brilliantly, and loved it!

Basrah, Iraq: We went out to Iraq to do “Christmas messages” where personnel get the chance to record video messages for family back home, and we also took opportunity to cover a few more stories along the way. On the way to Iraq we spent a couple of days at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus and whilst we were there the news hit that Saddam Hussein had been captured. The Air Traffic Control Tower in Basrah Airport had used the Christmas lights sent out by the Air Traffic Control Officers mum to spell out the words “WE GOT HIM” at the top of the tower. When we got there a few days later I got them to reconfigure the lights to read RAF NEWS, to keep the RAF News boys happy!

Sweet Chariot Tour: When England won the Rugby World Cup, the Webb Ellis cup went on the “Sweet Chariot Tour” of the UK and it started off by being flown from RAF Wittering to RAF Cosford in the company of Mike Tindall (pre-royalty!) so I was lucky enough to go along and take some photos, I even managed to get one of me with the cup, although it can only be touched by players and the guy who escorted the cup, so I wasn’t allowed to hold it!

Well, I think that will do for now, later on, probably this afternoon, I’ll do part two!!!

Walkin’ da Mile (or 26.2)

I’d meant to write this post the day after the Walk the Walk Moonwalk and what with one thing and another that deadline has well and truly slipped! So, to roll back to 12th May, we rocked up in the massive Pink Palace tent in Hyde Park and joined 17,000 other women (and some men) to walk through the night to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research. After the pre-walk party, and last minute preparation, everyone whipped off their tops and got their bras out on show, ready for the off. There were all sorts of decorated bras on show, an amazing array – Glittery one, flowers, cupcakes, even one covered in Quality Street sweets – genius!

At the stroke of midnight we headed off through the night, first looping round Hyde Park before crossing the centre of London on a route that took us along the Embankment, across the river, through Battersea Park, Chelsea, Kensington and back up the Mall, past Buckingham Palace and back to Hyde Park, completing the 26.2 mile route. The first 10 miles were pretty uneventful, but then I started to feel blisters beginning on the balls of my feet. Damn! I’d recently got some brand new, carbon fibre orthotic insoles to help my knee and although I’d trained in them, up to 16 miles, on the big day my feet didn’t like them so much.

After plastering up those ones we carried on, hitting the halfway point in Battersea Park, where we were treated to half-time orange segments from the wonderful helpers, and we carried on through the night into early morning. As dawn arrived it brought with it some beautiful sights, and I wished I’d had a decent camera with me with a tripod as the Thames was so still that Battersea Power station was perfectly reflected in the dawn light, so beautiful.

All the while I could feel more and more blisters appearing, but by this point I really did not want to stop as I knew that starting walking again would not be pretty, so I just kept on. Until mile 24 as we were heading up the Mall with only 2.2 miles left to go a slightly sore spot on the edge of my right heel suddenly went from slightly sore to “YOWCH!!!” in one fell swoop. I sat down and discovered a mahoosive blister that had decided it had had enough mincing around and was going to get serious. So patched it up as best I could and kind of hobbled the last 2.2 miles. Who knew that such a short distance could feel so long!

So we finally hit Hyde Park, and whilst walking along the Serpentine I had a minor starstruck moment when Brett Anderson off of that band Suede from back in the 90’s jogged past us, out for his Sunday Morning bimble, and seemed rather amused to see all these ladies walking along with bras out – and gave our puppies a cheeky smirk J Eventually the finish line came into view – whoop! And we finally finished, 9 hours after we started, although to be brutally honest it was quite an anti-climax. When I did it previously, and when I’ve done the Race For Life there’s always been a massive group of well-wishers cheering people on, but there didn’t really seem to be any of that. I don’t know if it was just that everyone was absolutely shattered to think about cheering people on or what!!

But the main thing was that we all finished, we raised well over £1000 between 7 of us and did the walk without any lasting damage! Thanks to the insoles (and a regular supply of brufen) my knee survived with just a bit of aching and swelling, but nearly 2 weeks later and my feet are still a mess! I counted 9 blisters on toes and heels thanks to the insoles and if I was dumb enough to consider doing it a second time, one of those fish pedicure things would be the way forward to sort my feet out. But being the squeamish person I am, I think I’ll go for the traditional pumice stone when the blisters are fully sorted.

When I did this walk in 2000 I swore then that I would never do it again – stupidity made me go back on my word, but after doing it a second time I think this time I’ll stick to what I said as I crossed the line – never, EVER again!

I can talk the talk, but can I Walk the Walk?

Well. Here it is. The challenge that back in 2000 I swore I would never do again. The Walk the Walk London Moonwalk – 26.2 miles through London in the middle of the night, to raise money and awareness for Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research. http://www.walkthewalk.org/Home

You know when Sir Steve Redgrave said “if you see me in a rowing boat, shoot me” (or words to that effect) I basically said in May 2000 “if you see me walking 26.2 miles in a comedy decorated bra, shoot me – or at the very least lock me up in a room until I’ve seen sense”.

So why, 12 years and one knackered knee later, did I decide to sign up again? Well, I guess over the years the memory of the pain faded into the dim distant past, and also since the event in 2000 I guess I’ve had more reason to thank research into cancer, not just breast cancer, but all types. It is thanks to cancer research that my sister-in-law is in remission from breast cancer. It is thanks to cancer research that “borderline changes” were picked up at a routine “well woman” clinic and I was given treatment to remove pre-cancerous cells a few years back. It is thanks to cancer research that when my younger brother was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive, terminal cancer, that we were able to get a little bit longer with him than we may have had a few years earlier. But I won’t go into that now. Maybe another time.

So, anyway, here I am the night before heading into London with the other “Cosford Chicks”. The bra is suitably decorated and tested for comfort. I was desperate to go for an RAF theme bra, but also wanted to share in the “puppies” theme that the other girls were planning. So I combined the two and went for RAF roundel(ish) puppies!!

I’m so pleased with how they turned out, much better than I envisioned!! And with them being so fluffy, they feel pretty comfy. Well, now they do – not sure how they’ll feel around 17 miles in, early hours of the morning in a dark London! Along with the tutus and pink legwarmers we’ll be wearing, I guess the novelty will wear a bit thin after a while J

I feel pretty good about it all though – I’ve done more training than when I did it in 2000. I think then the furthest I walked was 3 miles! This time we’ve been going out on regular walks, building up to 17 miles was the longest. We didn’t quite make the 20 mile recommend big walk, but 17 was enough, to show us we could do the distance.

The only dark cloud over all of the training has been my dodgy knee. Not content with stopping me from running, the blinking thing has been trying it’s hardest to spoil my fun! Luckily as I’m walking it’s not too bad – as long as my leg is pretty straight it’s alright. The problems start when I try and bend it after hammering it for miles as it all swells up inside and makes bending it a bit of a challenge J but it’s not bad enough to stop me from doing this – so many people have sponsored us on http://www.walkthewalkfundraising.org/cosford_chicks (shameless plug!) I couldn’t back out even if I wanted to!! And anyway – I’m back off for another MRI scan on Monday so the surgeon can see what’s going on in there. This way I know it will be nicely aggravated and hopefully that will show up on the MRI!

So, my plan tonight is to stay awake later than normal and sleep in later in the morning so it’s not such a shock to the system when I’m still awake at 5am on Sunday morning! To all my fellow Moonwalkers – see you on the streets of that there London Town for a fantastic night!!!