Red Arrows off to China

This page was written on 29 September 2016

It has just been announced by the Chief of the Air Staff on the morning TV news channels that the Royal Air Force Red Arrows are leaving today for the Far East and will, in due course, be displaying in China and other countries in the Far East.

You may not have read the page on my website about how I, as the Team’s PRO, was buttonholed at the Singapore Air Display in 1996 by a high-level delegation from the People’s Republic of China who wanted to arrange a Red Arrows display in PRC. It has taken 20 years to set up but I wish all the Red Arrows, Reds and Blues, happy landings.

The Red Arrows website is here (opens in a new window).

Grand Old Duke of Wakefield

Versions of this piece have been on my website for many years. I re-worked it on 18 September 2016 for the next update to my eBook autobiography.

Richard, Duke of York, the father of the future King Richard III whose remains were unearthed in 2015 under a car park in Leicester and eventually re-interred in Leicester Cathedral, was the prime candidate amongst several for the one who, according to the well-known nursery rhyme we learned at school, marched his 10,000 men up and down the hill without knowing whether they were up or down. That’s what the citizens of Wakefield believe, anyway.

Oh, The grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men;
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.
And when they were up, they were up,
And when they were down, they were down,
And when they were only half-way up,
They were neither up nor down.

Be that as it may, the ‘Wakefield’ Richard of York was killed on 30 December 1460 in the Battle of Wakefield at Sandal Castle just three miles south of the cathedral and so he never became King. The ruins of the castle are visible for miles around and a visitors’ centre was opened there in recent years. Continue reading “Grand Old Duke of Wakefield”

Resting on your arms reversed

This item first appeared on my Blog on 30 January 2009 and is here reproduced on 14 September 2016 without any changes.

According to newspaper reports today the Chief of the Defence Staff has said that “Britain’s armed forces have been smug and complacent about operations in Afghanistan.” Sir Jock Stirrup is further quoted as saying that “…there has been a tendency to rest on your laurels…..”

For some years I have expressed my opinion that British, American and other friendly nations had bitten off more than they could chew when they decided to run Afghanistan for the Afghanis. The population of that unfortunate country (and of the adjacent regions which are now supposed to be part of western Pakistan) are comprised of a disparate collection of tribes that have never had much allegiance to each other and who have always shown dislike of outside interference in their affairs. Continue reading “Resting on your arms reversed”

Never mind Libya – what about the Falklands?

This post was originally published on 22 June 2011 . It still seems relevant on 13 September 2016 so here it is without any changes.

At primary school back in the early 1940s in the West Riding of Yorkshire, we learned about Great Britain and the British Empire. Britain was ‘great’ because we ruled a large percentage of the Earth’s land, oceans and peoples. It was great to be British even in the middle of a horrible war. Only some years later did we learn the words of Rule Britannia – and how to spell Britannia correctly.

Originally, well since the 12th Century anyway, the adjective ‘great’ in Great Britain was intended to denote the fact that Britain was the landmass comprised of the countries England, Wales and Scotland. It had nothing to do with the modern meanings of ‘great’: outstandingly talented and much admired and respected (Chambers). Continue reading “Never mind Libya – what about the Falklands?”

Sport parachuting

This piece was written on 12 September 2016.

A couple of parachuting accidents reported in the media in the last 10 days or so have prompted me to write this nostalgic piece about my own very limited parachuting experience.

One Friday in the mid-1960s when I was an Air Electronics ground instructor at RAF Gaydon, then the home of No 232 Operational Conversion Unit (Victors and Valiants), a letter appeared on the Officers Mess notice board inviting applications to become founder members of the newly-formed RAF Sport Parachuting Club at RAF Weston on the Green, a satellite airfield of RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. It was probably the effect of several beers at the Happy Hour but I and another young officer put our names down. I can’t think of any other reason, other than alcohol-induced courage, why I might have been interested in taking up parachuting. Next morning I decided to cross my name off the list but found to my dismay that the letter had gone from the notice board. I half-hoped that the letter had been a spoof. Continue reading “Sport parachuting”