Disbandment Flypast 1971

The following article is an extract from Rod Dean’s memoirs “Fifty Years of Flying Fun”, which were reviewed in the 2018 newsletter. The book is a highly entertaining read:  it is available at £20 from the publisher Grub Street, and is reviewed in the Website Bibliography HERE.

Most of 1971 was spent trying to bolster the squadron fund for the inevitably expensive disbandment that we knew was looming towards the end of the year. The sale of substantial amounts of whisky at an outrageous price, during a detachment to Pakistan, had certainly helped in that respect. The parade took place on 21 August 1971 and I was fortunate enough to lead the flypast by a diamond nine of Hunters. Originally, Roger Wholey was going to lead it because his uniform was not fit to go on parade, but he got hepatitus and was grounded. My uniform was little better after three years in Bahrain, so on that basis I got to lead the flypast.  

I led in a T7 (XL613) and the other eight, all but one from 8 Squadron (see, they have their uses after all) were in single seat FGA9s. The ample power available in the 9 over the T7 was to prove very useful, as will be recounted now. At the time we had a young pilot straight off the Jet Provost, Pilot Officer North, holding with us prior to advanced training and he flew with me in the T-bird to assist with the navigation and timing. We had to do two flypasts; one as the Reviewing Officer arrived at 1800 local time and the second one as the Squadron Standard was abeam the Reviewing Stand on the March Past. Timing, as ever, was to be critical if the event was to look good. Getting the 1800 overhead was straight forward, assuming the Reviewing Officer – Sir Geoffrey Arthur KCMG, the Queen’s representative in the Persian Gulf – was on time; which, on the day, he was.

The second flypast is clearly more problematical depending, as it does, on a number of variables most of which hinge around the speed at which the Reviewing Officer carries out his inspection and gets back to the Reviewing Stand. In order to get the timing right we needed a series of accurate time checks and for this we used our tame “Pongo” from the Ground Liaison Section, an army Major with what proved to be very little brain! There were two time checks of which the “Quick March” as the Squadron started the march past was the accurate one – we knew exactly how many seconds it took from that point to the flag being alongside the dais. However, in any flypast hold, basically a trombone shaped pattern, there is a sector when, should you be in it at the “Quick March,” there is little that can be done to get on time; you are too close to slow down effectively and a 360° turn will make you so late you will never catch-up. Consequently, there is a need for a “gross check” on the timing to ensure that you stay out of this sector by shortening or lengthening the trombone. In my case, this was when Ian Dick gave the salute at the end of the inspection. All we therefore needed to hear from our GLO over the radio was “Sword down now” and “Quick march now.” All the practices (flown with only the T7) went well and the Major did his bit to perfection – “Sword down now” followed some moments later by “Quick march now” enabled us to get the timing pretty well sewn away! What fools.

Disbandment Flypast 1971

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