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 My Service History

This is by way of a short introduction, I will put some more detail in as the mood takes me .......

Firstly ,how did I end up joining the Royal Air Force?  I had been interested in electronics since I was 12 and fiddled about with all sorts of bits and pieces without really knowing what I was doing and only managed to blow the Electricity Board fuses once; I remember that my Dad was not best pleased at having to call them out to get the power back on.  I purchased a non-working television from a jumble sale when I was 14 and carted the thing home on my bike.  I amazed everyone (including myself) by repairing it and selling it for a profit!  I was convinced that electronics was going to be my destiny and when I was starting my 4th year at secondary school (Bushey at New Malden) the news came that the school was closing and we would be redistributed.  I had the chance of going to technical college and then perhaps on to an apprenticeship with G.E.C. or Decca Radar.

As I was pondering the options our school magazine (The Squirrel) carried an advertisement for the RAF to join as an apprentice.

This was for me .... I applied just after my 15th birthday and went to RAF Cardington for selection for the 1962 winter entry.


RAF Apprentices Advert 1963

 It was bitterly cold and the old wooden huts were heated by old pot-belly stoves.  I didn't get selected and they tried to offer me an entry in as a Boy Entrant but I had made my mind up that it was to be as an apprentice.  My deputy head at school had said I didn't stand a chance as nobody had joined as an RAF Apprentice from Bushey.

Undaunted I tried again for the 1963 spring entry, this time I was successful and on 9th May 1963 I arrived at Weston Super Mare railway station and was met by a nice kindly Sergeant .... all was to change over the next couple of days!

1963 - 1966  RAF Locking, Weston-super-Mare, Ground Radar Apprenticeship in 104th Entry - Pete Harry has kindly set up a web site for us CLICK.  They did their best to teach us basic electronics before letting us near anything that actually plugged in!  They kept our general education going, gave us lots of "bull", loads of marching and generally seemed to go out of their way to upset us.  Eventually we started to learn on real electronics; I was to be a Airfield Navigation Radar Technician so learnt the niceties of Cossor 787, Plessey PAR, British Tacan to major level and went to minor level on FSPS-6 and Type 80 kit.  I attained rank of Leading Apprentice, learned to shoot and got my marksman's badge and graduated as Junior Technician L Fitt GR (Nav) with one year accelerated promotion to Corporal.

1966 - 1967  RAF Labuan, North Borneo.  Only radar fitter on the island a short while after arrival; maintained ACR7 and Eureka (wasn't trained on either of course!).  Had a great year here, life is what you make it!  I spent a lot of my spare time in the local radio station - Labuan Broadcasting Service (LBS) - became Chief Engineer, Chief Controller and Top Twenty DJ; I also had my own B-Side programme I called "Over Under Sideways Down" and used the song of the same name as my signature tune.  If I wasn't in the studio I was down at Shell Beach water skiing or snorkeling; hard life wasn't it!

[A small group of ex-LBS guys (including David Dove and Mike Durrant) have got together in a Yahoo group and would welcome anyone else who was either working the Service or was one of our "public" to come and join us.  It is a closed group so is completely private.  We have a growing library of photographs and even recording from our broadcasts.  You will find us at: LBS-Borneo. Names we recall from Labuan and would like to get in touch with include Alan Livingstone, Bob Davies, Graham Fletcher , Roger Pavey, Don Estall, Ian Bodie, Mick Madden, Derek Warner, Alan Poole, Colin Pickersgill, Dave Lieberman, Al Burnett, Phil Attlee, Mick Rawles, "Fooey" Harris, Brian Laurance, Doug Hagan, John Banks, John Hamilton, Mervyn Quick, Ted Walters, Steve Merriman, Gerry Overton, Peter Estlake, Tony Russell, Ron Bickle and John Hart.]

1967 - 1969  RAF West Raynham, Norfolk.  Maintained CPN-4, you either loved it or hated it - I hated runway changes on a bitterly cold winter's morning, especially when your shift oppo hadn't turned in and the caravans wouldn't shift on the turntable!

1969 - 1970  RAF Newton, Nottingham.  Bloodhound Training Course on MOTE and missile.  Excellent car club where I stripped down an MGA and rebuilt it, finishing just days before leaving.  One of the guys I joined up with back in '63 (Pete Harry) has kicked off a web site for the Bloodhound MKII SAM to cover the activities when they were in-service with the Royal Air Force, 1964 - 1990 including RAF Bloodhound Squadrons and Support Units.

1970 - 1973  RAF West Raynham, Norfolk.  41 Squadron, Bloodhound maintenance, got my Sergeant's stripes here.  I slso found time to take City and Guilds in Technical Communication Techniques and Technical Authorship.

1973 - 1977  RAF Swanton Morley, Norfolk, was my posting but I was parented by RAF Stanmore Park, Middlesex, and working at Hawker Siddeley Dynamics, Hatfield, Hertfordshire, on a CSDE project team supporting the introduction of Skyflash into service.

1977 .... Demob!

And so what next?  The natural step seemed to go into the industry I had been working alongside.  Hatfield seemed a bit to far to go when I wasn't being paid home-to-duty travel from Biggleswade as I was by the RAF so I gave BAC (as it was then) at Stevenage a shot.  I tried to get into a design department but without a degree I didn't stand a chance.  However, I got lucky and was accepted as a Technical Author working in the handbooks section - so my C&G was not in vain!  Of course my aim was to work my way into what I really wanted - within the year I was working in the Tornado Automatic Test Equipment design team.  Cutting edge digital electronics, optics and mechanics - right up my street.  After a number of different projects and roles my objective turned to Project Management - again no Degree so no chance.  So I took the plunge and embarked on an Open University course.  After the first year BAe, as it had become, relented and my third career started - six years later I graduated with a BSc (Open) at Ely Cathedral - a moving experience.  I managed some interesting projects worked with some interesting people and learned a lot a great deal.  After some years I found the Company was changing and not in a direction that I was comfortable with. At the same time the last opportunity for voluntary redundancy came up.  After a great deal of soul searching, guidance from a dear friend Mike The Mentor and a small prayer of my mother's (Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change those things I can and the wisdom to see the difference between them) I took the plunge in 1998 and haven't looked back since.  When I was going through the BAe telephone book to see who to invite to my leaving do I found that there were 180 people still there with whom I had worked and 130 who had already left the Company what a rich life experience!

....  Demob 2!

Mike Strange