Sudbury man's recollection of time in the RAF ahead of 100th anniversary
PUBLISHED: 16:11 21 March 2018 | UPDATED: 16:11 21 March 2018
As Suffolk today announces its plans to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the RAF one former serviceman has been reliving his 33 years of an "absolutely brilliant" life in the service.
And Stuart Andrews remembers how on its 50th birthday he was in a Shackleton which crashed in Northern Ireland and he and four colleagues walked away from the stricken craft.
On April 1 this year the RAF will be marking its centenary with special events, activities and other initiatives running from the beginning of the month to the end of November 2018.
The centrepiece of RAF100 will take place on July 10 with a centenary service in Westminster Abbey, followed by a parade in The Mall and a flypast over Buckingham Palace.
Key events include a gala concert at the Royal Albert Hall on March 31.
One of the many events will be the Centenary Baton Relay which will see a specially designed baton visit 100 sites associated with the RAF in 100 days. The relay will begin its journey at the Royal Courts of Justice on April 1 and will end 100 days later on Horseguards Parade.
Mr Andrews, 75, who lives in Bulmer Road, in Sudbury, with his 75-year-old wife Patricia, joined up in February 1963 as an air signaller and served in Singapore on Shackleton aircraft.
He then got posted to RAF Ballykelly, in County Londonderry, five years later, when his aircraft came into land but skidded across a wet runway ending up in the boggy grass.
“It was raining so hard that the aircraft just skidded off the side of the runway and aquaplaned into the boggy ground,” he said. “But we all managed to get out ok.”
From there he was stationed back in the UK on an air electronics course before heading off to Singapore then to RAF Marham where he worked on Victor tankers for nine years, onto RAF Brize Norton flying Andovers, to RAF Benson in Oxfordshire, RAF Gutersloh on the West/East German border, RAF Wyton, near St Ives, in Huntingdon, before he finished his career at Brize Norton as an electronics warfare officer coming out of the service in April 1998.
“When I left the service they said what are you going to do and I said ‘absolutely nothing’. But we got a narrowboat and travelled the inland waterways,” he said.
They moved into his parents bungalow in September 1998 and Mr Andrews, who reached the rank of Flt Lt, said he intends to mark the 100th anniversary with friends at a Freemasons meeting in Watton, Norfolk.
“But I had an absolutely brillaint time in the RAF. I made two good decisions: to join up and then to leave it and I have flown in all the aircraft that I wanted to fly and I just had a ball,” he added.