After the Tour of Northern Ireland we went back to Germany for our our Usual Duties until Christmas when the Complete Squadron was sent On Leave! Some of us were asked to stay back to keep things running in the Squadron, I was one who volunteered as I knew my posting out was coming in the new year so being single, I did not need leave just now. I was given my dream job, to run the Squadron Bar over Christmas and I did it well!
In the February of 1975, I left Germany and went on leave before moving on to my next Posting in Ripon, England, a very picturesque Cathedral Town which still has a Traditional Town Crier to open the market and announce news of interest. Is situated very near to my home town of Bradford! My parents were very happy at this as my Dad was bed ridden after all kinds of medical problems and they were hoping that I would get home more often!
I reported to my new unit 32 Field Squadron which was based in Claro Barracks in Ripon, this barracks was an open plan design with no wall around it but the Irish Bad Guys had taken notice of this and actually Bombed it a couple of years before! I was in new accommodation as the bit I was put into had to be replaced as it was bomb damaged!
I settled in pretty quick and in no time my unit was deployed to Scotland near to the Isle of Sky where we had to develop a run down Out of Bounds Center for a Youth Camp on the hill above the tiny hamlet of Kylean but it had been Squatted by Hippies which made a real mess of the place! It took us 3 weeks to fix the place up to a good standard! During these 3 weeks we had spent our down time testing the Whiskey which was plentiful in Scotland! It was a bit strange here as the Bars closed at 10 pm while it was still broad daylight so we had to prepare beer to drink when the bars were closed. Also, the Bars were closed on a Sunday but Hotels were not so we gave the Hotels good custom on Sundays!
I got a few days off when we got back so went to see my parents and to tell them that I was going back on an exercise to Germany once again! which did not make mum happy once more!
On the Exercise to Germany My unit were Deployed on Harrier Support! This was working with the Harrier Jump Jets! We were to lay down Temporary Aluminum Run Ways 200 meters long and Taxi Ways and to build Hides where the Jets could park without detection! This was a heavy work job but once we had everything in position and laid down it was easy to maintain so all we had to do all day was watch the Harriers do their thing! We lived in Tents so we were on site all the time and we found out that the RAF never had warm beer as they would spray the new hot beer with Minus Zero Compressed Gas such as Oxygen or Nitrogen which would cool it instantly but we were told never to pick up a bottle with frost on it as it would burn onto your skin! About 4 weeks later we packed up our gear and drove back to England but in England we lost a fan belt on the way north so we had to wait for the repair truck to come along and fix us up! In my truck was our cook, a couple more men and all the left over Compo Rations so nothing of state security! I asked the boys if they fancied a cop of tea at Mums House and the all agreed to go as it was not far out of our way!
Mum and the rest of the street were very surprised when a military 3 ton Bedford Truck pulled up but Mum and Dad were happy to see us! the cook was talking to Dad and asked him what his favorite foods were and as it happened, most of the soft and easily digested kinds of food he liked were the left overs on the back of the truck so everyone got together and unloaded loads of Compo Rations and moved it into the house! we were eating it for years after! We arrived back in Ripon in the evening, parked up the truck and went to the NAAFI for a beer!
It was not long before I was on the move once again, our Sister Unit, 48 Field Squadron were going on a Construction project to Cyprus and were short of NCO’s as many were on Trade Training and were asking for Volunteers to join them! Not being one to miss out on a Tour Overseas, I volunteered, was accepted and in July, away we went! Unfortunately, when we arrived there was no accommodation in the regular Barracks in RAF Akrotiri for us so we had to stay in French Camp, a rather basic Wind Swept Tented Camp on the top of a hill with Straw Mattresses on camp beds for us to sleep on and no fans! Even With the Basic accommodation we got on with our work but it was tough! The first Job was to replace support piles which were supporting the main pipeline for water to the Air Base, this was the only water supply and had to be supported after years of water damaged running down the river bed to the base of the original supports! This was horrible work as we were working in a limestone river valley where everything had to be carried in! It was boiling hot and the new steel support pipes got really hot! Not Nice at all! After 2 weeks we were moved back into the Air Base where we were to work on a new slipway on the coast where Landing Craft could be recovered for repairs and maintenance! This was good as we were on night shift so it was cooler! My team was preparing the Reinforcing cages which would be the bases for machinery once concreted in! This was a good job and we did our part as good as we could!
A funny sight in Cyprus was when the U2 Spy Plane took off and landed! On take off, this huge Jet Powered Glider, as it lifted off the ground it would release its wing wheels which would fall back to the ground, Upon Landing, two Mini Coopers with Open Tops would drive along side and airmen would clip the wheels back on, then the airmen would climb onto the wings to stop them flapping until the aircraft stopped! Such technology was a surprise for me as I was looking for and expecting real state of the art technology with the U2!
On one day off we had a party at a beach club, one of many at the air base! It was a good day until a couple of men started to fight and unfortunately one of them got knocked down, hit his head very hard on a stone step and died instantly! This was a sad end as just a couple of days before another man died of Heat Related Problems!
I had been in country for just over one month when I was called into the Office of the Officer in Charge of our unit. He informed me that my presence had been requested by 521 Specialist Team Well Drilling (521 STRE) as they had a Public Relations Project in Botswana in Southern Africa, I did not get a choice, he told me that I would be traveling back to England on a Hercules C130 leaving the next day!
This was a quick end to my Cyprus Expedition but at least I would be going out once again this time doing my Trade!
The flight back to England in the C130, there was just me and a plane load of Scottish Infantry. Traveling in a C130 has been described as travelling in a Garbage Can with a Punk Rock Band, add to this the Scottish Soldiers this made the 8 hour flight interesting to say the least! The C130 is a safe Aircraft but is not the most comfortable type of Air Transport!
I went back to Ripon to get my movement orders then had to go back to see my parents and tell them the news that I was traveling again! Such is the life of a soldier!