1952-1963
Front Page Up 1914-1923 1936-1946 1952-1963 Recent Events Appendices

 

Up

1 Jan 1952

S

At North Front, Gibraltar No 269 Squadron was re-formed out of No 224 Squadron, being granted all the oldest Shackleton Mk1 aircraft 224 possessed, including one example which was undergoing repairs after hitting the sea wall on landing at Gibraltar.  Throughout their period of service Shackletons were continually receiving updates or additions to the fittings and equipment.  A search and rescue homing aid (SARAH) was fitted in the late fifties, followed by Autolycus a device to detect the diesel exhaust gases 5from a submerged submarine using its snort.  Both marks of Shackleton aircraft had dorsal turrets housing two 20mm Hispano cannon which were removed after 1956.  The Mk II had a further twin installation in the nose.  During Operation Castanets, No 269 Squadron was based at Lann Bihoue, Lorient, France.

24 Mar 1952

S

No 269 Squadron moved to RAF Ballykelly.  No 269 Squadron was allocated Unit Code B with hull letters A to H and J.  The unit letter was placed on the rear fuselage, just forward of the tailplane, with the individual letter in small character on the nose.

15 Sep 1952

S

John Derry, ex- WOp/AG in No 269 Squadron and later a de Havilland test pilot, killed in flying accident at Farnborough Air Display.

1 Oct 1952

S

During Operation Emigrant, six aircraft of No 269 Squadron were based at RCAF Greenwood, Nova Scotia.

15 Feb 1956

S

Colin McRae writes: “This was my first Squadron and I joined it at Ballykelly with some excitement!! My log book shows various captains but after a couple of months I joined Harry Fisher's crew. Aircraft type, of course, was the Shackleton Mark 1.  1956 was a fairly uneventful year until the Suez crisis blew up and, at very short notice, I found myself crewing up for trooping.  Skeleton crews were formed on an ad hoc basis and consisted of 6 crew (two pilots, air eng., nav. and two signallers). I was crewed with F1t Lt Courtnage (Ken?) and my co‑signaller was Sigs. Leader Cyril Kidd.  Cyril proceeded to occupy the radar seat and handed me the comms (T1154/R1155!!!) ‑ he knew what he was doing as I proceeded to learn more in the next couple of days than I had learned in eighteen months of training.

1 Nov 1956

O

“We departed for Lyneham at 2230 hrs with little idea of what was in store.  On arrival at Lyneham we were greeted by organized chaos ‑ eventually being given our task, 36 troops to Luqu with orders to follow on arrival (I seem remember they were Pioneer Corps). Weather at Lyneham. was bad ‑ viz. ‑only a few yards in typical Lyneham fog but an IF take‑off was performed (I well remember being really nervous for the first time in an aircraft).

2 Nov 1956

S

 Departure from Lyneham was at 0600 hrs so we were all pretty tired. With a total of 42 pax, life was 'friendly' and any trip to the to Elsan was fraught with problems and monkey acts were the order of the day to clamber down the fuselage.  The airspace over France was very busy but French ATC were more obliging than I have experienced either before or after the event.  On arrival at Luqa the troops were assembled outside our Mk 1 by their RSM and promptly set off at the double around the peritrack. We stood in total amazement as these chaps had had no sleep the previous night and had just endured a pretty uncomfortable flight of 6 hours 45 minutes. Before they doubled off one of the squaddies asked me where they were ‑ no‑one had told them they were on the way to Luqa although they were aware something was up in Suez. When I said we were in Malta, he seemed quite bemused.  Having seen our troops disappear into the distance, we were bussed to the transit mess, fed and given beds. Our troops were taken onwards to Nicosia by another crew.

3 Nov 1956

S

“At about 0100 hrs we were roused and told to get back to the UK ‑ this proved difficult, our aircraft had disappeared.  Eventually it was decided that we return as passengers on another Shack to Ballykelly.  So I experienced my first Campaign! ‑ most Shack crews had similar experiences ‑ it all happened very quickly with generous helpings of organised chaos   My only other memory of the event was seeing two Valiants taking off from Luqa on their way to Egypt to unload their bombs on some unsuspecting target ‑evidently the Egyptian fighters could not reach the Valiants at altitude so they had a pretty straightforward task.

14 Dec 1956

S

The next event was the withdrawal ‑ it was the same again but in reverse. I was crewed with Ft Lt Browne and we departed for Nicosia at 0530 hrs with a stopover at Idris en route. I believe our load of troops waiting at Nicosia were Para. Regiment. We departed Nicosia at 1010 hrs on the same day for Idris.

16 Dec1956

S

We departed Idris at 0350 hrs for Lyneham, offload the troops and left for Ballykelly at 1410 hrs.  This was a pretty tiring series of flights but all the same enjoyable as one felt that we were doing a good job with very limited resources.  My only other memory of the withdrawal phase was at Idris where we met a crowd of refugees from Hungary. They were pretty wound up that the West had not come to their aid when the Russians invaded.  I have to admit that my feelings went out to them. If Suez had not happened, would Russia have had the nerve to invade Hungary ?â€�  

24 Jan 1956

S

Exercise Encompass ended.  The exercise had started over the Christmas period when No 269 Squadron plus the other two Shackleton squadrons at RAF Ballykelly transported troops to Cyprus to counter an upsurge in terrorist activity by EOKA.  Initially planned flights were made to Luqa and then all Shackleton aircraft participated in a Luqa – Nicosia shuttle.  So as to allow 33 fully equipped troops to be accommodated, crews were reduced to two pilots, navigator, flight engineer and signaller.

18 Feb 1956

S

During Operation Mosaic (in support of UK atomic testing on Monte Bello Island, off the NW coast of Australia) No 269 Squadron sent four specially modified aircraft, including VP255 and WB820, for meteorological reconnaissance in the Timor Sea.  Each crew carried an additional meteorological observer and the aircraft were routed Ballykelly – Idris – Habbaniya – Karachi – Negombo – Changi – Darwin.  Meteorological sorties were flown from Darwin.  Wg. Cdr P. Norton-Smith Commanded the detachment.  A Met Observer on No 202 Squadron writes “In January 1956 myself and 3 other Met Observers joined 269 Squadron for the task (called "Operation Mosaic") - the first time Shackletons flew on met reconnaissance flights. The met instruments were fitted in the nose on a special panel. The aneroid barometer, ASI and altimeter tapped off the dynamic and static vents as in the Hastings, and the psychrometer was bolted on the outside of the nose, with the water tank and pump fitted inside by the seat for the Met Observer to operate. It amused the Shackleton crews to watch the met observer climbing up a ladder to change the wick on the wet bulb thermometer before each flight, as the psychrometer was not accessible from inside the aircraft……. flew the old RAF Transport Command route to Darwin where we all arrived about six days later in the middle of the "wet" which is the Darwin summer, with temperatures (and humidity) in the upper nineties. I flew out with an all NCO crew, captained by Sgt. Alan Bourne AFM, and the only member of this crew I have met since is Ron Wayne, one of the signallers….

25 Jun 1956

S

“From March till June we flew reconnaissance flights over the Timor Sea until the operation was complete in the Monte Bello Islands. We then flew down to Melbourne and Sydney as guests of the RAAF for 3 days.

2 Jul 1956

S

“All four Shackletons took off from RAAF Laverton near Sydney, formated over the coast and thundered over Sydney Harbour at 1000 feet and brought all the traffic to a halt on the bridge as we flew over with everyone waving furiously. The next Shackleton Met Recce operation was the first H-bomb test at Christmas Island in the Pacific about 2oN  and about 1200 miles south of Honolulu with the highest point about 5 ft above sea level.  This was the first "Grapple" operation out of a series of four. The four Met. Recce. Shackletons of No 269 Squadron flew from Darwin to Melbourne and finally Sydney.â€�

11 Jul 1956

S

The No 269 Squadron detachment returned to RAF Ballykelly from Australia.

19 Sep 1957

S

During NATO Exercise Strikeback No 269 Squadron was deployed to RAF Wick.  The exercise commenced with an eight aircraft squadron scramble at 0630hrs.

1 Feb 1958

S

Shackleton Mk II WR955 was allocated to No 269 Squadron, marking the end of a prolonged re-equipment programme.  The squadron had been partially equipped with the Mk II back in Mar 1953, when mixed version units were in vogue, but had passed them on in Aug 1953, when the difficulties in operating the two types side by side were realised.  In Oct 1958 No 269 Squadron began to re-equip with Mk II aircraft.  By Dec 1958 all the Mk I aircraft had gone and re-equipment with the Mk II was completed with the delivery of WL748, WL750, WL790, WL795 and WR956.  At this time none of the squadron aircraft carried hull letters, just the squadron number on the rear fuselage and a squadron badge on the nose.  No 269 Squadron was the first at RAF Ballykelly to be earmarked for a possible colonial policing (COLPOL) detachment.  While Ballykelly aircraft were involved in the nuclear weapons detachments, other Shackleton squadrons were operating from a number of Middle East locations against rebel tribesmen in the Aden Protectorate and Oman.  In the event the squadron was not needed for this additional role.

14 Jul 1958

S

The first of six aircraft(VP265, VP289, VP294, WB826 and WB860) of No 269 Squadron left RAF Ballykelly on detachment to Christmas Island in support of Operation Grapple.  The detachment also used Shackleton WB857, which had been left behind by No 204 Squadron.  A seriously injured victim of a road traffic accident was flown to Honolulu.

1 Oct 1958

S

The No 269 Squadron detachment at Christmas Island returned to RAF Ballykelly during the beginning of the month.   As the Grapple commitment was coming to an end, changes to the squadron number plates were introduced at Ballykelly

30 Nov 1958

S

Colin McRae posted from No 269 Squadron.

1 Dec 1958

S

In order to perpetuate the identity of more senior squadrons, No.269 was re-numbered No 210 and No.240 became No 203. Coinciding with these changes, re-equipment of the squadrons was also underway, including the arrival of the latest version of the  Shackleton Mk III aircraft.  Thus No 269 Squadron was finally disbanded as an aircraft squadron.

22 Jul 1959

S

No 269 Squadron reformed at RAF Caistor as a Thor Missile Squadron in Bomber Command, part of the Thor Missile Force based at RAF Hemswell.  Launch crews comprised a Launch Control Officer, usually a RAF Flight Lieutenant of the General Duties Branch; plus various ground crew technicians; and an American Authentication Officer, with the rank of Captain in the USAF. The Squadron Commander was a RAF Squadron Leader, also of the General Duties Branch. The Royal Air Force launch crews were trained at the Douglas Aircraft Company school at Tucson, Arizona. Training comprised missile theory, construction and operation, and an introduction to the necessary ground support equipment. A realistic simulator was used for instruction in countdown sequences, and malfunctions could also be incorporated for emergency training. On graduating from Tucson the crews moved to the home of the USAF's 1st Missile Division at Vandenburg AFB, California, where more detailed training using operational equipment was conducted by the 392nd Missile Training Squadron, assisted by instructors of the Douglas Aircraft Company.

10 Dec 1959

S

There was a major incident in another Thor Missile squadron at RAF Ludford Magna.  This was not made public until the relevant documents were released by the Public Record Office in 1999 when the following account appeared in the Independent newspaper:  "Nuclear missile error that could have ravaged Lincolnshire was kept secret.  A former RAF officer has described how an accident with a nuclear missile could have devastated much of Lincolnshire and contaminated hundreds of square miles with radioactive materials.  The mistake was made in Dec 1960 at RAF Ludford Magna, 12 miles east of Lincoln. The station was equipped with three Thor long- range ballistic missiles, each armed with a one-megaton nuclear warhead, controlled by the US Air Force under so-called dual-key arrangements.  Details of the blunder have been revealed by Group Captain George Aylett, who was then the station commander. RAF technicians fuelling the missile allowed its liquid oxygen tank to empty on to the launch pad.  The leak could have caused the combustion of any inflammable material in the area, leading to detonation of the rocket's fuel. "It could have created a terrible disaster," Group Captain Aylett told the BBC2 documentary programme Close Up North.  The station's "special safety" instructions have been released under the Public Records Act. They reveal that "there could be a local spread of radioactivity". According to Sean Gregory, a specialist on nuclear weapon accidents at Bradford University, the destruction of the warhead would have contaminated between 100 and 300 square miles.  After the fuel spill, firemen were called in. They described how the missile launch area had become enveloped in a cloud of evaporating fuel.  The US Air Force was aghast at the RAF team, and at the potential consequences of a nuclear weapon accident in Britain at the height of the Cold War. "An awful lot of people were moved on as the result of that incident," said Group Caption Aylett.  But details of the accident have never been officially admitted. Both American and British official lists of nuclear weapon accidents contain no reference to the event.  RAF officers have confirmed rumours that they could have overcome American dual-key control of nuclear weapons. "You could have got round [American control of the warhead] just as if you want to start a car without the ignition key," according to Squadron Leader Frank Leatherdale, a former Thor base commander. "It was dangerous, and it was frowned upon, but it was done."

11 Dec 1959

 

Comment by Flt Lt Graham RJ Fryer, ex-No 269 Squadron at Caistor: “However, the Ludford Magna accident, although part of the satellite system of Hemswell - this was not 269 Squadron.   269 Squadron was based at Caistor, directly east of Hemswell and north-east from Lincoln. I remember the Ludford Magna accident, but it was not highly publicised as people could not get to grips with 5,000 gallons of liquid oxygen swilling in the lox pit. If left out in the atmosphere it would just ‘boil off’ but of course had it come into contact with any hydrocarbon or simple grease, there would have been a gigantic explosion - and I mean big!  The Caistor accident (269 Squadron) I believe was Missile No. 23 or 24 and my predecessor incorrectly configured the hydraulics so that when the missile was erect and the base secured to the launch pad by three large bolts, the transporter through incorrect adjustment went beyond the vertical position, and bent the missile like a broken cigar.  The missile was a total write-off and I understand that it was in a launch phase. It was left in a very unstable condition.  I am sure that the incident was mentioned in Hansard at the time. Unfortunately I am unable to put a date on this incident, but it was not connected with the RAF Ludford the Caistor incident.Magna incident.  It was usual to post the crew that were involved with the incident and I was posted to 269 Squadron to replace the crew chief who was responsible.

24 May 1963

S

No 269 Squadron finally disbanded at RAF Caistor.