December 2023

Twelve Days of Radar – Day Nine

Day 9 comes from Doreen E. Calver (nee Atkinson), Air Defence Operator’.

“In May 1969 we were coming to the end of another nightshift down ‘The Hole’ and looking forward to supper and our beds, when all hell broke loose.  The alarm was raised and the QRA (Quick Reaction) planes were scrambled and the Radar Operators were put on high alert.  We were tasked with tracking an unauthorised flight of a Hercules C-130 E transporter plane.

A newly-married USAF Mechanic was desperately homesick and after a night of drinking, he managed to steal the aeroplane from Mildenhall in Suffolk, in a bid to fly home to his wife in Virginia, USA.  This 23 year-old young man had escaped police custody, impersonate a Captain and ordered the Hercules to be re-fuelled before he took to the skies.

He had managed to get a complex plane off the runway, and fly solo, which was an amazing feat under the circumstances.  During his flight, US Offices tried to talk him down and they even put his wife on the radio, hoping she could persuade him to return to base.

Unfortunately, he eventually disappeared from Radar, in the middle of the English Channel.  No one really knows what happened to him… did he run out of fuel or was he shot down ??  Your guess is as good as mine but I will never forget that long night.  We missed supper but made it in time for breakfast.”

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Twelve Days of Radar – Day Nine