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RAF Wittering

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6.30am is an hour I don’t see often, but it was the time I had to get up in order to arrive at RAF Wittering on time for the 10.30am start.

I arranged the visit way back in the middle of summer this year, and having received confirmation and an appointment in late October, I wasn’t about to turn up late. After all, I had plenty of time to prepare.

Hopped on the train to Stamford, the closest train station to RAF Wittering and spent all of a minute reading the only bit of the Metro worth bothering with, Nemi. Taxi from the train station to the RAF Station.

The first thing I noticed when I got out the cab was the gate guardian, a Harrier. All stations have them. A gate guardian is a plane fixed to a stand that sits outside the main gates. The next thing I noticed were the actual guards at the gate. They were armed with rifles and were clearly trained in how to use them. This first impression really drove it home that I was about to enter a secure area.

However, subsequent impressions brought it home that this was a place of work, and a lot of that work happens in offices very much like the ones in civilian life.

I was one of 9 who were there for a visit, there was a potential Medical Officer, Intelligence Officer, Engineer Officer and five would be Pilots.

Our tour guide made it quite clear that thanks to the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), there would be some changes, and as such diplomacy was advised. After all, there were going to be job losses, and the Harrier was due to be retired from service.

Those two facts contributed to the impression that here was a place that was winding down. The presentations we were given, while clearly delivered by officers and NCO’s who adored their work in the RAF, also had a subtext of understandable cynicism at the changes.

What was obvious was the general attitude to keep going, there was no one who had given up.

Perhaps most touching was a presentation given by an Engineer Officer. Here was a man who had spent a great deal of time working on a particular engine, and who clearly held it in great affection. I am talking about the Rolls Royce Pegasus engine, the one that goes in Harrier Jump Jets.

There are many views about the implications of the SDSR, I’m not going to go into them here, and anything I do write will be dry and academic. No what really made the implications of the cuts real was meeting people who it directly affected.

The picture below is of the engine itself, perhaps it’s not a particularly spectacular image, but for me it’s a reminder of what I learned on the visit. It was less about the dry facts of who does what, and what equipment do they use. It was more about finding out that the roles I have researched are filled by actual people, and the equipment, in some cases is more than the sum of its parts.

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Written by alexwalsh

November 19, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Posted in Equipment, First Hand

Tagged with ,

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