This report is about the 1990 Reunion, held at RAF Gutersloh, celebrating 20 years of the Harrier GR3 in RAF Germany – by Chris Parker
Carl Boddy, Graham Forbes (ex-Lyneham) and I arrived at Gutersloh at 12 o’clock on Friday, having driven up from Frankfurt that morning. We were welcomed by Malcolm White and Charlie McIlroy who were busy checking the arrangements for the weekend and preparing for the influx of visitors. The Reunion had been organised, of course, to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Harrier in R.A.F. Germany. After a coffee in the crewroom with Dez Dezonie and Rod Webb, we moved over to the marquee outside HAS 4 where the crowd was already growing.
The afternoon was spent in the marquee area renewing old friendships and spinning yarns! Tony McKeon and Snowy McKee (both ex-bosses) were early arrivals, Dave Binnie (Britannia Airways) and Simon Turner (1 Sqn) made the trip over by car, and Syd and Sally Morris drove up from Brussels. Ashley Stevenson, Tim Ellison, Mark Taberham, Simon Meade (soon joining the Red Arrows) and Dave Poole flew four new Harrier GR5s and a T4 in from Wittering, Dave Cullen returned from Chivenor in a 63 Sqn Hawk, and Jim Fernie brought a Danish Draken from 729 Sqn R.D.A.F. at Karup where he is still on exchange. At about three o’clock the Squadron flew a smart box-four of GR3s, each with an anniversary black, red and yellow tail (permission for a nine-ship had unfortunately been withheld). Rod Webb had intended to fly the Squadron hot-air balloon but strong gusty winds put paid to that plan.
After the flying display the party continued in the Officers’ Mess where an extremely animated Happy Hour was taking place. Both helicopter squadrons were present as were 3 Sqn, the sister Harrier Squadron at Gutersloh. The Happy Hour was also open to wives, but I would imagine that many of them will not be returning in a hurry! Bruce and Sonya Monk (Air U.K.), Jock Heron (Rolls-Royce, Filton), Clive and Alison Loader (HQ RAFG), Bob and Mary Marston (Ops Wg Gutersloh), and Pete and Katrina Moules (OC 3 Sqn) were among the many who were incessantly pestered to join the Association and eventually forked out the required DM 12. Some of the guests had not served on IV, but had been invited to the celebrations nevertheless. Bill Bedford (Harrier pioneer and Test Pilot), Geoff Lee (BAe photographer), Jan Whyte (BAe representative and never-ending source of calendars, diaries and aircraft prints) and Freddie Stringer (Royal Aircraft Establishment) enriched the occasion by their presence. The Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators was represented by Clive Elton, Mike Bannister, Mike Butterworth, Jock Lowe and David Mauleverer (senior British Airways Captains), some of whom flew across in an elderly Aztec.
Inevitably, the excitement was too much for some. Syd Morris was overwhelmed with fatigue and had to retire early – luckily he had fully recovered by five o’clock or so the following afternoon. Dougie Gibbons (Air Europe) also decided to retire before the evening had run its full course and was shown a short cut to his room by some of the helicopter crowd – via the flower bed outside the bar. A short rest worked wonders for Dougie and he recovered in time to join Andy Kirkpatrick and me in George Blackey’s room for a night-cap later (I ought to know better by now!).
Saturday started slowly for most. Tony McKeon and Syd Morris claimed to have been on the golf course at about ten o’clock but I have received no independent corroboration of that claim. Andy Clarke (hotelier), David Giles, Carl Boddy and I sampled some Coca-Cola in the Mess before returning to the Squadron for the Barbecue and Open Day. The Squadron diaries and an armed Harrier GR3 were on display in HAS 4 where Bob Young (serving on IV, not the present Association Bob Young) was selling Squadron memorabilia and distributing Association application forms on my behalf. All the visiting aircraft were on display as were a selection of Rover vehicles (their anniversary as well). A simulated field site was set up in the HAS 2 area with Harrier GR3 and GR5 in tactical hides. Late arrivals included Jon and Maggie Buckler after a dinner-night at Laarbruch, Denyse and Steve Jennings after a nightmare ferry trip across the Channel (ferries on strike again), and Phil and Jenny Tyler.
The reunion continued with a German Night and Buffet, complete with Oom-Pah Band, on the Saturday evening. The marquee was completely full with about three hundred people attending. Unfortunately Carl, Graham and I had to leave at about ten o’clock in order to be back in Frankfurt in time for an afternoon departure to Hong Kong, but I have every reason to believe that Sunday morning started as slowly as Saturday!
Finally, a big “thank you” to Roger Gault, Malcolm White, Charlie McIlroy, Steve Newbold, Steve Forward and Terry Tucker for organising the reunion and inviting all the ex-members of the Squadron. For those of you unable to make it this time, don’t forget that the another reunion will be along soon…