This report is about the first Four Squadron Association Reunion, held at RAF Wittering in 1991 – by Chris Parker
By kind permission of Syd Morris, a large number of assorted old boys assembled at Wittering on Friday, 14 June 1991.
The first person to arrive was Jim Cliff who showed his exceptional enthusiasm by arriving on Thursday – the sole victim of a Flight International misprint. He was still smiling, however, on Friday as the OCU crewroom gradually filled up with non-subscribers to Flight International. Inevitably, the Mossie boys soon had the place humming; Iain Dick, Des Davies, John Archbold, Ken Utton, David Kay, Bernard Coombes and Jimmy Gill quickly introduced themselves to the Wildenrath Harrier pilots, Dave Linney (arrived by Hunter), Bruce Monk and Iain Harvey.
The OCU pilots, Paul Robinson and Nick Gilchrist, made everybody feel at home and we soon ran out of coffee cups. Mike Plimmer appeared to be the only representative of the sixties. There is a definite gap in our membership from that era; anybody have any names and addresses?
Just before Happy Hour we had a chance to look over the brand new Harrier GR7, flown to Wittering specially for the occasion by the Boss of IV (AC) Squadron, Malcolm White. Half the Squadron was still in the States after a Flag Exercise and the other half was at Gutersloh, so it was very kind of Malcolm and Marcus de Ferranti to take the time to show us around the new jet. For those of us taking a close look at the new Harrier for the first time, it cer tainly looked impressive. The wingspan is significantly greater than the GR3, there are nine weapons pylons, more fuel capacity and an extremely modern cockpit.
Five o’clock saw us in the Mess for Happy Hour, and many more people arrived; Steve Johnson, Mike Harwood, Andy Bascombe and Jock Heron were only able to stay for one evening, Dave Cullen flew his Hawk in from Chivenor and the Hong Kong detachment was represented by Geoff Hulley, Ross Boyens, Carl Boddy, Roger McCaughey, Pete Lees and myself. Shortly after five o’clock I received an unexpected phone call from Gibraltar; Pete Cockman and Bob Marston were calling to wish everybody well and to let me know they had found an ex-4 Sqn mate in the bar there (Brian Meadley). Later on we moved next door to the Burghley Room. Ken Peachey and Steve Stephenson (on Spitfires together in 1944), discovered that Reg Kirby had been their cook in the Officers’ Mess at Clifton! (Reg is a very spritely eighty-year-old who drove himself down from Kendal for the weekend). A free barrel of beer courtesy of British Aerospace and Jan Whyte helped the evening along (her cuddly Harrier pilots were a big hit the next day!) and a second barrel from the Association washed the curry down!
The rest of the night was a bit of a blur, but I couldn’t help noticing that at one o’clock in the morning there were only jet-lagged airline pilots present!
Don’t ask me what happened on Saturday morning, but by the time I got to the Mess the party was in full swing again. In between the many wives, girlfriends and children that were there, I spotted Dave Fisher, Al Holman (Hercules OCU), Ben Woods (Brymon Airways, Fleet Manager Bristol), Dave Poole and Dave Walker, all of whom had been unable to get to Wittering the night before. I counted four past Squadron bosses present, Snowy McKee, Pete Webb, Tony McKeon (landed that morning from the States) and Roger Gault, and too many Flight Commanders to mention.
Many of the 4 Squadron groundcrew also managed to make it. Some of them are presently serving at Wittering, but at least one chap drove across the Channel from Bruggen to be there. The few names I can remember are: Mac McCudden (still single), ‘Beaker’ Bushell, Barry Robins, Ted Drayton, Fish O’Gorman and Dave ‘Vodkaman’ Bunny. Two enterprising lads spent the afternoon making a video of the occasion and they have promised to let me know when it will be on general release. The bar eventually closed at six o’clock as the party broke up and people started to make their way home. Many, many people promised to: a) not drink as much next time. b) keep in touch more. c) pay their Association subs on time. d) write articles for the newsletter (names will be released in the next issue)!
Thanks again to everybody who made the weekend possible, and to all of you for being there! Next year – 1992 – is the Squadron’s 80th Anniversary and Gutersloh is closing, so it’s shaping up to be the Mother of All Parties!
(More pictures in the Gallery)