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Latter days at Wildenrath. Early days at Gutersoh – View from the RIC

by Geoff Quick

Before reading this little essay I do recommend that you read Al Holman’s account from the Pilots’ perspective. We were contemporaries on IV ( AC) over the move up from Wildenrath and the first couple of years at “Gut”, that is from 1976 until the latter part of 1978. I ask for forgiveness from those of a similar vintage for which this is all “boring old hat”, but respectfully submit that all of us have now retired and indeed some of us are passing on.

We have a generation carrying the IV Squadron banner today to whom all this will probably appear to have been a laughingly archaic, blatantly inefficient and logistically insane circus. As ever, we tried to do our best with what was available, some of which was actually quite good for its day. None of what we demonstrably achieved could have been possible without an all-round effort to repeatedly throw the Squadron in to obtain and extract that which was demanded to meet the tasking.

And that basic requirement hasn’t changed.

As a very Junior Officer Photographic Interpreter I arrived at Wildenrath in April ’76, to an introductory surprise bollocking at the RIC for allegedly being a week late ( but who was it who booked the seat on the trooper? ) I then settled down to adapting to Harrier Force ways. Fortunately I had done my first tour on 41(F) Sqn. ( Phantom) RIC : this had also included two roulements in Northern Ireland, during which time I had gained some practical junior command experience. Nevertheless, I had a great deal to learn.

To kick off, It might be helpful if I explain a few of the Photo. Int. acronyms of the time. The term “RIC” itself originally referred to a Reconnaissance Interpretation Centre. Tactical ( or First Phase) Photographic Interpreters were initially prohibited from making any personal assessments beyond counting ,measuring and identifying. Indeed, the RIC predecessors were the “MFPU”s or Mobile Field Processing Units –often called “Muffpussies” with unofficial cat emblems. Fortunately, because some RICs were multi-sensor in operation, we were spared being dubbed “Photographic” RICS, with what would have been the inevitable attendant acronyms. By the time of the IV Squadron move away from Wildenrath however, the word “Intelligence” had, rightly or wrongly, been accepted for incorporation into “RIC”.

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