Mike Keitch

17 May 2007

Well, I guess it’s time after 55 years to put my head above the parapet and put a few words on our site! Over the years I have bumped into a few of you particularly plumbers at Halton reunions and am still proud to include Dave Andrews and Ainslie Cruickshank as close friends. The 3 of us were among 6 armourers who went to Honington on first postings and we had a lot of fun – mostly it seems following Cruickshank from one barmaid to another. We did mad things like a bunch of us going to Paris at literally a moment’s notice for a bank holiday – no kit except toothbrushes, no tickets, no accommodation and no maps! Slept in Gare Du Nord one night, cemetery the next and so on! My RAF life went from Honington, to Feltwell for officer training, Cranwell for Eng Off training, and then 92 MU Faldingworth moving nukes by road and air. How many of you knew we had nukes in Cyprus and Singapore? Did a 400ft beat up on one trip over Masirah in a Brittania carrying 6 weapons. The Brit pilot didn’t want to be eclipsed by 2 Hunter pilots who had done a beat up first. I’d been in the SSA at Honington serving nukes hence my first commissioned post was back to nukes at Faldingworth. I never lost the nuclear tag to the end of my career. From 92MU to St Athan then Berlin. I could write a book about the Berlin tour alone e.g. like the time I was arrested by East German VoPos, or the time I went on a secret squirrel tour of Military sites with a mad Irish Intelligence officer from the Sherwood Foresters who liked to provoke our East German tails! Then to Benson on ex FEAF Whirlwinds (all those riveted patches on the side opposite the cargo door were due to Ghurkas in Borneo throwing in rifles with fixed bayonets before they themselves climbed aboard!) From there to R&D at Swanton Morley CSDE, followed by Scampton as OC Arm (nukes again). My oppo at Waddington was Gerry Hayes- he and I always called each other “brother” and one day one of my airman asked why we had different surnames. Together, Gerry and I often fooled TacEval teams by helping each other out with bombing-up teams ,vehicles and equipment if one of us looked like not meeting Wartime targets for generating loaded aircraft. Then back to CSDE and l then left the RAF for the first time in 1982. Went back in 86 after over 3 years as Works Manager for a right wing council in Sussex. I could hack 9 bolshie trade unions but dealing with 2-faced Conservative councillors was another matter entirely. Went back into the RAF in 1986. Did 3 years at MODPE doing armament R&D then the best tour of all as RAFLO Arm at HQ3AF at Mildenhall. Worked as adviser to USAF (nukes again), US Army, USMC, USN (more nukes) and various secret squirrel places. Great fun. I can confirm that not a single cruise missile ever went out on the British roads – they stayed in their storage buildings from the day they were flown in to the day they were flown out. Those poor peace women got it so wrong! Then to Colt as OC MEGS then finally as O.C.Eng & Supply at the RAF Armament Support Unit at Wittering overseeing the run-down of the RAF nuclear force.(last time on nukes!). Retired in 1997 to Scotland, met Stephanie and together we’ve been running a B&B in Sutherland. We spend the winter in Az where we have a small holiday home near Mexico. That’s it – guess the only bit to make anyone envious is the last bit! I was very sorry not to have made it to the window dedication but the Reunion in 2009 is definitely in my long term diary. A major sadness in my life was the death of my great pal Gerry Hayes. Some of the plumbers know the story – basically he was hounded to his death by the media following a completely fabricated TV programme about him by Granada TV. My wreath spelt out 91- he would have loved that. His daughter, Vicki is now my “adopted” niece. Finally, I would love to hear from anyone who remembers me. Best wishes to all 91st members.

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Many of you will now know that Halton is to close forever in 2022 with the training flight and all supporting staff leaving by 2020, relocating to RAF Cranwell. The fate of the Association as well as the windows in St Georges and the tribute etc is still to be decided

There will be no more triennials and in fact the last reunion of the association will be held in 2020 at the Arboretum to coincide with the centenary of Lord Trenchard's vision as well as being the 40th anniversary of the Association.

WE will be holding a reunion in 2019 to mark the 60th anniversary of our arrival at Halton. Venue has yet to be decided but possibilities will be looked at early in the New Year.

News has reached me that the film 'Allied' starring Brad Pitt is using Halton as a location. Will be interesting to see if any of it is recognisable in the film.

Nick Bale has had a look at the RAFHAA website and found that we feature THREE times on the site. I have put a link out to it on the links page so have a look and see if you can spot yourself.

I have now created a separate page for each member that sends me his life story - so come on - you all have a story to tell.

I have added a page listing those that are still missing. Have a look at the list and if you know of the whereabouts - or indeed any information - on any of them, please let me know.