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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December 2021 marked the 60th anniversary of our graduation, but as COVID still bit and lots of places were still under restrictions, I felt that a reunion later in 2022 would be worthwhile. Initially, I looked at the Bellhouse hotel again as that is where we had our graduation dinner, but they were overcharging for a private room, so that was a non starter.

Bristol seemed a popular choice so I plumped for that and a visit to the aerospace museum there. Decent hotels were a problem and I had to search further and further afield before plumping for the Bailbrook House Hotel just outside Bath on the advice of one of our members. This reunion is from the 19th to the 21st April.

Another reunion is the very last apprentice reunion at RAF Halton. Originally on the 20th August, this was changed to 6th August by RAF Halton, citing service requirements! For the few that are attending, I have organised a hotel – the Bell Hotel in Winslow.

We still have no news on 63 of our members that seem to have vanished without trace. It would be good to try and track them down but I suspect it will not now happen.

18th Feb 2022