The first time that I saw a Vulcan was at the Farnborough Air Show on Sat. September 6th 1952. the year when the De Haviland 110 broke up in mid-air. I was 13 years old and had been taken to my first Air Show by a friend and his father. We were lucky not to have been injured as we were standing on `Observation Hill` buying an ice-cream at the time. The seller threw my friend and I to the ground and then threw himself on top of us. When we stood up we saw all around us the carnage that had occurred.
A large proportion of the crowd left the show immediately following the incident, but my friend's father wanted to stay and see the AVRO 707. I can still remember seeing her, the sight and sound being, to a 13 year old, more like a storyline from Dan Dare in the Eagle comic.
My next encounter with a Vulcan was when, having just completed my National Service `Clerk Progress` trade training at R.A.F. Hereford. I arrived at R.A.F. Waddington in August 1959. As I arrived at the Guardhouse to check in, a Vulcan was being `thrown around the skies' as if in a display. I asked what was happening and was told that Roly Falk had taken up a Vulcan that the R.A.F. crew had declared un-airworthy. I was later told that, having landed, Roly Falk walked past the crew and, without looking at them, had said "Looks like she's O.K. to us, lads" and continued on his way. True or false, it's a good story.
I then spent the next 20 months in an office overlooking the runway, watching a wide range of different aircraft, mostly the Vulcan, taking off and landing. One of them would have been XH558 which, I believe, arrived in May 1960. National Service could have been a lot worse.
One of my main tasks was to produce the Service Cards for all the scheduled services, based on hours flown, check that all tasks had been done and maintain the records. Whilst I cannot claim to have been physically involved with XH558, I can claim to have been involved.
I will never forget the exercises with four Vulcans lined up diagonally along the runway. When the 'Scramble' order was given, all four aircraft would move on to the runway and take-off, two breaking to port and two to starboard. They would then form into a diamond formation and return to the airfield at low level, flying down the runway. Without doubt, the most spectacular sight and sound experience I have ever seen or heard.
I was threatened on return from some leave, with a full Court-Martial at Bomber Command at R.A.F. Bawtry, and confined to Camp. Apparantly, I was being held responsible for a Vulcan failing to stop at the end of the runway on landing. I believe that it was written off, but I am not sure. It was quite a period of time before I was informed that the charge had been dropped on the grounds that it was clear that I had had absolutely nothing to do with it. Strangely enough, nobody apologised!!!!
My penultimate night prior to de-mob was spent guarding Vulcans which had returned, I believe, 'bombed up' from an exercise. A technician, working in the cockpit of one of the Vulcans, had, by accident (or not), activated the tail parachute. Upon the orders of Air Traffic Control via the field telephone, my colleague and I were ordered to gather in the parachute and sit or lie on top of it to prevent the Vulcan being dragged by the strong wind across the airfield. It could even have been XH558. And there was I, expecting to be at my de-mob party that evening.
And yes, I did paint grass green--in readiness for an A.O.C.`s inspection.
Michael Redhouse formerly S.A.C.
I expect to be at the Waddington Air Show in June where I will be meeting up with one of my former Nat. Serv. colleagues for the first time since 1961.