NAVY NEWS, JANUARY 2009
Singapore. Montreal, Monaco. Bahrain.
● AN AIRCREWMAN STARES AT THE ARID
Sao Paolo. Shanghai.
All feature fi rmly on Bernie Ecclestone‛s grand prix map.
Nanyuki, Kenya (pop. circa 32,000) probably doesn‛t.
But you don‛t need Lewis Hamilton and the Formula 1 boys The scrubland around the market town is more steppe and
to have a grand prix. savannah than jungle (but then despite their nickname, the
You do, however, need 45 naval aviators and a few Sea King
Junglies very rarely operate in the jungle these days…).
Mk4s. And some squaddies. Plus the Army Air Corps. Home for the seven-week exercise was the town‛s
showground, taken over by the British Army Training Unit
which stages more than half a dozen exercises each year.
Grand Prix 08 (no, we‛ve no idea why it‛s called that
Barely had the 845 team arrived than the camp was
either) was designed to train the Junglies for the impending
mobbed by locals… who were somewhat surprised to fi nd the
rigours of Afghanistan and the 3rd Scots Battle Group –
British Navy quite so far from the ocean. They hung around
better known as the Black Watch – in the art of fi ghting and
outside the showground gates, eager to sell their wares –
operating in a hot, dusty environment.
they could knock-up pretty much anything the Brits desired.
To take part in a grand prix, you have to get there. And
Nanyuki isn‛t the easiest place to get to.
First there‛s a lengthy fl ight to Nairobi courtesy of Crab
Air – described by the fl iers as “uneventful and surprisingly
There is something missing in all this. Helicopters. The There is something missing in all
…Something which couldn‛t be said for the six-hour 75-
Sea Kings turned up in the back of an Antonov transporter
mile minibus ride (by my reckoning that’s a little over six miles
at Nairobi airport a few days later, giving the air and ground
an hour – Ed) from the Kenyan capital to Nanyuki in the Rift
crews time to acclimatise, get to know the ground and (most
importantly) fi nd the best café in town, Barney‛s, which, we‛re
told, did a roaring trade.
BUS RIDE Barney‛s, fortuitously, was close to the civilian airfi eld – fi ve
miles south of Nanyuki and on the other side of the equator
– which was home to the Sea Kings for the duration of Grand
● A SOLDIER TRIES TO PROTECT HIMSELF FROM
THE DUST KICKED UP BY A JUNGLY AND (BELOW)
“The drive through the Nairobi suburbs allowed us to “Thedrive through theNa Prix.
TRUNK SHOW... ELEPHANTS YOUNG AND OLD
experience the more colourful side of the city: an interesting
ROAM AROUND IN THE KENYAN SCRUB
driving style (one bus routinely undertaking another on the
Once re-assembled after their fl ight from Somerset,
single carriageway) with people walking, riding, sitting and
the helicopters‛ fi rst sorties were desert landings, initially
selling on the roadside,” said Lt Ben McGreal.
on large(ish) sites such as sports fi elds and expansive
The latter did quite well from the fl iers. The minibus clearings, then smaller and smaller spots.
stopped several times en route to Nanyuki so the airmen could
“To those not accustomed to landing in what are no more
buy souvenirs (aka ‘tat‛).
than small lumpy ‘sandpits‛, the skill is more to ‘drive‛ the
Tat tucked away and minibus having safely negotiated the aircraft down a recognised approach, culminating in a zero
less-than-brilliant local roads, the Junglies fi nally arrived at speed, zero height landing,” explained Lt McGreal.
“The condition and amount of dust in the ‘sandpit‛
Nanyuki lies at the northwestern edge of Mount Kenya, determined when the visual references started to disappear
some 6,295 feet above sea level, and straddles the equator. – the pilot and aircrewman would really start earning their
fl ying pay.”
● THE BLACK WATCH BRAVE THE DUST TO FILE ABOARD
0014-015_NN_Jan-v2.indd 114-015_NN_Jan-v2.indd 1 88/12/08 16:56:01/12/08 16:56:01
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