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THERE seems to be a recurring theme
After conversion training at RAF Benson –
this month.
which is to the Air Force Merlin squadrons
The aircraft isn’t ours, but the guys at the
what Culdrose is to the RN’s – the grey Merlin
controls are.
crews became green Merlin crews... and found
The RAF can’t do without some matelots and
themselves in Basra. turned head of 1419’s engineering detachment “If someone had told me two years ago that the
marines to run their drones over Afghanistan (see
Talk about a baptism of fire... – added: RAF operated and maintained aircraft within the
page 9).
“Within two weeks of joining the squadron I “It’s been a truly Tri-Service experience – the line of indirect fire, I would have told them to pull
And nor could they do without our WAFUs on
was lying on the floor in full body armour with kind of challenge that I relish, leading the other one!” said PO Steve Stopforth.
17 rockets landing in the compound – just jujustsst t
Merlins in Iraq either.
an RAF detachment, supporting Army But he added: “Having completed my third
20 minutes after getting off the plane in innn
We touched briefly upon the work of 1419
operations, under daily indirect fire. It’s tour – most of it on my belt buckle taking cover
Basra,” said PO Billy Barnham.
Flight (that’s their bird of prey crest pictured) back
been an honour and privilege.” – I now have a great respect for our light blue
“I thought: Well at least I’m not in
in our February edition.
The Merlins have served as workhorses cousins and a medal that I am truly proud to have
Culdrose.” in Basra – acting as flying buses for troops, received.”
Well, with the main British presence in Iraq
AET ‘Gouldy’ Gould added:“Dodging flying ambulances for the wounded, flying The Senior Naval Officer, Lt Cdr Charlie Parrock,
coming to an end, it’s time to praise the efforts of
200-plus rockets in two months transporters carrying supplies. praised all when he said: “I have been immensely
the small bunch of dark blues amid a sea of light
definitely makes the time pass quickly out in ououutt ininn “The flying has been demanding with long proud of what the RN personnel have achieved.
blue, khaki and sand.
Iraq but it’s all character-building stuff – so I’ve soso o I’vI’vve e days spent in the aircraft,” said airman Lt Sean “Such is the innovative and determined nature
The RAF operate the Mk3 version of the
been told! Carnew. of the Fleet Air Arm that on arrival we almost
Merlin – fundamentally the same aircraft as the
“On the plus side the scran was champion.” “Of all the tasking assigned it is the Immediate completely took over what was a struggling main
RN’s Mk1, except that all the submarine hunting
Rather than form a separate RN flight, the Fleet Reaction Team role – Medevac – which is most engineering cell, and were integral in turning it
wizardry in the back of the cab is replaced by Air Arm team in Basra have merged with their
demanding and rewarding with many of the around into its current success.
space for up to 22 troops in full kit. RAF counterparts – giving both a glimpse of life
landing sites in Basra being quite small and very “The Air Force is the first to agree that without
To meet the ever-increasing demand for air on the other side of the hill.
exposed to possible insurgent attacks. the dedication, leadership and grit of our
power east of Suez, Whitehall snapped up half a “It gave us a lot of responsibility – and was a
“All in all I’ve learned a lot during my time with invaluable team, the operational output of the
dozen Merlins no longer wanted by the Danes. very steep and challenging learning curve,” said the RAF, skills and lessons which I am looking Merlin force would not have been possible.”
More Merlins meant more aircrew – hence the PO Barnham. forward to taking back to the grey Merlin world.” 1419 are still operating in Iraqi skies; they’re
call for personnel from the Fleet Air Arm to plug His boss, acting WO1 Nikk Lovelock-Jeffels There has, of course, been a fair bit of banter flying from Kuwait in support of the British draw-
the air and ground crew gap. – an ex REME man turned RN Merlin engineer between the Crabs and WAFUs. down.
● A Merlin of 1419 fl ight throws
up a wall of sand as it sets down
in the desert near Basra
Picture: Cpl Martin Coleman, RAF
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