Last summer, I was amazed to hear on local TV that 2009 marked the fortieth anniversary of the Harrier entering service with the RAF. The news item was filmed at RAF Wittering, the natural home of this iconic aircraft, and brought back memories of something that occurred a long time ago.
As a Group Officer in 1982 I had arranged a Cluster visit to Wittering just at the time when the Task Force was being assembled ready for deployment to the Falklands. Number 1 Squadron Harriers had already departed for the South Atlantic and some of the aircraft from the OCU were being fitted with re-fuelling probes prior to their own deployment. Accompanying me that day was a friend of mine from work, our Publicity Manager Eddie Worral, a professional air to air photographer and aviation artist. Eddie was always interested in my work in the ROC hence my invitation for him to join us that evening.
Upon my promotion to Area Headquarters in 1989 I asked Eddie if I could have a look at one or two of his paintings with a view to presenting it, as my leaving gift, to 7 Group. It was his painting of a GR3 Harrier situated on a wet Wittering runway that caught my eye. He told me that it was his visit with the ROC that inspired him to paint it. Following the closure of Group Headquarters in 1991 the painting was returned to me and, since I had no suitable wall space on which to hang it, it had to be packed away in the attic.
The TV news item gave me an idea, and I wondered if RAF Wittering would like to have it. After exchanging several letters, emails and phone calls, the PMC and CRO at Wittering agreed that they would be pleased to accept the painting for the Officers Mess. Arrangements were finally made and the presentation took place on Wednesday November 4th. June and I received a very warm welcome and enjoyed a look round one of the hangars and the aircraft. I had previously replaced the original brass plaque (put on in 1989) with a new one which read :-
“Presented to RAF Wittering
by No.7 Group Royal Observer Corps Association
I typed up the background and history of the painting and gave a copy to the PMC so that future members of the Officers Mess at RAF Wittering may read this story and be reminded of the historic link the RAF had with the Royal Observer Corps.
MickM ready to go...
CRO on the right in the picture is Sqdn. Leader T.W. RAF (retired)
PMC at Wittering :- Sqdn. Leader F.W. RAF.