112 (Shark) Squadron

Courtesy of Nigel Westmancott

112 Home

Disbandment parade - I didn’t take part in the parade. As a singlie at the time we took it in turns to do the weekly sheet change. The idea was to have a lie in, collect the dirty sheets, and exchange them for clean ones when the barrack stores wagon turned up, then leg it up to the SWO’s car park to catch the mid morning transport to the squadron.
On this occasion I arrived at work to find the first practice in full swing in the MOTE. The Sqn Ldr, somewhat tetchily I thought, told me he had already sized everyone off and allocated then into flights and I would miss his parade. Putting on a suitably disappointed look I slid off to make a mug of tea secretly rejoicing that I wouldn’t have to tote a gun round in the sun.

Talking of the SWO picking up the transport on his car park was fraught with danger as he had eyes like a hawk and he disliked us at 112 intensely. This dislike stemmed from a number of reasons one being his security clearance, or lack of it. He wasn’t cleared to come onto the squadron so whenever he accompanied the CO on his inspections he was made to wait in the picket post, which annoyed him no end. Another was our working hours, we worked summer hours all year round, 07.00 until 13.00 and every other Saturday morning simply because it would have taken two hours to get all the way back to Episkopi, have lunch then get back to work. His name was Murry brother of a singer Ruby Murry. Ruby came out on a combined services entertainment show and the SWO had pride of place in the front row next to the CO. For several weeks after that he was quite mellow particularly if you mentioned the great performance she had given. Sad to say the amnesty didn’t last.

PMC in their wisdom where posting people out in ones and twos almost from the day closure was announced so when it came to packing up we all mucked in. The radars were transported directly to Akrotiri harbour, the missiles flown out in Belfasts or Hercules and other items stored on the old parade square at Episkopi waiting despatch. I would often drive loads, such as this launcher on the old RL (PR5), or ride escort on the 10 tonner with Lennie Capstick our driver. As escort I had a long pole to lift sagging phone lines up over the boxes, on one occasion we stopped for lunch at the airmens mess in Akrotiri and I failed to spot a set. We took out the mess and several other sections, we did own up though, couldn’t not with a hundred yards of cable dragging behind us

Life was not all work and 112 had a team in the inter section league, we were due to play Episkopi officers at the start of the 1974 season. New to the squadron I was drafted in to keep score something I had never done before, but was quickly briefed. They skittled us out for a low score, 63 or 64, and went into bat quickly matching our score. “That’s it” said I, the officers came off and cracked open the beer. At that point their scorer came over and said I had made a mistake the scores were tied, quick consultation and they went back on to score the winning run. That evening this episode was repeated on the BFBS sports round up with the line I had uttered at the time “What do you expect I’m only a rigger.” That took a bit of living down.

AOC’s inspection
Episkopi’s annual inspection was spread over two days with 112 being inspected on the second day. On the way to work on the bus I half heard the suppliers discussing an incident when main supply was being inspected. Something a young SAC had said to the AOC had resulted in OC supply being subjected to a one-way conversation and a threat to have half the suppliers disestablished.

Came the inspection Sgt Al Paton, Cpl Keith Parker and myself were lined up in the launcher bay, Sgt Mick Hart called us to attention as the AOC et al came in. He glanced round looked us up and down then spoke to me. Clearly the story of OC supply had gone round as the squadron leader closed his eyes and watched his career go down the tubes, the warrant officer took a deep breath and rolled his eyes to the ceiling as if in prayer and Mike Hart’s mouth fell open. After a few general enquires the fateful question was asked, “ I suppose you have spent a long time preparing for my inspection?” There was total silence; no one seemed to even breath, what would the idiot say? After a moments reflection something stirred in my memory, “No sir this is a hydraulic bay and it is always kept spotless to avoid any contamination of the systems.” “Thank you” said the AOC and moved on. If I remember I had first pint from the CO’s barrel for that one, but as usual, by the end of the week I was “that idiot from the pack bay” again. What happened in supply, same question to a young SAC who replied, “Yes we have been painting and polishing for weeks”.

Turkish invasion 74
Following the invasion in ’74 we were living on site and manning the squadron 24 hours a day for a while. Turkish refugees were living in happy valley and both warring parties were told that the British Government would not tolerate any fighting on the sovereign base areas. One morning our tannoy blared out “Air raid warning red, air raid warning red.” Troodos had spotted an aircraft coming our way. As we were grabbing tin hats etc the WO rushed in and detailed me to a handling party. We were dispatched to pick up the reload from the plumbers and take it to MS1. Labouring up the hill we could see a Turkish Phantom lining up for a bombing run on a radio mast several miles away but in so doing getting very close to us. Stopping at the LCP the chief went in, came out several minutes later and said take cover lads they are about to set one off. The radar had a lock, the missiles were run up with castel keys in and turned and the EC was waiting for the CinC to give the OK. Time seemed to stand still then two Lightenings from Akrotiri launched to chase him off. We were stood down but it must rate as being the closest a Bloodhound was fired in anger.

Nigel Westmancott