RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, began on Jul. 1, 1955 when the first 30 personnel posted to the ‘Unit’ established themselves in the flat, dry, rocky scrubland on the windswept Akrotiri Peninsula.
Nicosia Airport was temporarily closed as a result of terrorist activity and the handling of the Island’s civil aviation was diverted to Akrotiri with a tented ‘civil airport reception centre’ to match. An RAF Regiment Light Anti-Aircraft Wing was also brought in.
By the end of August 1956, Station strength had reached 260 officers and 2864 other ranks, a massive increase in 12 months. It brought with it 1430 personnel on the daily sick-parade, mainly a result of the over-crowding and insanitary conditions, as construction lagged behind the unforeseen demand for accommodation.
From its rough beginnings with caravans and mud tracks, the Station was laid out, roads made, hangars and some permanent buildings constructed.
Following the withdrawal from east of Suez, the Station peaked in the 1960s and 1970s; Lightning, Canberra, Hercules, Argosy, and Vulcan aircraft all operated from RAF Akrotiri as permanently-based squadrons.
The Avro Vulcan goes to New Zealand
Adrian Summer, former Vulcan pilot (who was Vulcan co-pilot at the time of this story), recalls in Tony Blackman’s book Vulcan Boys True Tales of the Iconic Delta V Bomber;
‘My greatest memory from Cyprus days, was our New Zealand Ranger in February 1972. Ron had received a letter from the widow of an ex-squadron commander who had sadly died; he had had a silver bat, the IX Squadron emblem, as a mascot on their car and she wished to present it to the squadron. The only problem was that she lived in Christchurch, South Island NZ.
‘Unfortunately, this was not sufficient justification for a trip ‘down under’ so a further reason had to be found. I am not sure how it happened, but Ron [Wg Cdr Ron Dick, Summer’s Vulcan captain) managed to get an invite to take part in the Hamilton Air Show, south of Auckland, North Island. Our base throughout our stay was the RNZAF airbase at Ohakea, just outside Palmerston North.’
Kiwis within the roundels
‘As it happened, we were the first Vulcan to return to New Zealand since 1959 when a Vulcan B1 XH498 undershot the runway at Wellington damaging the port undercarriage, and crash-landed back at Ohakea. I understand the crew chief remained with the aircraft in NZ for a number of months! Our ranger was not without incident, but of a different kind.
‘During the first evening of our arrival, our aircraft was ‘zapped’ having kiwis painted within the roundels on either side of the nose. Then, during our flight down and back to Christchurch to pick up the silver bat, we came across an old steam train known as the “Kingston Flier’ which we managed to capture on F95 film. On returning to Ohakea, Ron was handed a telegram which was from the engine driver, a Mr Glendenning, which read-+++GREAT FLYBY STOP DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU HAD AN OIL LEAK UNDER YOUR LEFT WING STOP+++.
‘Apparently several years later Ron Dick re-visited NZ and found out where Mr Glendenning was living. He knocked at his door and said to him “We have never met, but I have been close to you,” to which Mr Glendenning replied, “you’re that bloody Vulcan pilot.”
Vulcan flying up and down in New Zealand
‘Another occurrence was as a result of flying up and down the fantastically beautiful Milford Sound in New Zealand again during our flight back from Christchurch. Months after our return to Cyprus, I was back in the UK on my intermediate co-pilot’s course for conversion to the left-hand seat. I was browsing through the flying magazines in Smiths and came across a Vulcan filling the whole of the centrefold picture; on closer inspection, I realised it was our aircraft in New Zealand. The picture had been taken by an Australian professional photographer who was on his honeymoon and who happened to be fishing in Milford Sound at the time.
‘Flying back to Cyprus from New Zealand, whilst crossing the Inter-Tropical Front and endeavouring to climb out of severe icing, we had the outer lamination of two of our front windscreens crack. We subsequently landed safely at Tengah in Singapore, and the aircraft remained there for a double windscreen change whilst our crew flew back to Akrotiri by VC10.’
Kiwis within roundels again!
‘Some days later the aircraft was recovered back to base by Flight Lieutenant Jon Tye and his crew. Within minutes of it landing at Akrotiri, Ron was summoned to the station commander’s office to explain to John Stacey [RAF Akrotiri commander] why one of his aircraft had been seconded to the New Zealand Air Force.. Ron had forgotten about the kiwis in the roundels!’
Vulcan Boys True Tales of the Iconic Delta V Bomber is published by Mortons Books and is available to order here.
Photo credit: Crown Copyright