Personnel Index - Detail
Eric Sharp, two years before he joined 49Sqn.
(Eric describes a very callow (and worried) youth about to go on guard duty in 1958 in Cyprus)
Eric's only 49Sqn photograph - the accommodation where he lived the entire time at RAF Wittering.
He believes that he is lying on his bed on the right hand side of the picture!
Eric remembers his time with 49Sqn with great fondness and recounts the following stories:
During the Cold War every V-Bomber squadron had a diversionary airfield from which they would operate during a crisis.
49 Sqn's was at Pershore near Worcester. When I was told we were being scrambled to Pershore I misheard the name and thought we were going to Peshawar in Pakistan - I was disappointed.
I think we were at Pershore for about 3 days. I had just come off the night shift, had got into my bed when the siren went off for Scramble.
I had been nominated to see the aircraft back in at Wittering. I flew back I think in a Vickers Varsity (the Flying Pig).
It was shortly after that when, as part of a bomb loading team, we were tasked to load a very large bomb into the bomb bay.
I think it was 'a first' as there were a lot of very senior officers there from HQ Bomber Command to see it done.
I believe it was a Blockbuster Earthquake bomb but I could be mistaken. There were two of these bombs stored at Wittering but not in the Bomb Dump.
I believe they were stored with the nuclear weapons at another part of Wittering.
They were not certain that the bomb would fit in the bomb bay - it did, but it was very tight!
After we we had loaded the bomb the loading team went for lunch - the idea being that we would unload the bomb later.
We were having lunch when someone ran into the Mess to tell us that the bomb had dropped off the aircraft and demolished the only trolley that was capable of transporting it.
An AC Armament Assistant (they were untrained) had gone into the cabin and pressed the “Bombs away“ button.
I believe that a Bomb Disposal team were sent for and they steamed the explosive out - if they didn’t, at least they made it safe.
During my service at Wittering I had reason to remember XD818.
It was one of two aircraft that had been allocated to me for 'Before and After Flight' duties. The aircraft had just returned from a major servicing on 3rd Line - either at the Vickers factory at Radlett or at RAF St. Athans. It was painted in anti-flash white - a very bright white.
The rest of the fleet were in their low level camouflaged livery.
It was a very sunny day and I was acting as Top Man putting 1000 lb bombs on it. The reflection of the sun on the aircraft resulted in my having the equivalent of snow blindness.
I couldn’t see so I laid down on the top of the aircraft and called for help.
They brought me down on a “Giraffe“.
An airman in the 49 Sqn block at RAF Wittering decided to have a bit of fun. He managed to connect a microphone to the Station Tannoy System believing that what he announced would be confined to the barrack block. He announced that all 49 Sqn personnel should report to their Sqn dispersal. He repeated it. Unfortunately it went to all buildings and the outdoor Tannoy system on the camp. It was also a big night in the Officers Mess. I think it was their Summer Ball.
Anyway a big investigation took place but no one squealed on him.
We thought it was hilarious.
After the move to Marham, 49Sqn supplied one aircraft for QRA (Quick Reaction Alert). The American Nuclear Weapons were transported by a team of USAF personnel. When we were loading them on the aircraft they watched you like a hawk. If you had to go into the cabin they entered first and removed their pistol from the holster. If you had gone to the bomb panel I think they would have shot you.
Late 1962 was the time of the Cuban Missile crisis. It meant a lot of extra work for everyone and it has now been disclosed how close we were to going to war.
At that time or shortly after we had the coldest winter I have ever know. Even worse than the 1947 one. I think that on occasions the temperature dropped to 4ºF . How can you put bombs up with 28 degrees of frost.
We had to connect these bombs in the bomb bay. You had to connect two tubes together with a very small split pin. The problem was that you couldn’t hold the split pin wearing gloves, it was so small.
We had to take turns in trying to connect those two tubes. It was a hellish time and I will never forget it.
It was so cold for so long that after about 6 weeks the temperature rocketed to 32ºF and it felt like a summer's day.