Sean Maffett will be well known to many aviation fans as the voice of Vulcan XH558 as he is our official commentator and is seen and heard at many airshows all over the world. Here, Sean recalls a small ditti that he used to sing as part of his duties.
My first RAF tour was as a truckie navigator on 24 Squadron at RAF Colerne, near Bath. (Say ‘cullern if you want to sound local). We flew the magnificent Handley Page Hastings. It was the early 1960s, the height of the Cold War.
Our day job (and night) was route-flying all over the world, and flying low level to drop paratroops in odd places - 24’s motto was ‘In omnia parati’, which we reckoned meant ‘We drop paratroops everywhere’. OK, I know, what’s this got to do with the cold war? Apart from the fact that, like everyone else on the planet, we were living under the threat of instant nuclear annihilation.
Well, we also had something called Bomber Command Standby, otherwise know as BCSB. The idea was that, in the run up to the end of the world, aka World War 3, we would rush off to various V-bomber stations, pick up V-force groundcrew and all their stuff, and take them to their dispersal airfields. There, their aircraft would join them so as to confuse the Soviets and make sure the shiny V-force was not at home when the Russkies came bringing buckets of sunshine, alias hydrogen bombs. Well, that was the theory.
We did practice these Bomber Command dispersals occasionally, and if we happened to bump into a Vulcan crew, we’d have a good whinge about how they could get fried eggs at El Aden in Libya, while we truckies had to put up with reconstituted scrambled egg. Important stuff, you see.
Anyway, BCSB was a four-hour standby, 24/7, and if you were on standby, you could leave the station, but you had to call in every four hours. The station phone number was Hawthorn 283. How sad is that, remembering that sort of detail.
But the reason it’s engraved on my memory is that we used to sing, to the tune of ‘Memphis Tennessee’ “Long distance information, get me Hawthorn two eight three, I’m ringing in because I’m on the old BCSB....”
What a good thing Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD to its friends) worked. At the time, we just kind of hoped it would. And we were, of course, happy to do our bit to help it along the way, even if it did mean mixing with the heroes of the V-Force.