Eight Vulcan bombers at RAF Gan - Tony Cunnane's Autobiography

A Yorkshire Aviator's Autobiography
Tony Cunnane
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Eight Vulcan bombers at RAF Gan

When I returned to my HQ FEAF office, I was told that the Icing Operation Order needed updating to make it conform with the current Bomber Command War Standing Operating Procedures. Never having been on a main force V-Bomber squadron, I was not aware that such a document existed but a photocopy of it had arrived in our office by hand of a squadron leader courier from HQ Bomber Command. I was never given an opportunity to study that highly sensitive document, but a couple of days later I was given the job of typing yet another version of Operation Icing – the revisions having been carried out not by me but by the others in the office. Because the result was a long and complicated document, it took me two whole days to type it.

It gradually became clear that plans were afoot at a high level in both HQ Bomber Command and HQ Far East Air Force to practice the rapid reinforcement of the Far East by eight Vulcans instead of Victors. We were ordered to move west to Gan Island as soon as the practice reinforcement was ordered because, as I mentioned earlier, once the bombers arrived at Gan, C-in-C Bomber Command relinquished control of the force to C-in-C Far East Air Force. At Gan the Vulcan crews would have time for rest after the long flight from UK - they would have flown direct, at short notice, with only a single refuelling stop en route.

I and my colleagues were flown from Changi to Gan in a specially tasked Britannia (above: that's me posing for a pic for the family) and we had only a few hours to wait before eight Vulcan bombers arrived in quick succession. I imagine few people knew that the Vulcans had left UK, let alone arrived in the Far East, such was the secrecy surrounding anything to do with the V Force in those heady days. We each gave a formal briefing to the eight crews about operational matters and then we were flown back to Singapore in the Commander-in-Chief's personal Hastings (my image below).

Singapore ceased to be a state of Malaysia and became an independent republic on 9 August 1965. About then, I and my Victor colleagues in Singapore were sent back to England. I assume we were replaced in Singapore by Vulcan aircrew, but I certainly never met any of them. My own job as an AEO instructor at Gaydon had, of course, disappeared with the demise of the Valiant months earlier so I was keen to learn my next posting.
I took these pictures as soon as the eight Vulcan bombers had arrived at Gan. They parked on a distant area which was immediately placed out of bounds to all non-Bomber Command personnel. I probably should not have taken the pictures on my own camera but I did - on the pretext that they were required for our official report when we got back to Singapore - but no-one asked.

Afterthought in 2015. While checking through the pile of messages that had accumulated in my office at Gaydon during my extended stay in the Far East, I had come across an order dated 1st January 1965 informing me that I had been placed on standby to command a flight of RAF airmen on 'Operation HOPE NOT' - the contingency plan for the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill.  I had already been in the Far East for over a month when that order had been issued but my detachment was so secret that no-one had seen fit to advise the admin folk that I was several thousand miles away. In January 2015, when the Nation was marking the 50th anniversary of the death of Sir Winston, I had an opportunity to watch the now historic 1965 black and white TV pictures of the RAF Guard of Honour marching through London escorting the cortege, but I couldn't see who it was that had taken my place at very short notice.

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