The Warwickshire & Birmingham Wing Air Training Corps held its annual Dinner & Dance at the Village Hotel in Coventry on Saturday 24th October. The annual function was attended by 158 diners from across the Wing's 27 squadrons together with their guests from the Vulcan to the Sky Trust.
Guests of honour on this occasion were Wing Commander Mike Pollitt, the Operations Director of Vulcan to the Sky Trust and Squadron Leader Martin Withers DFC, one of the current display pilots for Vulcan XH558 and the flight commander of Operation Black Buck 1. Martin and his crew being responsible for bombing the runway at Port Stanley on the Falkland Islands in May 1982. Mike and Martin were also in the cockpit when the Vulcan flew over the Wing Training Day's final parade in June 2009.
After dinner Squadron Leader Martin Withers DFC described the operation codenamed, Black Buck 1, the flight in which he piloted his Vulcan bomber to the South Atlantic, with 11 Victor tankers lining up to refuel the huge aircraft en route and how the 8,000 mile, 16 hour flight from their base at Ascension Island was to break all previous bombing mission records.
He explained how he was trained to fly the Vulcan on strategic nuclear missions and how when he and his crew took off on April 30, 1982 . It was like flying off into the unknown.
As it turned out, the Argentinians were taken by surprise when the bombs dropped on May 1. They never anticipated that the RAF would fly a bomber that was built for the Cold War all the way to the Falkland Islands to attack Stanley air-port. It took Squadron Leader Withers nine hours to reach Ascension Island , and another sixteen hours of non-stop flying to carry out the bombing run to the Falklands and back to Ascension. It was the longest non-stop bombing mission in history.
As captain of a Vulcan nuclear bomber, it was, obviously, the first time he had dropped bombs in anger and looking back on his bombing run, which resulted in one of the Vulcan's 21 bombs hitting the runway, Martin said that compared with today's smart weapons, his mission to hit the runway from 10,000ft (3,000m) with free-fall bombs was a significant challenge. “Yet even that one crater had a huge impact, first because it meant the Argentinians, were never able to use the base for bombing raids for the rest of the conflict, and second, because it made Galtieri realise that the British really did have the capability to bomb his airbases on the Argentinian mainland which resulted in the withdrawal of many of his aircraft which would otherwise have been used against the British task force”.
After the speeches Wing Commander Pravin Ladwa Officer Commanding Warwickshire and Birmingham Wing Made the following Cadet Forces Medal presentations to:-
- Flight Lieutenant Les Vile Officer Commanding 163 (Coventry Phoenix) Squadron who received the CFM for 12 Years Uniformed Service.
- Flight Lieutenant Peter Coates Officer Commanding 485 (Harborne & Quinton) Squadron who received the CFM for 12 Years Uniformed Service.
- Flight Lieutenant Barry Broom Officer Commanding 497 (Daventry) Squadron who received the 3rd Clasp to his CFM for 36 Years Uniformed service.
Wing Commander Pravin Ladwa then invited the Guests, Wing Commander Mike Pollitt, and Squadron Leader Martin Withers DFC to present the Commandant Air Cadets, Certificate of Meritorious Service to Sergeant Amiee Easterlow in recognition of her contribution to music within the corps.
Following the presentations and speeches the guests withdrew to the bar as the Wing's comedy double act of Flight Lieutenant's Les Vile and Nathan Adams entertained the mess members with their very own hilarious style of witty banter and mockery of almost everybody on the Wing staff.
With all the formalities completed it was then time for everyone to mingle and catch up on news from colleagues they had not seen for a while and dance the night away.
The Mess President Squadron Leader Martin Harrison said "It was an honour to dine with such luminaries as Mike and Martin and I am sure we all feel the same sense of total awe when the Delta Lady flies overhead, literally shaking the ground. It is thanks to people like these two Vulcan pilots, that an important part of our aviation heritage has been bought back to life. Hopefully the Victor will be next”.
To see more of the photographs taken on the night please visit the
Wing Annual Dinner & Dance 2009 Gallery