Gallery

 

In 1975 41 Cdo RM were based in Malta, and their 'Salerno Flight' was formed with Capt Rodney Helme RM as the OC (he actually replaced the original OC who was a Army Gunner who was sacked for 'liaising' with a Company Commander's wife), and Sgt Blain as one of the pilots. Their Gazelle, 381 and 383, were allocated from the 3 BAS aircraft at Coypool, and Lt Steve Bidmead RM, Lt Derek Blevins RM and Sgt Paul Braithwaite RM were tasked with delivering the Gazelle to Malta.

 

 

Derek Blevins writes: " The route was Le Touquet, Chatauxdun, Lyon, Nice, Pisa, Frosinone, Naples, Catania and Malta, and took from 4th March to 9th March 1975; a total of 15.3 flying hours. Lyon was a convenient 'port of call' as Paul Braithwaite's French wife and daughter lived there, and Paul spoke perfect French! He booked us in to a local hotel at short notice, which turned out to be the local brothel! (We didn't get much sleep, but for all the wrong reasons!) Apart from a spurious warning caption coming on half-way across the Channel, the Gazelle were trouble free the whole way. When approaching Lyon Airport in really bad visibility, a lost private fixed wing aircraft appeared out of the murk, and passed between the two Gazelles!

When we landed at Naples we were met by a huge black American USAF Cpl with an equally large Ghetto-Blaster radio on his shoulder playing his favourite 'music'. He asked us if we were 'Up' or 'Down' which seemed pointless as we were obviously 'Down'. To humour him we confirmed that we were indeed 'Down', to which he replied "You are Down? So what's up?" UK/USA relations were about to get nasty when we suddenly realised he was just asking if we were 'Serviceable' or 'Unserviceable'. The ride into Naples in a USAF pick-up truck was the most dangerous part of the whole trip."