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Terence Murphy

Start of flying training Linton 1958

1. Name
Terence Joseph Patrick MURPHY
2. Date Commissioned
7 May 1953
3. Date retired
16 August 1974 (At own request)
4. Rank
Major RM.
Colonel South African Army
5. Awarded wings
28 August 1959
6. Flying schools

1958/59 RAF Linton on Ouse. Piston Provost/Vampire.
1959/60 RNAS Lossiemouth. Seahawk Jet OFS. Airborne FAC qualified.
1961 RNAS Culdrose. Hiller/Whirlwind conversion.
1961 HMS Osprey Portland. Anti-submarine hel OFS.
1965 RAF Central Flying School Sioux instructor trg.
1965/66 School of Army Aviation. Sioux instructor.
1974 Kidlington (civil). Bell 47/Jetranger instructor. ATPL awarded.
1976 Rh AF Salisbury Rhodesia. Alouette 2 and 3.

Seahawk Landing

Seahawk 180 landing on deck. Air Sea Rescue Plane Guard Whirlwind in background

Scrapped Seahawk

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi
Terence’s scrapped Seahawk in aircraft graveyard some years after squadron disbanded.
He did not crash it!

7. Aircraft types flown

Provost T1
Vampire T11
Seahawk 6
Hiller HT1
Whirlwind 3 and 7
Sioux/Bell 47
Scout AH Mk1
Cherokee 140
Alouette 2 and 3
Jetranger 206.

8. Squadrons

736 RNAS Lossiemouth. Seahawk OFS. 1959/60.
806 HMS Albion Seahawk jet FW FGA 1960. Catapult 156; landings 176.
705 RNAS Culdrose. Hiller/Whirlwind conversion. 1961.
737 HMS Osprey/Portland. Whirlwind anti-submarine OFS. 1961.
848 HMS Bulwark. Whirlwind troop lift helicopter. 1961/62.
45 Cdo Air Troop. Aden. Formation of Sioux Air Troop. 1965.
Cdo Bde Air Squadron. Coypool Plymouth. Sioux/Scout. 1972/74.
7 and 8 Rh AF Rhodesia. Alouette 2 and 3. 1975/78.

9. Aircraft Carriers
HMS Implacable (under training)
HMS Albion 806 Sqn
HMS Bulwark 848 Sqn
USS Valley Forge.
10. Senior Appointments

A/CO 848 Sqn.Bulwark
Instructor Sch of Army Avn
OC 45 Cdo Air Troop and Middle East Theatre QHI
Corps Aviation Sponsor DCGRM MOD
OC M Company 42 Cdo
CO Cdo Bde Air Sqn
SO1 Ops Combined Operations HQ, Rhodesia
SO1 Ops Joint High Command, Zimbabwe
SO1/SSO Ops Special Forces HQ, South Africa
Commander Wallmannsthal Division, South Africa.

NGS and GSM (UK)
DMM and MFC (Ops) Rhodesia
MMM (S Africa)

HMS Bulwark

Bulwark. Whirlwinds and Embarked Commando


12. General.

My story is so dated I wonder if anyone is still interested! In any case, what is written should be viewed in the light of the times. But Jim Dresner, of the flyingmarines website, politely asked me (again) to send as many photos and stories as possible, and so I finally got on with it. If it is too long for you, dear reader, then skip bits, or all of it!

I volunteered for flying training whilst in 40 Commando in Cyprus, despite that the soldiering there was great fun and I was very happy. The RSM drove me to the airport to fly to the UK for flying training. With the typical humour of RM SNCOs, when he heard that I was aiming to be a pilot, he said “Good luck, Sir, but don’t drop anything on us.”

It seemed that RM pilots had ceased to qualify for FAA wings some ten years before. Now the Corps wanted new ones back into the fray and I was privileged to “lead the charge.” I very much enjoyed the land and sea (landing craft and yachting) aspects of RM life, but I wished to add the third dimension – and thus enjoy the lot.

In early July 1958 I joined a group of RN officer volunteers at RAF Linton, Yorkshire, UK. We were to be given basic fixed wing training; piston and jet. This training was of a very high standard, but, alas, there were some cultural difficulties on the ground. The RAF wished to treat us trained officers as cadets. This was silly. Their syllabus included gardening duties, training Guest Nights and there was even a stated reluctance to allow us “students” to freely use Mess facilities, such as the bar. Because this RAF attitude was unacceptable to us it led to confrontation and avoidable tensions. It was a pity - as the RAF thus missed an opportunity to make friends with, and impress, the RN Service.

The course lasted 14 months – with half day ground school and half flying. We started on the excellent pistoned engined Provost. I was glad of that as I learned, not least, about torque and rudder control that in the later jet Provost would have been less marked. Then we were introduced to the jet Vampire T 11, also a dual aircraft, and one which we were not encouraged to spin solo. The course failure rate was high enough to concern us all, but I only recall one or two deaths from aircraft accidents. The threat of “the chop” was increased when we heard of the impending arrival of the dreaded RAF “trappers.” This was a team of experienced instructors, armed with draconian powers of dismissal, which checked on standards. They trapped the instructors too – and even grounded our RAF flight commander. He was an amiable chap who apparently won a civil award much later for actively flying up to the age of about 70. One in the eye for the trappers!

When this training was over we were awarded Navy wings on the authority of the AOC 23 Group RAF – so my logbook proclaims.

We went to RNAS Lossiemouth on the Moray Firth in Scotland to convert to the Seahawk and use it as a weapons platform. It was a single-seat, single engined, jet fighter ground attack,  front line aircraft with no bad habits, other than those induced by the pilot. We carried out low flying, formation and battle formation, instrument flying, night flying, 20 and 45 degree rockets attacks, 45 degree dive bombing, strafing and 20 mm cannon firing at banner targets, fighter tactics, low level and high level navigation, photography and practice deck landings on a runway.

During the training, alas, one of our number crashed on the airfield and was killed in full view of us all. The plume of black smoke darkened too much the thoughts of some of the course. A few married officers, having come so far, put their chits in and withdrew from flying, despite the cajolery of the rest of us. These pilots were no less capable than the remainder. But they were then stripped of their recently awarded wings and sent back to other RN duty. Such a waste!

After the five months of this comprehensive course I was sent to Malta to join 806 squadron in the Albion. On 17 February 1960 I signed for a Seahawk, was told a radio frequency, the Albion’s call sign and a course to steer to join the ship. I left the friendly island behind and went to look for a carrier. She was heading East for Port Said on this grey Mediterranean day and I could not see her! After a while I called up and the friendly voice of the Fighter Direction Officer (whom I knew) said – “Hello, Terence, we have you on radar.” I felt less lonely and, sometime later, I spotted a tiny grey dot with a white splash at the stern – and there was Mother. I was ordered to conduct three roller landings with the hook up. The standard pattern was to fly up the starboard side of the ship, break to port ahead and carry out an anti-clockwise circuit, line up with the mirror, and go for it. The mirror was a pleasure to fly down. There was no dancing batsman, capering on the flight deck, hysterically waving ping pong bats at you.

I made wide circuits – I could tighten up later. After the roller landings I was told to lower the hook and land. This was it. After the shock of the landing I finally remembered to raise the hook, fold the wings and taxi out of the way. I looked up – there was a crowd of “goofers” on the island – no doubt hoping I would do a Kamikaze into the quarterdeck! Later the same day I was launched for 45 degree dive bombing practice. I lined up for the hydraulic catapult for the first time. I had been well taught in most things, but I was not taught everything. With full throttle on - I nodded, the flag went down, I got a kick in the pants and I woke up flying over the sea in a gentle climb. I had been momentarily knocked unconscious by the catapult. This happened to some pilots to begin with, but after a couple of launches, I remained conscious throughout the proceedings - and never had that problem again.

The ship and squadron worked hard – flying every day and that included Sundays – much to the distress of the Chaplain. He wrote to the Admiralty about it, but the pace did not let up for some months. In the meantime I tightened up my circuits for landing until I reached the squadron standard of a division of four with each aircraft landing on every 25 seconds. This reduced to the minimum the length of time the ship was obliged to maintain a steady course into wind.

We saw little of the night fighter aircrew at sea, though there was a pilot of theirs in our cabin. This was sited below the arrester wires on the flight deck. We got used to the racket of the aircrafts’ thumping land on, the screeching stretching out of the hooked up wire, and the clang as it whipped back taut on the metal deck ready for the next landing. Then there were other noises with the deck crews running about, the ship grinding and humming with engines and generators, and the ship’s address system alive with the endlessly urgent pipes and calls. We slept blissfully. Then, one night, we were woken up by the total silence. We went on deck to listen with the ship’s company. Our cabin mate – the night fighter pilot - and his observer - had hit the deck on landing and gone over the side. The whole ship hoped to hear something - anything. Other than the slap of the waves against the hull there was nothing. The crew and the aircraft were never recovered.     A few months later a Seahawk pilot sharing my cabin was injured ejecting over the South China Sea. It got lonely! But it was the night fighter aircrew that bore the brunt of the casualties and we were not even at war.

I was the first RM pilot to fly in a jet squadron in a carrier (and complete a tour of duty) and it was to be another 40 years or so before that changed. I found it exciting, disciplined, punctual, fast on deck and in the air, and an altogether rewarding experience.

In earlier times in RN helicopters - flying in that specialty was not universally considered to be fashionable by newly qualified pilots. It seemed, perhaps wrongly, to be just air/sea rescue, and anti-submarine dunking and pinging stuff. However, both those disciplines required an accurate standard of flying skill; and some rescues were very dangerous and considerable courage was  needed to carry them out without loss. But as the Commando troop lift helicopter idea developed, working hand in glove with Marines, that attitude changed. They became involved in the thick of the action and, to a degree, knocked the gilt off the jet gingerbread. But in aviation terms it depended how best a pilot felt he could contribute - and fulfill himself.

As a Marine I had no hesitation in volunteering for RN Commando helicopters, flying for the Marines from ship to shore. So, with Nick Wise and Roger Learoyd, we became the first RM pilots in that line of business.

At RNAS Culdrose we converted onto the Hiller and Whirlwind and then undertook a two month anti-submarine course at Portland. In August 1961 I joined 848 squadron in the Bulwark. I enjoyed flying in the role required. I felt that the RM pilots contributed more than their numbers indicated, since to support troops on the ground was second nature to us. (After 848 Nick Wise formed 40 Cdo’s light aviation air troop with Roger Learoyd as his number two.) But the Commando Ship concept was difficult for some senior RN people to adjust to. There were, of course, differences in a fixed wing carrier between aircrew and the ship’s officers. This was even post WW II which had clearly shown which ship was the Queen of the Fleet, and why. But here was something even more difficult for the RN – for the main armament of the ship was the embarked RM Commando. The first Commando Ship’s captain was said to have had a great problem with all this and the first commission was not considered a success. My Bulwark’s captain was a gunnery officer and not an aviator. Rumour had it that he was a pal of an RM Commando CO. So far, so good. In any case, these two were pleasant officers in the view from my low life station as a Lieutenant! But as a squadron pilot I attended a Wardroom formal dinner on board when the embarked Commando was ashore. The ship’s captain gave a speech during which he announced that there was no need for RM Commandos at all as seamen gunners could do the job on land just as well! One could admire his loyalty to his specialization – but nothing else. Nelson, an innovative, flexible and brilliant officer and Admiral would not have approved of such “stick-in-the-mud attitudes.” Talking of which it reminds me that I have served in three RN aircraft carriers. Two ran aground and one hit a lamp post!

Wirlwind TAS Ordnance Division

HMS Bulwark. Whirlwind TAS Ordnance Division

848 flying was a succession of exercises at sea and over land with little active service to enliven the action. We supported troops in mountainous up-country Aden; the Gulf States; the jungles of Malaysia and Borneo; and the desert of Western Australia. The soldiers and the Marines in the Radfan (an active service area)welcomed the RN helicopter squadron’s arrival. Not only was there a “can do” attitude about our support of them, but we flew up-country all week and over the week-ends. I thought nothing of that – it was standard. But I was told that the RAF helicopters disappeared for the delights of Aden on most Fridays and reappeared on the Monday! The Army had a high opinion of what became known as Jungly pilots.

All throughout the flying was varied and fun. The runs ashore were outstanding. We were based in Singapore, and there were visits to Hong Kong, Fremantle, the Seychelles and Mombasa. We also ceremonially received on board the Sultan of Socotra. He climbed out of the helicopter onto the sizzling hot metal flight deck. He was followed by his evil-looking armed bodyguards who were barefoot! They did a little Arab dance on the deck. They could not stand still or their feet would fuse to the metal; nor could they leave the side of their well-shod Sultan or risk a beheading. I hope they did not get into trouble for reducing the visit into farce.

One day the ship was cruising off the East African coast. I was Acting CO of the squadron at the time. A number of aircraft were away formation flying over the sea. I was standing on the flight deck. An aircraft was running its engine on deck when it suddenly wound down. I climbed up to ask the pilot what was going on. He did not know. I ran to the island where there was a voice pipe leading direct up to Little F’s flight office and told him I wanted the other aircraft, which were flying, recalled at once. Engineers were milling about – the word was out. Water had contaminated the ship’s AVGAS used to fuel the helicopters. The rest of the squadron was recovered quickly and without loss.

We RM pilots supported the Commando Ship concept whole-heartedly. We had been joined in 848 by a cheerful pair, Mark Langford and Simon Down. It was a valuable and enjoyable tour. But, in my experience, I could not escape the feeling that there was a whiff of the B team about the ship’s component.

Without doubt, as time passed and the helicopter types improved in capability, the aircrew rose to the challenge. With good navigational aids, enhanced night and poor visibility flying ability, and increased load, range and speed, the need for and use of Naval Commando helicopters progressed from strength to strength, and more and more Service people recognized their value – the Junglies became a powerful and flexible adjunct to the total orbat.

After a ground tour in 43 Commando I was nominated as the first RM helicopter instructor at the School of Army Aviation. I passed the instructors course at the RAF Central Flying School and joined Advance Rotary Wing at Middle Wallop. I thoroughly enjoyed flying with the Army. They had no attitude problems concerning instructors and students. All were volunteers in aviation and had the simple and healthy focus of mastering the flying machine the better to support the ground troops. In March 1966 I passed the Naval Air Squadron Command exams – I thought it a useful qualification to achieve.

Shortly thereafter I was detached to Aden to form 45 Commando’s light aviation Air Troop. There were three new pilots, but no RM helicopters. The latter were in boxes and on their way to us by sea. I went to talk to the very pleasant RAF AOC, but he could not help as the ship and the crates were still on the high seas and so the crates could not be flown out to us. In addition to being the OC of a non-existent Air Troop I was also appointed as an Army Middle East Theatre QHI. I was thus able to use Army Sioux helicopters to continue to train the three new RM pilots, as well as a number of Army pilots at the same time.

The theatre conversion for the new pilots included flying in desert conditions with the attendant sand cloud raised when close to the ground, hot/high mountain flying, pinnacle landings including the interesting Capbadge in the mountains up-country, navigation aspects, and even deck landings onto Ark Royal for some. A good exercise was to land among rocks overlooking Aden’s Crater. It required concentration and only when safely landed did I point out an iron grid to one side on which a flock of vultures was tearing out the entrails of a human body. The local Parsi sect leaves their dead to be disposed of in this way. It did not faze any of the aircrew – they were too busy flying and landing.

Our ship finally arrived and the crates were unloaded. The RN mechanics put the aircraft together, they were ground tested, air tested and there we were with our three new flying RM Sioux. It was done quickly. The three RM pilots were short on hours, but they were steady and reliable men of a certain age! Normally new pilots are watched carefully by squadron or flight commanders so they safely pass through the potentially overconfident and dangerous phase of 200/300 plus flying hours. I was sure the 45 Cdo Air Troop would survive and give good service. The crews had been shown what to do – they just had to get on with it – and so they did.

One subject I did not realize caused these pilots some angst. The Army sometimes wore parachute wings, flying wings, medal ribbons and, no doubt, much else besides; but in shirt sleeve order the RM generally did not. That custom crept in later. Our three men in Aden quickly put up wings when I left for the UK, even, it was said, on Derek Blevins’s pyjamas! I enjoyed his stories and dits - he had a good sense of humour.

Machine Gun Sioux

Machine gun mounted on the Sioux. Our idea from Aden, adopted in the RM and Army Air Corps

I was flying fairly low level over a desolate inland area, perhaps to Beihan or Wadi Ain, I forget, when I saw a lone Arab on a hill raise his rifle and take aim. I heard no shot, but I felt vulnerable in the unarmed Sioux. I determined to fix a machine gun on the starboard side of the aircraft and this was set in hand. Now we could fire back! I see that MGs are still fitted to UK helicopters.

I returned to the School of Army Aviation and resumed instructional duties there on 25 July 1966. On the subject of wings, it had been arranged that RM pilots qualifying at Middle Wallop would wear the Army flying badge in gold with a blue background for blue uniform and a Lovat background for wear with Lovats. They looked very good. Some time later I received a huffy message from the Chairman of the Royal Marines Dress Committee for failing to talk to them about it first. Quite right - but the wings stayed and were worn with great pride.

One of the highlights of my instructional time was when I was allocated an Army Sergeant who was failing the course. It did not take long to realize the potential in this aspirant pilot. He worked very hard and received much encouragement. To my delight he passed the course, put up his wings and made a success of Squadron flying. Some time later I was visiting the instructors’ crew room at the AACC and saw him there. He had done so well that he had become an instructor. Now, that was good news.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the School of Army Aviation. I felt I made a useful contribution. I thought the instructors and trainee pilots, officers and NCOs alike, were generally of high quality and with the right attitude about flying. The social life was frenetic and there was a happy Mess atmosphere. I developed a lasting affection for the Army Air Corps.

In October 1966 I went to Shrivenham for the General Staff Science course and then to the Army Staff College at Camberley. In January 1968 I reluctantly arrived at the Ministry of Defence as an officer on CGRM’s staff. I asked that I be condemned to only an 18 month staff tour; but I was kept there for two and a half years. That was so long that I saw three Colonels GS pass in office. However, I was newly married and that kept me sane.

I disliked this office staff work, especially as a great deal of it was of the peace-time, paper-generating type. Someone has to do it, I suppose. So I just got on with it. It was not operational staff work, which is essential and interesting. DCGRM was not an operational HQ. However, in the meantime, the question of the replacement of the RM Sioux came up in detail. My then Colonel GS was Pat Kay, a first class officer of personal integrity, who had been my CO in 43 Commando. He directed that I had to present the brief on the subject to the First Sea Lord and his Staff. Lord (as he later became) Hill-Norton was a daunting officer and one could easily fly into heavy flak! It was a question of why the Brigade Air Squadron should get Gazelle and, if so, how many. The briefing went well, the Naval Staff seemed to have no questions that I could not answer, and the Admiral gave the nod. So the Brigade Air Squadron kept their six Scout and were to be given Gazelle to replace the Sioux.

I visited the factory at Marignane in France, went for flights, and discussed the possibility of fitting anti-tank guided weapons to our RM Gazelle. Yes, said the French. No, said the RN and the bean counters. I was told the RAF, the Army and the Navy were all getting Gazelle - and none with ATGW. There could not be a one-off for the Corps – too expensive a fit. In the meantime one would have to use the Scout with its SS11 missile, and wait for the Lynx. I then wrote a revised squadron establishment and equipment table to fit the Gazelle. I set about organizing Gazelle courses with the ever helpful Army Air Corps and got D.Blevins accepted for the role of Gazelle instructor – with all that followed. Can I claim to be a Godfather of the RM Gazelle? One of them, maybe. I know I was sad to have missed the wake organized by Paul Morris and 847 NAS at Yeovilton.

I noticed that when I left CG’s department in the MOD in London the tasks I had been carrying out were divided between an increased number of staff officers that had not been there, or had not been doing that work, when I joined. The more work you do – the more is given you to do! I made a mental note of that, remembered what I had joined the Corps for, and what my future RM life would be like if I chose to stay on. Commuting to the MOD in London was squalid. The RN/RM did not help families, and I had an Army quarter only by courtesy of a kind Army friend serving in HQ London District.

I was sent to Singapore to join 42 in July 1970 as OC M Company. I had spent many years in Commandos and I looked forward to being a company commander. In peacetime one has to wait far too long for this appointment. Robert Wilsey was a troop subaltern and a winged Derek Blevins flew into the company office as CSM. I enjoyed the Company.

When 3 Cdo Bde left its base in Singapore to return permanently to the UK 42 Cdo was given extended leave before joining up again in Devon, months later. Eight of us decided to travel there overland. We could not pass through Burma so we had to take ship to Calcutta. From there we drove through India to Kashmir, across into Pakistan, through the Khyber Pass to Afghanistan, through Iran and Turkey, then Greece, and so on. We were lucky to miss the local wars before and after our passage, and we managed to frighten off the bandits we encountered.

AAC Inspection

Army Air Corps inspection of the Commando Brigade Air Squadron at Coypool, Plymouth

In mid February 1972 I joined the Bde Air Sqn in Coypool, Plymouth as CO. I had already heard from outside the squadron that there were some flight safety concerns. There had been a fatal crash killing two pilots shortly before I got to the squadron. We were answerable to the Army Air Corps for inspections and professional aviation standards in the air and on the ground. A month later, at the first major AAC conference at Middle Wallop that I attended, I was told, in front of everyone, that, with two other Squadrons, the BAS’s record was the worst for flight safety. I was determined to put this right, and anything else that was found to be below top standard.

Flight safety is a difficult matter because the safest thing to do is not to fly at all. That was not our style, as we flew a great deal by day and night, and our flying environment was often hazardous. Some of these situations can always be trained for, practiced, and dangers minimized. There were white-outs in Northern Norway in winter snow, brown outs in deserts, landings on board moving ships – all could be coped with – except that actual IF and no visible horizon remained a problem. Our light helicopters of the time were inherently unstable with limited instruments. Flying in the field often meant no homing navigational aids or let down equipment. Coypool had none of these aids and had its own hazards of surrounding trees and buildings overlooking the landing area.

Most of the squadron was based in the bad weather environment of SW England and Coypool was not always an easy hole to get down into safely. The UK generally did not have the best of winter climates for our aircraft types. We practiced as many Tuesdays as possible with night flying to improve our skills. The pilots were reminded they were the Captains of the aircraft and if they decided to abort a flight the Squadron would support them fully. It was up to the individual pilots, who were told the rank and desires of a passenger were irrelevant, compared to the safety and success of a mission. There had developed a special UK BAS disease called get-home-itis. Other squadrons may have had it too. This could be prevalent on Fridays flying home. In lowering cloud base conditions with a helicopter unsuited for actual instrument flying there was a tendency to fly lower and lower to keep visual contact with the ground – with the possibility of the aircraft flying into the dreaded power lines, trees, tall chimneys, or some other obstacle. So one day I decided to land in a Devon farmer’s field, phone the squadron and fly to Coypool in clearer weather later. That seemed to help. At the end of my tour the squadron won the Army Air Corps flight safety trophy. The credit for that goes to the air and ground crews.

The squadron was a highly efficient, professional, world-wide-operating, light aviation asset devoted to the intimate support of 3 Cdo Bde and its Cdo Groups on operations. The pilots were officers and SNCOs who had also qualified for the green beret (that necessary rite of passage), and were thus fully into the Commando culture. Some individual pilots were detached to serve with the Army and the United Nations to vary the experience and to show “our flag.” Similarly we welcomed non-RM pilots posted into the Squadron. At one stage we had a Para sergeant, for instance, in addition to the contingent of Commando Gunners. The Senior Pilot was an RA officer. Had there been Naval pilots who had passed the Commando course; they would have been made welcome too.

Our policy was to permanently allocate a dedicated flight of three light helicopters to each Commando Group and the Brigade HQ. Wherever the “parent” unit went the Air Troop went. This meant Northern Norway in winter, or on board a carrier or an LPD for a sea deployment, or to Northern Ireland on operations, or all over the Mediterranean theatre, including Cyprus (where the Bde HQ flight fired our first SS11 ATGW missile on 18 September 1973).

An example of this flight affiliation was when a Commando was deployed to Belfast for a tour of duty and its air troop went with it, even though the “wise men” declared there was no job for the helicopters there. When the tour was over 39 Army Brigade Commander asked for the RM air troop to stay on as they had been so valuable. No, sorry, we said – the Commando is going - so their helicopters are going. The Brigadier got other light helicopters from the AAC and it became a standing commitment for Belfast. 40 Commando was based in Malta so their flight was also based there. 45 Commando was based in Arbroath in Scotland so its Scout air troop was there too. The remainder of the squadron was co-located in Plymouth. This policy ensured immediate light aviation support to the parent unit, which became very “air minded.” The Squadron HQ still retained flying and professional aviation authority, even of detached air troops.

The Squadron was the only RM aviation organization and so was kept busy with work in addition to a full flying programme, care of equipment and a high standard of maintenance. There were personnel issues and postings; courses to book; liaison with 3 Cdo Bde, and with other RM departments and with the RN and ships; there were world-wide deployments; NATO exercises (the squadron issued an aviation phrase book in NATO languages); and doctrine, tactics and policy to develop.  There were Army tasks and some civil duties. We got good reports for all this and the flights on detachment were highly regarded. We planned ahead as much as we could to try to give air crew a six month idea of their future movements and to minimize interruptions to families’ stability. That was always a problem in a fluid world demanding swift responses - and it will be no different now.

Then one day we were asked to take part in the Plymouth Show. Hundreds of spectators crowded the shore overlooking the Sound. We said we would demonstrate rescuing a casualty from a boat in the Sound by hoisting him up into a hovering helicopter and fly him to safety. It was put on the programme. We briefed the Show commentator – who was switched on and cooperative. The man in the boat was waving his arms for help and our helicopter swooped in and lowered a rescue strop. The commentator was “working the crowd” – saying how dangerous the operation was, just how skillful the aircrew were, but that now all would be well. The man was hoisted up to the door of the helicopter, the crewman pulled him halfway in, but then the “rescued man” slipped and free fell back to the sea way below. There was an awful silence. The commentator announced that accidents do happen. The crowd was shocked and para-medics were on hand to give people assistance. The crew of the boat hastily pulled in the substituted dummy and we all left the scene. I do not recall that the squadron was asked to participate again.

The squadron did well in competitive sailing and in individual sports – but was kept busy at the primary function of flying.

I had served with the French Army Air Corps in France and I asked help from DCGRM in the MOD to arrange with the French that the squadron carry out mountain flying at their school at Saillagouse in the Pyrenees. We were the first to arrange this, it was successfully done and it became an annual fixture.

Shooting Trophy

Brigade Air Squadron wins the inter-company shooting trophy


Whilst the BAS was in being, active, hard working and seemingly with a bright future – there were long term personnel considerations to ponder. Naturally, regular RM officers had to balance their careers with some non-flying jobs, but I saw little benefit in pulling SNCOs off flying.  At my low level as CO BAS I tried to influence Corps policy to allow RM SNCO aircrew to remain in flying. As young officers we had been brought up to know that RM SNCOs were the backbone of the Corps on land and at sea and had been for centuries. I hoped that in time this would also become true of them in RM aviation, the same as Army NCOs in the AAC. There had been RM NCO pilots in between WW1 and 2, (and earlier, I believe), but they had faded out. I made it clear to those who would listen, and also to others who would not, that “RM NCO pilots were a good thing.” I also hoped that SD commissioned officer aviators would not be given ground tours very often and that when they did they should have some relevance to their aviation specialization. I was pleased to get an SD pilot as the BAS Staff Officer on a ground tour.

Well into my tour as CO BAS I hoped to help plan some aviation aspects for RM officer pilots that would fit into their wider RM careers. I was in control of neither officers nor NCOs in this respect. The Military Secretary (officers) kept this to himself. But, before I left office, I wanted to help sort out, in any way I could, the careers of Paul Bancroft and AD Wray – who were two excellent flight OCs. I was not confident that MS’s office was so switched on about all aviation aspects of RM officer pilots to fit it all together nicely. If they could - well then, all the better. Despite this attitude of the “appointers,” one day I went up to London to talk to MS. I laid out before him details of light aviation courses, with dates, and possible future plans which, with MS’s own ideas for non-aviation posts, might provide a career path that was a good way forward in the Corps for those individual RM officer pilots. It might even be a bench-mark for others. I was sitting down with a cup of tea and MS expressed his satisfaction with what had been achieved. “Now, Terence, having solved all that, what can I do for you?” he generously asked.

I had enjoyed the best by sea, land and air but, by then, I had decided that I wished to leave the Corps - so I said I wanted him to accept my early retirement. “What?  Stand up.” I stood to attention as I had been taught, except that I did not know how to do it with a tea-cup and saucer in my hand. Was I to bring them across my chest at the high port, did I thrust them forward onto his desk, did I hold them down the seam of my trousers? MS, a clever man, did a quick calculation. “You are required to give me the requisite notice of leaving and you will be some weeks too few. You will then overrun the pension break-point you could have qualified for, thus not qualify for it [after 21 years!], and therefore lose out.” It appeared he wanted me to stay on in the Corps.

 I stood my ground saying that I did not believe the Corps would do that to me. Nor did it; and I left the Corps in good time. I hope that Paul’s and Ady’s careers benefited.

Handover Command

Terence hands over command of the Brigade Air Squadron to Biggles Bain

I left the Corps in August 1974 and, after a course at Kidlington, Oxford, I passed the civilian licence of ATPL, but had no idea what job to do, and it was not necessarily to be in aviation. There are at least two decisions to make – one is to leave and the other is what to do thereafter. The first should not be put off if one does not know the answer to the second. Lucky are those who leave on Friday and start the new job on Monday.

I turned down an offer to be Aristotle Onassis’ personal helicopter pilot – curiously the conditions of service and the pay were poor. Perhaps that was why he was rich!

Whilst looking for work my family lived in France and I ferried Jetranger and Bell 47 to destinations in Europe and flew a few bizarre passengers around; in all this I was given introductions and help by Mark Langford – a former RM helicopter pilot.

ATPL Flying

Jetranger helicopter at Augusta Milan

I took delivery of this smart aircraft, but the two Augusta officials wanted a picture of me in case I flew off and sold it on! On 16 July 1975 I flew from Malpensa Milan due South to the sea, turned right and, at low level, passed over the top-less bathers on the beaches of St-Tropez en route to London Gatwick.

I had long since left the Corps and was involved with other interests in another Continent when I heard of the disbandment of the Brigade Air Squadron and the appearance of 847 NAS instead. If one puts ones best effort into a cause over a number of years one retains a lasting interest – but one moves on. There is a new life in the wider world out there. However, I was sad to hear of the end of the Brigade Air Squadron. “If it ain’t broke – don’t fix it.” The BAS was working well – so leave it!

For over 20 years the RM had had their own light helicopter squadron. It was very good – and we were told so, and we knew it. In 1982 the squadron went to the Falklands with Peter Cameron (lucky fish!). It did very well and received fulsome praise from Julian Thompson, the Brigade Commander. The squadron had dedicated, Commando - qualified officer and SNCO aircrew. Some ground crew were Commando qualified too. All this made the squadron special, and ideally suited to support 3 Cdo Bde. The RM Corps is small, but it was big enough to have this squadron, and also have individual pilots to fill a  variety of other flying posts, such as, inter alia, in RN squadrons flying Jungly heavy helicopters (and in command too – such as Mick Reece as CO 848) and, later, a handful of RM fast jet pilots as well. So the RM pilots were capable and flexibly employed across a wide spectrum of aviation, as in the past. They flew in RN, RM and Army flights and squadrons. All that was needed to continue in this way was the on-going committed support of senior and imaginative RM and RN leaders, and intelligent “appointers” to keep the broad stream of pilots coming.
There is a book on the RM by John Robert Young. He started it in 1987 when Garrod was CG and it was published in 1991 in his successor’s time. The Marines squadron was then based at RNAS Yeovilton with Lynx and Gazelle, serviced by Army mechanics. Apart from ATGW the squadron was capable of light aviation utility roles such as recce, airborne command post, FOO (artillery), NGSFO (naval gunfire), FAC (air strike control), MFC (mortars), resupply, casevac, flare dropping, deployment of mine laying parties, liaison, whatever. We practiced all these.    John Young wrote then about the BAS having come into being more than 20 years before and described its fine pedigree. He said that when mentioning improving air cover for the Marines (eg RM helicopter gunships, etc) the Corps chiefs became evasive and tetchy, and that improving their air power was not on their list of priorities. So it would seem, alas.

The imminent appearance of the Apache gunship triggered some adverse decisions. The Navy did not want Apache for 3 BAS. Middle ranking officers put up a spirited defence of the squadron, but the Army pulled out of servicing RM helicopters so the RN took that on [again]. But whichever Service had maintained the aircraft in the past - it had remained an RM squadron. Other changes were occurring which affected the structure of the Corps, moving CG out of London, integrating the RM closer to the RN, giving more jobs to senior RM officers outside the narrow confines of the Corps – quite right. But this need not have inevitably led to losing 3 BAS as an RM outfit. The Gazelle were disposed of without replacement; flights were no longer co-located with and dedicated to a Cdo Group; and RM SNCO’s were fading out despite Paul Bancroft’s efforts as Corps Aviation Sponsor to keep them.

The loss of excellent RM SNCOs and SD Officers from RM BAS flying was a waste of good men. Many of them loved the Corps and flying in it. In my view there is no need to commission all pilots. The AAC keeps its excellent SNCO pilots, as the RAF did during WW 2 and later.  What a pity then that pilots like John Frost had to leave what he liked and wait a generation before seeing his son fulfill the father’s original wish.

So the RM squadron disappeared and 847 NAS appeared, but also without Apache. 847 did well in the Gulf; but despite that and their good record, alas, 847 seemed to fly on the sharp, uncomfortable edge of decommissioning by the Navy. One may wonder if senior RM (or RN for that matter) really understood light aviation, and the value of having kept it as an RM squadron.

To put it simply – the Navy lost full control of naval aviation in 1918 and it was about 20 years later, just before WW2, that the RN took full control of the Fleet Air Arm. The RN view was that the best way to provide air support for the Fleet was the Fleet Air Arm. Quite right. By the same logic the best light aviation support for 3 Commando Brigade was provided by 3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron.

All this is old hat. One gets accustomed to bad decisions and learns to live with them, or one moves on. The current (late 2010) draconian Defence cuts are far worse. The future of RN fixed wing flying itself, and the RM pilots with it, is stark indeed. Harrier fixed wing aircraft to be scrapped and no carrier for ten years. Who needs enemies with your own side doing that?

I had developed “Africa fever” whilst on leave from the Bulwark visiting Kenya and Uganda. So now I decided to join the Rhodesian Air Force for a limited time and, as a family, we moved to the capital Salisbury. What I write here is not a political statement, or the rights and wrongs of one side or another. It is merely a memoir of my aviation record at the time. Although embattled by sanctions Rhodesia put up a sustained fight for survival, (14 years at least); but the bush war was increasing in intensity and sanctions were biting harder. It was a cause worth fighting for to stem, if not to defeat, the insurgency - to give reasonable men of all races the time to reach a fair settlement. The time was gained by the security forces – and at times a solution was close – but it was not achieved. However Rhodesia was a fabulous place to bring up a young family.

Helicopter pilots were continually deployed. We went to differing airstrips that had been carved out of the bush. As the war escalated so more forward air fields were constructed until the whole country was covered. We operated as combined Army/Air Force teams grouped together. These were called Fire Forces, anti-insurgent combat strike formations, and which were modeled after the French experience in Algeria. The FF varied according to the threat, but was basically a command Alouette helicopter flown by the AF commander and carrying the FF Army OC, with an AF gunner/mechanic. It had a deadly gun, the 20mm cannon, which caused havoc amongst the enemy. Then there were 3 troop - carrying Alouettes (pilot, 303 machine gunner/ mechanic, and four troopers each). There was also a fixed wing Lynx armed with a machine gun, rockets and frantan/napalm, flown solo, which provided a distinct punch. Finally there was a para Dakota carrying 18 paratroopers + 2.

Rhodesian Airdrop

Rhodesian Air Force Dakotas in a demonstration parachute drop of soldiers

The idea was that an OP would sight a gang of insurgents, or air recce would identify an occupied camp or resting place, or there was ground intelligence – and the FF would then be called out from the nearest base. Map reading became of a very high order indeed. A quick plan was made between the two commanders over the map - aircrew and troops were briefed – and we would be airborne within minutes. The plans also included the location of other troops who could join in the action if needed; and the pre-positioning of fuel and ammunition. Sometimes, to save time, an in-flight briefing would be given. But a quick look before take off at a map of the proposed contact area was always the best. We used 250,000 maps for transit and 50,000 for the close action. The technique was to approach at low level using hills and against the prevailing wind to mask the noise of the FF coming. Ideally the K car flew over the OP, climbing to 600/800 feet AGL as it did so, all the while being given directions from the OP as to where the enemy was. This was the hard bit – identifying the target,(we had no laser target identification, illumination or range finding) - then making a swift deployment plan and telling the others how, where and what to do. This was the part I liked as it stretched the soldiering, the air force task and the teamwork to maximum; all within the background of armed action. The Army OC explained where he wanted his “sticks” of four to be dropped by the G cars (troop carriers); whether he wanted any paras dropped yet, how many and where; and all the while the AF OC was directing air strikes from the Lynx, instructing the G cars, the Paradak, piloting the K car and directing 20mm fire.

Having “laid out our stall” then the scene could begin. Sometimes it had already begun, if the insurgents had heard us coming and decided to “bombshell.” Then we had to find them, interdict them, head them off, direct AF weapons on them – and get the ground troops in to deal with them. Sometimes there would be no movement till the guerrillas were flushed out. Or if there was no enemy in the area at all that was called “a lemon.” I never reported or counted how many enemy the AF had scored, and discouraged such rival claims between the Army and the AF – we were a team. Sometimes the AF 20mm hit and the man went down – but then the troops on the ground would pump a few rounds in to ensure the man stayed down, and not shamming dead. Another occasional hazard for the Army was a determined, cornered man surrendering, who then threw a grenade that he had hidden. The insurgents were well armed with grenades, RPG 7, AK 47 rifles and machine guns. They were in gangs of ten, which became a score or more, and then up to a hundred or so from time to time. They infiltrated deeper into the country from the borders of Zambia and Mocambique as the war progressed. The insurgents from Zambia were armed and supported by Russia and the Mocambique ones by China.

The original FF would typically deploy a K car and three G cars – a total of 12 troopers. They still pitched into the enemy. We sometimes carried out dummy landings of troops in the area to confuse the baddies. The Lynx was added to increase air fire power. The Paradak appeared later in the war and could deploy up to 18 troops. So the order of battle was then 30 against all comers. The +2 in the Paradak were designated formally, but curiously, as “wankers.” If half the paras jumped, then only one of them jumped with them. If they all jumped, then the 2nd one did also. The job of these gentlemen was to land in the contact area, take no part in the battle, but collect all the used parachutes ready for pick up by the G cars when there was a gap in the action. This was to save time and to avoid abandoning precious ‘chutes. The FF, successful or not, did not want to be delayed before being ready to be called to deploy to the next scene. As far as I know throughout the war this task was carried out in the midst of the action without undue enemy interference. It is probably a world record that in one day the paratroopers from the one Fire Force jumped into action three times.

My pilot’s logbook from 1976 to 1978 outlines about 100 contacts with the enemy of varying intensity. Throughout the war aircraft were hit, and aircrew killed or wounded, mostly by small arms; aircraft had also been hit by SAM 7 and anti-aircraft artillery or heavy machine guns mostly outside the country. There was no enemy air threat to speak of.

Rhodesian Alouettes

Rhodesian Air Force Alouettes shut down on a hilltop to save fuel during an action

On 13 June 1976 I was flying a G car in a FF. 15 insurgents had been reported and we went to find them. They found me! We were circling a specific area while the FF commanders sorted out a plan, and, as I flew over some rocks the aircraft came under intense SA fire and was hit a number of times. At least we now knew where they were! Unfortunately a soldier of 1 Bn RAR sitting next to me was badly wounded. We stripped him of his machine gun and ammunition, landed the remaining troops in the contact area, and sped off to the medical facility at base some minutes flying away. Alas, Private Emmanuel Chaka was found to be dead on arrival. The aircraft had sustained several hits and the engineers wanted to patch up the aircraft there and then, but, displaying a brave front not reflecting how I felt inside – we refuelled and immediately went back to the action. I was glad to find it was just about over when I rejoined!

When I had gained enough experience of FF I became a K car pilot and thus the AF OC in that particular FF. Infrequently I directed troops on the ground during the action due to the absence or inexperience of the Army OC. But this was best left to the Army to do – there was enough work for the two of us. Regular Army FF commanders were outstanding and their troops were fit, trained and deadly to the insurgents on the ground.

The Rhodesian Air Force was small, but extremely effective. This was because the crews had been flying in action for years; their skills were honed very sharp; they were defending a country that they loved; they had a cause.

Given that it was difficult to find and then engage the gangs once they had deployed internally, soon enough major external raids were conducted against known enemy camps in Zambia and Mocambique where the insurgents were grouped. On 23 November 1977 an attack was launched against Chimoio. This was a major Zanla (Mugabe) base with nearby sub-camps in Mocambique about 100 km flying from Rhodesia. They held thousands of insurgents. In the camps were their commissars, recruits, wounded, trained troops, weapons and ammunition, their HQs and training facilities. They were preparing to infiltrate into Rhodesia in large numbers from the East. That morning they were struck by FGA Hunters and Vampires, and by Canberra bombers, with K cars firing 20mm. Despite the “shock and awe” there was a continuous enemy response with small arms and differing types of AA bravely and tenaciously shooting at aircraft. While this was happening Dakotas dropped paratroopers and trooper G cars landed soldiers to box off the camps. Whilst some insurgents fought well, most ran in every direction. Whilst I was landing my stick of RLI troopers I was concentrating on getting the aircraft down safely among the trees and the technician had his head out of the door to direct me how I should maneuver the tail rotor to avoid the bushes. The troops leapt out and immediately started firing rapid. I had not seen the mass of galloping guerrillas as they fled past the helicopter on their way out. It was the same for all of us. I took off for the Admin Base. This was a nearby area of Mozambique bush that the Rhodesian Air Force had just taken over. Fuel drums were airdropped there and helicopters were refuelled, rearmed and repaired. In a day or so of major fighting the enemy suffered between one and two thousand dead and many more wounded. One SAS trooper was killed and one Vampire was shot down and the pilot killed. The next day the stay-behind troops were recovered, together with enemy weapons, equipment and documents. The security forces then redeployed further North for the next phase.

This was a long 300 km plus helicopter flight out of the North of Rhodesia on 25 November into another part of Mocambique to attack a large enemy camp at Tembue. This required the helicopter force to refuel on the way in at a hill called “The Train” (because it looked like one). Drums of fuel had been para-dropped in the day before. That point was between the border and the immense Cabora Bassa Lake. There was an awed silence as the water appeared and aircrew flew towards the Lake – the land on the other side could not be seen. If one is not used to flying over wide stretches of water in single-engined aircraft then many pilots will swear the engine note of their helicopter changes!

Tembue, beyond the Lake, was a smaller camp than Chimoio, but it got the same treatment. Enemy return fire was less intense and heavy casualties were inflicted. The long distances to be flown required careful fuel management. When the raid was over we flew back in a continuous, individual stream; not in an organized wave or a large group with a designated leader. Whilst returning over the water a helicopter pilot announced that he was short of fuel. No one replied, so I directed him to land on a large, empty island in the middle of the Lake. One or two more made the same call and they joined up. I asked Mick Delport in a Lynx to arrange for fuel to be dropped to them. This was done with the assistance of the command element; the helicopters refuelled and continued on their way. The total of enemy casualties in the two raids was adduced to be in the order of over 3000 killed and up to double that number wounded.

Two days later I was operating in a FF at the other end of the country – and so it went on. With insurgency spreading one certainly saw the whole country. There was the desert –like, open bush of the West; the mountainous terrain of the East; the proliferation of game to see in the heavily-wooded Zambezi Valley to the North; South Africa to the South; and the hot, sugar-growing area in the South East where large rivers provided cover for infiltrating gangs. The Save river, the Nuanetzi, the Bubi, the famous Limpopo, all led to Mocambique. Gangs infiltrated from all points of the compass, except from South Africa.

In the SE I was tasked with a school-boy’s dream. I was to take a 20 mm K car to shoot up a train in Mocambique. This supplied an enemy border post which regularly shot at us. Before the attack my aircraft was dispersed with others dotted in a thick bush area. On take off, and whilst attempting to clear the bush ahead, the engine failed at low level. I am sure many of us have had that awful thought, if not the helpless feeling, of a left armpit full of collective lever as the machine ungratefully falls to the ground. I dutifully made a Mayday call. It reminds me of John Frost’s amusing Fishcake call! A pilot heard it – apparently all I said was “Mayday, oops.”! I asked for another K car, but by the time I got one the train had gone.

And this reminds me of Alan Wiles’ story. If anything, I expected to be congratulated on my fighting spirit in demanding another machine immediately, and so going on with the mission. Instead, later that day when I returned to base, I was mildly reprimanded for not having had the regulation medical examination before flying again after a crash!

20mm Cannon

Browning .303 Machine Gun in Rhodesian G car Alouette troop carrying helicopter

One day the FF was flying back from the South East to its base at Buffalo Range in the sugar-cane area. The helicopters caught up with and slowly overtook an eagle. It looked at us with contempt, glowering as it steadily maintained course, height and speed. A closer look revealed that it held in a tight talon a large, live, writhing snake! This Fire Force was clearly not frightening enough to deprive this eagle, or its chicks, of supper.

I had further involvement in “Indian Country” from time to time and on 4 February 1978  I was instructed to take the FF from the NE of the country into enemy Mocambique on a trooping mission. On the way back we were greeted by the familiar cracking sound of small arms, the aircraft was hit and I saw that I had lost electrical instruments. Having cleared the area I asked another helicopter to come alongside me to check for fuel leaks. If the tell-tale vapour was streaking from my aircraft then I had that problem to solve as the electrical fuel gauge was registering zero. No visible leak was seen. I carried out the other standard checks, including aircraft handling - at least we aircrew were unscathed, and no other aircraft had been hit. I soon discovered I had no tail rotor control. This meant that as the helicopter slowed down to land – it would start rotating and, with no tail rotor to offset this, I would not be able to keep straight to land safely. On the other hand if I increased the aircraft’s speed the airflow from ahead along the fuselage would straighten the aircraft and I would be able to fly till the fuel ran out! or till I managed a fast run on landing somewhere and  hope not to smash it up. Every helicopter pilot knows all about this, but I had not had to deal with it for real.

I explained the situation and handed over command of the FF. The bush strip we had taken off from was unsuitable for any run on landing. Fortunately in the FF there was an experienced pilot called Ken Newman. He knew of a more suitable bush strip not far away and he offered to lead me to it. I made a fast approach, and a fast run on to the starboard - sloping side of the “runway,” the technician braked fiercely - and then all was well - with no further damage. The tail rotor cable had been severed, there were a few hits on the tail boom, the engine and elsewhere. The aircraft was guarded, repaired on site and flown out a couple of days later. A few days after that, on the 20th of February, again while trooping in Mocambique – my aircraft was hit and my technician/gunner slightly wounded.

An Army officer trooping with us told me he did not like being in the back of a helicopter. When the enemy started firing there was nowhere to take cover!

My own squadron of guardian angels was working overtime. But, having commanded a squadron myself, I knew what was expected of them! Throughout numerous contacts with the enemy I had only once been hit. That was a derisory sliver of broken perspex in my forehead during a contact when the aircraft had been struck by small arms. It was so small I would not have qualified for a Purple Heart –ache on a good day!

The internal situation continued to deteriorate, but the security forces and the various FFs stemmed the flow of gangs as much as possible to give the Government more time. But time was running out and the South Africans had withdrawn their extra helicopters and crews, thus adding to the burden for the rest of us.

During April and May my logbook records a number of missions into Zambia. Then on 19 October 1978 I led the second group of helicopters, in long line astern, on a major raid into Zambia. As we climbed on track to clear the high hills ahead we ran into an unplotted enemy camp. It must have been manned by inexperienced troops equipped only with small arms – but it was big enough; about a kilometre or two square. There was a ripple of flashes from the ground; they had opened fire too early. The intense cracking sound could be heard over the engine and rotor noise, despite my bonedome. The slow, lazy ascent of bullets rose to greet me – and then shot past in a flash of red and green colour. We broke quickly to starboard, returned fire with our 20 mm. cannon, and continued on our way. They had missed all of us. That was my last external raid and, a month later, I had finished my tour of nearly three years of flying in 7 Squadron.

I was very touched when Hugh Slatter, a senior and delightful officer, asked if I was interested to be considered (among others) as OC 7 Squadron. That was a great honour for a non-Rhodesian born. But I had already commanded a squadron (3 BAS) and I preferred to take up the offered posting on the operations staff in Comops HQ (Combined Operations). I felt I could contribute there with my tri-Service background – and it promised to be interesting as it was the seat of the higher direction of the war. There were only two other Air Force officers in Comops HQ and one of them was the Deputy Commander. The AF, the Army and the national effort came under the aegis of this HQ. I had no “blue job – brown job” division of loyalties, and worked happily with them all, including the Police. We studied the enemy, the deployment of forces and the national use of Fire Force. We saw that the insurgents used the correct tactics of only taking on the security forces when the gangs had a very strong position. Otherwise they confined themselves to ambushes, making the European farmlands untenable and wrecking the fragile economy. They terrorized the local population; and made a success of it. For instance if Police, troops or a FF killed or captured 9 out of 10 in a gang – that left one insurgent to go to a village and he would still be the boss of it as only he was armed.

We were well aware that one man’s terrorist was another man’s freedom fighter; but the locals were not given the choice. The SF were not able to protect all the local population, the Security Forces were too small, and as the gangs flooded into the country the SF position became less and less tenable. The Government thus had less and less time to make a settlement and when they did so - the externally based insurgents wrecked it, and the West did not recognize it. So only the terrorists could deliver peace to the suffering majority and thus Mugabe “won” the election.

After it was over I was asked to stay on and help with integrating the Rhodesian forces with the newly respectable insurgents. I was happy to do this for a while. I was even offered a civvy job running a private hospital. Well might my medically trained children raise their eyebrows. But Marines can put their hands to anything! However, after a few months we decided that South Africa was the best destination to educate our three children, so we went “down South” and that worked out well.

We were based in Pretoria and part of the deal I struck with (or respectfully requested from) the South African military when I joined them was that my family would enjoy the stability of staying in one place. This was honoured and I joined as a Lt Col in operations and was then promoted a Colonel in HQ Special Forces. The Recces were outstanding SAS - type soldiers (although there was always a scattering of prima donnas). They operated generally outside the country on a tri-Service basis and targeted the national enemy. They were considered to be so good that they were retained in service when the ANC became the Government some years later.

I retired from the SA Army before the general election which brought Mandela to power, but the former Afrikaaner Government had already given up and there was a Transitional Government attempting to fill the vacuum. Into this I was invited to step. I was recalled and appointed to set up and then command a camp North of Pretoria called Wallmannsthal. I was allocated up to a battalion of regular infantry to keep order and the camp filled up with 7000 former ANC guerrillas, whom we organized into two brigades. They were to be evaluated, and then suitable men and women were to be integrated into the Army, Navy, Air Force and Medical Service.

There was little guidance, direction or leadership from above in this difficult task, but that made it all the more exciting a challenge. Indeed there was often no “above” at times and no guarantee of support for any tough decisions made or action taken. There were major disciplinary issues which were very firmly dealt with; as well as policy matters to resolve as we thought fit. It was an important time for the country. It could have unravelled totally. We worked to make a difference and, hopefully, to get it right. We were determined to give the new SA as good a start militarily as we could. It seemed to work.

Terence With Gilbert Ramano

Gilbert Ramano was the chief of the MK/ANC people at Wallmannstal and worked with me at integration; then he became subordinate to me when the SA Army took over.
 Gilbert subsequently became Chief of the SA Army. We worked well together.
“The World Turned Upside Down.”

I retired from the Army again, at age 61, and we moved to Simons Town. At age 65 I was invited to sail a yacht with two others from Cape Town to Australia. We were not racing so the Roaring Forties of the Southern Ocean were no big deal. If it got too rough we hauled down all sail, lashed the wheel to one side, and went to sleep – there was nothing to run in to! I also enjoyed sailing with friends in the familiar English Channel, off the Galician coast of North West Spain, and relived the youthful pleasures of cruising in beloved Brittany.

My wife and I designed and had built a house overlooking the beautiful harbour in Simons Town. From here I would set off in search of yellow-tail and crayfish by yacht or motor boat, or go fishing for trout inland. I shoot bird and buck occasionally. There is serious gardening to be done. We travel extensively. I write a little (you might not think that if you have got thus far!). There are books to be read, stories to be told and friends to meet.

On that note I send my greetings to fellow aircrew and my thanks to the ground crew.

Terence Murphy
Simons Town – South Africa
November 2010

Terence died on 6th November 2013 in Simons Town, South Africa. He was cremated on 21st November with the RM Defence Attache in attendance along with friends and former colleagues. His ashes were then scattered into the sea from HMS Richmond in accordance with his final wishes.