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'Wings? What Wings'
By Derek Blevins

When we formed 45 Commando RM Air Troop in Aden in 1966, the three 'green' Air Troop pilots, all on first tours, were joined by Capt Terence Murphy RM, who already had many hours of Royal Navy fixed wing, Royal Navy rotary wing and AAC instructional hours under his belt. He was Sgt Pete Lawrence's instructor at Middle Wallop; 'lucky' Pete being the first RM SNCO pilot.

This 'Aviation God' immediately decreed that we were NOT to wear wings on any of our uniforms or flying kit. The reason was never given, and no-one was brave enough to ask. Our best guess was that Terence, being Royal Navy trained, had Royal Navy wings, and didn't quite know where to wear them! (Being in shirt sleeve order most of the time made it quite a challenge.)

This caused much consternation among the troop pilots who had slaved many hours to earn their coveted wings, and having to remove the set from their pyjamas was particularly distressing. Posing at the bar in the Mess became a none-event, and the sarcastic comments from our airfield neighbours in the Army Air Corps caused even more ruffled feathers. We were not happy budgies.

I was tasked to fly to Waterloo Lines in Big Aden to collect an Army Major and transport him to the Amriga Field Firing Ranges. Being a Bootneck pilot I arrived with absolutely stacks of time to spare, and closed down on the parade ground. Eventually a pongo officer appeared, later than the tasked time, spared me a casual glance, and wandered around the Sioux. After many minutes he asked if I had any idea where the pilot had gone. Having assured him that I WAS that pilot, we cranked up and lurched in the general direction of Amriga Ranges with my passenger casting curious sideways looks in the general area of my left chest. Dismissing carnal intent, I assumed he was trying to see my wings!

Inevitably I heard the intercom switch being activated, and the following conversation took place.

Passenger: "I see you are not wearing pilots wings."

Me: "No sir."

Passenger: "All the Army Air Corps pilots wear wings."

Me: "Yes sir."

Passenger: "Why aren't you wearing wings?"

Me: "Because I didn't pass the course sir, and we don't have any other Royal Marines qualified yet."

Later, on return to Falaise Airfield, I gave Capt Terence Murphy a particularly severe listening to, as he debriefed me in mega-decibels about the trip to Amriga Ranges, and the extreeeeeeemely frightened Army Major he had just spoken to on the phone.

It was worth it though, as I subsequently received a War Pension for damage to my hearing, and when Terence went home we wore wings on everything!