On Saturday 9th August, I was picked up from 495 Squadron in Sutton at 8:55. Being the only cadet from 487 on the camp, I’d not expected to know anyone, but it turned out there were a few familiar faces already at the first pick up, and as we collected more cadets from various points across Warwickshire and Birmingham, I realised I already knew quite a few cadets from past camps. It was a long journey to the station, which is in North Yorkshire, and we arrived at about 1400 hrs. We were shown to our rooms, and Tait Block had the nicest accommodation I’ve ever stayed in with the cadets, single rooms with lots of storage space. After quickly unpacking, we went for the usual arrival and safety briefs. We were then sorted down into flights, and I was delighted to find out that I was 1IC of B flight, meaning I was first in command of 11 other cadets for the week. We did a little bit of drill before dinner, then the evening activity was a FamEx, which is a familiarisation exercise, where we explored the base and answered a set of questions. My flight won this by correctly answering most of the questions. Then, it was uniform prep then bed.
The next morning we were up early for inspection, then after breakfast we went to a church service on base. We then went to the Air Operations Acquaintance Centre, where we spent most of the day completing a time planning challenge. The exercise put us in the position of fast jet pilots who were tasked with blowing up various targets, and, in our flights, we had to prioritise the targets, then select the missile we’d use, and the aircraft to carry the missile. This was extremely difficult, but, after presenting our plan to the AOAC team and the rest of the camp, it was announced that B flight had won this activity. Throughout the day, we also went in small groups to use the flight simulators there. After dinner, we did some drill practice in preparation for the inter-flight drill competition at the end of the week. By now, I was starting to realise how hard it is to take drill with a selection of cadets of varying levels of drill competency, and with different squadrons having minor differences in how they did things. We then went to the station gym and did the RAF fitness test, which involves timed sit ups and press ups, then doing the multi-stage fitness test, also known as the dreaded ‘bleep test’. This also contributed to the flight competition, and B flight won again, by quite a margin. After a fairly tiring day, lights out was at 2245.
On Monday morning, all pilots at Linton were briefed by the Met Office on the weather, the engineers on the status of their aircraft, and the Station Warrant Officer on other issues. We all got the rare opportunity to sit in at the back of this brief. It was fairly difficult for us to understand due to the fact that the military has a bad habit of talking in acronyms. However, as the brief wasn’t intended for us, we hadn’t expected to, and it was interesting nevertheless. After an inspection, we travelled into Leeds to go to the Royal Armouries, which is where all the weapons that used to be stored in the Tower of London have been moved so they can be displayed to the public. It was a really interesting place, however, in true cadet spirit we all spent most of the day taking selfies with various exhibits. Once back at the station, we did more drill practice, and after having a sore throat for a few days, this is when I actually lost my voice. The evening activity was a quiz on topics including the history of the RAF, sport, general knowledge, and food. Once again, B flight won. Lights out was at 2230.
On Tuesday, we travelled to Adrenaline NY, which is an adventure training centre in the Yorkshire Dales. Here, we did activities such as Leap of Faith and Jacob’s ladder. These were, again, a part of the inter flight competition. My flight won, again, bringing the overall score up to 5-0. After lunch, we went on an assault course, which was the one used on an 80’s TV show’s 2009 remake called ‘The Krypton Factor’, which, although none of us had heard of, we were assured our parents would have. It had 20+ obstacles, which included climbing over huge walls, crawling through muddy tunnels and jumping into murky water that we couldn’t see the bottom of. We were told to jump into a specific part of this huge pond, where the sides weren’t sloped so we would land on a flat surface, but I underestimated the jump and ended up chest-high in the dirty water, which, as you can imagine, I wasn’t that happy about, especially since I was wearing my MTP under the coveralls they’d lent to us. The completion of the assault course was scored based on how many times you ignored safety rules- you started on 200 points, and 10 were deducted for each penalty. B flight, of course, won. After showers and dinner, we went into York to go bowling. This was the first inter flight competition that we actually lost. We went back to Linton, and lights out was at 2300.
On Wednesday, we travelled to RAF Fylingdales, which is the base which used to have the iconic ‘golf ball’ radar. However, nowadays, it has a pyramid shaped, 8-storey radar tower. We actually got the chance to go inside it, which I found really fascinating since I want to work in communications as an engineer in the RAF when I’m older. We got to see the early warnings system for missiles being launched through the area that Fylingdales covers. We then visited the power station on base, which they have there in order to be as self-sufficient as possible, and the fire section. We then went to Scarborough, which is a seaside town on the east coast, and, to our delight after a few days on JRM food, the staff treated us all to a McDonalds. We then had a few hours free time which we spent on the prom in arcades, and we even visited a haunted house. As it was only £3 entry fee, we hadn’t expected a lot, however we were all screaming- even me, who by this point could barely talk, let alone scream. We drove back to Linton, and lights out was at 2300 again.
Thursday was a fairly typical day as far as cadet camps go- we did the usual section visits, which were a whistle stop tour of Air Traffic Control, safety equipment, operations planning, and the engineering department to name a few. We also got to visit the Tucanos. Linton is the No.1 Flying School, and where the fast jet pilots start their training on the Tucano. We were shown the basic controls and told about the structure of the training. We spent the rest of the day doing finishing touches on our drill, as the competition was early the next morning. It was really amazing to see the improvements in the drill of the flight- at the beginning of the week, some of the cadets could barely march, yet a few days later they’d picked up the whole sequence and it was actually looking quite good. The other flight, who’d got fairly complacent at the beginning of the week when they’d seen our flight’s standard, were now starting to panic, which amused my flight quite a lot.
On Friday morning, we were up and in the sports hangar for the drill competition for about 9:00am. We were inspected and judged by the Flt Lt in charge of drill on the station, as the SWO was busy. After a perfect sequence, it was announced that B flight had won the drill. This made me happier than anything, mainly because it was the cadets in the flight’s determination to prove the other flight wrong that saw them through. I was also happy that my voice had recovered just enough for my flight to hear me calling the drill commands. Then the Camp Com announced that the camp’s best cadet and best NCO wouldn’t be joining the rest of the camp to Eden Camp, a WW2 memorial, and instead would get the chance to go the ATC and in a Tucano simulator, so of course I was over the moon when I got best NCO and a cadet from my flight got best cadet. In the ATC, we got to sit in the approach room with headsets on and shadow someone working there, then go into the watch room at the top and see the aircraft come in. We then went to the Tucano simulator, which was a state-of-the-art piece of technology used for training the fast jet pilots. We got half an hour each, and it was amazing- we got to take off, land, and do aerobatics.
By the time we were done, the rest of the camp was back. After dinner, we had the end of camp presentation, where everyone got a certificate of attendance and a Tucano poster. I also got presented with a glass paper weight of the RAF Fylingdales radar tower, after the staff had seen my enthusiasm for the station, and my Tucano poster was signed by the OC of 72 Sqn, which is the Tucano squadron. The NCO’s then presented the notorious paper plate awards - mine was ‘Loudest Cdt’, since my voice still wasn’t back. The staff then surprised us with Dominos pizzas, and after eating, we headed back to the block to pack up.
On Saturday morning, after final inspections, we headed back to Birmingham. I was truly disappointed that the week was over - it had been amazing, and was a great last camp with the Air Training Corps.