240 Squadron

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TGH
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Joined: 02/10/2012
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240 Squadron

TGH stands for Thomas Gilbert Hutchinson a F/O from 240 Squadron flying Shackleton Mk 1's out of RAF Ballykelly from some time post 1955.  TGH died in February 2007 from skin cancer and leukemia.  After his RAF service he became a pilot in BEA (British European Airways) and then British Airways (after BEA was combined with BOAC - British Overseas Airways Corporation).  He finished up as a Senior Training Captain on Trident III's and retired in 1985.  He moved with his wife Eileen to Torquay, Devon where he died.  His second child - a daughter, Born 1957, suffers from a Thyroid condition.  Generally the thought is that both can trace the conditions to the tests.

It seems that the intransigence that is suffered from veterans of this period is more about the mice in Whitehall more than the men.  The UK government after the failure of its tests with nuclear weapons handed all the research over to the USA.  The two main failures were the lack of yield in explosive power and failure to reduce the size of the weapons so that the aircraft of the day could carry the weapons to target which in the end was a problem of range.  Mix this with the advent of ballistic rocket technology, lack of funds and inter-service competition with the Navy ensured that the all subsequent and meaningful development ended up in US hands.  The Americans, paranoid as per usual, are determined to stop all historic questioning of the issue and reckon that the problem will go away as those involved die off.  Since they own all the means of current production including UK facilities it's very unlikely that there will be any recognition of any issue whilst the have influence.

TGH was very vague about the whole period of "Grapple".  There is obvious evidence in artifacts left such a posted addressed coconut, photographs (more later) now destroyed and a log book, also destroyed place him in the area and the operation but there are some other interesting and unexplained facts.  For a period of time he was seemingly transferred to the RAAF (Royal Australian Airforce) as there were photos of him in RAAF uniform (similar as RAF I know but cap badges differed).  He seems to have spent a time at Woomera in Australia which was another test range and also a rocket test facility.

There were photos of him posed next to a North American P51K Mustang (the RAAF were issued with P51K's NOT P51D's - a matter over different propellers).  In one he is seen standing next to a belly landed P51K which has a motif of a stick man who has a playing card body with the "Ace of Spades" at its centre.  A brief examination of the log book reveals the types flown to be including but not exhaustive, Harvard, Spitfire MkXIV to XXII inclusive, Vampire, Meteor, Canberra, DC3, Shackleton I and II's, Lancaster (late versions), Lincoln, York, Hastings, Mosquito.  In addition there is mention of a RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) F-86 Sabre and an experimental aircraft called Indervict which was a pilotless drone which in its development stages had a pilot on board whom was in the "prone" position.  The pilot was supposed to take over when the ground controllers "got it wrong".  It seems that the Indervict morphed into a pilotless target tug when it was established that its use as an interceptor was so limited as to be pointless.  Maybe the technology of the day or failure to understand German "Mistle" technology where it seems to have been derived from. 

Allegedly starting out from RAF Ballykelly into the Australian and Pacific Ocean areas he lost some 43 fellow pilots/crew in crashes.  He started his pilot training in Rhodesia on Harvards.  He was at one point posted to RAF Valley on Angelsey, North Wales and RAF Kinloss.  There seem to be UK postings elsewhere but not clear just as to where.  The main operation which most of his career post 1955/6 onward seems to revolve is "Grapple".  However it does not seem to explain why aircraft from Fighter, Bomber, Coastal and Bomber Commands were involved, neither his transfer to the RAAF at one point or the RCAF involvement.  It's been advised that his service career records will not help either.  In addition there is evidence that he was involved in at least ferrying RAAF P51K Mustangs to Korea during the war (some 50 were involved) and that on one occasion whilst in formation he was "bounced" by two Russian made and either Russian, Chinese or Korean flown Mig 15's on the letdown to an airfield.

With the secrecy surrounding "Grapple" and Woomera and his reticence to talk about any aspect of the period, it begs the question if HMG was operating some below the radar operations or squadron that was associated with 240 Squadron in the Pacific theater post WWII and before Australia asserted it authority or we lost our over Canberra in the sixties.  Of Christams Island and Malden there are numerous descriptions of the local flora and fauna, swimming in lagoons, fishing, long aerial patrols zing-zagging various lines of latitude.  From RAF Ballykelly operating patrols over the northern North Sea during exercises (Northern Wedding???) and on one occasion is a Shacleton buzzing a Russian spy trawler at zero feet and whipping all the radio gear into the sea off its rigging.  I don't suppose it helped that on approach they opened the bomb-bay doors and had the trawlers crew throwing themselves everywhere as well.  Does anybody recall such incidents from 240 Squadron?

Unfortunately the few photographs that would have been of assistance were all disposed of by him.  Apart from one or two trinkets anything connected to the RAF was either burnt or just vanished, flying helmets, restricted books and manuals of no use now days other than historically.  There was also evidence that he had been in Texas on RAF service as well.  Possibly ferrying to and from Australia or Christmas Island.  There was also a mention on this site of a person or persons ferrying people by DC3 from and to Malden(?).  It appears that air crews would swap or take over these flights for something to do or to keep up on the aircraft type.  Whatever the rules were/are there were always people who set out to break them.  As per usual the pace of service life appears to have been long periods of boredom with the occasional break between them.  Time off such as leaves, because of the distance home, was often taken locally, for example on one leave he rode by horseback the fence between Norther Territories and South Australia mending the Roo fence with a maintenance crew.  Also for a time with Lenny Bedell who carved out the first road in the outback and wrote the book "Too Long in the Bush" an account of it.  He would appear outside Woomera Officers Mess direct from his Landrover and have a was in the dust before entering for a beer as an honored guest.

As more comes to light I'll post it but can anyone cast any light on the aforegoing.

TGH

d3j452
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Joined: 28/08/2013
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I served on 240 SQDN in 1966 through 1968. Cpl/Jr. Tech.

Sqdrn Ldr V. D. Hodgkinson was the squadron commander.

I was supernumery aircrew on the first and second  runs to Christmas Island for operation Grapple..

I was Avionics Tech and my main job was to mantain the airborne avionics and to set up the Radio Service Hut on Christmas Isalnd

 I was there for  two Grapple exercises.

I can tell you the route we took on our first run and on the second run.

I flew out on WB851 and on one other that I don't recall at the moment, .

I Maintained the Shackleton MK1's, Canberra P4's, Vulcans and a few other kites that were there.

Let me know if you are interested in any further info.