Stephen Birtles – OC SCAF 1986 – 88
Stephen Birtles – OC SCAF 1986 – 88

Stephen Birtles – OC SCAF 1986 – 88

I was OC SCAF at Church Fenton from 1986 to 1988 (at the same time that Ralph Bayley was the station photographer there), one of the two Supply Officers on the base.  I was a Flying Officer in my mid-20’s at the time.

Without any doubt, Church Fenton was my favourite tour of duty in my 10 years in the RAF.  It surely was the nicest and friendliest station in the RAF.  So, with that biased view in mind, I want to thank you for taking the time and effort to make a record of the station on your excellent website.

I thought I had made a mistake by going back to the base one Sunday afternoon a couple of years ago when returning to the south from a wedding in York. I don’t know what I was expecting to find, but I was heartbroken to see the dilapidated state of the guardroom and SHQ as I peered through the rusting main entrance gates. I was equally devastated to find that the officers mess building had been completely bulldozed to make way for housing. Since that day I have been unsure of what to expect regarding Fenton any more. So, I was delighted to see the website and the interest that it has attracted.  It gives me great hope to see that I am not the only one who has great memories and fondness for RAF Church Fenton.

Below is a photo of BM597 taken in its new home in Duxford on 19th October 2003. This ex gate guardian from Fenton used to be the delight of my day when I crossed from the Mess to Supply Squadron. I have photos of it in sun, snow and rain. I think most of my family have had their pictures snapped in front it by me! Just before being posted away from the base in 1988 there was a visit by a team from the BBMF who were eyeing it over for spare parts. A proposal was made to replace it with a glass fibre replica and take BM597 away to be stripped of parts to support the other Spitfires in the BBMF. This was a sad proposal and my heart sank at the thought of it. After being posted away from the base I assumed that the proposal had probably happened. So, it delighted me greatly to discover recently that the aircraft was rescued and restored to full flying condition by Historic Flying at Duxford.

© Stephen Birtles

In the 1987 ‘Air Displays’ section of the website you have mentioned that according to the programme various aircraft were scheduled to appear as static displays, including a Canadian Armed Forces CF-18. I can verify that not only did this happen, but in fact the CF-18 joined the flying display at the end of the programme and gave the most blistering performance imaginable, including a vertical full afterburner climb into the late afternoon high cloud base. I listened to the pilot on radio in the Air Traffic tower and he levelled out at 60,000 feet.

Did you know that Concorde G-BOAA made an appearance at Fenton in early 1987? It was in the area doing an engine test after a refit. Linton Radar informed Air Traffic at Fenton that Concorde was passing near to the Fenton MATZ. One of the Fenton controllers quite cheekily tuned in and asked the pilot if he would be willing to do a fly past for the trainee pilots in 7FTS who were grounded due to less-than-ideal weather that day. Amazingly, the Concorde pilot consented. An announcement was rapidly made on the station tannoy that Concorde was about to appear. You can probably imagine that almost everybody on the station made a dash for the apron area to see it pass by. The pilot did Church Fenton proud by doing a beautiful approach and overshoot on runway 24 with undercarriage dangling and full afterburners.