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Lightning Tales

Formerly Story of the Month

New Tales will be published on an as and when available basis. It would be greatly appreciated if readers could supply new material for inclusion in this page. If you have any Lightning Aircraft related tales that you wish to tell, please email them here

To keep you going while new material is collected,  below is the archived stories index. Using the links you can access all the previous Story of the Month pages that have been published on the site since it was taken over by the Lightning Association.

September 2014

Wattisham 60's Experience

I used to live at Wattisham in the late 60’s when my father was in the RAF. He was a junior officer at the time, having moved up from a Chief Tech fairly late in his career and so, much to my teenage excitement, we lived in the OMQ’s directly adjacent to the taxiway. I presume that junior officers got the noisiest houses but I did not mind one bit and I spent a lot of time at the bottom of the garden watching the Lightnings pass by (day and night) occasionally getting a wave from those pilots who were our neighbours.

One dark evening, a 56 Squadron Lightning was just passing the end of the garden when a 30-40 foot long gout of flame shot out of the back and the pilot braked to a halt. There was perhaps a minute’s pause and then the pilot opened the canopy, scrambled out and ran hell for leather back towards the control tower which was about a 100 yards away.

I rushed indoors to tell my parents but my father did not believe me at first until I pulled open the curtains and showed them the aircraft, still smoking gently from the tailpipe and illuminated by the glow from the taxiway lights. My mother gave a short scream, rushed upstairs, grabbed my little sister from her cot and fled down the street.

With the blithe ignorance of youth I then went back into the garden to see what would happen next. What actually happened next was nothing for about 15 minutes. Behind the stationary aircraft, a small traffic jam of two more Lightnings built up but they eventually turned round and went back to the stands. Then the Stowmarket fire tender turned up (I think someone had dialled 999) but the crew could not do anything because they did not have any foam. Eventually, the airfield crash crew turned up (I don’t have the faintest idea what they were doing up till then) and proceeded to spray the aircraft with foam. Presumably out of sheer embarrassment at having being beaten to an emergency on their own patch by the civilian fire crew, although the fire had obviously gone out by then. One of the crash crew climbed into the cockpit dropped the ventral tank and then ejected the canopy by mistake, narrowly missing the rest of the fire crews. These actions alarmed my father to the extent that he leapt over the garden fence and rushed over to make sure they did not damage his precious Red Tops (he was in Wattisham AAGW at the time).

Eventually the towed the damaged aircraft away and things got back to normal. An exciting evening for a young teenager but thinking back on the incident, I was amazed that I did not think of running but I suppose the thrill of the unfolding events outweighed my sense of self-preservation.

Oh, it turned out that problem was just unburnt fuel in the reheat system that caused the impressive flame. the only two people who showed any sense during the whole incident were my mother and the pilot who both ran away as fast as they could. My father collected my mother from the Officer’s Mess a few hours later although it took some time to persuade her that it was safe to come home.

Steven Morris


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