History of the Mobile Air Movements Squadrons

Formation of UKMAMS

From the F540 - May 1966

Formed as a section at RAF Abingdon in 1958, consisting of4 teams (a team being 1 officer, 2 SNCOs, 1 Corporal and 2 Airmen). No headquarters was established and all programming and administration was done by the Officer IC teams. Progress has been made and since June 1965, a headquarters has been established and the teams increased from 4 to 7. On 1 May 1966, Squadron status and the title UNITED KINGDOM MOBILE AIR MOVEMENTS SQUADRON (UKMAMS) was attained. The Squadron's primary role is to provide a mobile force of highly skilled air movement's specialists capable of establishing, or reinforcing, air movements sections whenever required, as an essential pre-requisite to the flexible employment of Air Transport. The present Officer Commanding is Squadron Leader W Jacobs.

 

UKMAMS is now suitably scaled for clothing adequate to permit their operating in arctic and tropical climates. Landrovers and trailers have been established and a recent addition has been the tractor rough terrain with a forklift capability coupled with 5 ton trailers. The next item needed is an efficient 2-way radio, capable of establishing a link between load control and aircraft loading parties. It is hoped that a suitable piece of equipment will be available soon.

 

During their many deployments on all major Exercises and Operations supported by Transport Command, MAMS teams apart from working at all the RAF staging posts across the world, have been deployed to assist in Operations in Cyprus, Borneo, Radfan, East, Central and West Africa, and British Guiana. They have assisted in various relief operations, some being earthquake relief at Skopje and Agadir, also hurricane relief at Kingston, Jamaica. On Exercises, apart from deployment to airfields and airstrips throughout the British Isles, MAMS have supported the transport force during NATO, CENTO, Joint Service and Army exercises. This has meant deployment to all corners of the earth, some of the countries being Iceland, Greenland, Norway, Denmark, Holland, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, North Africa, Mauritius, Ethiopia, Azores, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, Bahamas, Bermuda, British Guiana, British Honduras, Jamaica and Portugal. From Portugal a Beaufighter was loaded into 2 Beverley aircraft and brought back to this country as a museum piece.

 

During the crisis over Rhodesia 4 MAMS teams were deployed for duties at Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and Lusaka. This has now been reduced to 2 teams, l at Lusaka and the other at Nairobi, the teams serving 6 weeks at a time loading and unloading oil for Zambia.

 

MAMS teams are also established in MEAF, FEAF and NEAF. The UK teams have worked with all these teams as well as with the RCAF, USAF, RHAF and many other air forces. They were also engaged at Copenhagen in assisting in the changeover of the Danish Contingent of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus. It is an interesting feature that most members of UKMAMS have logged over 300 flying hours in one year's activities. This speaks for itself and leaves no doubt as to why the word MOBILE is included in the Squadron title.

 

FEAF MAMS - 1962

Paddy Vance FEAF MAMS 1962 - 65

In 1961/62 piracy was becoming very prevalent in the sea areas around the North Borneo coast line and so the RAF's 209 Squadron, based at RAF Seletar, were tasked with anti-piracy patrols along the Borneo regions. The aircraft would spot the piracy ships/boats and so alert the ground forces to combat these pirates on the ground.

 

It thus became necessary to quickly move the troops (Ghurkas, Malay Field Police and Royal Marines, etc) around the affected areas, and troops need rations, ammunition and 'bods' to be moved by aircraft. Normally the aircraft were Twin Pioneers which were capable of carrying 10 British troops plus kit, or 12 Ghurkas plus kit. Generally, the main body of troops were flown from Singapore to Labuan or Kuching airfields, where they would then be ferried out in Twin or Single Pioneer aircraft of 209 Squadron. It became obvious that there was a requirement for qualified movements personnel to be available to handle these troops and freight at the different outposts in the Borneo territories. Consequently, FEAF MAMS was formed in 1962, based at RAF Seletar. The following personnel were the founder members of FEAF MAMS:

Flt Lt Bob Ellis - OC                               

Flt Lt Red Langton - 2IC                            

FS Jack Davies                                                               

Sgt Paddy Mooney                  

Sgt Paddy Vance

Sgt Pete Fitzpatrick

Cpl Ivan Gervais

Cpl Bill Robb

SAC Jock Taylor (Pipe Major)

SAC Sammy Ranasange (Clk Sec)

LAC Geordie Readman

LAC Ommo (Pen Name)

LAC Scouse Johnson

LAC Jock Gillespie

 

The 4 LACs were transferred to MAMS as we had no airmen movers at that time. FS Fitzpatrick took it upon himself that he would give these 4 airmen a course on movements, so now we had these airmen movers - or did we? SAC Jock Taylor, an ex-Scots Guardsman was the Pipe Major for the RAF Seletar Pipe Band, so most of his tour was spent touring around the Far East with the Pipe Band!

 

It was customary in those days that a SNCO/Cpl would be the sole mover to be detached for movements duties in the far-flung outposts of Sarawak, Sabbah, Labuan, Kuching or Jesseton to supervise troop movements by air to these remote areas. I remember being at Labuan with Flt Lt Red Langton and Sgt Mooney recovering a contingent of Royal Marines to Singapore on Hastings aircraft. Sgt Mooney was to return to base due for repat to UK. I was delegated to fly in a Twin Pioneer to Sandakan where I was to move a contingent of Ghurkas, plus their field rations, to a remote airstrip further down the line. I had never seen a Twin Pioneer aircraft before, yet alone loaded one! The rations were in cartons like our 'K' rations of those days. Sgt Mooney drew a sketch of the freight bay of a Twin Pioneer on the sand! He told me I would find a freight net to secure the rations, plus there is an extra net attached to a bar which you secure to the floor and draw the net over the freight to the rear of the aircraft and secure. This compensates for the forward 'G' of the load! The captain of the Twin Pioneer was Wg Cdr Graves, OC Flying Wing, RAF Seletar. As there was no weight shown on the ration canons (no such documents as F1380s in the field!) I took a few cartons to the little local Air Terminal Hut where I found a weighbridge, so at least I had a fair idea of the weight of the consignment.

 

In those days you had to make use of the troops whom you had to move, you told them where to place the freight in the aircraft, and in the case of wheeled vehicles, the unit which was planning a move by air was requested to provide a loading and lashing team. Generally this was a SNCO/Cpl plus 6 soldiers. These we had for a few days practising loading and lashing landrovers and trailers which in those days were mostly the vehicles they required. For the record, I remember Cpl Gervais and I loading a Beverley at Seletar, about 0400, with 36 Marines plus 3 landrovers and 3 trailers in 20 minutes from the doors opening to closing! - only for the dinghy in the starboard wing to activate and force the panel on the wing to give way. We had to offload and re-load onto another Beverley. I wonder if Ivan recalls that episode? In those days it didn't matter whether you were an officer or a junior airman, you got your jacket off and muscled in. That is why we have such morale in the movements world - 'One for All and All for One'.

 

On 10 December 1962, Azahari, an Indonesian rebel, decided to invade Brunei and North Borneo. The 'powers that be' thought it was only another skirmish, sent up a company of Ghurkas to sort them out, and all would be over in 2 or 3 days. That wasn't to be. Flt Lt Ellis, OC FEAF MAMS and I were at Base Seletar on 12 December and he told me that it looked as if we would be needed in the Brunei/Labuan areas as things were getting very hot. Malay soldiers and Ghurkas were being killed by the Indonesian rebels. Flt Lt Ellis, Cpl Menzies and I took off in a Beverley with about 150 Ghurkas for Brunei. We landed about 0500, there was no airfield control as the runway had been dug up for electric cables to be laid, so we only had yards to land in, but we made it. The freight doors swung open for the troops to make a quick exit from the freight bay, while Cpl Menzies and I opened the para doors in the boom and the Beverley and he and I slid down the chute and held it taut so that the Ghurkas could slide down with bayonets fixed and fade away into the jungle. By this time it was almost light, so Flt Lt Ellis decided that he and Cpl Menzies would remain at Brunei airfield while I was to get back to Labuan on the next Beverley to assist Flt Lt Langton. We used Labuan as an airhead and so transferred troops and ammunition onto Beverleys because of the short landing on the Brunei airfield. Each soldier was given a 'flimsy' (about 5 gallons) of fresh water to take aboard the Beverley with them as the water system had been destroyed at Brunei.

 

UK movements reinforcements started arriving at Brunei and Labuan about 22 December, and so eased our workload. So much so that Flt Lt Ellis returned me to Seletar for a rest and so I managed Christmas Day with my wife and daughter, but was still on call 24 hours a day. It was unbelievable that we MAMS were still so short on the ground with no build up. We were manning our posts as far away as Tawa where we had one airman mover, LAC Geordie Readman, doing the movements tasks. It was later related that in one particular instance there was a requirement for a sudden move of troops to be carried out after duty hours, and a call was put out on the tannoy for Sgt Readman to report to the movements cell. Geordie was chuffed at his quick promotion in the field!

 

FEAF MAMS were stretched to the limits both at base and in the field. I recall one instance where LAC Ommo and I were the sole base movers at Seletar when we had an emergency call out after duty hours. I was called to Operations to be informed that a Beverley was required to be loaded with various ground equipment as a Beverley at Labuan required an engine change. We had various pieces ofground equipment plus the exchange engine. The engine caused no problems as we had it delivered on a low loader to the aircraft, but the one hunk of metal was a 'ginormous' jack. I should think that it must have weighed half a tone, or should I say 1120lbs! No mean weight for 2 people to wrestle with. I could see that I was going to run into difficulties, so I called out the Station Duty Officer and told him I needed many hands, and could I have the assistance of the Station Fire Picquet bods? Apparently not, but he said that there was an Army lad and a RAF bod in the cells in the

Guardroom and would they do? Of course, 2 were better than none, so the RAF SPs delivered these 2 prisoners to me at the Movements hangar. I duly signed for them and off the SPs went; by now it was about 2000 hrs. I briefed the 2 prisoners that should they decide to do a bunk they were to tell me as I might as well go with them, as I could not possibly guard them and deal with phone calls in the movements office whilst they were out on the airfield loading the ground equipment.

 

I remember the first item to be loaded was the huge aircraft jack. These 2 prisoners by the way were about 6' tall and proportionally built, so I said to this Army chap, 'I want that jack moved onto the aircraft' and pointed to the position where it was to be placed. Well, talk about Samson, this Army lad gave a few grunts and puffs and the jack was duly laid as required, much to my desire! I instructed LAC Ommo to go to the office, put the kettle on and handed him a few dollar notes to go to the NAAFI Canteen and get 4 steak sandwiches, one for each of us. By this time things were looking brighter for me, the aircraft load was taking shape so I decided it was time for a sandwich, a cup of tea and a smoke in the office. By this time it must have been 2359 hours. The Guardroom began to phone about the prisoners and I replied all was well! Having finished our snack and smoke we only had the spare aircraft engine to load and had everything wrapped up, trim completed, ready for a 0400 hrs take-off.

 

The 2 prisoners were chuffed to be able to be out of their cells and to relax, so they asked me if l wanted any help the following night? I told them I always needed help and so they asked me to 'fix it' with the Guardroom for them to be allowed to help me the following day. All went well until the afternoon, when I gave the Army lad some money to get a Coke from the Coke machine near to the 3 ASO HQ - this Army lad was a member of 3 ASO. Well, suddenly I heard such a commotion that I looked outside the hangar to see my Army helper being marched into the Colonel's office. I thought, I must act quickly here, so off l went to the Colonel's office where this poor Army lad was standing to attention before the Colonel's desk holding a bottle of Coke in one hand. By this time the Colonel was on the phone to the Station Commander asking who the h... allowed this Army lad out of the cells. My reaction was to tell the lad to put the bottle down and in good old regiment fashion told him to about turn, and double march back to the Air Movements hangar. By this time the RAF Police came tearing up in their landrover and whisked the poor Army lad away back to the Guardroom. I didn't dare go back to see the Colonel - I though let sleeping dogs lie.

 

Gradually MAMS were being boosted by the odd new SNCO from the UK. We had Sgt Joe Carey, then Sgt Patrick Moynihan, then Sgt Johnny Newton, Sgt Watson, Sgt Charlesworth and Sgt Gibson.  All chiefs and no Indians! This situation went on well into 1964, and well after the horse had bolted 'the powers that be' decided to send out 5 or 6 complete Movements teams. As Cpl Robb said at his farewell thrash - '18 months too bloody late!'

 

Operations and Disaster Relief

Since their  formation, MAMS team's and Movements as a Trade have been heavily involved in the majority of Operations that have required British forces to be deployed. MAMS teams would handle the initial deployment phase by setting up a deployed Movements set up in theatre, handling aircraft that would usually be loaded at the main bases. Once the deployment had entered the sustainment phase, the airheads would be handed over to Movements tradesmen on detachment.

 

Likewise, the Trade has been heavily tasked in support of are disaster relief operations. The Trade does not get as much coverage in the press during these task, compared to other more 'glamorous' units.

 

And yet, without Movements, it is difficult to see how any Operational deployment or Disaster relief could succeed or happen without undue delay. 

 

Follow the links, below, to read about Movements involvement in Operations and Disaster Relief.

 

If there are any Operations missing or you can tell a story about your involvement in the Op, please send the details to me or to the Team Brief editor so we can publish your story

 

In 1994, the RAF PR magazine published an article by Gp Capt DKL McDonnell about the way that humanitarian airlifts are planned and organised.

 

Personal Memories and Recollections

If you any particular memories of a Movements related topic and want them to be recorded, please send them to me.

 

Djibouti - Charles Collier

Swift2Move - Charles Collier

6 Weeks in India - Fg Off MA Fulton

Aden - Ned Nethercoat and Roy Davies

 

Unless credited otherwise, all articles are taken from personal memories or Team Brief and as such are (C) to the RAFMAMS Association and should not be reproduced unless permission has been given by the Chairman