On pass out from Bircham Newton I was posted in January 1961 to RAF Feltwell where 77 Sqdn was operational with the Thor Missile System.
My remit in SCAF was to order parts required for the missile systems from the USA. After some months the SAC running the Priority Cell for urgent missile requirements was demobbed and I took over his role.
Requirements were received from the Rocket Inspection and Maintenance (RIM) teams in the adjoining Hangar to that where the Supply squadron was based. Priorities on the Thor’s were similar to the aircraft side where there were Immediate Operational Requirement (IOR) with a Missile Out of Commission Parts (MOCP) being the equivalent of an AOG (Aircraft on Ground).
When demands were received they would be scrutinised, checked and then place on the relevant logistics centre in the USA. This was done by filling in a card with all the relevant details such as the priority, demand ordering location , the weapon system, Federal Stock Number which is the same format as a NATO number, quantiy, unit of measure, and the supply logistics centre in the USA. The cards were then passed to the punch room where the information was processed to put holes using IBM punch card machines. The punched cards were then processed and data transmitted to the USA.
Sometime around August 1961 the RIM teams commenced their planning for winter and a number of urgent demands were fed through which were duly placed on the San Bernadino Air Material Area (SBAMA) in California. Amongst these orders on the was one for 100 gallons of anti-freeze for the large articulated missile transporters.
Life carried on until one morning in November there was something of interest as all the staff in SCAF were looking out of the windows of our Hangar offices adjacent to the airfield where firstly one RAF artic had turned loaded with pallets and then a second. These had arrived either from Burton Wood or Heywood. Firstly our Corporal went to view the arrivals followed by the Warrant Officer and then the Flight Lieutenant. As they are in discussion with the drivers a third, then fourth and finally fifth artic pulled up beside the airfield. All in all 10,000 gallons of anti-freeze had arrived at Feltwell courtesy of Mutual British American Defence and the Thor Programme – enough to fill a small swimming pool.
Needless to say the inquiry quickly got under way. My hand written card was evidenced and found correct for 100 gallons, the punch card operator was incorrect and was for 10,000. The acknowledgement and subsequent shipping confirmation from San Bernadino, which I had received, were all for 10,000, was evidenced and I had missed the error and could have stopped it if I had been alert. It was a lesson learnt and rarely, if ever, repeated.
I got a real sorting out by the Warrant Officer but nothing on my record. Sometimes in life you get a little bit of luck
The RIM teams got their 100 gallons. The rest of the pallets were unloaded by airfield and eventually sometime in January 1962 were disposed but I have no idea where they went.
I was 18 years of age when this happened and that was 60 years ago. Odd but sitting typing this story it only seems like yesterday.