This story is true. I know because I was there.
In 1976 I was stationed at RAF Aldergrove but, in fact, RAF Aldergrove did not officially exist. In view of the politics prevalent at the time the RAF was not operating in Northern Ireland, so we were a, low profile unit operating under the auspices of No 23 MU. The MU was made up of 1200 civilians and about 5 RAF personnel. It’s role was to refurbish Canberras and Phantoms and, despite the fact that it was reputed to have the lowest productivity record of any MOD establishment, things, generally, worked well. We had few problems in dealing with the ‘civvies’. If you wanted anything you just told them it was a ‘fiddle’ and it was done.
The CO of No 23 MU was Gp Capt Weston and the CO of RAF Aldergrove was Gp Capt G. J.B. Claridge. Two of the bravest men I ever knew!
For many of us our social life centred on the families club. Because of the restrictions imposed we had to make our own entertainment and that homemade shack gave us a lot of pleasure.
The first sign that something was happening was one Saturday night when the barman, Cpl Dudley Beaver (MTD) told us that he was closing the bar at midnight (only an hour after closing time), a most unusual occurrence.
The second indication came from my wife. At that time she was a stewardess in the officers’ mess. He was working the early shift and came home at lunchtime saying that there was something going on! Apparently our CO had been in the mess at 0600hrs (most unusual at that time on a Sunday morning). He then disappeared for a couple of hours and returned to the Mess in a most jovial mood. So jovial, in fact, that he smacked her bottom on entering! (Even I would not dare do that). I never gave it much more thought and we spent Sunday lunchtime in the Families Club. Dudley was back, running the bar and all was right with the world. Several days later the story broke. It was in the Daily Express, so it must be true! Apparently, the militant element of 23 MU had a grievance. I have no idea just what
their grievance was but they decided that the way to resolve it was to ‘snag’ one of the Phantoms, claiming that it was unserviceable and refusing to release it until their claims were met.
The two COs must have got their heads together and agreed on a very brave plan. At 0700hrs on the Sunday morning both group captains met. They drew out the keys for the hanger and both signed the F700 and Auth Sheets. Dudley Beaver drove the Tugmaster, which pulled the Phantom from the hangar, and the aircraft, flown by Sqn Ldr Freeman (Unit Test Pilot) took off for RAF Leuchars. It landed safely and the militants were thwarted (Final score: one – nil to the RAF!) I know that this story is true because it was in the newspapers but more important – I WAS THERE!