Horsepower in Reserve
Part 1: The helicopter lift
It was an overcast and rainy day, but there was no reckoning for the enthusiasm and sense of urgency of 103 Bn REME! With a spring in their step, Recovery Mechanics of 150 Rec Coy and 133 Fd Coy immediately set to task with offloading the British Army Apache attack helicopter, outside the main building at Earls Court (EC), ready for the British Military Tournament (BMT). The task required the additional services of the aircraft transportation experts, 7 Air Assault Bn REME technicians and venue Health and Safety staff, to work together in carrying out what is a complex task of communication skills, calculations and nerves of steel. This is after all a multi-million pound machine of war! Get it wrong and you have an Apache sitting on the District Line!
After making an assessment, the Recovery crew, led by Cpl Rolph Young, was briefed on the requirements of the big lift. They then prepared their MAN Recovery Vehicle SV(R), extending its legs and using ground support base plates to bear the load and with LCpl Phil Thurlby at the controls, assisted by CFN Michael Latham and MCpl Robyn Dunne from EME (Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) Canada. Once secured, the lift commenced but when the recovery crew realised the crane could not lift the load safely in this configuration, they rearranged the whole set-up, demonstrating their skills and experience, to finally attain the end goal of having offloaded the Apache helicopter safely and efficiently. Whilst this operation took a lot longer than originally anticipated, the SV(R) crew of 103 Bn REME demonstrated their professionalism.
Part 2: The recruiting and civil engagement drive
The BMT is our major opportunity to showcase 103 Bn REME’s capability. All our recruiting big guns came out, representing a wide range of trade skills from Recovery Mechanics and Vehicle Mechanics to Vehicle Electricians. WO2 Tony Robinson was overall organiser and supervisor for CRR London, overseeing the offloading/loading of the Apache helicopter, while SSgt Lee McKerlie was our SNCO in charge of the Bn’s stand.
Despite another cold start, by early evening on 6th Dec we had set up our stand and fine-tuned it on Friday morning, just prior to inspections. As per usual, we passed with flying colours, something that has not gone unnoticed these last three years by the show’s organisers. Rehearsals also followed alongside in the main arena and, while we were not involved in that side of events, the background noise, drama and fast-moving action made for something out of a Hollywood film set.
After a day of rehearsals on Friday 7th Dec, the 103 Bn REME display stand was stood down ready for Saturday when the actual tournament started. There’s no such thing as a good nights’ sleep at EC, as this is a 24 hour arena of constant noise where sleep is a luxury, but we made the most of it.
We even managed to do a spot of minor equipment support on Friday. LCpls Andrew Owen and Peter Simmonds were called upon by the Royal Signals across from our stand to assist in a tyre change to their Land Rover. By now the rot had set in and shortly afterwards an urgent request arrived at our stand. A Pinzgauer from The Honourable Artillery Company had no keys and since it was blocking one of the fire exits, our resident Vehicle Mechanics, were quickly despatched again to remove the steering lock, so that it could be wheeled away by awaiting members of the Royal Artillery.
Our REME display stand attracted much interest from the public, many of them former serving members of the REME, whom were surprised how far the present day Corps had advanced in both equipment and regimental structure. Our main role as both tradesmen and recruiters is to advise candidates who are interested in joining the reserve forces. Depending on their trade group skills, educational qualifications and general Physical fitness of an individual, we advise on the best entry route tailored to that individual, the emphasis being on mentoring and guiding a person’s individual qualities and character. We promote equal opportunities and cultural diversity across the community. As the public face of the army, we have a moral duty to promote friendliness and professionalism and as the public hold the army in high regard, we simply reinforce that image. As REME tradesmen we bridge the gap between tradition and the modern values of society and over the years as a team we have perpetuated the army ethos which inspires and which society values highly.
Part 3 : Going home again
On Monday it was into the post-show admin of returning the kit to various locations. All the team had taken a day off from our civilian day jobs to complete this task, leaving the small matter of the loading of the Apache to the SV(R) crew. The timings for the loading had been put back by the Metropolitan Police to 1500 hrs, so in true Recovery Mechanical tradition, we found a “Greasy Spoon” and had an all-day breakfast. At last the transport specialists arrived and with some adjustments to their trailer we were ready to load. Slowly lifting the Apache up, the trailer moved into position and the aircraft was slowly lowered by LCpl Thurlby. By the time the task was completed it was dark and, with all kit loaded, the SV(R) moved off site with flashing lights for added effect!
As part of Army 2020 we need to become a more integrated force with the Regular Army. This event at EC has highlighted 103 Bn REME’s capabilities and, given the quality and enthusiasm of our men and women we will have no problems going forward together alongside our Regular Army colleagues, demonstrating why we claim to have “Horsepower in Reserve”.
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