75 Years on and still securing the skies

RAF personnel from across Kabul celebrate the successes of the Battle of Britain.

Eighty RAF personnel joined together at the TORAL Aviation Detachment (TAD) on the 15 September to remember and celebrate the efforts and success of the Battle of Britain in a traditional dinner night setting, only on this occasion, slightly reversed it was wine into water! Flight Lieutenant Charlie Emmerson, the organiser, said:

“I wanted to arrange something fitting that got as many RAF personnel from across Kabul together to celebrate the fact the RAF protected the Nation in 1940, influenced the outcome of World War Two and acknowledge that our role of protecting Britain remains, providing security both at home and abroad.

“There was no budget for this event, KBR, our contractors, have been really helpful and understood what we were trying to achieve. They have pulled out all the stops to ensure we were able to mark this event and put on quite a spread, notable when you consider they had an extra 32 mouths to feed and no additional resource.”

The evening started with a drinks reception in the Hanger, orange juice or water being the tipple of choice, a minutes silence was held at 1800 to remember those that lost their lives in the Battle of Britain and in other conflicts since around the world.

Seated promptly at 1830 with Flight Lieutenants Stringer, Eldridge and Frost providing short vignettes from those that served in the Battle of Britain in between courses. The evening culminated with Air Commodore Cooper, the Senior RAF Officer in Kabul, providing a closing speech.

After the dinner he said: “Tonight’s dinner, held in Afghanistan, represents in microcosm what the Battle of Britain represents to the RAF. It is a celebration of the ‘few’, but it’s also a demonstration of the Pride we feel in the contemporary and modern RAF. This detachment has seen all ranks, branches and trades working together in difficult conditions to deliver Puma operations in Afghanistan.”

During WW2 and the Battle of Britain the RAF worked very closely with allies and partners to deliver air power to great success and continues to do so today. Op TORAL or to use NATO’s name, Op RESOLUTE SUPPORT (RS), sees the TAD working alongside 43 other nations. Since March 2015, when the Chinooks returned to the UK following 13 years in Afghanistan, the Puma HC2 has manned the skies alongside their U.S. counterparts who have Blackhawk and Chinook aircraft.

The TAD hold only an eighth of the missions rotary assets yet each week they move over a third of the personnel and freight around Kabul. They are also able to fly and take on additional commitments when other aircraft are grounded for high winds; some might say the RAF Puma Detachment is ‘punching above its weight’.

The success of ‘The Few’ would not have been possible without the Whole Force, then, as now, every individual in the Whole Force contributes to the success of the mission with ‘the Few supported by the many’. Today the aircraft and equipment has changed but the mission remains the same, securing skies and ensuring the safety of personnel. The TAD operations flight worked extremely hard to organise the movement of personnel around the Kabul base cluster; ensuring this was done with no impact to tasking requests, at no cost and tied into work requirements. The Officer Commanding TAD, Squadron Leader Greenwood said, “the attendance list demonstrated the breadth of roles RAF personnel are filling in Kabul. The aircraft are always most visible, however, 27 RAF personnel are filling embedded roles across the NATO mission.

“The TAD has done really well on this tour; our small numbers have made a significant impact to the safety of Op RS. Celebrating the Battle of Britain in our final few days has given the team something positive to focus on. I’m really impressed with everyone’s efforts.”

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