“BAAAAAAH” I’m awakened from a deep slumber by a loud warning horn.

Published: 28 Mar 2018


Gordon Rayfield gives us an insight into life in the RAF with a thrilling account of a V-Force quick reaction alert in the mid 1960s. This gives a great snapshot of what this was like, and throws us straight into the action. He served 3 tours with the V-Force on No’s 27 & 617 Sqns and retired as a Wing Commander.

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“BAAAAAAH” I’m awakened from a deep slumber by a loud warning horn. I roll out of my bunk bed where I’d slept in my flying kit. It's dark as we race to our bus.

The driver is gunning the engine ready for the off and two more crews are racing towards their buses!

We speed across the airfield toward three Vulcans parked close to the runway. Each has a Blue Steel missile armed with a hydrogen bomb. We were previously at 15 minutes readiness, but this alert signals an increase in readiness.

At the aircraft the armed RAF Policeman challenges us - he is authorized to use deadly force and we carefully display our ID Badges. When cleared, we race to the aircraft and scramble up the ladder, with the Air Electronics Officer going first to start the APU to provide power, hotly followed by the 2 pilots!

Chiefy removes the ladder from the door and it slams shut, at which point I shout “Take the time!” and the reaction time is carefully monitored.

Warning of a missile attack would barely give us 4 minutes to get airborne safely. The next step would be start engines at 2 minutes readiness! Breathlessly, we don our helmets and hear on the Telecomm, “This is the Bomber Controller for Bomblist Echo – Readiness State 05!” The Controller is located hundreds of miles away in a deep bunker. “Crew chief on-line Sir!” We wait silently, listening intently, shivering inside the cold aircraft. Dawn sunlight streaks the sky.

Minutes pass slowly and it gradually gets lighter. Suddenly we hear: “This is the Bomber Controller for Bomblist Echo – revert to Readiness State 15!” The tension dissolves at once and typical Service banter breaks out. “Let’s go get some breakfast boys!”



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