GROUND RADIO MAINTENANCE SECTION THE END OF AN ERA

GROUND RADIO MAINTENANCE SECTION THE END OF AN ERA AS OF THE 1ST OF APRIL 2019 THE SERVICES PROVIDED TO RAF CONINGSBY BY THE GRMS TEAM WERE CIVILIANISED UNDER PROJECT MARSHALL SO C4I SQN COULD NOT LET THIS OCCASION DRIFT PASSED WITHOUT MARKING IT CORRECTLY.

For the uninitiated, first a little history. Since the evolution of flight, pilots have relied on maps, local knowledge or sheer guesswork to navigate throughout the world. As technology evolved radio beacons were developed to aid with this, and from there came Air Traffic Services which are commonplace today. In the background to these systems came the technicians (often to be found in darkened rooms and only allowed out when something broke.)

When RAF Coningsby opened in the latter half of 1940 these radio navigation beacons were maintained by Electrical and Wireless Operators, allowing aircraft to recover to the unit from the first half of 1941 onwards.

Throughout the 1940s and 50s these systems developed into the Assisted Approach System which was the forerunner to the Instrument Landing System of today. (Although I’m sure the pilots still guess sometimes.)

Alongside this was the evolution of RADAR from the chain on the south coast during the war which were the beginning of the Air Defence (AD) systems to the Primary Surveillance and Precision Approach systems at RAF Coningsby today.

As technology moved forward, sometimes it was difficult for the users to keep pace, and when Coningsby’s RADAR was replaced in the late 70s the screens in ATC where changed from round to square. This did not sit well at all with the ATC operators and the GRMS Chief Ray Darlington, came up with a novel solution. Cardboard boxes with a circular hole cut out were placed over the new screens and all was well with the ATC world again.

At this point and through to the 70s these technicians were part of Trade Group (TG)1 and then moved to TG2 for all air and ground communications. Ground comms were then moved to TG3 in the late 70s and finally to TG4 in the early 00s where the Tech side was amalgamated with the Operator (TG11) side. (As a TG3, now TG4 I’m sure TG1 and 2 will not miss out on the opportunity to remind us where we came from.)

In the early 90s GRMS was part of CIS Eng Flt (the precursor to C4I Sqn) and comprised of 45 personnel including 3 civilians, 1 CE Eng, 1 WO, 3 Chiefs, 5 Sgts. 30 of those 45 personnel worked in GRMS. At its close GRMS had 10 RAF personnel and they have been replaced with 6 civilians, and 3 RAF Airfield Support Techs who continue to support Management Radio and other nonairfield systems.

To mark this event C4I Sqn enjoyed some team building on the Low Ropes where the Sqn Execs were blindfolded along with others, and in a reversal of the norm received direction instead of giving it!

Sqn WO, WO Cox was placed in even more stretch since his arrival on the unit a few months ago as the lads worked to increase his already 6ft plus frame further, trying to get the whole Sqn across the shark infested custard (gravel) to a small landing zone.

Once the Sqn had worked up an appetite, a quick change into appropriate clothing was in order for a Top Table in the WOs and Sgts Mess where the juniors were introduced to the rigors of Mess Rules.

To finally commemorate the disbandment of the section and bring to a close the official proceedings prior to the twofers behind the bar, ATC and each member of GRMS were presented with specially commissioned Typhoon models from OC C4I.

So, after nearly 80 years of providing ATC equipment to the unit, it now falls to the Aquila team to maintain the systems as the RAF contingent steps back, looks off into the sunset, and remembers all that have gone before them. Truly an end to an era.

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