Friday 24th May 2019
A remarkable achievement has been made by three members of 4624 Squadron based at RAF Brize Norton. Between them they have accumulated more than 105 years’ continuous service; longer than the RAF has existed. This milestone has been made by the Squadron Warrant Officer Gary Searles and two members of the Operational Flights – Corporal Brian Bufton and SAC Andy ‘Rizzo’ Rees Williams.
Brian Bufton was the first of the trio to have accrued 35 years’ service. Joining the very first entry (No.1 Entry) at the end of 1982, literally months after the Squadron had formed, Brian was presented with a personalised bottle of port, cut glass decanter and certificate in December 2017 by the Commanding Officer of 4624 Squadron, Wing Commander Bev Peart. Brian recollects his initial days:
“When I first joined up I received my kit from what is now the front section of the Movements School (DMTS) at RAF Brize Norton. Uniform was two pairs of hard-wearing green and black socks, one pair of lightweight black socks, one blue and one green jumper, a pair of putties and two ‘Hairy Mary’ shirts. They used to itch so we would shave the inside of the shirt! We were also issued with a No.2 jacket called a ‘Thunderbird’ because of the way it was tailored and looked.”
The Squadron, and RAF Brize Norton, has evolved considerably since those early days. In the 1980s all three Squadron members worked on the main aircraft platforms – C130K (based at Lyneham), Andover, VC10 and BAe 146. As the RAF transitioned into the 1990s, they saw the introduction of the 3 TriStar variants into service.
“The Squadron, and Movements trade, has developed immeasurably since I joined the Squadron in March 1984”, said Gary Searles. “The main difference I have experienced is the integration and acceptance of Reservists into the trade. This transition began when the whole Squadron was mobilised in 1991 to support Op GRANBY, and again in 2003 for Op TELIC.” He added: “while there have been many changes, the people remain the same. The passion to be part of the Squadron, the sacrifices they (and their families) make are the same now as they were back in the 1980s”.
Gary Searles’ milestone was recognised at the Squadron Association annual dinner in March, literally 35 years to the day since he joined. Andy Rees Williams qualifies for 35 years’ service in February 20. “I have worked with some amazing people over the years and had the opportunity to travel all over the world. The Squadron really is like a second family to me.” He added: “at least now I know what I will get when I reach my landmark next year!”