Vulcan video: Cold War comrades remember life in uniform

When a group of fresh-faced apprentices were given their National Service postings to an RAF airbase they were expecting 18 months of run-of-the-mill work until they went back to their civilian lives.

But for a year-and-a-half, the four 21-year-olds were set to work on Britain’s new Vulcan bomber – an aircraft that would become a Cold War icon and cement their friendship for the next 50 years.

Jack Lightfoot, Terry Straw, Ivan Shaw and Harry Williams have maintained contact with each other since they met in 1957 and recently held a reunion at Mr Shaw’s house in Huddersfield to reminisce.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Their memories were rekindled by an article in the Yorkshire Post earlier this month – which told of efforts being made to maintain the last flying Vulcan, now based at Doncaster’s Robin Hood Airport.

Although Mr Williams was unable to attend for health reasons, his three colleagues, who all served as airframe mechanics, said their days working on the futuristic aircraft had been extremely happy ones.

Mr Lightfoot, of Baildon, who had been an apprentice joiner before National Service and went on to run a building firm in West Yorkshire, said he remembered being sent to Goose Bay, Canada, on a Vulcan repair mission, an experience beyond many young Yorkshiremen and one which left his mother amazed.

He added: “It wasn’t what I expected from my National Service and when I look back now I realise how lucky we were.”

Mr Straw, of Nottingham, said he remembered the first atom bomb being delivered, and helping with a few “modifications” when it wouldn’t fit in the bomb bay.

He added: “The Vulcans were so far ahead of their time, but when the bomb arrived it wouldn’t fit. We had to file bits off where it mounted in the aircraft to give enough clearance.

“Now when I see and hear it, the Vulcan brings tears to my eyes. The combination of speed and power it has is amazing.”

All three men, now aged 76, said they would be “very sad” to see the Vulcan grounded, a fate which the Vulcan to the Sky charity said was likely unless more cash was raised for vital servicing work.

Mr Shaw, who had been an apprentice plumber and went on to run an air conditioning firm in Yorkshire, said: “It is a shame that the Government can’t see fit to help save it.

“It has done amazing things for us – it has kept us in touch for all these years, and if you had told us that would happen 50 years ago, we wouldn’t have believed you.”