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Joseph Cosgrove

Joseph Cosgrove

Jul 13, 2013
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"Never in the history of mankind has so much been owed by so many to so few".

Churchill, so legend has it, first used his famous words upon his exit from the Battle of Britain Bunker at RAF Uxbridge on 16 August 1940, when visiting the No. 11 Group RAF Operations Room during a day of battle. Afterwards, Churchill told Major General Hastings Ismay, "Don't speak to me, I have never been so moved". After several minutes of silence, he said the sentence would form the basis of his speech to the House of Commons on 20 August.

Perhaps the words of the Great man, Sir Winston Churchill were going through Flight Lieutenant Alan Pollock’s mind when he went rogue in his Hawker Hunter FGA. 9

1968. the RAF was to celebrate its golden anniversary of 50 years, making it the oldest Airforce in the world. As mentioned in the OTP English Electric Lightening video: The Royal Flying Corps was the air arm of the British Army before and during the First World War, until it merged with the Royal Naval Air Service on 1 April 1918 to form the Royal Air Force.

However, under Harold Wilson’s Labor government and a succession of Conservative governments before him, it was considered necessary to cut defense budgets, in spite of:

“Wilson's first period as Prime Minister coincided with a period of low unemployment and relative economic prosperity”.

The spending cuts included a lot of fighter planes of the RAF, to be replaced by guided weapons. (cf The 1957 Defense White Paper)

This naturally did not go down well with British airplane manufacturing companies and moral in the armed forces was expectedly low. On 1 April 1968, Pollock and other members of No. 1 Squadron took part in anniversary leaflet raids on other RAF stations and on 4 April visited RAF Tangmere, where they performed a display. –Tangmere was later to be mothballed by the gov. They were then to return to RAF West Raynham the following day, 5th April 1968.

Flt lt Alan Pollock decided to show his anger at the cuts and the government’s lack luster attitude of celebrating their golden anniversary. As the planes took off, he broke off from formation, ignoring repeated radio calls Pollock then dropped low and headed towards Dunsfold Aerodrome* where the Hunter hawkers were made.

Ft Lt Pollock proceeded to ‘beat up the airfield”, which in RAF slang means low leveled high-pitched screaming passes. His Next stop was on to the houses of Parliament. Flying low and at relatively slow speed until he saw the houses in the distance. Here Pollock accelerated his Rolls Royce Avon MK 207 engine and made three buzzing passes which had the windows of the Houses of Parliaments vibrating. This was Ft Lt Pollock’s way of showing parliament that he (and the RAF) were not at all happy with the reducing of the defense budget, not to mention it’s sh*tty way of celebrating their golden Jubilee (I mean WTF dropping leaflets!?).

With it being a Saturday, there were thousands of people who stopped to stare at this lone fighter jet racing along the embankment, which runs parallel to the river Thames. He passed the RAF memorial with its tapering Portland stone pylon topped by zodiacal globe bearing a gilded eagle with raised wings, taken from the RAF's badge. Facing east towards the River Thames and in the rough direction of France**. He dipped his wings in solemn salute.

He then came to an even bigger (in the true sense of the word) symbol of London, the famous Tower Bridge. In Pollock’s own words “he was unsure of what to do; should he just fly over it or go through it”. Between the road bridge and the overhead walkway with the two towers barely 61metres apart. A double decker bus was crossing over the bridge (along with the usual procession of London Hackney cabs).

He might as well be hung for a lamb as for a sheep. After all his jet was a low-level attack fighter and that is what he was trained for. There are no photographs or footage of the exploit, however it was the talk of the city for many weeks afterwards.

On his way back to RAF West Raynham, Flight lieutenant Pollock beat up three other RAF airfields preforming low level pass overs and victory rolls. Word of his exploits over the houses of Parliament and through the Tower bridge, proceeded his arrival. His welcoming committee included a couple of burly RAF policemen waiting quietly in the background.

For his troubles Flight lieutenant Pollock was given a medical discharge. Quietly so that there was no scandal. However, there was a scandal as soon as the newspapers heard about it. Even with public outcry, it took until 1982 before he was exonerated of any wrong doing.

* By the early 1950s, Hawker’s were developing jets for which the short, grass landing strips then available to them, were not sufficient. They needed long, hard-surfaced runways, which was what Dunsfold could provide.

**The Royal Air Force Memorial is a military memorial on the Victoria Embankment in central London, dedicated to the memory of the casualties of the Royal Air Force in World War I. Unveiled in 1923, it became a Grade II listed structure in 1958, and was upgraded to Grade II* in 2018

  • On the outbreak of the Second World War, Harold Wilson volunteered for military service but was classed as a specialist and moved into the civil service instead, (No comment).
As the more observant of you may have noticed, I've changed the title. It get's more interesting as the video gets further in.

Please do not hesitate to put a like (on his- not mine, as long as I'm still up on likes compared to Dusa on the forum, I'm happy. Or even better a comment.

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