Ready to scramble...

Former RAF navigator Rod Hawkins shares stories from his first operational tour on the Canberra B(i).8, in Germany, during NATO’s nuclear face-off with the Warsaw Pact

Seen here undertaking an air-to-air photography sortie, carrying two 1,000lb bombs and a Boulton Paul gun pack, XK951 was one of 17 Canberra B(i).8s in which the author logged time while with 14 Squadron.

Bird strikes, bagging exotic food and accidentally bombing a NAAFI would all be unexpected experiences during my time with 14 Squadron on the Cold War front line. I arrived at RAF Wildenrath, about 26 miles from Düsseldorf on a Friday in late 1968 to be met by several crews from the unit. We spent a pleasant weekend getting to know each other in the bar. Almost immediately I felt at home with ‘fourteen’ - it was the height of the Cold War and the average age on the squadron was about 22. It really was a happy place. During this time, under-25s were not entitled to married accommodation, which meant staying in the mess for a few weeks. Once I found a nearby flat, my wife was called forward and my liver recovered.

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