Skip to content

How small British service life can be

Commander ‘Sharkey’ Ward obituary: pilot who played a decisive role in Falklands
A pugnacious fighter known as Mr Sea Harrier who fought the war his own way and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross

My father would have known of him, probably not known him. But the son of someone who served with my father was someone I worked with for a time. And that son had been RN and was one of the fighter controllers in the Falklands. And, well coincidence, right?

But that smallness of British military life:

He only started to thrive after spending three years in Pakistan, after his father was posted to RAF Mauripur in Karachi, where his health improved in the dry climate.

Where the father would have known my grandfather. Quite a number of serving and immediately post-retirement were sent out to set up the varied armed forces of the newly independent nations…..

No grand point to this, other than to point out how small British service life can be. Generations of the same families intertwining perhaps. Which does lead to a thought – if a generation leaves, or doesn’t join, then that’s that whole subsequent family that doesn’t. Something to think about over terms, conditions and the attraction of recruits. Historically, it’s not been going fishing in the general population at all.

15 thoughts on “How small British service life can be”

  1. Don’t worry about the size of the army.
    They’ve been importing loads of military age men to bring in if they need to oppress the locals cannon fodder reliable, stalwart patriots to defend against the pesky Ruskies.

  2. I’m from one of those families, but none of the next generation kids have joined up. Nephew was accepted for aircrew by the RAF and then he wasn’t, during the time of diversity hires being preferred. He joined the police.

    As an aside, why do they keep talking about the threats of Russia and China but not the actual threat to which Chernyy refers?

  3. My wife used to be the priest in a very posh parish in the South Downs near Portsmouth, and the same dwindling crowd of ex navy types used to turn up at funerals, telling the same stories about their departed comrades.

    There was an unassuming little retired naval officer who used to live next door to the vicarage who died and my wife laid him to rest in the churchyard. It turned out that he was the last surviving person in Britain to have rammed a U-boat. Apparently the bastard got away, but that’s a damn fine addition to any man’s eulogy.

  4. One of my grandfathers volunteered for the ANZACs. A great-uncle came home from Canada to volunteer and died at Passchendaele. We think another great-uncle was killed but have not tracked him down.

    My father and two uncles served in The War – army, RN, RAF. All survived. None of their children or grandchildren have joined the services. I had wondered about the RAF but someone laughed and pointed out I was too tall to be a fighter pilot. Anyway at 18 my eyes started deteriorating.

    Maybe there are three sorts of families – those who fight in wars, those who serve mainly between wars, those who avoid the whole thing. The last category includes many recent US Presidents – Clinton, Trump, Biden and, depending on your point of view, Bush the Younger.

  5. I’m possibly the only person here who has flown with Sharkey Ward both in Sea Vixens and Phantom FG1s.

  6. asiaseen:
    You have my admiration and a certain amount of sympathy for flying in the coal ‘ole of a Vixen, an aircraft that never appeared to treat its crew with much respect. A good friend of mine, both at school, in the ATC and later, was killed in a Harrier launched from Hermes in 1982.

  7. johnthebridge
    Yes, the Vixen did have its faults and killed a fair number of people – not least my Best Man 19 days after my wedding. It was a very versatile and capable multi-role aircraft though. ‘T cole-ole was OK as long as you didn’t think about it but moving to the Phantom was bliss – all that sky you could see.

  8. Bloke in North Dorset

    Thanks for posting that link, Chris. It brought back quite a few memories of watching the Harriers in action in San Carlos sound. Deep respect for all those pilots.

  9. asiaseen:
    The F4 was/is the sexiest aircraft ever. Oooh, that anhedral versus the dihedral!
    Only the late lamented V-bomber/tanker Victor comes close…

  10. johnthebridge:

    The F4 was/is the sexiest aircraft ever.
    I’ve not thought of it like that before, but yes, I think you are correct.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *