Team RAFBF Lossiemouth

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A “Dambusting” Good Christmas with Gibson Bear

As you will remember from our November blog , Guy Gibson bear has headed out to Afghanistan with 617 Sqn from RAF Lossiemouth.  Gibson Bear is working hard to raise funds and awareness for the RAF Benevolent Fund through his website and Just Giving page.  You can follow his adventures on Twitter through his profile @GuyGibsonBear

We are grateful to Gibson for taking time out of his very busy work and social life to write a wee blog for us.

Gibson writes:

Back in September, I was picked up from Bear Force HQ to go on my first ever mission supporting the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund. This was a mission I gladly accepted after my predecessor, Bader Bear, sadly became missing in action earlier in the year.  With one last pep talk from the boss I was off, travelling north to RAF Lossiemouth to meet my chaperone, Cpl Paul Lewis and join, arguably the most famous squadron in the RAF, 617 Squadron, the mighty Dambusters.

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After a brief whizz around Lossiemouth meeting a few lovely people, it was time. Bags packed, checked in at the movements hanger and exciting times for me. I got my first ever flight on the brand new Voyager, it was so big and shiny and very comfortable! I was in for an even bigger treat though, when the Captain very kindly agreed to me sitting in the cockpit for take-off!

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It was a short first hop to Brize Norton to pick up some more passengers, before the long flight which, after a stop to change to a Hercules (and another visit to the flight deck for me!), saw us arriving in Camp Bastion for a few days of more training and acclimatization, then one last flight to our temporary home at Kandahar Air Base and the Millie Award winning, 904 Expeditionary Air Wing.

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Twelve hour shifts are the way out here and trying to find a routine that works. I started helping with the engineers on the day shift, which means breakfast, work, gym, sleep and that is pretty much repeated, with very little difference every day! I got to have a tour around, seeing all the wall paintings from previous squadrons and looking around, there are many names that appear more than once.

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After a few weeks, it was time for a shift change and on to the night shift. No change to the routine, it’s just dark while you are at work! However, I did have to pull a double shift one day, but the opportunity to sit in the back of a Tornado GR4 during a mission was one I was not going to miss! My chaperone for this trip is very jealous, having spent nearly all his RAF career on the Tornado, he has never got to fly in one, yet I manage it in weeks! Guess it helps that I can sit on the knee of the person in the back though!

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Once we got to December, thoughts naturally levitated towards Christmas, and with the arrival of every mail run someone would get some festive treats! It has been hard for a bear to stick to his healthy diet with all these lovely treats around, but the whole Squadron have really appreciated every single parcel that arrived, some from friends and family, some from people they have never met, but each parcel that arrived was like a big thank you for all the boys and girls. I even managed to find time to be interviewed by the Mirror, appearing on page 25 on Christmas Eve!

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Christmas day came; work again, but lots of hats, jumpers, even Santa suits being worn! Everyone tried to make the best they could of  it, grabbing opportunities to contact loved ones, but generally it was just like every other day.

January sees the Squadron on its homeward straight. Thoughts are already being put into plans for when everyone gets home, seeing loved ones, holidays, trips away, new cars, just the things people look forward too! As for me, well I guess it will be time for me to return to Bear HQ for some R&R before I get assigned my next mission!

I would like to say thank you Cpl Paul Lewis for looking after me so well and to everyone on 617 Sqn for making me feel so welcome. Good luck with the parades and disbandment parties when you get back and all the best with your future postings. 617 Sqn will of course live on and I am proud to say I was part of this historic chapter.

See you all back in Blighty soon!

GB @GuyGibsonBear

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Teddy Bears, Chocolate and Silver Hawks

It’s always hard to keep fundraising going through the winter, with warm summer events a distant memory and cold dark nights approaching faster than Santa’s sleigh.  Of course the impending excitement of Christmas heralds the possibility of Christmas Fayres and parties, but the intervening months can sometimes feel a little dull.

Here at Team RAFBF Lossiemouth HQ, we have been working hard at keeping the wheels oiled and making sure we use this “quiet” time to keep the awareness momentum going, with regular use of our Twitter and Facebook accounts.  We find these are a vital source of keeping both the RAF Benevolent Fund, and our, profile in the hearts and minds of those who follow us. No-one should underestimate the power of social media, but it’s equally as important to still be able to raise funds and we are very lucky here at Lossiemouth to have fantastic support from our local shops. We have eleven collection cans out and about in Lossiemouth and Elgin, bringing in an average of £60 per month. Collection cans really are a vital source of fundraising for us here.

October got off to an exciting start for us with AVM Stuart Atha, Air Officer Commanding No 1 Group, presenting us with our beautiful RAFBF Silver Hawk Trophy at the RAF Lossiemouth Annual Formal Inspection – Honours and Awards Presentation Ceremony.   We were very proud to be part of such an event, celebrating the hard work of station personnel and families for both charity and military work.

Our will power was put to the test in October when we were invited along to the local Choctober Event.  It was a fantastic day with lots of tasty food and lovely crafts, as well as lots and lots of chocolate.  The organiser very kindly situated us next to the chocolate stall, which saved a lot of extra leg work and time collecting chocolate brownies and samples!  We raised £45 on the day and sold £86 worth of RAFBF merchandise.  There were lots of happy customers clutching RAFBF Christmas cards and gifts.

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The following weekend was our self-organised Autumn Fayre, which involved eighteen stalls, two musicians and lots of tea.  The event was a little quieter than hoped, but sometimes these things happen and it’s difficult to predict just how popular an event will be.  However, we still manage to raise £200 on the day and sold another £81 of RAFBF merchandise, so all was not lost! More importantly, most people left the event knowing who the RAF Benevolent Fund were and that they were supported locally. We must say a massive thank you to local music duo, Upstairs Doonstairs who gave up their time to keep us entertained and to Community Support Team at ASDA for providing and serving the refreshments.

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We were thrilled that Gibson Bear paid us a flying visit before heading out to Afghanistan with 617 Sqn, The Dambusters. Gibson has big shoes to fill; he is following in the footsteps of Bader Bear who sadly went missing whilst on operations.  Gibson is now responsible for raising funds and awareness for RAFBF as he travels the Bear Force, but he will also be on a mission to hopefully recover Bader Bear!  Gibson had a little down time with Team RAFBF Lossiemouth before his deployment to Afghanistan, enjoying some chocolate at Choctober and recording his Storybook Wings at the Lossiemouth HIVE.  We wish him and the rest of 617 Sqn a safe deployment and look forward to welcoming them all back next year but in the meantime, if you wish to donate to support Gibson’s efforts, please visit his Just Giving Page.

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In the meantime, we are looking forward to welcoming home 12(B) Sqn who have spent the last four months in Afghanistan.  During their deployment, they have been working hard to raise funds for 12 charities, including the RAF Benevolent Fund by rowing, running and cycling 36,000 miles to raise £24,000.  The families have been working equally hard back home with runway walks, raffles and cycling events and we have been pleased to be able to support them where we could. Well done to all, a job very well done! If you wish to support their efforts, please visit their Virgin Money page.

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So, what to do for November and December? Should we snuggle up in our RAFBF hoodies and wait for spring? Absolutely not! We figure fundraising keeps you warm so have organised a lively 70s/80s Karaoke Disco Night on 30th November and a Christmas Quiz on 5th December.

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So come on, don’t get those winter blues! Have a look through the RAFBF Fundraising Information Pack and see what you could do to raise funds for the RAF Benevolent Fund this winter.