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John Langcake

b. 1941 | Royal Air Force

John Langcake served in the Royal Air Force as an Air Defence/Radar specialist for an incredible 38 years! He served in the UK, Falkland Islands, Cyprus and Germany before retiring in 1995. He was awarded the British Empire Medal and recalls meeting the Queen, Princess Anne and senior members of the RAF.

Preface

John Langcake was born in the north of England and grew up in a children’s home. He attended Harrogate Grammar School and was a keen sportsman, playing rugby throughout his life. John joined the Army Cadet Force, the Combined Cadet Force and the Air Training Corps before entering the Royal Air Force as an Aircraft Apprentice in September 1957 at the age of just 16 years old.

John enjoyed a career in the RAF as an Air Defence/Radar specialist spanning an incredible 38 years. He served in many theatres of operation ranging from the Falkland Islands to Cyprus and Germany as well as at various stations in the UK before finishing in St Athan, near Cardiff. He was awarded the British Empire Medal and retired in 1995, following his final posting.

John lives near Aberporth – the site of one of his many postings – with his wife Marie, who is herself a former serving member of the Armed Forces. 

“I joined the RAF as an Aircraft Apprentice and in those days, I could only visit the radar if accompanied by the Senior Non-Commissioned Officer in charge of the section. I could look but not touch and was not allowed to go anywhere near the Sergeant’s tool bag.

– John Langcake –

As a Drum Major, John led the Squadron Band for the Remembrance Day Parade. His younger brother can be seen watching from the sidelines.

“When I graduated as a Junior Technician and [was] posted to a real radar station, I became part of the radar fault-finding service led by the Sergeant. The Corporal made me carry the Sergeant’s tool bag.”

– John Langcake –

Pre-RAF

  • Combined Cadet Force, West Yorkshire Regiment
  • Harrogate Grammar School
  • Army Cadet Force, Green Howards Regiment
  • Middlesbrough High School
  • Air Training Corps: 473 Squadron, Hartlepool
    • Drum Major in the Squadron Band

RAF Locking, Weston-Super-Mare

Trade Training School: Electronics Apprenticeship

Attestation: 18th September 1957
Passing Out: 26th July 1960

RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire

Ground Control Interception (GCI)

Posted In: 22nd August 1960

  • Fixed coil display system with radars T7/T9 and T13 height finder
  • Training aid for Javelin Conversion Unit

Posted Out: 11th June 1961

RAF Bishops Court, Northern Ireland

Air Defence Radar Station

Posted In: 11th September 1961

  • Fixed coil system on a T80 MkIII search radar and a T14 used for shipping plots as well as two operational FPS-6 height finders
  • First local members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) posted into camp just before Christmas
  • Promotion to Corporal in Spring 1962
  • Moved to line maintenance for UPX-6, the Interrogator for the IFF system
  • 2 week training course in the SIF Decoder system at RAF Locking

John was sent to Marconi College, Chelmsford, to train for working on the Marconi S254. The college didn’t have an S254 transmitter so he was placed on a training course with Finnish Air Force Officers and Senior Non-Commissioned Officers to learn the SR1000, on which the S254 was based.

Posted Out: 3rd January 1963

SR1000 Training Course
Marconi College, Chelmsford

John is seated on the far left with a man named George beside him and a man named Vino behind him. Captain Folstrom is seated on the far right and the Major is standing in the centre of the back row.

“Within two years, I was promoted to Corporal and was a proficient member of the fault-finding team led by the Sergeant and I made the new Junior Technician carry the Sergeant’s tool bag!”

– John Langcake –

No. 280 Signals Unit Rugby Team in 1962-1963

John played rugby for the No. 280 Signals Unit Team in 1962-1963 and captained the team in 1963-1964.

RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus

No. 280 Signals Unit

Posted In: 3rd January 1963

  • Working on the Marconi S254 Radar, based on the SR1000
  • Special Detachment to Jordanian Air Force
    • Provided supervisory cover for radar technicians
  • Detachment to Mount Olympus
    • Manned the T84 radars until T84 engineering detachments from the UK began

Posted Out: 3rd July 1965

RAF Buchan, Aberdeenshire

Air Defence Radar Station

Posted In: 14th August 1965

  • Type 80 MkI radar; remote Type 7; two FPS height finders; and the R3 underground bunker
  • Competed in the Braemar Highland Games
  • Promotion to Sergeant

John married his wife, Marie, in Plymouth on June 10th, 1967. Marie, who also served in the Armed Forces, was the older sister of John’s best friend, Dave, for whom he had served as Best Man.

Posted Out: 28th August 1967

“At last, I was promoted to the rank of Sergeant and led the fault-finding team. I used tools to fix the radar and got the Corporal to arrange the transportation of my tool bag.”

– John Langcake –

John and Marie signing the register at their wedding.

T86 class with the Shaunus Cantonicus Oakum

Left to right: Steve Johnson, Instructor (possibly John Ford), Ian Milner, Les Littlejohn, John Langcake, Flight Lieutenant Coleman, John Morrison and Colin Smith.

RAF Bishops Court, Northern Ireland

Air Defence Radar Station

Posted In: 28th August 1967

  • Main Equipment Inventory Holder
  • SNCO in charge of Trade Training
  • Competed in Northern Ireland Command Shoot
  • Bloodhound MkII T86 Radar Course at RAF Newton in Nottingham

During the training course, the Training Officer grave orders for the gardens surrounding the training school to be tidied up for an inspection by the Station Commander. To brighten up the surroundings, as there weren’t any flowers, the class decided to make a ‘tree’ from a classroom pointer and some plastic flowers they found. They named it the Shaunus Cantonicus Oakum or Irish Bamboo Tree.

Posted Out: 27th November 1969 (from course)

RAF North Coates, Lincolnshire

25 Squadron

Posted In: 27th November 1969

  • Attached to Missile Section 3, T86 radar

Posted Out: 4th April 1970

RAF Laarbruch, Germany

C Flight, 25 Squadron, Surface to Air Missile Unit

Posted In: 14th April 1970

  • Worked on the Bloodhound Surface to Air Missile.
  • Played rugby for RAF Laarbruch 2nd XV.

Posted Out: 14th April 1973

RAF Germany Rugby XV just before the BAOR game in 1973

In John’s last year playing rugby for RAF Germany, the team finally beat the British Army of the Rhine after about 17 years – a great end to John’s rugby career!

Main gate, RAF Aberporth, circa 1973

RAF Aberporth, Cardigan

Missile Firing Range

Posted In: 14th April 1973

  • Bloodhound Firing Unit, Missile Firing Flight, T86 radar
  • Retrained on T87 radar at RAF Newton
  • Back to RAF Aberporth as SNCO in charge of the T87 radar 2nd line workshop
  • SNCO management course at RAF Upwood, Cambridge
  • Duty Systems Engineer training at RAF Locking

Posted Out: 21st July 1978

“On promotion to Chief Technician, I was given a pokey little office which I shared with two other Chief Technicians and became the inventory holder for all tool kits. I made regular trips to the radar sections to ensure that all bags and their contents were present and correct.

– John Langcake –

RAF Boulmer, Northumberland

Air Defence Radar Station

Posted In: 21st July 1978

  • Chief Technician in charge of D-Watch, T86 radar

Posted Out: 18th April 1983

RAF West Raynham, Norfolk

Surface to Air Missile Unit

Posted In: 18th April 1983

  • Flight Sergeant in charge of Engineering Support Flight
  • Falkland Islands Detachment
    • December 1983 to April 1984

Posted Out: 24th August 1984

“In due course, I was given a crown to put on my arm – not my head unfortunately – and a bigger office which I did not have to share. I carried out quality assurance checks on all the tool kits on the station, which sometimes took me to the radar.

– John Langcake –

John and Marie’s daughter, Fiona, presented the Queen with a posy of wildflowers she had picked herself.

RAF Locking, Weston-Super-Mare

Trade Training School: No. 1 Radio School

Posted In: 24th August 1984

  • Air Defence Systems Training Supervisor
  • Promoted to Warrant Officer

When the Queen visited RAF Locking on an official visit, John and Marie’s daughter went and picked wildflowers from the local woods which Marie made into a posy. 

Posted Out: 19th October 1987

RAF Wattisham, Suffolk

No. 144 Signals Unit

Posted In: 19th October 1987

  • Officer Commanding (OC) Engineering Support Flight, T99 radar
  • Introduced to Air Vice Marshal Roger Palin and the Princess Royal during official visits

John was awarded the British Empire Medal in the New Years’ Honours List for his work in the civilian community and his secondary duty in the Motor Club whilst he was stationed at RAF Locking.

Posted Out: 28th January 1991

“At last, full recognition came my way along with a set of gallopers. I had a nice office with a window giving me a view of the radar across the site. I was allowed to visit the radar but only if accompanied by the SNCO in charge of the section. I could look but not touch and was not allowed anywhere near the Sergeant’s tool bag.

I have to ask myself: ‘Have I actually achieved anything?'”

– John Langcake –

John was presented with his Warrant by Wing Commander Cliff Spink, Officer Commanding 74 Squadron.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Harding, Marie Langcake and John Langcake at John’s British Empire Medal presentation.

Official Visits

The T99 radar was erected between two old World War Two hangars on the RAF Wattisham airfield for official visits by Air Vice Marshal Roger Palin and HRH Princess Anne.

Left: John meeting HRH Princess Anne, 13th April 1989
Below: John meeting AVM Roger Palin

RAF Buchan, Aberdeenshire

Air Defense Radar Station, Northern Sector Engineering

Posted In: 28th January 1991

  • Quality Assurance audits and Health and Safety at Work inspections
  • Falkland Island Detachment
    • January to May 1992

Posted Out: 4th January 1994

RAF St Athan, Cardiff

Posted In: 4th January 1994

  • Officer Commanding Ground Radio Flight
  • Operational Security Officer
  • Tempest Configuration Control Officer
  • Duct Plant Co-ordinator
  • Deputy Station Radiation Safety Officer

Posted Out: 11th November 1995

Whilst serving at RAF Buchan, John was presented with the Meritorious Service Medal.

Front row, left to right: Warrant Officer Bill Thomson, Group Captain Shields, Air Vice Marshal Blackley and John Langcake.

John retired from the RAF in 1995. He and Marie moved to the Aberporth area where they continue to live today.

View on the People’s Collection Wales

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