Reacquainting With an Old Friend

By Jim Debenham (Vulcan to the Sky Trust Volunteer).
Reproduced from Founding Guardian Monthly Newsletter, 27th March 2020.

As a volunteer working for the trust, one of my great joys is showing our supporters around our wonderful aircraft on Airside Tours and Engine Ground-Runs, but most of all I love reacquainting ex-crew with XH558.

A few weeks ago I received an email from Andy Gardiner asking if it would be possible for him to bring his uncle to visit XH558. Not an unusual request in itself but, as he went on to tell his story, he piqued my interest for several reasons. Andy Gardiner lives in New Zealand and he explained he was flying over to the UK to spend a few days with his uncle, visiting a few sights from his past. He then went on to explain his uncle was retired Squadron Leader David Dinmore, who flew XH558 back in the 70s. After playing email tennis for a couple of days, we set a date for them both to visit.

David’s Story

David Dinmore graduated from the RAF College, Cranwell, in December 1965, where he earned his pilot’s wings on Chipmunks and Jet Provosts. He proceeded to No 5 FTS at RAF Oakington, near Cambridge, for Advanced Flying Training on Varsities.  He then moved on to 230 OCU at RAF Finningley, which is now Doncaster Sheffield Airport. His third training flight there, on 16th March 1967, was in XH558.  On completion of the course, he was posted to No 35 Squadron at RAF Cottesmore.

In January 1969, 35 Squadron relocated to RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, and David spent 18 months there before returning to the OCU, which had by then moved to Scampton, to complete the captain’s course.  He was posted to No 44 Squadron at RAF Waddington.  He last flew XH558 on 14th July 1972, a few days before his final flight in a Vulcan.

A posting to No 241 OCU at RAF Brize Norton followed. On completion of the VC10 conversion course, David spent the next six years on No 10 Squadron, first as a co-pilot and subsequently as a captain, the last two years as a flight commander.

He commanded No 1 Squadron at HM The Queen’s Silver Jubilee Parade at RAF Finningley in July 1977 and was captain of the VC10 conveying HRH the Prince of Wales on a visit to Australia in May 1978.

Sadly, a major medical problem resulted in him spending Christmas 1978 in the Middlesex Hospital in London, New Year 1979 in the RAF Hospital at Wroughton, and several weeks at the Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court.  He was invalided out of the RAF on 31 March 1980, having been appointed MBE in the New Year’s Honours List.  He took up the post of Bursar & Clerk to the Governors of Silcoates School, Wakefield, where, following his retirement in 2015, he still lives.

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David in cockpit of Vulcan XH558

A few days after their visit I received these two emails:
Dear Jim,

My nephew Andy has left this morning on his way back to New Zealand.  Since we left Finningley after our visit yesterday, he has hardly talked about anything else! 

I’m sure he will send his own thanks to you – if he hasn’t already done so – but I just wanted to say how grateful I am too for the excellent tour you arranged for him and for letting me come along as well. It was a real privilege to have such a special visit.  Thank you for taking the time to show us your enthusiasm for the project to preserve XH558 and to give Andy an insight into its history and features.  Even I learned a few things!

Thanks to the other members of the team too.  I hope that your dedication and efforts will soon bear fruit and that the aircraft will be housed in its own new accommodation before long.  I’ll come and see it again when it is!

Sincerely, David

Hi Jim,

Back to the warmth of New Zealand. Once again, I’d like to thank you for letting my uncle and I visit the Vulcan.  We both had a great morning with my uncle reminiscing the days flying the Vulcan as well as listening to the stories you told us regarding its return to the sky.  You guys do an exceptional job of maintaining this iconic aircraft and hope you get the planned hangar to help keep it in its current condition.

Thanks again.

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Dave Dinmore in VC10 cockpit

Two great visitors! One who flew XH558 in service and one who flew across the world to visit XH558. Days like these make bing a volunteer worthwhile.