From the Archive Vaults 1967 – A visit from the sky

One afternoon in late October crowds were lining the banks over-looking the school playing fields. Below there was a scene of feverish activity as police and firemen stood ready at their posts. Excitement mounted as we spotted a tiny black object on the horizon. Within seconds it took shape: there was no mistaking it now, it was a Westland helicopter of the Fleet Air Arm.

Two flares were lit, one red, the other green. Through the hazy smoke came the roar of engines and the whirr of great blades as they sliced through the air. As if uncertain, the helicopter circled once, and, as the flares began to die away, it approached once more. The powerful rush of air blew leaves into our faces. The wheels touched down lightly, and as the noise subsided the twin blades slowly came to a halt.

The Headmaster, Bro Dominic,  stepped forward to welcome Commander M, H,Hutton and two young pilots. They had arrived on a recruiting mission for the Fleet Air Arm. After brief introductions the distinguished party climbed the steps while boys and members of the staff gave a rousing welcome to the new arrivals.

Soon the whole school was assembled in the hall for an illustrated lecture. Commander Hutton explained to us that St. Mary’s marked the half —way point of their programme in which they planned to visit seventy schools.

Soon we were being  shown a cine film of the strike force and air-craft carriers of the Fleet Air Arm. The film and lecture not only gave a balanced impression of the pilot’s life but also provoked many questions from classes I to VI Upper. The team of experts did their best to answer the varied inquiries. However, the boy who ventured to ask for the ranges of jet bombers was in for a disappointment – he was just told that it was classified information. Perhaps Naval Intelligence had visions of the cunning Russian spy disguised as a First Former uncovering Britain’s vital secrets!