Directorate of Telecommunications
Winter 1986/87 Cranbrook Depot
The winter of 1986/87 was particularly bad in the Kent area with numerous roads closed due to high amounts of snow and drifting. There were also power failures in the county.
At Cranbrook depot there was only a skeleton staff as most of the staff could not get into work on the day in question.
During the course of the morning there was a telephone call from Kent Police Headquarters, there had been a power failure and as luck would have it their Standby generator had failed. This caused the H.Q Operations room to loose control of the Radio equipment at the hilltop sites. They asked if we could help them, we replied that yes it would if it were possible to get to the hilltop sites, but unfortunately this was not likely due to the snow conditions and road closures.
Kent Police informed us that they had two Military helicopters on standby at H.Q. and would make one available for us if we would help them. After a brief discussion Fred Pickard and myself agreed that it would be possible to get three or four teams together and go to the hilltop sites and made the necessary arrangements with Kent Police for the teams to be picked up at the local football ground (see attached photographs). We managed to get four teams each of two engineers including myself.
The teams were duly picked up by the helicopter and ferried to each hilltop site. Flying in a Military helicopter is not the same as a flying in a civil helicopter The comfort is a little bit on the basic side i.e. canvas seats the door open and an horrendous noise from the engine and gearbox, all the instruments were vibrating and blurred plus I notice that some rivets on the fuselage appeared to be slowly rotating around their seatings and it was impossible to talk to your neighbour because of the noise. The Army aircrew demonstrated great skill and professionalism and dropped us off at our various destinations. After alighting from the helicopter and getting showered with snow as the helicopter left the silence hit you and you realised how quiet it was.
After digging ourselves into the sites we put the equipment onto Auto-talk through, thus enabling Kent Police H.Q. Control room to regain control of the radio by using fixed mobiles. After being picked up from one site my team was taken to another site to carry out the same operation. Eventually all the teams were picked up and ferried back to Cranbrook.
As we were flown back we were treated to a wonderful aerial view of Kent under a blanket of snow. That evening when I eventually arrived home I still had the ringing in my ears from the noise of the helicopter’s engine and screaming gearbox and I am sure the other team members experienced the same thing. It was an experience I shall remember for the rest of my life.
This is another example of the great work that Dtels carried out and our willingness to help the various Police Forces, Fire Brigades etc regardless of the conditions.
Unfortunately, I cannot remember the names of all the engineers who took part in the operation. Those I do remember are Colin Manklow, Chris Parker and Mark Atherton.
If you know who the other team members were, please contact Steven Cole to have their names added.
20th December 2007
1 - Helicopter Landing in local football ground
2 - Teams boarding the army helicopter
3 - Last one boarding
4 - Helicopter take-off
5 - Helicopter Clearing the Football Ground
6 - Teams now on their way to the Hilltop Sites
Click on the appropriate link below for a larger image:
Acknowledgement: Fred Cornish for photos and copyright