Covering the ground in Africa with music

WO1 Mick LatterWarrant Officer Class One Mick Latter has been involved with Army Music for 28 years and retires in a few weeks time. Following a successful career in the bands reaching Band Sergeant Major of the Band of The Royal Logistic Corps his last role was Head of Digital and Media Engagement for Army Music. He volunteered to support this task to the continent of Africa as a performer on the French Horn and as media support officer for the deployment. As the saying goes ‘One last time with feeling’.

The Corps of Army Music recently deployed a Short Term Training Team to Africa. The aim was to supply musical training and defence diplomacy work at key events through music across a number of countries; South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe over a period of less than 2 weeks. I saw this as a personal opportunity to visit a number of countries I had yet to visit and probably a once in a lifetime experience and opportunity but it would also give me the opportunity to obtain and generate good quality media and publicity for the Corps of Army Music as it develops this area of its capability. The Corps of Army  Music is directed to supply a number of Short Term Training Teams for countries around the world. Over the last 12 months we have covered Kosovo, Bosnia, Gibraltar, Bermuda, Lebanon, Ethiopia and Kuwait.

The team

The CAMUS Africa STTT

The team of 8 musicians, led by Director of Music Major Lawrence Sale, was made up from 5 other members of the Corps of Army Music and two musicians from two Army Reserve Bands; The Band of The Yorkshire Regiment and the Army Medical Services Band. Three members stayed in Johannesburg to plan for events later in the trip and 5 members that made up a brass quintet drove to Maputo in Mozambique, a 7 ½ hour drive through the stunning open plain territories  of South Africa and Mozambique.

Maputo – Mozambique

We hit the city outskirts of Maputo as dusk arrived, the traffic was building up and we took our lives into our own hands as we fort our way through the chaos and mayhem of the roads of Maputo. Overloaded minibuses, open backed trucks with people on the rear sections, large heavy trucks and very little accurate road signs. At one particular junction a triple articulated lorry decided to run one of our two vehicles (the one I was in) off the road either oblivious to us or no care!

We arrived at Hotel Cardoso on the North side of the city and checked in feeling exhausted and pretty grubby after traveling by air and road for nearly 24 hours. We sat down with our hosts from the Defence Attaché’s office for South Africa, Wing Commander Cookson and his wife for a nice meal and a few light drinks before settling in for the night in very welcoming hotel beds.

Next morning the brass quintet set off to support a Queen’s Birthday Parade event at the High Commission in Maputo, hosted by the High Commissioner, Joanna Kuenssberg. The High Commissioner had invited a number of key political and business influential people to the cocktail party that was taking place in the gardens of the High Commission.  We were there to supply background music and add a ‘soft approach’ influence to the event and most importantly perform the National Anthems for Mozambique and Great Britain. Staff Sergeant Ben Ruffer was in charge of music and had sourced and arranged for the quintet the Mozambique National Anthem. His research had paid off as it was the correct version and many of the guests thanked the quintet in person for a fantastic performance of their Anthem as they had heard it many times before performed in not such a professional standard.

Brass Quintet at British High Commission Maputo

The High Commissioner thanked the quintet after the event. She was very happy that our musical input had made a valuable contribution to the event and looked forward to future events supported by the Corps of Army Music in the years to come should we be able to do so. Lieutenant Brendan Wheeler the leader of the quintet then presented her with a Corps of Army Music plaque.

On our return to the hotel we quickly changed out of uniform and drove down to the coast to admire the Indian Ocean and taste some local food and beer. The Maputo local award winning beer is called 2M for anyone considering travelling to the area. That evening our host took us to dinner in an excellent local curry restaurant of all things to eat in Africa. Being military musicians curry is more often than not a favourite amongst all so there were no complaints and the food was indeed excellent, thank you Wing Commander Cookson.

Return to Johannesburg

Next morning was an early start, up at 5am for departure promptly at 6am as we had to make the return drive to Johannesburg, another 7 hours by car. Our next event was planned in Johannesburg at 5pm that evening so we could not afford to be late and we had to clear the city traffic before it built up with the masses arriving to take up their jobs in the city centre. First turn following the route on our Satnav led us to be facing traffic coming directly towards us on what we thought was our side of the dual carriage way. There were no signs stating no entry, one way or any other related sign but clearly in the morning the system was designed to be traffic heading in only on this particular dual carriage. After several cars flashing us and one near head on miss we soon realised we were in the wrong so quickly turned left to find an adjacent road heading in the direction we required out of town.

4x4 to Maputo

We located the main road out and then weaving through the traffic were on our way but with another near miss where a local minibus taxi decided to dive down the inside of us catching our driver a little off guard, but a quick swerve to the right avoided what looked like an inevitable collision, a time delay we couldn’t afford.

The drive back across 100s of miles of wilderness scattered with an occasional some town led though some beautiful scenery and landscapes and even the opportunity to spot a family of baboons who had crossed the road a little in front of us.

Rugby World Cup 2015 – 100 days to kick off

The next event, or as musicians like to call them ‘gig’, was in support of the promotion of the forthcoming 2015 Rugby World Cup which as I am sure you all know is being hosted in the UK. With the home of Army Music located at Kneller Hall, Twickenham, right next door to the Twickenham Stadium, Rugby Football Union offices and the head office for the Rugby World Cup this was an event we had to support and indeed wanted to support and a good relationship builder with communities outside of the military.

Rugby world cup 2015 RWC

The event was held in the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and hosted by the British High Commission. A number of the South African International Rugby Squad were on hand to raise the profile of the event and our quintet added some musical colour to the evening. The team took the photo opportunity with a number of the rugby players and this included gate crashing the stage for a quick group photograph.

Moving to Pretoria

Next morning the team had to move cities to support a Dinner Night reception for the British Peace Support Team. Self-driving with the world’s worse SatNav the team moved by road from Johannesburg to Pretoria taking approximately 2 hours.

On arrival in Pretoria we settled into our third hotel and prepared our uniforms for tonight’s gig at the Pretoria Country Club.

The event was a dinner for the British Peace Support Team and guests including various Defence Attaché staff from South Africa and neighbouring countries. The Brass Quintet opened the evening, while guests drank cocktails at the entrance to the Country Club, performing a couple of pieces of music including the theme from Dambusters. The quintet were then joined by a local Bagpipe and drums group who performed the classic ‘Highland Cathedral’ tune with the quintet. This was really appreciated by the guests and the bagpipers were excellent; we only had one 5 minute rehearsal prior to performance with them!

The most important element of any dinner night in the military for the musicians is the performance of National Anthems and any after dinner music. In this case we had to perform the South African National Anthem, the British National Anthem and a rendition of Post Horn Galop performed by Staff Sergeant (Bandmaster) Ben Ruffer.

bagpipers

Flight to Malawi

Next morning after an early start the team had to move by air to Lilongwe in Malawi. Traffic from the city centre of Pretoria to the airport was a bit of an issue especially with our under powered 4×4 vehicles. Arriving at the airport the accompanying Defence Attaché staff organised the excess baggage allowances and we made it through customs and on to the departure gate with minutes to spare – then the flight took off late, typical. With clear skies we could see out of the windows of the plane to the African landscape below. What struck me was that it is far greener than I imagined it would be.

On arrival Major Lawrence Sale and I headed off to Recce an event while the rest of the weary team settled into hotel number four this week.

Training the Malawi Defence Force Band

 Musn Claire Hutton  with the Malawi Defence Force Band

Sgt Windley  with the Malawi Defence Force Band

Next day the team set off for the barracks in Lilongwe where one of the two Malawi Defence Force Bands are located. We were met at the rehearsal location by their director of music, Captain Levi Chisambi. Captain Chisambi was musically trained to lead the band at the Royal Military School of Music the home of British Army Music at Kneller Hall for four years and then completed a six month command course at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst before returning to Malawi several years ago. I personally remember Captain Chisambi from his three year course at Kneller Hall as I was a member of the staff during his period there so it was good to catch up with an old acquaintance.

The first part of the morning was spent running a couple of pieces under the baton of Captain Chisambi so the team could hear and see what level the band was at. This is a repeat visit for the Corps of Army Music as a team had visited the band 12 months previously.

The band were able to hold a piece together and with some of the players only having started on certain instruments some weeks before the best plan of action was deemed to be to break the band down into smaller sections with each of the team members, who are specialists on their instruments, taking the Malawi musicians away to practice the music and develop key skills.

An hour later the band reformed to see if any progress had been made, remembering that in some cases the musicians had only been learning their instruments for a few weeks! The Band then performed the three pieces under the batons of Major Lawrence Sale, Lieutenant Brendan Wheeler and again Captain Chisambi. The Band performed ‘I Know Him So Well, Serenade and Scarborough Fair’ which was an arrangement by Captain Chisambi.

After lunch the band and the team took to the main square and under the direction of Staff Sergeant (Drum Major) Shaun James (who by this stage had been nick named ‘Susat’ after the British Army’s rifle optical sight due to his shocking reading glasses) of the Army Medical Services Band undertook some drill and marching band practice. The temperature was in the high 20’s but this did not seem to bother the Malawi band some of which had jumpers on! Staff Sergeant James added a degree of humour to the training with the threat of a late night drill session with him at 2300hrs for all those you could not comply with his orders and instruction.

The rehearsal included marching the band as a whole on parade and to help demonstrate the drill movements required to change direction and halt five of the team formed the front line of the band and led in the early part of the rehearsals. The Band learnt quickly and very soon a marked improvement could be seen. Finally the band performed on the march with music and without members of our team leading the way. By the way Staff Sergeant James did not order anyone back for late night drill sessions on this occasion.

After marching band the team’s brass quintet gave a short recital to demonstrate some of the performance points we had given during the day. This was concluded with a performance of the Malawi National Anthem with the quintet playing and all the Malawi band singing, quite a sound.

The Band were excited to have us training them and the end of the day was a frenzy of thanks and many photographs taken and new friendships made. Strange thing was we are due back there in two days so we could expect much of the same excited enthusiasm. But we enjoyed it and were keen to return.

Return to Training

Two days after our first visit to the Malawi Defence Force Band the team returned to continue the training programme and help develop the musical capability of the band.

We started again in the practice room this time with two new pieces and the under the direction of Lieutenant Wheeler and it was soon apparent the Malawi Defence Force Musicians were learning very fast, a good sign that they were taking on board what we were teaching them.

We also took the opportunity to meet and talk to several senior Officers of the Malawi Defence Force and discuss future possible plans to assist the band and how they could help the band develop with small investments.

We concluded the training with a further marching band session once again under the direction of our very own Drum Major Shaun ‘Susat’ James, but this time the Malawi Defence Band Drum Major led the band. She soon took on board the advice and guidance given to her and the bands drill and movement across the parade square was improving all the time. Training with the Band was very rewarding and all the team members hoped to be able to return to Malawi in the future.

Marching with the Malawi Defence Force Band

Cocktails at the British High Commission

Some 500 guests were invited to this event hosted by the British High Commissioner and the teams brass quintet was lined up to support the event and our very own one man band saxophonist Staff Sergeant Shaun James and his backing tracks. After the cocktail party a local band had been booked to supply music for select guests including the team. Members of our team even joined in with the band. Major Sale our resident drummer was soon leading the rhythm section and clearly enjoying the moment on stage as a performer.

Now to Harare in Zimbabwe

After a 10 hour drive in three vehicles to Harare in Zimbabwe the band settled into the hotel for the night. The drive was an experience; poor roads, long winded boarded controls (my passport now has more stamps in it than I ever thought I would see being a European), various animals from chickens to cattle stepping out in the road. There were a large number of locals walking from one village to another or in some cases cycling what seemed to be extremely long distances. On coming very large trucks were also a concern and at times we had to take evasive measures to avoid them including leaving the road completely at about 60mph as we came round a corner to find several very wide loads coming towards us spread over both lanes. Anyway we made it safe and sound and in one piece.

Road to Harare from Lilingwe

The next morning the team visited Wild is Life Animal Sanctuary just outside Harare. This place is magical, more like a personal home with many endangered species roaming freely. More dangerous ones like lions were behind wire but you could get right up next to them. The sign clearly said we cannot rescue your fingers from the lions but we all came away with them all intact, I think.  Other animals at the sanctuary included a baby elephant called Moyo who had a dog and a sheep for companionship. Moyo was introduced to us in person and loved you to blow down his trunk. We were warned though that he could if he wished knock you over and if you put your fingers in this mouth it would be like slamming your fingers in a heavy door. There were also a number of really friendly giraffes and baby giraffes which you could hand feed.

Other big cats you could get up close and personal to included two cheetahs who contently laid just a couple of metres from us with their keepers purring away like a domestic cat.

Their sanctuary’s pride and joy is a rare Pangolin, a strange creature with large scales on its back who lives solely on ants. This animal is so rare and valuable that it is cared for 24 hours a day and when it goes off to hunt for ants up to 8 hours a day a keeper carries it and when stands by it at all times. The relationship between the Pangolin and the keeper is clear to see.

Pangolin

leopards Giraffes

Back to music supporting UK influence and business

The next musical event we were supporting was at the British High Commission Residency in Harare. The event was another Queen’s Birthday parade cocktail party in the stunning grounds of the home. Hosted by the British High Commissioner who had recently had an audience with the Queen in London this was major event for UK diplomacy and relationship building in Zimbabwe. This was also the first time in over 12 years or more that British Soldiers had undertaken any activity in Zimbabwe. It was originally planned that our team would be engaged with community activity and training of Musicians in the Zimbabwe Army but due to political reasons this had not been secured but the British Defence Attaché was fairly confident that the bridges may have now been developed to encourage engagement for future years.

The Brass Quintet’s major task at this event was as usual to entertain guests, network and encourage defence engagement at the lowest level and perform the National Anthems. The unusual element of the Anthems this time was we were to perform them with choir of approximately 20 members of staff of the British High Commission in Harare. The choir members were all amateur singers and had come together about 2 months ago and along with our quintet did a sterling job.

Return to Johannesburg

The next day the team left the hotel early for the Harare airport for a return flight to Johannesburg. We boarded a small plane with only 30 seats and wondered if all our equipment had actually fitted in the hold. We joked with Major Sale about the Drum Major’s Mace and box which is over 7 feet long was strapped to the wing or roof of the plane; Major Sale is not a good air traveller so this may not have helped.

We were on a tight schedule today and it was going to be a long day. Major Sale had met a lady on the flight over who worked at a charity in Johannesburg called Children of Fire. This charity looks after badly burned children many of which the families are unable to care for or their injuries are so live threatening they could not possibly continue to live in some of the poor conditions many South Africans live in in the various shanty towns. The children were often injured from house fires but in some cases deliberately burnt.

Lieutenant Wheeler led the Brass Quintet as we played various pieces of music for them and demonstrated the instruments which included getting the children involved. On hand again was our very own saxophonist Sergeant James who the children played as he performed several famous pop ballads.

At the end of the performance we mixed and chatted with the children and Sergeant Marsden of the Band of the Yorkshire Regiment an Army Reserve Band had many of children intrigued by his Tuba, the largest instrument within the team.  The Children had also made various British Patriotic Cakes for us to eat including enormous doughnuts with Union Jack flag designed icing.  In a small way we hoped make their lives a little happier if only for a brief time.

Childen of fire charity with the CAMUS team

Sergeant James Saxophonist at Children of Fire charity

Final show in Johannesburg

This was to be my final gig in the Corps of Army Music after 28 years, supporting a Dinner to mark the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.

The dinner started with a speech about the actual battle of Waterloo and then we performed a number of pieces of music with various European and British famous pieces of music to suite the theme of the dinner.

At end of the Dinner we performed the famous Post Horn Galop, due to the misplacement of the actual post horn it looked at one point that we would not be able to perform the tune. But the event was being held in Light Horse Regiment HQ in Johannesburg and the building was home to a military music museum and Sergeant Ruffer spied something that would suit his needs the bell section of a fanfare trumpet.

At the end of the dinner I was mentioned and thanked in the speech for my service to Army Music for the last 28 years and the fact that during this tour I had been notified that I was to receive the Meritorious Service Medal something I never expected to receive and I am extremely proud to be receiving.

The musicians with me on this epic trip had one last touch to mark my last musical event in the Corps of Army Music and they struck up with the tune Auld Lang Syne, it seemed I had slightly hijacked the end of the dinner!

I am not quite leaving the Army as I am I am joining the Army Reserves as a Digital and Media Specialist later this year with the newly formed 77x Brigade, something I am very much looking forward to. So I may be writing further articles and blogs in the years to come for the British Army as I continue to travel around the world.

Find out more about a career in Army Music on our website: www.army.mod.uk/music

Life changing experiences in Malawi, Botswana and South Africa

Corps of Army Music

Corporal Simon Lindley, Corps of Army Music Short Term training team member

Corporal Simon Lindley is a trombonist and singer in the Corps of Army Music. His current role is Force Development Assistant at the HQ of Army Music.  He and a number of other members of the Corps of Army Music recently went to Malawi, Botswana and South Africa as part of a short term training team to help develop the musical capabilities of  the Armed Forces in those countries.

Army Music training team visits Malawi, Botswana and South Africa

Malawi

The Corps of Army Music Short Term Training Team (STTT) led by Warrant Officer Class One Shane O’Neill arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi after a 14-hour flight via Johannesburg. With lots of queuing in airports in between, we finally arrived at the Sunbird Hotel, where the team relaxed and prepared for a rewarding 2 days work with The Malawi Defence Force Band (MDF Band). The team arrived at the 2nd Battalion Malawi Defence Force camp in Lilongwe, home of the MDF band and were introduced by their Director of Music, Captain Levison Chisambi, himself a graduate of the Royal Military School of Music Bandmasters course.

The team quickly became acquainted with members of the Band and sat down to join in with their full band rehearsal. Part way through the morning the OCs of both our team and the MDF Band left to go on a recce for a joint engagement for a charity golf event for the Malawi War Veterans charity. Rehearsals for the engagement continued under the direction of Sergeant John Storey and myself.  After lunch we each took sectional rehearsals of the MDF Band working on music for the engagement, as well as covering some basic musicianship skills, and answering questions on a variety of subjects. After a hard day’s work we returned to the hotel for a well-earned rest.

With part of the day free before the engagement at the British High Commissioner’s residence the we took the opportunity to visit Lake Malawi, which was an amazing site and also visited a local village community market and saw first-hand the talented people had carved wooden gifts to sell for their community. After returning to Lilongwe the team headed to work where both the brass quintet and the wind quartet provided musical entertainment to all the guests as well as performing the all important national anthems of Malawi and Great Britain. We were then invited to enjoy some fish and chips and chatted with various guests before retiring to the hotel. A second day of training with the MDF band went ahead, with final preparations for Saturday’s joint engagement being the focus. After a full band rehearsal the team again took sectional rehearsals continuing to work with the MDF Band on music as well as covering instrumental maintenance. At the end of the day the team all had photos with our new friends in the MDF Band.

The War Veterans Commemoration Event at Lilongwe golf club, which was attended by many senior MDF officers as well as the British High Commissioner and the newly elected Vice President of Malawi, was a great success. The band provided musical entertainment all morning on the 18th green and then further music was provided during dinner by the wind quartet. At the end of this joint engagement with the MDF Band, the team said fond farewells to our new friends in the MDF band and returned to the hotel to pack for the drive to Blantyre in southern Malawi. Next day we  packed up and headed off in our two trusty vehicles fully loaded with bags and instruments on the six-hour drive to Blantyre… After some excellent navigation, we arrived 9 hours later with 4 tired drivers who had to show their off road skills on multiple occasions and good use of the emergency stop to avoid goats that appeared to have suicidal tendencies as we travelled through the country. After checking in to our second hotel, the team settled for the evening. On the 9th June we went to Blantyre hospital to work with the Sound Seekers Charity providing music for the event and working with hearing impaired people helping them to have fun and express themselves with various musical instruments, a very worthwhile cause and a satisfying day was had by all.

Corps of Army Music training team

Training by the Corps of Army Music short term training team

Johannesburg

Arriving safely in Johannesburg after flying from Blantyre, the wind quartet were straight out on an engagement, at the British High Commissioner’s residence in Pretoria whilst the rest of the team enjoyed their new surroundings. The team met with the South African National Defence Force Ceremonial Guards Band based in Pretoria for a day of training. After watching the Band perform a marching display and small ensemble performance we and the SANDF CG Band joined up for full band rehearsal under the direction of our Bandmaster and enjoyed another successful day. There is a high degree of satisfaction when both the training and rehearsals go so well.

On 12th June  the brass quintet performed at the British High Commission in Pretoria over lunch before the whole team headed to the Soweto Theatre to spend the afternoon working with local musicians. Next day, with part of the day free, the team took the opportunity to take in some of the recent history of South Africa visiting the Constitution Hill Museum and Court  and learning much about the country’s transition from apartheid to democracy. Later that evening we supported another Dinner Night before retiring for the evening.

The next day we began the drive north towards Botswana stopping en route to spend part of the day with Modderspruit Sunrise Hospice who work with children and families living with HIV and Aids. This was without doubt the most harrowing and moving part of the whole trip, but it was a privilege to be able to provide a little entertainment and ‘musical therapy’ for the children and families living with this disease.  The end of the visit culminated in the performance of the British and South African National Anthems, the children gathered together and sang their anthem as we played. Having performed anthems at both Wembley and Twickenham, I can guarantee that these pale in comparison to the passion and energy for life that the children sang with. Very moving.

Community engagement by the Corps of Army Music

Modderspruit Sunrise Hospice

Before continuing on to Botswana, the team took the chance to go on an early-morning game drive taking in some of the wildlife of South Africa in their own environment. After enjoying the spectacular sights and sounds, the team continued the journey to Garbarone in Botswana, arriving at the hotel late in the afternoon.

On the 16th June the team spent the day with the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Band Garbarone, after introductions the team assisted with an Officer Commissioning Parade rehearsal and provided feedback to the band afterwards. In the afternoon the bandmaster took a full band rehearsal of the parade music, then later in the evening the team joined with the BDF Band performing a concert for the Officer Cadets.

Next day it was the turn of  the brass quintet who performed at a Queen’s Birthday Party at the British High Commission enjoying some traditional British food and providing background music. Our final day of training with the BDF Band proved to be an interesting one, despite major issues with a power cut the team still managed to provide some tuition to the various sections of the band. The team were later taken on a tour of the BDF zoo where they keep animals for the purposes of training and educating their soldiers about wildlife they may encounter in the field.

The team with a statue of Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg

The team with a statue of Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg

After leaving presentations and photos with the BDF Band the team headed back to the hotel for a final meal and to pack for the journey home. The team packed up the vehicles and drove from Botswana back to Johannesburg for the flight back to the UK. The team arrived home full of amazing memories, life-changing events and feeling thoroughly satisfied that we had completed the trip and leaving the musicians we trained with plenty of new skills and things to think about over the coming months.

 

Read more CAMUS blogs

Find out more about the Corps of Army Music

Bloodhound SSC: Inspiring the next generation of Engineers Pt 2

Major Oli Morgan is the Team Leader for the Army’s involvement in the Bloodhound SuperSonic Car project

Major Oli Morgan is the Team Leader for the Army’s involvement in the Bloodhound SuperSonic Car project

Major Oli Morgan is the Team Leader for the Army’s involvement in the Bloodhound SuperSonic Car project.  As an Aircraft Engineering Officer in the Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers (REME), his technical background on Apache is used to good effect to provide the Bloodhound team with technical advice on Engineering Assurance. In addition to his engineering role, he is also responsible for recruiting each six-month attachment of personnel and managing the team on a day-to-day basis.

Opening Bloodhound SSC’s Technical Centre

This summer Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts MP, formally opened the new Bloodhound Technical Centre in Avonmouth, Bristol. It was a fantastic event with the Minister talking about the importance of UK skills and the increasing demand for Scientists, Engineers and Mathematicians.

REME Corporal Lisah Brooking keeping a keen eye on Minister David Willetts MP. Image by Stephan Marjoram

REME Corporal Lisah Brooking keeping a keen eye on Minister David Willetts MP. Image by Stephan Marjoram

And it’s this challenge that Bloodhound SSC intends to tackle – to inspire kids into STEM subjects by building a car capable of 1000 mph and allowing the student population to be able to engage and follow the project.

Bloodhound SSC’s new technical centre has been occupied for a few months while the team have been commissioning the site and getting all the workshop machines ready to go. The new centre looks impressive and provides the design team as well build engineers/fabricators with a great facility in which we will build the car. A special mention must go to SSgt Neil Gallagher who received a commendation from Director Richard Noble for his part in managing the move to the new Avonmouth site.

SSgt Neil Gallagher with his commendation. Image by Stefan Marjoram

SSgt Neil Gallagher with his commendation. Image by Stefan Marjora

SSgt Gallagher got permission to extend his attachment by 2 months to see the move through to completion. He has since handed over to his successor SSgt Ben Richards who continues the role of Workshop Manager supporting Chris Dee (Build Manager) to ensure the machines are fit and are available at all times.

Introducing the new REME team

SSgt Ben Richards. Image Stefan Marjoram

SSgt Ben Richards. Image Stefan Marjoram

The composition of the second team of REME tradesmen has developed to reflect the changes and demands of the build as it continues. As we move into the assembly of the rear upper chassis, SSgt Ben Richards’ experience repairing aircraft on Operations comes to the fore. He has been helping to build the chassis rails that connect the carbon fibre monocoque to the rear lower chassis.

Ssgt Henry Breed. Image Stefan Marjoram

Ssgt Henry Breed. Image Stefan Marjoram

SSgt Ben Richards is one of two Artificers on the Army team. Artificers are the REME’s technical fast track managers and are amongst the most respected soldiers in the British Army. Alongside Ben, is SSgt Henry ‘H’ Breed who is an Electronics Artificer and works with Joe Holdsworth on the Bloodhound’s electronic control systems. He has continued AQMS Mark Edwin’s work prototyping EJ200’s control system as well as developing the electronics of a number control systems.

On the mechanical side of the project, Corporal Lisah Brooking has been working with Lee Giles on the rocket development system. She has done a fantastic job and has developed her technical knowledge testing the F1 engine’s custom gearbox at X-trac near Reading.

LCpl Lisah Brooking. Image Stefan Marjoram

LCpl Lisah Brooking. Image Stefan Marjoram

The last member of the team – and certainly not least, is Craftsman Andy Pike who is an Armourer and the youngest engineer on the whole project. Cfn Pike is normally found working in patrol bases repairing weapon systems with the Infantry. He has used his technical knowledge and manufacture skills to support some of the more senior fabricators assembling the car.

Cfn Andy Pike. Image Stefan Marjoram

Cfn Andy Pike. Image Stefan Marjoram

Project update…the build story so far

So what is happening with the vehicle build at the moment? We have been lucky that we could continue building the car whilst the building has been commissioned.

All of the workshop machines supplied under Bloodhound contract with the Army have been delivered (thanks SEAE and SEME) and the machine shop is now ready to start production of smaller components. The machine shop, with lathes, mills, folding and cutting machines, to mention a few, is an important addition to the Technical Centre. It will save time and provide agility when essential components are needed that can’t be sent to suppliers.

Positioned in the centre of the workshop, not far from the machine shop, is a huge surface table that the Bloodhound SSC car will be built on. So why do we need to build it on a metal surface 30 cm off the ground?

Surface table. Image Stefan Marjoram

Surface table. Image Stefan Marjoram

We need an incredibly flat surface to build on to ensure that we can accurately measure the car as it is assembled – you wouldn’t want us to put it together wonky! Dan Johns, who has spent much of his career working with Airbus as a Manufacturing Engineer is using a laser scanning system to ensure that the car’s components are placed as accurately as possible in the X, Y and Z axis. David Willetts MP had the honour of tightening up the bolts that connect the lower chassis and monocoque together – all under the watchful eye of Cpl Lisah Brooking!

The most recent work has been the arrival of the chassis rails which have come back from the autoclave and are now fitted to the car. The fabrication team have done a great job, delivering ahead of time to assemble, Kephos (black anti corrosion paint), re-assemble/glue and cure – and with an accuracy of 0.4 mm variation over 6 metres.

So what’s coming next?

Bloodhound cuttaway. Image Stefan Marjoram

Bloodhound cuttaway. Image Stefan Marjoram

The lattice structure on the side of the car (where the red dot is) has been dry assembled to ensure that all of the resources required to complete the work package are ready to go. The combination of the chassis rails (green dot at either end) and the lattice will provide increased stiffness to the body of the car – in a similar way to that of a bridge.

Infantry bridge. Crown copyright

Infantry bridge. Crown copyright

Chassis rails and lattice. Image Jules Tipler

Chassis rails and lattice. Image Jules Tipler

Now that Dan Johns has laser scanned and measured the mating surfaces, we have the assurance that we will be building on an accurate and level plane which means that the jig can be made available to start to receive the initial sections of the upper chassis which has been designed similar to the construction of an aircraft. Within this structure, the EJ200 developmental engine will be suspended beneath the structure, with the fin supported on top!

The upper chassis is going to be a big job with over 11,000 holes to drill, prepare and rivet – I will keep you updated when the job starts and how it progresses.

Next blog I will be writing about the REME team and our time at Goodwood Festival of Speed talking to kids about engineering and science and Bloodhound SSC!

Read more about the Bloodhound Supersonic Car