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Life as aircrew often looks like the easy life to those who do not fly aeroplanes: turn up for your next flight, jolly off around the world to somewhere exciting, stay in 5 star hotels and then after lounging around in the sun for a while, cruise home to mum, who meanwhile has been repairing the washing machine, taking the kids to school and so on. Well, there may be the odd grain of truth in there somewhere if you fly for British Airways, but things can be a touch different on the RAF Hercules Force.

Military life brings its own frustrations. A NATO call-out at 0500hours wakes you from the sleep you deserve after your 14 hour flight which got back just 8 hours ago. Then, after a mad dash you arrive on the squadron only to be told that you are not needed anyway and you can go home again, or, on the other hand, you may have to sit around for a couple of days in a hangar that might let the rain in but you have to pretend that it is now a shelter against a nuclear attack. But, no worry, because when you get home you can look forward to a weekend with the family-or so you think. Instead you find yourself over Akrotiri at 0630hours, circling to use up time because air traffic doesn't open until 0700hours. Then you find that the reason you are there is to pick up a load of old mattresses which could have gone back later anyway.

When you are out there doing it, you always know best!! And it is the boss back in headquarters who is making all those unbelievably ill-thought out decisions. And there is more. While you are stuck in Bahrain with not a beer in site and missing the start to your long-planned holiday, those clowns back in Accounts have gone home early because its Friday and happy hour starts soon.

No-one really understands what you have to put up with, do they? Yes they do. Captain Coole and the Gang do. And who might Captain Coole be? You are soon going to find out.

Chas Finn-Kelcey created Captain Coole in his cartoon world, which was published every month in the Lyneham Globe, the Station magazine. It took a satirical look through the eyes of our imaginary crew at life on Hercules. It was cutting, it was funny, and it said everything that the average aircrew would like to tell his boss but never dared. It was a cult and had an enormous following. Indeed the only reason that 90% of aircrew opened the Globe was to read Captain Coole's latest escapade. It was, in many ways, a relief valve for the unavoidable frustrations that used to build up. It raised morale and brought a smile.

I knew Chas well. I flew with him often. He was a true professional and a man of many talents. Everything he did he did with 100% effort. Captain Coole was his invention and through him Chas made us all feel a little bit better about life. For that we thank Chas. I hope that you too can now enjoy following Captain Coole on his travels as much as we all did then and come away feeling like we did.

Group Captain John Bell (Retired)
President
No. 30 Squadron RAF Association

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