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Adventures of a Cold War Fast-Jet Navigator (ePub)

The Buccaneer Years

Aviation > Royal Air Force Military > Post-WWII Warfare > Cold War

By Wg Cdr David Herriot
Imprint: Pen & Sword Aviation
File Size: 13.7 MB (.epub)
Pages: 306
Illustrations: 66
ISBN: 9781526706614
Published: 8th November 2017


£4.99 Print price £25.00

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Book of the Year

Voted BOOK OF THE YEAR by Aviation Enthusiast Book Club!

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David Herriot served almost 40 years in the Royal Air Force as a navigator, first on the Buccaneer S2 and subsequently on the Tornado GR1. This volume recounts his early career operating the Buccaneer on three operational flying tours plus a tour as an instructor on the Operational Conversion Unit. With almost 2500 hours on an aircraft that was operated at high-speed, in all weathers and at ultra low-level, his task in the rear seat was a demanding one. But Herriot was more than just the guy in the back of a Buccaneer; he was, quite routinely, and often to the exasperation of his seniors, the life and soul of any party that was taking place either at home base or when overseas defending the flanks of NATO.

This is an epic adventure for the aviation enthusiast, particularly those with affection for the Blackburn Buccaneer, and is one that provides a great deal more than the usual introduction to a specific aircraft type and the people who flew it. Here the reader will find an absolute insight into life on a fast jet squadron, at work and mischievous play during the Cold War and they will be introduced to some of the modern Royal Air Force’s greatest characters.

5.0 out of 5 stars

Fascinating. A highly entertaining and informative read, almost beyond belief what those fly-boys got up to. This is the book for you if you want to know what life was like if you were lucky enough to have made it to the navigator's seat of a Buccaneer in the Royal Air Force in the 1970s and 1980s. A warts-and-all description of flying a jet and making the most of time on a Buccaneer squadron.

Amazon UK Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars

On my first tour I flew a Mahogany Bomber at RAF Honington and saw 12 Sqn, 237 OCU and XV Sqn reform. What an introduction to the RAF for a first tourist! The Mess was as lively as Dave recounts. Coincidentally I flew into RAF Laarbruch (in the back seat of a Gnat) on the morning XV Sqn debriefed their first Red Flag exercise. I was invited to attend and I can assure you that the films I saw and the narrative attested to the truth of Dave's stories. This book is an enthralling read and of interest to anyone interested in the Bucc', the aircrew who flew it or anything about RAF operational stations in the Cold War.

Amazon UK Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars

Well written - no regrets buying it

Amazon UK Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Good read

Very interesting and amusingly written tale of misbehaviour and fun and games in the era of the Cold War. In the days when we weren’t so sensitive to the PC world of today it was possible to be a professional military aviator and have fun and this shows clearly in the book.

Amazon UK Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Thanks For The Memories

Just finished your book Dave, have to admire you for your brutal honesty throughout. Enjoyed your reminiscences of training, whilst we took different routes, I never fully realised or remembered how many hurdles we had to clear before finally hitting the front line on the Buccaneer, although I was quite amused at the massive final hurdle you had to clear before the OCU. I won’t spoil it for those that haven’t read the story.
Having been with you in the early 70’s, albeit on 16 Squadron, I fondly remember the disco nights and your antics with the baton and am pleased to see you glossed over the unmentionable goings on in Block 13a which would be a book by itself.
The epilogue brought a tear to my glass eye with the story of your last Buccaneer flight, and I’m sure that I can speak for all when I say thanks for keeping our memories alive, it was a wonderful time to be flying a truly great aircraft and your book does you so much credit and is a fine testament to all the crews who played such a vital role during those Cold War years.

Amazon UK Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this book by DH which for myself was a trip down memory lane! Very well written, David manages to mix the humour with the professional tales which will be enjoyed by all aviation enthusiasts! Thank you David for an excellent read!
I look forward to reading his follow up book covering his Tornado years!

Amazon UK Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Great read

A fine read, another tale of a great British plane let down by lack of investment, but could still out perform her supposed successor in actual war sorties, good pictures and well told, no piano was saved!

Amazon UK Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars The Mighty Buccaneer

An excellent, very entertaining and candid account of the life of an RAF back seater during the 70s and into the 80s. Highly recommended to all those with an interest in military aviation.

Amazon UK Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent read

A well written book that showed what a good time being in the RAf in the late 70s and 80s was. Brought back memories of a fantastic aircraft.

Amazon UK Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars

I am a good friend of Dave Herriot and I know him to be witty and engaging, so my expectations were high when I started reading his book. I can say that I was not disappointed. He excels at portraying life in a RAF Buccaneer squadron. During my time with the Buccaneer as an exchange officer from the U. S. Air Force, I saw, enjoyed, and participated in quite a few of the antics Dave recounts so well. And the flying he describes! I can only say that if you haven't flown across the bow of a warship at roughly 500 knots and 50 feet, you've missed something. For anyone interested in the world of those operating high performance combat aircraft during the years of the Cold War, this is your book.

Amazon Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Memories of my early Air Force days

Being ex Air Force and ex Buccaneer engineer it was fun and lots of memories came flooding back, with reasons why we did what we did, great Book.

Amazon UK Customer Review

4.0 out of 5 stars

This was a very well told yarn of an obviously very capable nav. David appears to have thrown away so many opportunities to reach high or very high rank, what a waste. Deep sorrow.

Amazon UK Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars The Point of the Sword

An amazing aircraft for its time. I remember them brushing the treetops while I was on exercise (Army) in Northern Germany. I'm so glad this Navigators liver survived to tell the tale. Rest in Peace all those talented skilled crew who didn't make and now are drinking in the Squadron Bar.

Amazon UK Customer Review

Who can resist a rip-roaring yarn. Well no sane person, especially when its true to a larger than large slice of life, so strap yourself in and treat yourself to the first of a 2 part biography by a latter day Highlander, David Herriot.

David who starts with a demeaning and humble approach to his beloved Glasgow upbringing, quickly picks up the pace and establishes himself with all the nerve, leadership and joi de vie, to become an outstanding RAF Senior Officer with a mastery for detail and skill with the pen.

David takes us part way through a spine-tingling career as a navigator during a fascinating period of RAF history and leaves one breathless and ready for his next production. This is a book which is easy to read and safe to keep on the book shelf since you will most likely read it again and again. Roll on part 2, the Tornado years.

Paul Kelly

We all enjoy a book on the operational history of an aircraft type, tech spec or a campaign or unit history. However, there's nothing to beat an autobiography, particularly if like me you've never slipped the surly bonds and experience life in the cockpit at the sharp end. This has been a good year for cold war/fast jet memoirs as interest in this era grows. David Herriot's book is a worthy addition to the genre.

Scott Hulme, The Aviation Enthusiasts’ Book Club

The layout could have been better but it's printed on quality paper and is a solid read.

The Armourer, December 2018

This is a really fantastic read and a lot of fun and you will come away with a good appreciation of RAF training and honing the edge in the very capable Buccaneer.

Flightpath - reviewed by Takis Diakoumis

This is a book I’ve been eagerly awaiting since it was first announced last year. And it doesn’t disappoint.

AirForces Monthly, November 2018 – reviewed by Glenn Sands

Covering two thirds (in flying hours terms) of his career as a Cold War Fast-Jet navigator, David Herriot's book does exactly 'what it says on the tin'. The body of the book, chapters seven to eleven, cover in equal measure the intertwined social and professional aspects of his life on three Buccaneer squadrons (the first and last being in RAF Germany) and the Buccaneer OCU. The author admits to being 'too much of a comedian and not taking life seriously at all' and that comes through loud and clear in those chapters. The descriptions of squadron life and of the Buccaneer, and how it was operated in its different roles, are wholly authentic although his criticisms are reserved, particularly in the later chapters, for the 'system', and for himself. But his anecdotes of social episodes, usually related to alcohol and detachments, are written in a humorous, and often self-depreciating style and some, which I hadn't heard before, had me almost weeping with laughter.

The book is well produced and the extensive photographs, many previously unpublished, add considerably to it.

Royal Air Force Historical Society

Article: 'Bridgford man produces memoirs of Royal Air Force career' as featured by

West Bridgford Local News, November 2017

Article: 'Buccaneering spirit: Soviets, seagulls and Sin City perils' by Andy Smart as featured by

Nottingham Post, 20th February 2018

This exhilarating tale, sub-titled The Buccaneer Years, describes twelve years of high-octane life in the back of one of the RAF’s most potent combat aircraft.
Best of all, though, is the book’s dedication to a Buccaneer stalwart, sadly no longer around, acknowledged as having taught the author everything needed to know professionally: about flying, navigating, ‘weaponeering’, drinking, and having a bloody good laugh. Amen to that!
Looking forward to Volume Two.

Pennant, Forces Pension Society

If you have any kind of interest in the RAF, or those that serve then this is definitely worth a read.

Mark Dale

As featured in

RAF News, February 9th 2018

The author served for nearly 40 years in the RAF as a navigator on Buccaneer and Tornado aircraft. A fascinating story supported by two photo-plate sections including some fine full colour photographs. – highly recommended.

Read the complete review here.


Fantastic Book Excellent Read.
ByGeorge Dobieon 29 November 2017
As a former Buccaneer Aircraft Engine Technician and having served on two Buccaneer Squadrons 208 and 16 Squadrons, I find David's book very enjoyable and an insight into the life of our Crews when playing with our charges.I served with David on 16 Sqn and the stories he relates to in the book have triggered treasured memories of a time in my youth when we played hard, worked hard, and made friendships that have lasted to this day! David's tales of his experiences as the 'Back Seater' and the flying he was involved in I found intriguing, I especially liked the story about the messing around with the Russian Navy. I was also on the Red Flag Detachment to Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas in1981 which produced some spectacular flying and legends that still continue to be told on many a military website. Given David's involvement during this detachment, he gives a good description of the tactics that were used to good effect and the legendary 'Skullduggery' employed by highly trained RAF Crews.
I was very interested in his telling of the unfortunate fate of Buccaneer XT160 which unfortunately crashed on the ranges while the Squadron was on detachment at RAF Decimonnu in Sardinia, thankfully there were no fatalities. One of the photos included in the splendid selection throughout the book shows the tailplane of this aircraft bobbing around on the sea. This brought disturbing memories back to me as, due to the confusion of such times, a fellow technician and I were tasked to swim out to it and tie it to a rock! The reply was not usually given to an Officer by young fellows like us!
I highly recommend the book to everybody with an interest in Military Aviation as it covers a time when an aircraft called the 'Buccaneer' aka 'The Brick' (due to it's strong build, I say Brick as it is the clean version), which the RAF initially rejected ended up as the best Low Level Bomber in the world! Flown by the best, Fixed by the best! 'They Bendum - We Mendum' Genetic term for the interactive relationship between Aircrew and Groundcrew!
Enjoy the read!

George Dobie

The RAF has always had amongst its vast contingent of aircrew a large number of colourful characters. The Cold War era of the 1970s was no exception and the Buccaneer force, for reasons which are not easy to identify, attracted more than its fair share of them. Of these, one has stepped up to the plate to tell an epic tale of life in the air and on the ground with this unique band of brothers. David Herriot's excellent biography has done just that. Laced with many humorous anecdotes from his early days in Glasgow, through navigator training to the front line in Germany and the Maritime Attack Force. His story makes good reading for those wishing to share an experience of life for a 'sack of spuds' in the back office of a Buccaneer. For those with only a passing interest in that sort of thing it promises a damn good laugh.

Len McKee

A great read. If you enjoyed "The Buccaneer Boys" or other titles of that genre then this is the book for you. A fascinating story of one young man's journey into the back seat of the best low-level bomber of the cold war era. A very authoritative account, describing the various stages of aircrew training and life on an operational fast-jet squadron. The book is filled with many very amusing anecdotes that make you wish that we could be freed from the PC constraints of these modern times.The ethos of the day was fly hard, play harder and why not? After 24 hours in QRA,with a one-way ticket over the iron curtain, you are entitled to let your hair down.
How long do we have to wait for volume 2, The Tornado Years?
Well done David.

Peter Rolfe

About Wg Cdr David Herriot

Wing Commander DAVID HERRIOT served in the RAF for thirty-eight years as a navigator and qualified weapons instructor both on the Buccaneer S2 and the Tornado GR1. Born and brought up in Glasgow, he was a keen amateur genealogist who researched his family history back to the 17th Century in and around Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders. Wing Commander Herriot passed away in 2020.

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