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Lt Cdr Martin 'Jack' London MBE QCBA

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Lt Cdr Martin 'Jack' London MBE QCBA

Old 16th Aug 2013, 15:40
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Lt Cdr Martin 'Jack' London MBE QCBA

Dear all,

Some of you may be aware that I am currently writing a book about the Sea Harrier.

I am currently writing a piece about the late 'Jack' London, with his widows blessing, and I was hoping that perhaps some of you who knew him and served alongside him would like to say a few words about him. Perhaps a funny story, an incident that stands out from the rest......you know what I mean.

I have covered his now famous 'cabriolet' SHAR landing on HMS Invincible, which is still a remarkable feat.

I have had some contributions from 1 of his former CO's of 800NAS and from some of the ground crew guys.

If any of you would like to help I would be most grateful.
Thank you in advance,
Kind regards,

Last edited by lmgaylard; 17th Aug 2013 at 14:33. Reason: Spelling mistake
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Old 16th Aug 2013, 21:07
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Jak London


I had the honour to serve with Jack on 801, and he was a true FAA pilot - professional to the core, worked hard, played hard and bags and bags of real style.

Stories? Tons.

One that stood out was Jack's determination to carve his own path during a port visit. As the ship berthed, there was Jack, black leather jacket, black shirt, black trews, black shoes, black bag and black sunglasses, first down the gangway. Not a word to anyone.

Nothing heard for four days. At all.

Four days later, one minute before the gangway was to be lifted, Jack appears at the dockside. Black leather jacket, shirt, trews, shoes, bag, sunnies. Strolls up the gangway, snaps to attention, makes for his cabin. Duty Officer - "Hey Jack, where have you been?". Jack - "Around." Leaves.

Pure class. Miss him loads.

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Old 16th Aug 2013, 22:38
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I am the son of a former FAA FJ man from the era prior to Jak London. My father's ashes are interred in the graveyard at St Barts in Yeovilton village and I visit as often as I can.

I always make a point of standing in front of certain Headstones, Jak London's amongst them. I look forward to the book, please keep me posted.


Last edited by tarantonight; 16th Aug 2013 at 22:47.
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Old 16th Aug 2013, 22:56
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Lets not forget his habit for brewing coffee in the mug, stashed anywhere and everywhere, over a several day period before returning to drink them once suitably matured.

Irreplaceable and full of panache.
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Old 17th Aug 2013, 07:39
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Was this the same Jack London who would arrive for early met at Valley back in the 1980s with his breakfast consisting of:

Tin of Coke (leaded) and a half smoked Gallois Cig in his other paw?

He was a real character, sorry he left fashionably early from the party, probably had a better offer at the next one.
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Old 17th Aug 2013, 07:45
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You need to contact Arkroyal, a resident of this parish, who joined the Dark Blue on the same day as Jack. He should be able to put you in contact with others on 86 Flight BRNC.
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Old 17th Aug 2013, 08:19
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Old 17th Aug 2013, 08:45
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Last edited by airborne_artist; 17th Aug 2013 at 08:45.
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Old 17th Aug 2013, 10:57
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Was always fond of Jack when I often bumped into him at Wittering for the 899 NAS students' 'strips course', especially his love of extremely hot and spicy food! Stomach of steel and a wonderful sense of humour. RIP to a truly inspirational character that was taken too soon.

PS - I don't think you'll be short of dits on 7500 (that was one of Jack's name badges - SSR code for 'Hi-Jack')
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Old 19th Aug 2013, 16:53
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Thank you all for your recollections of 'Jack'.

I hope that it is OK with you if I may use some of the 'dits' in my piece about him. If you do have any objections, or you would like to add more, please let me know.

Thank you once again....
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Old 20th Aug 2013, 09:58
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OK, here's a good one.
Jack and I went through RAF Valley together on the Hawk.
We had all been down to the pub after a fairly hectic Friday afternoon "barrel" in the mess. Jack seemed to have hollow legs but I swear he had had at least 7 or 8 pints during the evening but seemed totally unaffected! He was driving quite briskly back to base at the end of the evening with us in another car in short trail. In those days he drove an incredibly clapped out Renault (I think).
Speeding around a corner which happened to be the well known location of a "Viet Taff" pub he broadsided some poor bloke pulling out of the pub car park. Jack stopped to see what the damage was but on seeing a mass exodus from the pub of extremely irate Viet Taff decided the best thing to do was make a break for it!. He was quickly chased down by some more Viet Taff who had by now got in their vehicles and hauled back to the pub car park for reckoning. I distinctly remember thinking things were about to get really ugly.
Luckily, at that moment the police turned up and both Jack and the guy he had driven in to were promptly breathalized.
Incredibly, Jack passed!!! The other guy didn't!
Never seen anything like it. We quickly went on our way and gave the area a wide berth for the next few months.

Last edited by Edmund Spencer; 20th Aug 2013 at 12:49.
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Old 20th Aug 2013, 11:54
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I had the pleasure of serving with Jack in Ark Royal ('87-'89 ish) and enjoyed his company immensely. The old saying "They broke the mould when...." most certainly applied to him and, unlike some of his colleagues, there were no airs and graces, what you saw was what you got!

Two things spring to mind: the first was his uncanny ability to avoid being detected, by the ever patrolling XO, having a kip in his cabin, at any time of the day. Clues that alerted the XO were the closed door of a cabin also in darkness. So Jack used to leave his door open with just the curtain pulled across, leave the lights on and pull the neatly arranged bed clothes/duvet completely over him (rumour has it the he had removed some of the central bed springs to reduce the profile!). I don't recall him ever being busted - well not for that sin anyway!;

the second relates to one of his few failings - he was rubbish at poker (5 card draw, dealers choice on wild cards etc.)! To cut a long story short, during a game initiated by a certain 848 B Flt looker (after a serious lunchtime sesh at anchor off the Yorkshire coast), having started out playing for pennies we ended up with a max bet per person per hand of 20. By the end of the afternoon/evening Jack owed lots! I was happy, however, to accede to his request not to cash his cheque (for more than 100) until the beginning of the following month!!

Good luck with the book, lmgaylard
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Old 20th Aug 2013, 22:51
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Invincible, 1996

I had the pleasure of working with Jack during a 4 month stint on R05.

Coming towards the end of our tour, it occurred to me that I'd not seen a single SHAR land so, I popped up to Flyco and asked permission to take a look and get some pics.

Jack London was the second jet to approach the deck however, from the offset, things looked rather different from the first landing I'd just watched.

As he came to the transition to the hover, he didn't seem slow down much and maintained a healthy overtake on the carrier. Unfortunately, he did descend and disappeared from view. I will never forget the site of a WAFU waiving at him as he vanished. About a second later, jack reappeared courtesy of Martin Baker and promptly vanished again, this time into the water.

He subsequently drank like a fish on 2 deck. Hosted by most messes!!!! Utter legend.

A couple of days later, we went alongside in Gibraltar. Jack made an appearance in several bars dressed like Elvis. I will never forget looking across at the good looking , as he sang on karaoke, thinking 'good looking lad, harrier pilot, absolute gent AND he can sing like a star...' Slightly envious eyes from many of the lads.

Without exception, everybody on that ship loved him. I never heard a bad word said about him.
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Old 20th Aug 2013, 23:43
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Jack was also a Sea King pilot

I served with Jack on 826 NAS C Flight in 1984 in RFAs Fort Austin and Tidespring during the early Falkland patrols. He was an interesting character to us Observers.

Wound the senior pilots up a treat and was always good for a evening session to make what was a fairly dull deployment more interesting. I always thought that he was destined for great things.

Sadly missed.
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Old 21st Aug 2013, 20:13
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Great story...

Are you sure this was 'Jack'?
From my records of Sea Harrier ejections this would appear to be Lt Blackburn who suffered engine failure whilst in the hover alongside HMS Invincible in XZ492 on 10th December 1996.

Just checking...

Thank you....
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Old 21st Aug 2013, 23:45
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My final day in service was also Lt Cdr London's. I had just put the Op Fresco fire fighting det at Brampton to bed and returned to Wittering that morning when the crash alarm went; we were practically first there, my senses are still vivid with the shocking suddenness and violence of the event. I remember a young female LAC photog shaking and crying her eyes out but soldiering on because someone said that is what someone with his sense of professionalism would have wanted. I remember there was talk that Lt Cdr London stayed with the jet as it took off, allowing the student (?) to eject but thereby reducing his chances of survival to zero as the aeroplane rolled (out of trim?) towards the ground. The other pilot landed in the field just outside the wire I think. I started 12 months leave later that day - no beer, no celebrations.. who could possibly feel anything other than complete sadness? Universally, no one had a bad word to say about Lt Cdr London - whenever I very occasionaly saw him in Ops or taking a short cut through the section, he seemed 'just' a genuinely nice guy and his professional reputation of course, was beyond compare. An awful day.
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Old 22nd Aug 2013, 00:49
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Oh, now I have an element of doubt in my mind....

I shall take your word for it, t'was a long time ago.
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Old 22nd Aug 2013, 10:07
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PP - It was Blackers that jumped out that day. Due to launch as a 4-ship, one of the jets went US on start, so the returning order was Blackers as No 1, Tinsel as No 2 (who subsequently had to overshoot and ultimately land with very little left in the tank) and Jack as No 3.

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Old 22nd Aug 2013, 12:10
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Took me to post #16 to realise it was the Jack London I knew. I only met the guy a few times while he was on SeaKing. A maverick if ever I met one and very very likeable guy.
I didnt realise he had died. What year was it? What was he flying?
RIP you old bugger.
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Old 22nd Aug 2013, 12:20
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Navy's best pilot killed in Harrier training crash - Telegraph
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