You may think having organised a 3,000-strong Diamond Jubilee Parade for Her Majesty the Queen or attending the wedding of a future King would be the highlight of anyone's RAF career. Not so, for RAF Benevolent Fund Controller Air Vice-Marshal David Murray being part of a dangerous mission to Sierra Leone will be remembered as his RAF100 'centenary moment'.
The Sierra Leone situation was a tricky one, we were sent in to evacuate ex-pats when the country's volatile political atmosphere threatened to explode. What we actually ended up doing was returning the country to stability, for the first time in decades.
I was a Wing Commander, working at PJHQ at RAF Northwood, on African operations. It was due to be my 40th birthday and I had a big family party planned when my boss called me into his office...
Instead of joining my family and friends – who still had the party incidentally – I was on a plane out to Freetown in Sierra Leone to help organise the rescue of several hundred British nationals. The rebels would come into the town, walking about with machetes chopping arms and legs off randomly. The country had been in turmoil for decades with political instability and the rebels were stripping all the country's natural assets.
When my boss at the time, Brig David Richards arrived he saw immediately we could do something with the assets we had on the ground, something more than simply rescuing the stranded Brits. I helped to plan the 'stability operation' employed by British troops, Army, Navy and Air Force.
We brought about real change – quickly. Change that is still evident today as the country remains at peace. I was part of a successful force for good.
I joined the RAF in 1979, aged just 19 and I believed then, as the working class son of a union man, who became an officer, that the RAF is a real meritocracy. No matter where you come from, if you work hard enough you will get on in the Air Force. If you are good enough, you are good enough, it does not matter what your background is.