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RAF Benson haul train to help charity close to heart

Day to day, personnel from RAF Benson take charge of flying Chinooks and Pumas, but earlier this month, they turned their attentions to hauling trains.

Three squadrons from the military base in South Oxfordshire gritted their teeth to tackle a charity train pull. The team of about 20 aircrew set about pulling the locomotive for one mile on the Wallingford to Cholsey heritage line.

Flight Lieutenant Al Kilday, who organised the fundraising event a fortnight ago, said: “After a few last minute engine problems, it was great to see everyone pulling together for the RAF Benevolent Fund.

RAF Benson celebrate their successful haul

"It was incredibly hard work, especially as the sun was beating down on us on the uphill sections, but it was a great sense of achievement as we reached the finish line."

The team – including Nos. 28 Squadron, 33 Squadron and 230 Squadron – battled the mammoth challenge in temperatures of up to 24C. They also hit a slight delay when they tried pulling a 50-tonne electric locomotive before realising it would not move without the power on. So in what could only be a pleasant turn for the personnel a slightly lighter train was brought in and action commenced.

RAF Benson spokeswoman Nikki Hamilton said: "We had a slight delay but everybody pulled together and got it along the track for one mile.

"They did have to pull it across the A4130 level crossing which was a bit of a wait for drivers but everyone was in good spirits about it.

"It was also slightly hotter weather than we expected so there were a few sweaty men by the end of it."

The fundraiser was all in aid of the RAF Benevolent Fund, a charity close to the team’s hearts supporting personnel, their families and veterans. The Fund has its regional offices based at RAF Benson and Ms Hamilton said it played a vital role in supporting the personnel at the base.

So far the group has raised about £400 and is still collecting donations. Fl Lt Kilday added: "Special thanks go to the Mayor and High Steward of Wallingford who both waved us off and to the families and tourists that came down to cheer us on too.

"Hopefully next year we can set an even bigger challenge with the whole station involved."

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