A Bear & A Meerkat

This story started in early summer when Sgt Tracey Jackson and Sgt Sam Gilbert were detached out of area.

An idea was born by Flt Lt Victoria Davies that interacted with both Tracey and Sam’s daughters; we would take a toy of each child’s choice and photograph them in different locations. This would be our conduit to maintaining contact with both the service person and the family – a sort of “postcard from the toy’s travels” idea. Each week passed and Mishka Meerkat (Tracey) and Rocko Bear (Sam) were duly photographed in places such as the Station Commander’s office, on a boat on the Solent, and with TV personality David Jason when he visited the station. My turn came and the following story gives a brief account of my time with Mishka and Rocko.

The mist is lying low in the Severn Valley as I look out of the window in Oldbury Wells and the sun has just started glinting through as I set off from a friend’s house with a bear and a meerkat in my rucksack.

We track down a path towards the station and loco shed at Bridgnorth, where the A1 pacific engine TORNADO – the latest steam locomotive to be built – is stabled. By the time we arrive, the mist has lifted and the sun is shining; the whistle sounds, the cylinder cocks open and Tornado moves off from the shed. Rocco & Mishka are sat on the station railings waiting to be photographed by the name plate, which has the station crest of RAF Cottesmore above the name – a nice link considering the purpose of the photograph.

Tornado leaves in a cloud of steam for Kidderminster. Rocco, Mishka and I travel on the next train down the line to Hampton lode in order to meet GWR King class Locomotive, KING EDWARD I. The Media and Communications Officer at RAF High Wycombe had arranged a photo shoot with Richard Abbey, Chairman of the KING EDWARD I preservation society. I met Richard at Kidderminster with Rocco & Mishka in tow. Putting Rocco on the manifold above the firebox hole, where the loco crew normally put their Billy cans to keep their tea warm, nearly resulted in a burnt backside for the poor bear, we then sat the bear and meerkat together on the drivers seat.

The whole week-end was a great success with the bear and the meerkat, and was made possible with the help of the crews of the Severn Valley Railway, and MCO at RAF High Wycombe. Special thanks must go to the Chairman of the KING EDWARD I Preservation Society Mr Richard Abbey. You all made two children and their parents very happy, thank you!