Flying dentist tests skills in RAF reservists drill

Edinburgh RAF reservists Flt Lt Fiona Wright and SAC Craig Young with the RAF100 flag
Edinburgh RAF reservists Flt Lt Fiona Wright and SAC Craig Young with the RAF100 flag
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SHE is a dentist in civilian life. He is a civilian paramedic.

But these two Edinburgh RAF reservists have learned winter survival skills in the mountains of Norway and followed in the footsteps of famous wartime raiders who stopped the Nazi atomic bomb programme.

Fiona Wright, 28, and Craig Young, 30, both serve with Number 612 Squadron at RAF Leuchars, as dentist and part-time nurse respectively.

They joined 50 other RAF Reservists on Exercise Wintermarch to learn Nordic skiing, how to survive an avalanche and how to deal with extreme cold from members of the Norwegian military.

Craig, a former James Gillespie’s High School pupil, said: “I’ve been looking for a challenge and this was just right. I’d never skied before coming here but it looked awesome – and it has been. It’s stretched me and the instructors have been fantastic.”

Former Strathaven Academy pupil Fiona, who is a Flight Lieutenant, added: “I joined the RAF Reserves because I wanted to meet new people and learn new skills that weren’t clinical. This exercise has given me a great opportunity to share experiences and make new friends as well – it’s been brilliant.”

The airmen and women of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force were based at Rjukan, 100 miles north of the capital Oslo. The town is also the site of the wartime Telemark raid which saw saboteurs dropped by the RAF destroy a factory making vital parts for the Nazi effort to build an atomic bomb.

The students learned more about the operation with a talk from a close friend of one of the saboteurs and a visit to the museum built on the site of the raid.

The skills used by the saboteurs in cross-country skiing and winter survival are the same as those taught by the Norwegian instructors. Participants finished the gruelling week with a cross-country skiing race.

Senior Aircraftman (SAC) Young said: “It was incredible to learn about the raid. I was just speechless by the end of the talk – what they achieved was incredible.”

The officer leading the expedition, Flight Lieutenant Rosie Gilmore said: “The RAF Reserves have been coming to Rjukan to train for many years and we’ve had a fantastic week here. The guys have got so much out of it. It’s hard work, but they all help each other and you can see that they’ve given their all but they’ve had a great time.”

The exercise comes at an important time for the RAF in its centenary year.

For Norwegians the Telemark raid holds a similar place as the Battle of Britain does here and represents their own ‘finest hour’.

Norwegian airmen served in RAF squadrons as they fought to defeat Germany and free their homeland and both are also founder members of NATO.