Red Arrows past and present gather for 60th anniversary at Cleethorpes Armed Forces Day

(l-r) Andy Cole, an engineer from 1999-2004, Dicky Patounas, Red 1 leader from 2005-2006, and Ian Wright, an engineer from 1991-2002
-Credit: (Image: North East Lincs Council)

Red Arrows past and present have come together in Cleethorpes to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the display team. Engineers and pilots watched the team’s display at Cleethorpes Armed Forces Day.

Formed in 1964, the current Royal Air Force Red Arrows display team, based at RAF Waddington, took to the skies over the weekend in an impressive display over Cleethorpes beach. To mark this poignant year, they carried out a 25-minute display, culminating in two jets writing a 60 in the sky using smoke trails.

The display was watched by thousands who lined the streets to catch a glimpse of what is widely referred to as the greatest aerobatic display team in the world. Also watching on were a number of former Red Arrows pilots and engineers who have worked on the team spanning over a 59-year period. In a special reunion, members of the Red Arrows Association (RAA) were invited to attend the event held at the Knoll over the weekend, organised by RAA member and former Engineering controller Gavin Marshall.


Amongst them was engineer Bill Green and fitter Mike Souter who worked with the team in 1965 and from 1968 to 1972 respectively. Bill began his career in the RAF at Little Rissington, Gloucestershire, in 1963, spending two years with the Red Pelicans who were one of many display teams prior to the formation of the Red Arrows.

Eventually, Bill was selected to be part of the Red Arrows engineering team, something he looks back on with delight.

(l-r) Bill Green, an engineer since 1965, and Mike Souter, a fitter from 1968-1972.
(l-r) Bill Green, an engineer since 1965, and Mike Souter, a fitter from 1968-1972. -Credit:North East Lincs Council

He said: “It was great fun and everything I had ever dreamt it would be.”

Asked about some of his greatest memories, Bill stuck to a mantra that many of the team follow, saying: “What happens in the team stays in the team, but it’s a year I remember very fondly. I don’t regret a single moment of it.”

However, in his role as engineer, he didn’t solely work on the aircraft.

“The ground crew were also the people who gave feedback to the pilots after a flight. Being up in the sky, they’ve no idea how they performed so we would have to tell them how they got on. Sometimes they would come back grumpy thinking they’d done a bad job when actually they’d performed well and other times it was the opposite.”

The day was made even more special for him by watching his beloved Red Arrows perform right in front of his eyes.

“I was really looking forward to watching them perform. It always makes me happy seeing them in the sky.”

Meanwhile, “fitter” Mike was selected to be part of the team back in 1968, staying with them for a period of four years.

“When I was told the news, I was over the moon. In my first two years I organised a number of things for the engineers before spending the next two years as part of the “Circus”.”

Those in the Circus sit in the back of each Red Arrow jet while it’s in flight and are tasked with the service and maintenance of a specific plane for the display season.

Mike said: “To be in the air with them was quite the experience. The camaraderie between everyone was just amazing.”

He added: “If I could do it all over again, I certainly would.”

Also at the reunion was former Red 1 and leader of the Red Arrows from 2005 to 2006 Dicky Patounas. Prior to that, Dicky spent three years on the team from 1998-2000 in his first stint with the team including a year as Synchro leader.

His success didn’t come by chance though, he said: “Getting to this point involved a lot of hard work at school and every step after that. When I joined the RAF, I trained to be a fighter pilot and after 10 years in that role I had built up my experience and was selected to be a wingman for the Red Arrows.”

Spending three years in the role, Dicky then left to continue with the RAF before being promoted.

“After this, I was able to apply to join the team again and was lucky enough to be chosen as Red One for the display season in 2005-2006. When you’re told you’re going to lead the team, it fills you with pride, but also trepidation of needing to deliver such high standards with everyone looking at you. It’s a huge challenge, but one that’s highly rewarding too.”

He added: “It isn’t just the pilots that make it work, there is a whole team of engineers, fitters and much more that make everything come together.”

Having spent a number of years with the team, Dicky has a whole host of amazing memories. ”Some of my best moments include leading the team down the Mall for the Queen’s Birthday and the display we carried out for our 40th anniversary.”

However, some of his favourite moments had nothing to do with flying.

“I used to love speaking to people, both young and old. We would go to Great Ormond Street Hospital at Christmas and speak to children and even engage with the Royals at certain events.

"I really enjoyed visiting the children, seeing us made their day and it was a way for the team to inspire a younger generation. As well as being enjoyable, it was an incredibly humbling experience that I never forgot. I look back on it all with such fondness.”

These were just three members of the former teams, many of whom came to Cleethorpes over Armed Forces weekend for the special reunion to mark the 60th anniversary year.

If you want to find out more about the Red Arrows or their displays through the year, visit