RAF 100: Airforce photographer inspired by parent's warime stories
PUBLISHED: 11:00 16 July 2018
Corporal Kevan Loosely dreamed of being in the RAF when he listened as a child to his parents tell stories of pilots defending the skies above Britain in World War Two.
“They talked of the RAF defending them. That’s where my fascination came from,” Corp Loosely – from Plashet Park, East Ham – said.
He shared the story of his mum Doreen getting pinned to a wall after a World War Two bomb blast blew in the bedroom window of her Sutton Court Road home when she was 10-years-old.
“It was literally terrifying for her,” Corp Loosely said.
At 14 Corp Loosely joined the Air Taining Corps before fulfilling his childhood ambition, joining the RAF as a photogrpaher in 1977 aged 17 before going on to work in supplies transportation on Hercules and VC10 airliners.
“It was the only job I seriously thought of looking at,” he said.
He explained that his dad Kenneth was over the moon when he enlisted after his own health meant he was unable to complete national service.
Corp Loosely’s first posting was at RAF Lyneham. He recalled the day the Falklands War began in April 1982.
“We had been watching the international situation get very uncomfortable, but we thought it would be solved diplomatically.
“When they announced hostilities we thought, ‘Blimey, we better get our lunch’,” he joked.
He explained a job in the RAF can be dangerous, going on to describe a former colleague who survived being hit by a moving propeller while trying to remove the chocks from under a plane’s landing gear. He was also injured in Norway when part of a helicopter he was unloading hit him on the head.
But he added life inside the service is entirely different to the outside world.
“Servicemen are kinder. There’s a greater degree of trust. I fully approve of queen and country but at the end of the day you’re looking out for the man or woman who’s looking out for you.
“Civvy street is too cynical and selfish,” Corp Loosely said.
Now aged 59 and having served in the Falklands and Bosnia, Corp Loosely is up for retirement next year. But he is not looking forward to it. His love of the RAF was so strong he went back to it in 2005 after defence cuts saw him leave in 1999.
Between the years he worked at his wife Alexandra’s Barking Road store, The Doctor Who shop. He is now a recruiter based at RAF Northolt.
With 40 years’ experience, Corp Loosely – who besides serving his country has been in TV shows The Weakest Link, Eastenders and The Bill as well as movies including an appearance in war film His Darkest Hour – has seen many changes.
“Since the end of the Cold War the airforce has been cut down drastically. There’s been a massive difference in manpower. We used to have bases all over Germany. They have now closed.
“The Harrier jump jet has gone. Vulcan bombers have gone. But new things have come in,” he said.
Corp Loosely joins hundreds of colleagues parading through central London on July 10 to celebrate the RAF’s 100th anniversary.
“We’re all proud of what we do,” he said. “We chose to do this. You do the job because it’s something you care about. It’s something worthwhile. No two days are ever the same. It’s given me a sense of purpose. It isn’t a job. It’s a way of life.
“It has more than lived up to my childhood expectations,” he said.
And one poignant moment came in summer 2016 when Corp Loosely got to take the controls of the model of plane which defended his mum, dad and millions of others during World War Two – the Supermarine Spitfire.
He said: “It was a beautiful, little machine. It helped protect my mum and dad. I’d seen them hundreds of times, but to fly one was absolutely amazing.”