107 Aberdeen Squadron Air Cadets
Location: Activities -> Exercise Saltire Star - Diary

Exercise Saltire Star - Diary

21 July 2008 - THE END

At 0900hrs this morning we arrived back at Aberdeen airport; The cadets and staff said their farewells and thus the expedition was over.

Twelve months of hard work, planning, fund raising, negotiating and researching have allowed 107 (Aberdeen) Squadron to complete our first overseas expedition. An expedition to West Africa might seem rather ambitious for our first venture overseas but it represents the strength, dedication and enthusiasm of all members of our squadron (cadets, staff, civilian committee) and the unstinting support of parents.

Exercise Saltire Star was an overwhelming success. We achieved each of our expedition aims to a higher standard than anyone might have imagined prior to our departure. We learned valuable and life-influencing lessons throughout our two weeks in Ghana and all our expedition members will undoubteldy reflect on their experiences for many months and years to come.

Some will remember most their time spent at Redemption Children's Home, some will never forget seeing elephants in the forests and around the water holes of Mole National Park. Some will always remember Ghana as a safe & welcoming country. Some will always question the conditions at Kumasi Zoo or the righteousness (or otherwise!?) of the 'charismatic' preacher at Sunday's church service.

For me, I will remember the kindness of Ghanaians and their willingness to become a modern country - but I know it will take decades to erradicate the poverty we witnessed in some places - especially the town of Elmina. I will remember the new friendships we made, especially at Redemption and Land Tours and I will always smile when I reminisce the time when that Baboon stole my coke by the pool at Mole or when I was handed a microphone and asked to address a church congregation of more than a thousand worshipers in Accra!!

Most importantly, we returned safely and without serious illness or injury.

On behalf of the expedition staff, please accept my sincere thanks to all those who worked to make this expedition a reality and my biggest ""AHOOYAYA"" to all our expedition cadets who rose to the occasion and made the expedition one which we will never forget.

Entered by: Flt Lt Lumsden, Exped Leader     21st July 2008 8:17 pm
20th July 2008 - Church service and end of expedition

Today we attended a service of several hundred people at the Royal House Chapel which was unlike anything we had experienced before.

Shortly after we had arrived the congregation was asked for there any people who had not attended before to stand up. They announced who we were and invited us on stage. Flt Lt Lumsden was asked to say a few words then a few others were asked to sum up their experience of Ghana in a couple of words.

We looked on as the service progressed with choirs and charismatic preachers and plenty of congregation interaction with them. Members of the congregation who had health problems such as sore necks, aches and pains, kidney problems etc. were asked to come forward and the Apostle carried out some faith healing before our eyes.

After the service we were taken to a hotel to relax by the pool for six hours before boarding the coach to the airport.

Entered by: CI Alan Whitehead     20th July 2008 5:10 pm
19th July 2008 - Sports day and formal dinner

We woke at 5:15am for our sports day with the NCCG. This started with a parade of 7 NCCG units and ourselves which was inspected by Flt Lt Lumsden and Ghanaian footballer Odarty Lamptey.

Almost all our group took part in a football match which we lost heavily but Cdt Henderson scored a consolation goal.

This was followed by several games of volleyball and other activities.

The cadets interacted well with the NCCG and distributed Air Cadet pens, pencils and rulers.

In the evening we went to the Accra Air Force base for a formal reception and presentation with the local Wing Commander.

Since we have seen, done and learned so much we seem to have been here for ages. We will take home fond memories of the people and culture of Ghana. I can't believe that we are going home tomorrow night!

Special thanks must go to Michael and David of Land Tours who went out of their way to help make the expedition run like clockwork. We struck up a very good relationship with them over the time we have been travelling.

Entered by: CI Alan Whitehead     20th July 2008 4:51 pm
18th July 2008 - NCCG school visit and shopping

NCCG school visit and last minute souvenirs
We arrived at the Aggrey Memorial Secondary School and met with two units of Army Cadets. In the school hall the staff and NCCG officers took the stage with all the cadets the seated in front of them. The visit started with individual introductions by each of the NCCG and 107 (Aberdeen) Squadron cadets and this was then followed by a speech by a NCCG officer and a reply by Flt Lt Lumsden.

The NCCG sang their National Anthem and we replied with “Flower of Scotland”. After some more chanting and singing by the NCCG, we provided a drill demonstration and, not to be outdone, the NCCG then put on a fine display themselves. Both groups of cadets then spent time mixing and even exchanging email addresses before the final presentation and group photo sessions.

To round of the afternoon we arrived in back Accra and visited the Accra Craft Market for some last minute bargaining practice and souvenirs.

Entered by: CI Alan Whitehead     18th July 2008 11:48 pm
17th July 2008 - Day in Elmina

Cadets were woken at 7:00 am for some necessary drill practice in preparation for Saturday with National Cadet Corps of Ghana.

The excursion for the day started with a guided tour round the Elmina Castle which had a harrowing and moving history due to the slave trade. Since being built by the Portuguese it was then taken by the Dutch before being handed over to the British. This was enjoyed by the cadets and provided photo opportunities.

We then were given a guided tour of Elmina town by Michael, our bus guide. Elmina was expected to be relatively modern and tourist friendly but due to the heat and open sewers, the cadets felt quite the opposite.

After boarding the bus again we made a short trip to Coconut Grove for a rewarding time in the pool and at the beach. This was paradise and a welcoming time to relax together.

Entered by: CI Alan Whitehead     18th July 2008 11:46 pm
Expedition report voted the best by the group

By Cdt E Chalmers and Cpl R Dick

Visiting Redemptions Children Home was one of the most fulfilling activities we took part in in our expedition to Ghana. Redemption is located in the town of Damongo in North Ghana. Our group of 20 cadets and staff arrived on the fifth day of our trip and were warmly welcomed by a wave of smiling children and Pastor Abraham. They greeted us with a heart warming song. Pastor Abraham kindly introduced us to everyone working at the home, the children and the babies. However most of us instantly became attached to the kids.

The Children’s home was a complete culture shock for every member of our expedition because it was hard to know what to expect before we arrived.

Five plain buildings was all that stood before us. Even though Redemption looked basic it seemed to have pretty much everything it needed to keep fifty (now fifty-one) children happy and healthy.

No time was wasted. Half of the group immediately began to paint the outside of the bland buildings green. The other half of us got started on helping to look after the babies and young children as the older children were in school. Looking after the babies sounds easy but we believe it used more energy than painting.

Just walking about the area around the children was fascinating. It’s amazing to see how content the children are at Redemption. It makes you feel so spoilt. Some of the children have been through so much yet they still seem so happy and at home. It really touches your heart. However some of the children were less enthusiastic to communicate with us because we appeared unfamiliar to them. We made a special effort with these children and when they chuckled after playing a game, our hard work felt rewarding.

Leaving the children was one of the hardest things we had to do on the trip yet knowing that all the kids are loved and cared for by Pastor Abraham and his workers made it a lot easier. We will never forget the experiences we had at Redemption and we hope that they will never forget us.

Entered by: CI Alan Whitehead     18th July 2008 11:44 pm
16th July 2008 - Kakum National Park

We travelled from Kumasi to Kakum National Park in a rain forest where the 350m canopy walkway is the longest in the world and 40m off the ground at the highest point. There are seven linked narrow roped walkways which swung about at bit but all managed to get to the end. The tree dwelling inhabitants were all nocturnal, but the view was good though.

Then we went on to Cape Coast to the University for the night. The seven pairs of cadets were given a task to write a report on an assigned part of the expedition which was to be ready for breakfast. The one voted the best was to be put on the website diary…

Entered by: CI Alan Whitehead     18th July 2008 11:40 pm
TUESDAY 15 JULY - The Long Road South

We got up very early this morning - at about 4am, packed the bus and left Mole National Park by 5am to start the long journey south to Kumasi. The road south is "bush road" for a few hours with red dusty sand before reaching tarmac roads at "Buipe". All along the road are scattered dozens and dozens of mud houses and was very interesting to see at sunrise.

After a few short stops along the road we arrived at Kumasi Zoo (!! how ironic to visit a Zoo in Africa !!). Most cadets did not enjoy this but perhaps gave an insight into another world. We then travelled a short distance to the Cultural Centre of Kumasi where a few cadets/staff bought some more crafts. Before arriving at our hotel we stopped for an hour at at Ghana Military Museum at Kumasi Fort. This was very interesting and very professionally presented...

Today has been a long day but quite cool on our air conditioned coach. We arrived at the hotel at around 5pm and enjoyed another great feast in the early evening.

The first real rain we have seen started today whilst we were an hour or two North of Kumasi. David, our driver, did a great job and is an excellent driver. Michael, our tour guide, has been busy keeping us informed and well briefed on all the relevant sights along the way.

Tomorrow we are off to Cape Coast and Kakum National Park for a rain forest experience - and another early start to the day - breakfast at 7am. We will try and update whilst in Cape Coast over next few days.

Entered by: Flt Lt Lumsden, Exped Leader     15th July 2008 11:28 pm
MONDAY 14 JULY - Elephant Spotting

Today we got up early for a 7.30am start to our safari/trek into the Mole National Park. Within moments of starting we saw one elephant, then another, then a few more - and at very close range (20m ish!!). Our armed ranger than escorted us deeper into the park and across to one of the watering holes. Lots more wild animals were seen including more elephants, Kob, Water Bok, Warthog, Lizards, Baboons & Monkeys. After trek we went to Mognori Eco Village for a tour of a settlement of 600 people living in "mud houses" and eating and trading off the land. We were then treated to a short canoe trip down the local river...

In the late afternon we all took a dip in the swimming pool at Mole Motel. Whilst bathing a sneaky baboon came across to the pool edge and stole my coca cola bottle which was sitting beside me!! Needless to say I was observed by all making some shreaking noise and jumping into the pool!

A really fun day was had by all, temperatures reached 39 degrees but everyone staying as healthy as possible in the blistering heat.

Entered by: Flt Lt Lumsden, Exped leader     15th July 2008 11:16 pm
Sunday 13th - The Mole Motel

The expedition party have now arrived at the Mole National Park for some trekking and wildlife spotting. Weather has been very hot, however no cases of sunburn and everyone is fit and in good spirits. Seasoned travellers to Africa had warned everyone could expect at least one bout of upset stomach but so far 4 cadets and 2 staff have had mild cases and recovered quickly. Everyone now enjoying some R&R before returning South and a busy last few days.

Entered by: G McKenzie - Civ Comm Chairman     14th July 2008 7:29 am
Sunday 13th -News Just In

The expedition now has access to a local mobile SIM so Flt Lt Lumsden was able to call with an update. The four days of work at Redemption Children's Home went very well with cadets completing a great deal of painting work on the buildings as well as working with the children Before leaving, the expedition party presented the home with a gift of money to help with their work and they also attended a Durbar ceremony where they met the local cheif.

Entered by: G McKenzie - Civ Comm Chairman     14th July 2008 7:23 am

I'm sitting here in our hotel reception with CI Whitehead battling with the internet connection. You will see that our updates are not possible on a daily basis but we will catch up when we can.

Today we have just had breakfast and are now boarding coach to Kintampo Waterfalls and eventually Damongo and the Redemption Children's Home.

We'll probably be without internet connection for the next few days so we will update diary later.

Weather today expected to get much hotter as we journey north.

That's all for now....

Entered by: Flt Lt Lumsden, Exped Leader     9th July 2008 9:02 am

Tuesday was a long drive to Kumasi, the second largest city in Ghana. We visited three craft villages to see traditional cloth being weaved and printed before visiting a wood carvings market. EVERYONE managed to buy at least something small after a bit of haggling with the vendors - some members manged to buy loads !! Bartering and haggling with the vendors is a stressfull affair - dozens and dozens of sellers all competing for our personal space!!

We found a fairly decent truck stop for lunch and everyone scoffed a pizza and bottle of fizz. Prices in Ghana for food and drink are not as cheap as you might expect... a 12" pizza is USD10...blimey.

The roads were almost 100% tarmac until we ventured off the main highway when bumpy dirt tracks were found.

Not much rain so far, first downpour was today and lasted about 10-15 mins.

Arrived McKeown hotel safely and everyone is well.

Entered by: Flt Lt Lumsden, Exped Leader     9th July 2008 8:49 am

Today we had a leisurely start with a small (!!) breakfast of toast and omlette before meeting Flt Lt Derek Clottey from NCCG at 1230hrs. CI Massie was logistics officer and managed to book 6 taxis to take us to Independence Arch only to be gazzumped by NCCG who managed to find us a big minibus which seated 24!! CI Massie was last seen running through the back streets with 6 taxi drivers in hot pursuit!!!! (only kidding)

Exped Leader, Fg Off Greig and Flt Lt Wujangi (NCCG) visited the Defence Attache at the British High Commission to make our introductions and all went well.

The whole group met up at Black Star Square and Independence Arch for a team photo and look at the various ceremonial architechure. We managed to get up onto the top of the arch for a 360 degree view of the huge city of Accra.

Weather on Monday was overcast in the morning and brightened up in the afternoon with temperatures up to 34 deg late in the day. Everybody managed to sweat lots !!

Sunset 1830hrs

Entered by: Flt Lt Lumsden, OIC     9th July 2008 8:36 am

After a long flight with KLM to Accra we arrived with all our luggage to be met by Land Tours and representatives from the National Cadet Corps of Ghana. Whilst the bus was loaded with our expedition kit, a few meambers and Exped Leader were interviewed by "The Chronicle" newspaper and a journalist from "Pop Radio".

Largus Fort Hotel was our home for two nights. All slept well...

Entered by: Flt Lt Lumsden, OIC     9th July 2008 8:29 am
Expedition Arrives in Ghana

News from Accra is that the expedition party arrived safe and well, with their luggage!!
Flt Lt Lumsden and Fg Off Greig visited the British High Commision today while the rest of the party had a day in Accra to acclimatise.

Entered by: G McKenzie - Civ Comm Chairman     7th July 2008 4:00 pm
Good Luck from OC Wing

Dear staff and cadets,

As your expedition draws closer to departure can I just take time to wish you all the very best in your venture – the exercise I am sure is going to provide a great opportunity for the cadets and staff involved and I hope that the hard work carried out in finalising all your plans reaps great rewards in providing an adventure which will be remembered by all concerned for many years to come.

Take care and have a great trip,

Wg Cdr J Gilbert-Stevens
OC Aberdeen & North East Scotland Wing

Entered by: OC ANES Wg     3rd July 2008 6:41 pm
Approvals in Place and Ready to Go...

Today we received our final formal approval letter from HQ Air Cadets granting us permission to fly out!! Wg Cdr Davis at HQAC wishes us a successful trip.

Our Grant of £1000 from ATC Gen Purpose Fund was handed over to Sqn Treasurer last night and our grant of £1900 from the Reserve Forces Ulysses Trust arrived today!!

There's not much left to do now. A few bits and bobs to buy (don't forget some Imodium Plus!!) and final kit check is at Sqn HQ tomorrow night at 1900hrs.

This expedition is the culmination of 18 months hard work by staff, cadets, parents & civilian committee.. not to mention the valuable support from Sqn Ldr McNeill, Wg Cdr Eveleigh, Wg Cdr Davis, National Cadet Corps of Ghana and our own Wing HQ. Land Tours and Redemption Children's Home have worked closely with us for the last 4-5 months getting us to this stage. I must also thank all our sponsors for supporting us so generously.

Expedition Saltire Star is a massive undertaking and should elevate 107 Sqn to an all-time high!

Thank you all for your efforts and I look forward to a fun-filled two weeks as Exped Leader ;-)

Entered by: OIC Expedition     3rd July 2008 6:38 pm
Welcome to our expedition diary

When we are in Ghana for Exercise Saltire Star (6th - 21st July 2008) we will periodically update this diary with our activities and experiences.

Please keep checking back for the latest news.

Entered by: CI Whitehead     2nd July 2008 11:03 pm