On 17th January 1991, I was the pilot of a RAF Tornado GR1 on a low-level day mission against Ar Rumaylah South West airbase in Iraq on the first day of Gulf War 1. On coming off target returning to base, we were doing 550kts at approximately 50 feet when a SAM 16 exploded in our right engine and took out the fly-by-wire flight controls. Then AAA hit our right-hand wing, igniting the rocket propellant in our Sidewinder missile, shooting out a 4-metre torch of flame through the leading edge, which started to cut our wing off! We flew for approximately 3-4 minutes before the aircraft became engulfed in a ball of fire. I eased the aircraft into a climb, and we ejected at 320 feet agl. The ejection went perfectly. I was only in my parachute for 10 seconds or so before I landed on the ground. My navigator, John Nichol, landed 100 metres away. We evaded the enemy for 2-3 hours, but then were captured and spent 7 weeks as POWs in Baghdad suffering abuse throughout and during which time we were paraded bruised and battered on Iraqi TV.
The ejection seat was a last resort that I never questioned: I always expected it to work. It was quite an extraordinary life experience going to Martin-Baker’s factory in Denham and meeting the production people. A wonderful human connection where we all knew that, but for their work, I would not be standing there. So sincere thanks to everyone and I have since led a blessed life, seeing my children grow up, (they were 2 years old and 6 weeks old at the time). Upon return, I was flying again 6 weeks later and remained in the RAF for another 9 years. We wrote a best-selling book, Tornado Down about our experiences. Thank you, Martin-Baker!