Beaver Hangar Falkland Islands 1980s Shrapnel Damage Credit Lt Col (Retd) James Crawford

Credit: Lt Col (Retd) James Crawford

Technology

How Black Nasty Kept An Aircraft Hangar Running For A Year In The Falklands

If you can't fix it with duct tape, you're not using enough duct tape

Beaver Hangar Falkland Islands 1980s Shrapnel Damage Credit Lt Col (Retd) James Crawford

Credit: Lt Col (Retd) James Crawford

It has been said that the British Army simply could not function without duct tape – or Black Nasty and Harry Black as it is known in the Armed Forces – and it seems it has been used for everything from helping an entire aircraft hangar stay in operation for a whole year to even removing warts. 

Keeping motorbikes running for months, patching up shoes, making quick repairs to machinery, fixing a seal on oxygen canisters for Apollo 13 astronauts, keeping an entire building dry from the ravages of South Atlantic weather – these are just some of the uses of the legendary black tape which have been reported after the Armed Forces were asked how useful it has been to them

When a tin roof is no longer watertight thanks to shrapnel from a nearby exploded bomb, exposing the hangar that provides the only workshop space to repair aircraft to the often brutal and unpredictable Falklands weather, what could mechanics turn to in an effort to fix the holes?

Something strong, reliable and that would never let them down?

Duct tape, of course.

Credit: Jumpstory

A report into the background story of duct tape asked the military community how they had used Black Nasty over the years during their time in service, which elicited many fond and entertaining responses.

Will Jeronimo Coulton, commenting on the Facebook page of veteran-owned and operated clothing company, Force Wear HQ, said: 

“If it can’t be fixed with gaffa tape & cable ties you’re obviously not using enough gaffa tape & cable ties!!”

Force Wear HQ, reposting a link to the report on forces.net, said: "The British Army simply wouldn't function without this. Those who know, know."

Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) James Crawford, who was Captain OC LAD 657 Squadron Army Air Corps between 1982 and 1984, wrote in to tell how two REME vehicle mechanics kept an entire aircraft hangar in operation for a year thanks to ‘Harry Black’ – allowing them to keep working in a maintenance and repair space that would have otherwise been unusable in the face of the weather conditions of the Falkland Islands.

Beaver Hangar Falkland Islands 1980s Shrapnel Damage Credit: Lt Col (Retd) James Crawford

Credit: Lt Col (Retd) James Crawford

At the end of the Falklands War - 74 brutal days of conflict between British and Argentinian troops over the sovereignty of the islands - 657 Squadron Army Air Corps took over the role of roulement squadron from their warfighting sister Squadron 656  just days after the ceasefire.

The squadron occupied the Falkland Island Government Air Service (FIGAS) Beaver Hangar just down the track from Port Stanley – so-called because it used to house the island’s fleet of de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver aircraft. 

However, the hangar’s tin roof and walls had been badly damaged by intense bombing during the Falklands conflict as Lt Col (Retd) Crawford explains:

"It is on record that [the Argentinians] initially used Beaver Hangar as a hospital or morgue.

"But when they closed back on Port Stanley, they were seen using it for storing war materials such as munitions so the [Royal Navy] dropped a bomb close by."

This left the hangar peppered with shrapnel holes making the building more like “a planetarium” with sunlight shining through the gaps than a waterproof workplace. Lt Col (Retd) Crawford said: 

“As was necessary, my REME ASM Barry Bertram sent two REME vehicle mechanics up onto the roof with rolls and rolls of 'Harry Black' to patch the holes over. 

“Why the vehicle mechanics .. well, we had lots of aircraft to look after but no vehicles.” 

It took two days of work in the “four-seasons-in-one-day Falklands weather” but eventually the team managed to patch up the roof well enough to keep them dry and able to work – and the patched-up repair job did the job for a whole year until the team moved to another site. Lt Col (Retd) Crawford said:

"It was a risky decision by H&S standards today as they went up on a sloping roof in gale-force winds and sometimes driving sleet and rain with a guide rope and tape.

"But the incentive for finishing the job to get back in the relative shelter did produce some very quick results."

Inside Beaver Hangar Falkland Islands 1982 Credit: Lt Col (Retd) James Crawford

Credit: Lt Col (Retd) James Crawford

Duncan Lamb from the Department of Defence, Joint Logistics Unit North in Australia, told how he had never heard the term Black Nasty for duct tape as his brother, calls it "The Force", saying: 

“Because it has both a dark and light side and it holds the universe together.” 

From his own personal experience, Duncan knows to always carry a big roll of The Force, or '100mph tape' because it is said to be able to withstand winds of 100mph, when riding his motorcycle, saying:

"Once dropped my BMW on a muddy road, cracked the fairing in five places and the old 100mph tape held together for another four months (until I could afford repairs).”

🦸‍♂️ | If you know, you know... 😏

Posted by BFBS Radio on Friday, 16 October 2020

 

Force Wear HQ's post on its Facebook page prompted a string of colourful responses.

Tangy Sorbet evoked images of movie villains silencing the good guy with a strip of duct tape across their mouth by saying:  

“It fixes everything but unfortunately you can’t fix stupid with it but it will muffle the sound."

Jon Asquith said it would be “easier to ask what I didn’t use it for,” while Robert Marshall asked: 

“Does it move? Yes. 

“Is it supposed to? No 

“Black nasty.” 

Just like Duncan Lamb, Andy Templar carries his Black Nasty with him at all times but says: 

“Note:- this does NOT form part of a ‘kit’.”

Weyland Rance, pointing out that it is not just the British Army that unofficially relies on duct tape, said: "Bodge tape. RAF couldn't function without it!"

Adding to that, Mark Evans said: "Royal Marine toolkit, a hammer and roll of Black Nasty."

Mark Kover, writing in from Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA, said Black Nasty was even "the best wart remover" there was, adding: "It will remove dug in dirt and grime from rough surfaces too.

"Boot repair: sole of one of my boots separated from the rest of the boot while working on a flight line one night. Wrapped some duct tape around it and it worked fine for the rest of the night."

The NHS actually recommends duct tape as one way of removing warts, saying it can be used as part of cryotherapy treatment, "using liquid nitrogen and occlusion with duct tape."

Credit: NASA | Duct tape used on Apollo 13

It is not just here on Earth that Black Nasty has come in useful.

Following an accident on Apollo 13, astronauts averted a potentially deadly outcome by using a spacesuit, plastic bags and cardboard - held together by everyone's go-to, jack of all trades, favourite bit of "not kit" - duct tape.

NASA engineer Ed Smylie, who designed and tested the solution back on earth, later said:

“One thing a Southern boy will never say is, ‘I don’t think duct tape will fix it.'” 

Got a story to tell about how duct tape has saved you from troubles? Let us know at [email protected] or comment on our social media pages.