Flight Lieutenant Ellie Hoogewerf, pictured, grew up in Luxembourg and today flies a Puma HC2 for the RAF
Photo: Ellie Hoogewerf
Flight Lieutenant Ellie Hoogewerf, who grew up in Luxembourg, talks about being a woman in the Royal Air Force (RAF), its centenary celebrations and connections with Luxembourg.
Jess Bauldry: Hello Ellie, where are you from and what is your role with the RAF?
Flight Lieutenant Ellie Hoogewerf: I was born and brought up in Luxembourg. I attended Bertrange village primary school followed by the Lycée Vauban in Luxembourg, then went on to study Mathematics and Italian at the University of St Andrews before joining the RAF as a pilot. I now fly the Puma HC2, a medium support helicopter specialising in urban operations. I am a training captain and instrument rating examiner with circa 2000 hours, currently deployed on my 4th tour to Afghanistan in support of Op Resolute Support, where we provide safe conduct for NATO and FCO personnel in and around Kabul.
JB: Why did you join the RAF?
EH: I decided to take a year out before university to get my private pilot’s licence, which I did out of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. I had a fantastic introduction to flying and was firmly bitten by the bug. Whilst at university, I joined the University Air Squadron, a part of the RAF Volunteer Reserve Force which gives you an introduction to flying within the military. I did this mainly to keep my licence going and build on my flying experience, but I enjoyed the military environment so much that I ended up joining the RAF full time on completion of my degree. The military fully support outdoor sports and adventurous training and encourage you to be brave. I’ve had a rewarding career to date, with operational tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, exercises in Kenya, Jordan, within the Arctic Circle, across Europe and the USA, as well as opportunities worldwide to represent the service playing sports. I have met some inspirational people in this time and made some very good friends.
JB: Why is it important for you that people commemorate the centenary of the RAF in Luxembourg of all places?
EH: I think there is a lovely link between the RAF and Luxembourg, originating as far as I understand in WW2 and maintained throughout the years by the Luxembourg people who helped downed RAF aircrew escape and who set up and looked after memorial sites to those who didn’t survive. This link is also preserved thanks to a rather active branch of the RAF Association in Luxembourg. Commemorating the centenary of the RAF is a way of remembering the last 100 years and in particular remembering those few to whom we owe so much. Luxembourg continues to be an outstanding host to the UK military and joining the celebrations of this proud moment in the history of the RAF perhaps reaffirms the rather special bond between these two countries.
JB: Can you tell us more about the baton relay that is going on in the UK to mark the RAF centenary.
EH: The baton relay is a 100-day event which will see the baton being passed to each RAF location across the UK and worldwide. It is a proud moment for those participating in it and it is a celebration of the inspirational spirit of the people that make up the RAF, a spirit that according to Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, Chief of the Air Staff, is still as strong today as it was a century ago.
JB: 2018 also marks the centenary of the founding of what is today the Women's Royal Air Force. What's it like being a woman in the RAF?
EH: For my part, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in the RAF. The aircrew branch is still predominantly male, roughly 1 female in 20, but I feel that I work on equal terms with my male colleagues and it is perfectly normal for a girl to be in my role. I have found the RAF to be a great employer of females; the pay system is equal and fair, which is particularly relevant in today’s climate, with generous maternity benefits and plenty of opportunities to channel ambition. It thrives on a team atmosphere and I firmly believe each individual, whether male or female, has something to bring to the table.