Ceremony Marks 95 Years of RAuxAF

RESERVISTS gathered at the National Memorial Arboretum to mark 95 years since the founding of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force.

A service attended by personnel from the 30 reserve squadrons and five associations was held at the RAuxAF’s dedicated memorial at the 150-acre Staffordshire site.

Chairman of the RAuxAF Foundation, Gp Capt Richard Mighall, said: “The men and women of today’s Royal Auxiliary Air Force are, as were their predecessors, a credit to our nation. In Winston Churchill’s words they are ‘twice the citizen’.”

The service was taken by Padre the Reverend Mike Elliott of 600 Sqn and wreaths were presented. Recently-laid memorial plaques were also dedicated to former RAuxAF personnel.

These were: Air Commodore Alex Dickson, Honorary Air Commodore, 7644 Sqn; Squadron Leader Bruce Blanche, Intelligence Officer, 2 (City of Edinburgh) Maritime HQ; Air Commodore Angus Douglas-Hamilton, 15th Duke of Hamilton, pilot and Honorary Air Commodore, 2 (City of Edinburgh) Maritime HQ; The Right Honourable Lord Monro of Langholm, pilot and Honorary Air Commodore, 2622 (Highland) Sqn; Flying Officer Neil Pearson, Ops Controller; Air Chief Marshal Sir John Barraclough, pilot and Honorary Air Commodore, 3 (County of Devon) Maritime HQ; Flight Sergeant William Webster, Air Signaller, 3603 (City of Edinburgh) Sqn; Edwin ‘Tony’ Stotesbury, 600 (City of London) Sqn Assoc; Flight Lieutenant Cameron Rennie, 7644 Sqn (Media Reserves); Senior Aircraftwoman Leanne Carroll, 605 Sqn.

Flt Lt Rennie died last year on duty. The two last RAuxAF personnel killed in action were Senior Aircraftmen Chris Dunsmore, 23, of the RAuxAF Regiment who died at Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2007, and Gary Thompson, 51, who died at Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2008

Freedom of the City of Edinburgh

On Tuesday, 3 July 2018, 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron RAuxAF received the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh

The following is the Speech made by the Lord Provost of Edinburgh to mark the occasion:

Air Marshal, Air Vice-Marshals, Members of 603 Squadron, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Freedom of the City is a tradition that, in Edinburgh, dates back over 550 years to 1459 and to date only 244 individuals and organisations have received this honour.

Today, I have the privilege to present the Award of the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh to 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron, The Royal Auxiliary Air Force.

This is a historic occasion – only the second  time that such an honour has been bestowed on an RAF Squadron anywhere in Scotland and the first organisation to receive this award in Edinburgh.

As Lord Provost of this great city of ours, I am absolutely delighted to take the opportunity to recognise the contributions and sacrifices made by all those connected with 603 Squadron since it was first established in 1925.

For Members of 603 Squadron you are granted, through this awarding of the Freedom, the Privilege of Marching through the Streets with Bayonets Fixed and Colours Flying and we await this spectacle with great anticipation!

How appropriate that we mark the history and achievements of 603 Squadron during the year of RAF 100.

Turnhouse Aerodrome was the Royal Flying Corp’s most northerly base in 1915.

When the RAF was established in 1918, Turnhouse provided a location for aircraft to land, be repaired and train from.

In 1925, 603 Squadron was formed at Turnhouse as a day bomber unit of the Auxiliary Air Force. Headquarters were also established in the community at 25 Learmonth Terrace.

The Squadron – comprising volunteers from “the city desks of Edinburgh and the fields of the Lothians” – was deemed “The Greatest Squadron of Them All” by Group Captain Bouchier, the Commanding Officer of RAF Hornchurch.

603 had Spitfires in time to intercept the first German air raid on 16 October 1939, when it shot down a Junkers bomber into the Firth of Forth. This was the first RAF victory in the Second World War.

By the end of the Battle of Britain, 603 Squadron was top scoring in the RAF, demonstrating strong local identity and strength of purpose.

Later, 603 was in action to defend Malta in 1942 under the command of Squadron Leader David Douglas-Hamilton

By winning, the fighter pilots had decisively altered the course of the war in the Mediterranean, and North Africa.

As Douglas-Hamilton said ‘it was not so much the brilliance of the few that counted as the excellence of the many.’

Today, 603 is a community of men and women, young and old whose sense of duty and courage makes us all very proud of the Squadron of the City of Edinburgh.

In 1951 Princess Elizabeth was appointed Honorary Air Commodore of 603 Squadron, a role she chose to sustain on ascending the throne in 1952.

In just a few moments, 603 will parade down the Royal Mile to be received by Her Majesty at Holyrood Palace.

Earlier this afternoon Air Marshal, and on behalf of 603 Squadron, you signed the Honorary Burgess Register, the Freedom Book.

In doing so, 603 Squadron has become an integral part of this city’s long and proud history.

The Freedom of the City of Edinburgh is the most prestigious honour bestowed upon those who are held in the highest esteem by the citizens.

Sir David, I now have the absolute pleasure of presenting you with the ‘Freedom Scroll’ and conferring on 603 Squadron – the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh.


CHEVIOT MEMORIAL

On 6th September 2018, the Patron of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force and Honorary Air Commodore of 501 (County of Gloucester) Squadronn, HRH The Duke of Gloucester, unveiled the rededicated Cheviot Memorial. AVM Sandy Hunter, former HAC of 607 Sqn, and Gp Capt Tim Wilbourne, former commanding officer of RAF Boulmer, have been planning this event for some time. The impressive memorial is a large block of engraved back granite highly polished on two sides. HRH had unveiled the original memorial 23 years ago and was delighted to be invited to unveil the rededicated memorial during a moving ceremony that remembered those aircrew who had perished on the mountain and surrounding area since before WW2″. Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton and Air Attaches from Canada, The United States and Germany laid wreaths and a Hawk from RAF Leeming flew past in salute.

The Dowding Service

On  3rd September, 2017, many gathered once again to pay tribute to Marshal of the Royal Air Force, the Lord Hugh Dowding, architect of deliverance and victory in the Battle of Britain.  Lord Dowding was born and grew up in Moffat, and it is here that his life is remembered each year around the time of the Battle of Britain.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy, former Chief of the Air Staff, laid a wreath on behalf of the Royal Air Force and gave an impressive speech recalling the impact that Dowding made on the free world.  A large number of wreaths were laid in fine weather at the Dowding Memorial in Station Park in front of a considerable number of the general public.  Fiona Armstrong, Lord Lieutenant of Dumfriesshire laid a wreath on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen.  Lord Piers Dowding and Odette, the Lady Dowding, laid wreaths on behalf of the family and the Battle of Britain Association.   Kay Hamilton, the Dowager Duchess, laid a wreath on behalf of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force.  Bob Kemp, former Inspector of the Force, said, “Moffat and Scotland are hugely proud of Lord Dowding.  In a poll a few years ago Dowding was voted as the most iconic figure from the Second World War.  There is little doubt that Lord Dowding’s plans to have a basic radar and reporting system in place to protect the south east coast and his intransigence against Churchill over allowing too many Spitfires and Hurricanes to deploy to France were pivotal in winning the Battle of Britain”.

Death of Joe Parker – 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron

The Foundation was represented today by Group Captain Bob Kemp at the funeral of Joe Parker, 602 (City of Glasgow) Sqn, who died peacefully in Erskine Hospital at the grand age of 96. Joe was one of the last Auxiliaries who served during the Battle of Britain. Throughout the Battle Joe was Sqn Ldr Archie McKellar’s fitter and armourer. Archie McKellar DSO DFC and Bar shot down 21 German aircraft before he himself was shot down and killed on the morning of 1 November 1940, a few hours after the Battle of Britain was declared over. As a result, Archie’s name does not appear on the Roll of Honour. Joe had lived in Erskine Hospital for many years and had been the ‘face’ of Erskine for the last five years appearing on television and in many promotional publications. Joe is survived by his two sons, John and Joe and by his daughter Margaret. Joe’s funeral was held in Clydebank and was very well attended by current members of 602 Sqn and their Association, Bob said after the funeral, “Joe was such a gentleman, always ready with a joke and a smile. He will be much missed by all those who knew him”.

Funeral of Sqn Ldr Nigel Rose 602 Squadron

The funeral of Sqn Ldr Nigel Rose took place yesterday at St Eigon’s Church in Llanigon, nestling in the beautiful rolling hills of Powys. One of Churchill’s ‘Few’, Nigel died recently at the age of 99.

He initially joined the RAF Volunteer Reserves before being called up for regular service at the outbreak of World War II. He trained as a Spitfire pilot, and, as a member of 602 (City of Glasgow) Sqn, took part in the Battle of Britain and went on to serve his country throughout the war. An understated and dignified man, it was only in recent years that he began to share some stories of the war with his family. One of the more noteworthy missions he took part in was in support of the delivery of a new artificial leg to Douglas Bader who was being held as a prisoner of war in occupied Europe.

On another occasion, displaying exceptional airmanship, he managed to bring his Spitfire home after being shot up over the Channel by a Messerschmitt ME 110. He landed near Chichester with no flaps, no radio and no brakes. The Spitfire was so badly damaged it took almost a year to repair.

Nigel’s daughter, Barbara Hope-Lewis (the author Barbara Erskine) paid a very moving tribute during the service to her father. Other family members participated in the service which was conducted by Father Richard Williams from St Mary’s Church at Hay-on-Wye. The Lord Lt of Powys, Dame Shân Legge-Bourke was present. Air Cdre Alan Gillespie from Air Command represented the the Prince of Wales and the Chief of the Air Staff, whilst Gp Capt Richard Mighall represented 602 Sqn and the RAuxAF Foundation. Representing the Battle of Britain Fighter Association, Gp Capt Patrick Tootal outlined Nigel’s distinguished service career. A trumpeter from the RAF Regiment played the Last Post; members of the Queens Colour Sqn were pall-bearers, and a Spitfire from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flt flew 3 flypasts before completing a climbing wing-salute farewell.

It was a fitting tribute to a remarkable man. Blue skies, Sir.

             

Crown Copyright photos

Petition for Long Service Medal

The RN/Army/RAF Long Service & Good Conduct Medal is now being awarded to officers after 15 years’ service (with clasps for each successive 10 years) – albeit only for those who served after 29 Jul 2014.

This arbitrary qualification date has upset many who retired prior to that date and who consider it discriminatory. A Petition to Parliament to review the decision has been started and details can be found at:

http://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/187598

Group Captain Peter Harris CBE AE BSc CEng FIEE

6 September 1929 –16 January 2017

A chartered engineer who successfully combined a career in industry with being a part-time airman

OBITUARY

Having been dissuaded by his father from applying for a regular commission in the Royal Air Force, Peter Harris went on to pursue a successful career in the electronics engineering industry, and simultaneously to devote much of his spare time to the Reserve Forces, which he served modestly and with distinction. Although none of his superiors in GEC ever openly questioned him as to where his primary loyalties lay, he did himself sometimes wonder which activity was the more satisfying.

Peter Harris was born in Eastbourne on 6 September 1929, the eldest son of a bank official who was destined to become a leading member of society in the town later in life. His early education followed the peregrinations of his father, and included a wartime evacuation year at Llandovery College, but eventually he went to Roborough School, Eastbourne, from where he won an Open Scholarship to St. Edward’s School, Oxford, having been just pipped to a Barclays Bank Scholarship. During National Service in the Royal Air Force from 1947 to 1949, he developed interests in both radar engineering and aviation, which were to determine the course of his life thereafter. He had won a State Scholarship from school, tenable not at Cambridge as was his great hope, but at the University of Birmingham, to which he went up in 1949 to read Electrical Engineering under the tutelage of Professor Tustin. Here he became involved in a range of extramural activities, including the Engineering Society, the University Conservative Association, the Council of the Guild of Undergraduates, and the University Rowing Club, of which he was a founder-member; but his primary interest was the University Air Squadron, which he joined at the first opportunity, learning to fly initially on Tiger Moths and later on the then modern Chipmunks, under the command of Squadron Leader JAC (later ACM Sir John) Aiken. The fact that in his final year he achieved more flying hours than in the two previous years combined, possibly contributed to his limited academic success in that he was awarded only a second-class degree.

On graduating in 1952, he took a post as an electronic development engineer at the Borehamwood Research Laboratories r)f Elliott Brothers (London) Limited, where he was employed on the development of various experimental missile and radar systems. After some three years he decided to satisfy his wanderlust, and joined the overseas staff of the Decca Navigator Company, where he was to spend the next five years. His travels took him inter alia to Newfoundland, where he was in a team setting up a radio navigation system to facilitate the accurate laying of the first transatlantic telephone cable, and to Brunei, where he installed and managed an off-shore radio survey system on behalf of the Brunei Shell Company. The climax of this career stage took him to Christmas Island in the Central Pacific, where he successfully established a land navigation aid for use by aircraft and warships participating in “Operation Grapple”, the British H-bomb trials in 1957 and 1958; originally conceived as a long-range navigation aid for the Valiant bombers, Shackleton reconnaissance aircraft and surface ships, this Decca chain gained the confidence of the bomber crews so greatly that it came to be used as a primary bombing aid.

After returning from the Pacific, Peter Harris was invited to rejoin what had by now become Elliott-Automation, where he worked under W “Roy” Thomas, and subsequently Peter Mariner, and was soon given responsibility for forming an after-sales service division for EA Radar Systems. Here he successfully managed the progressive UK modernisation of the WW2-vintage US-designed Airborne Early Warning radar installed in the Fleet Air Arm’s Gannet aircraft and later in RAF Shackletons until the late 1980’s. After a succession of industrial mergers with Marconi and GEC he was appointed to manage the division of GEC-Marconi bidding for the MOD contracts for development of the UK’s Airborne Early Warning radar system and the main radar for the Tornado air defence fighter. When both these projects came to fruition simultaneously, and the company had to undergo major and rapid expansion, he was promoted to Assistant General Manager, and tasked to set up and manage new establishments in Hertfordshire and then at Milton Keynes.

He was elected a Member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1961, and a Fellow in 1970. Invited to chair the Committee of the Hatfield Branch of the Institution in 1979-80, he subsequently served on the Committee of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Centre from its formation in 1980 until 1985. After taking early retirement from GEC in 1989, he joined the Management Board of Princess Marina House, the RAF Benevolent Fund’s flagship residential and convalescent home in West Sussex, and remained on its renamed Advisoiy Board until 2005.

His interest in aviation had continued unabated throughout this career in industry. Commissioned in the RAFVR on graduating from Birmingham, he spent most of his weekends at Reserve Flying Schools, until he went overseas in 1955. Early in 1960 he was amongst the first officers to join the newly-formed No. 1 Maritime Headquarters Unit of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, firstly as a signals officer and later working in the NATO Intelligence cell at the Northwood Headquarters. He rose steadily through the unit, which he commanded from 1972, in the rank of Wing Commander, until his service ended in 1978. In 1982 he was invited to return, promoted to Group Captain, and took up the appointment of Inspector RAuxAF, a post which at that time was unpaid in spite of requiring weekly visits to the Ministry of Defence, the dedication of most evenings to correspondence, and weekends to unit and squadron visits, as well as meeting the demands of a growing family and a responsible post in GEC. Together with two successive Honorary Inspectors-General, Air Commodore Sir Peter Vanneck and Air Chief Marshal Sir John Barraclough, he was to oversee an expansion from five to sixteen units before he retired again in 1988. As OC 1 MHU he had been a member of the Greater London TAVRA, in which he subsequently served as a Selected Air Force Member, becoming Vice-Chairman (air) from 1988 until 1993. As Inspector RAuxAF he was an ex-officio member of the Councils of the National Rifle Association and the Reserve Forces Association. He was an ADC to HM The Queen from 1984 to 1988, and a Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London from 1986 to 1998. He became a Freeman of the City of London and was elected a Liveryman of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators. He became a holder of the Air Efficiency Award in 1961, and was awarded with a clasp in 1971; he was awarded the Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977, and appointed CBE in 1988.

Maintaining his enthusiasm for the Reserve Forces, Group Captain Harris was invited to join the NATO Grand Priory of the Order of the Temple of Jerusalem, the Knight Templars, in 1996 and in 1998 was elevated to the rank of Commander in the Order, serving as the secretary and treasurer of the UK Priory. He was further elevated to the rank of Grand Officer in 2003, and served as Grand Chancellor of the NATO Grand Priory of the Order in 2005-6. In 2015 he was elevated to the rank of Grand Cross, and served as Prior of the UK Grand Priory.

His wife, (Yvonne) Patricia Stone, whom he married in 1955, died in 2003; he is survived by their two daughters.

SAC SueSoutar

SAC Susan Soutar, a reservist with No 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron, Royal Auxiliary Air Force was killed on Saturday 13 October 2007 whilst on exercise with 603 Sqn at Haltern in Germany. Sue was fatally injured as a result of a road traffic accident during an evening road run near the entrance to Kohima Camp. A decision was taken to not include her name on the Memorial Wall at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas. Her father, Wg Cdr Robert Smith, has worked tirelessly for almost 10 years to have her name included on the Memorial as the Board of Inquiry clearly stated that Sue was ‘on duty’ at the time of the accident.

It is with great pleasure that we report that the original decision has now been reversed and that Sue’s name will now be included on the wall at a ‘Naming Service’ later this year.

Group Captain Bob Kemp of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force Foundation said, “Sue was a lovely person and we were all devastated by the accident. I am delighted that her name will now be added to those of the other reservists killed whilst ‘on duty’. Sue’s father is to be congratulated for his perseverance and commitment in tirelessly working towards this goal”.

31 March 2017

Post-script

SAC Susan Soutar

We previously reported that Susan Soutar’s name was going to be added to the Arboretum Wall at the National War Memorial in Alrewas following considerable effort by her father Wg Cdr Robert Smith. Susan, was killed whilst on duty in Germany with 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron in October 2007. It is with great pleasure that we report that the naming ceremony was held in the Arboretum at Alrewas on 14 September and that members of 603 Sqn and Susan parents, Robert and Cynthia, were able to be present.