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.


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.

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