Historic RAF squadron disbands

RAF Lin­ton-on-Ouse bade farewell to a squadron with a long and dis­tin­guished his­to­ry when 207 (Reserve) Squadron held a dis­band­ment parade at the York­shire air base on Fri­day.

Flight Lieu­tenant Mark Ship­ley hands over the squadron stan­dard to Flight Lieu­tenant John Ryder [Pic­ture: Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The squadron — which for­mer­ly trained fast jet pilots — has been dis­band­ed fol­low­ing the Strate­gic Defence and Secu­ri­ty Review which has result­ed in a reduc­tion in the num­bers of fast jet pilots being trained by the RAF.

207 Squadron has a long his­to­ry as a bomber unit and is a direct descen­dant of No 7 Squadron of the Roy­al Naval Air Ser­vice, which was formed in 1916. With the for­ma­tion of the Roy­al Air Force on 1 April 1918, the squadron was renum­bered as 207 Squadron, before re-equip­ping with the Han­d­ley Page O/400 bomber, with which it car­ried out long-range night attacks on rail­way cen­tres and aero­dromes until the Armistice, by which time it had dropped a total of 587 tons of bombs.

After oper­at­ing the out­dat­ed Fairey Bat­tle air­craft at the start of the Sec­ond World War the squadron became the first to be equipped with the new twin-engined Avro Man­ches­ter bomber, car­ry­ing out its first offen­sive mis­sion of the Sec­ond World War on 24 Feb­ru­ary 1941 in a raid on a Hip­per Class cruis­er in the French port of Brest.

In ear­ly 1942 the squadron was re-equipped with the Lan­cast­er, and the squadron par­tic­i­pat­ed in most of the major raids of the war, includ­ing attacks on tar­gets as far afield as Berlin, Genoa, Gdy­nia and the exper­i­men­tal sta­tion at Peen­e­mu­nde on the Baltic coast.

The final wartime mis­sion, an attack on Hitler’s moun­tain retreat at Bercht­es­gaden in Bavaria, was flown on 25 April 1945. Over­all, the squadron flew 4,563 oper­a­tional sor­ties on 481 raids and lost 148 air­craft (17 Man­ches­ters and 131 Lan­cast­ers); a fur­ther eight Man­ches­ters and 19 Lan­cast­ers were destroyed in crash­es. Casu­al­ties were high; the squadron suf­fered 954 fatal­i­ties whilst its per­son­nel were award­ed sev­en Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Orders, 115 Dis­tin­guished Fly­ing Cross­es and 92 Dis­tin­guished Fly­ing Medals.

The squadron sur­vived the run-down of the RAF that fol­lowed the end of the war, re-equip­ping with the Lin­coln in 1949 before dis­band­ing in 1950 to reform the fol­low­ing year with the Wash­ing­ton (the RAF name for the Boe­ing B‑29).

Oth­er post-war air­craft flown by the squadron includ­ed the Can­ber­ra, the Valiant V bomber and when reroled as a com­mu­ni­ca­tions and trans­port squadron the Devon, Pem­broke and Bas­sett.

The squadron car­ried out its role of trans­port­ing senior mil­i­tary offi­cers until it dis­band­ed in June 1984 upon the retire­ment of the Devon. Eigh­teen years were to pass before the squadron reap­peared on 17 July 2002.

The squadron was reformed at RAF Lin­ton-on-Ouse to pro­vide basic fast jet pilot train­ing to ‘wings’ stan­dard on the Tucano T Mk1 air­craft for RAF and Roy­al Navy stu­dents. One notable mem­ber of the squadron dur­ing this time was Prince William, who com­plet­ed a course on the Tucano as part of the train­ing for the award of his RAF pilot’s ‘wings’ in April 2008.

The squadron stan­dard was parad­ed for the last time at RAF Lin­ton-on-Ouse, watched by hun­dreds of for­mer squadron per­son­nel and their fam­i­lies, senior offi­cers and dig­ni­taries includ­ing the Lord May­or of York Coun­cil­lor David Hor­ton, the High Sher­iff of North York­shire Mrs Alexan­dra Hol­ford and the Dean of York The Very Rev­erend Kei­th Jones.

The parade fea­tured the Cen­tral Band of the Roy­al Air Force and a fly­past by Tucano air­craft — the last air­craft type oper­at­ed by 207 Squadron.

The Review­ing Offi­cer, Air Vice-Mar­shal Mike Lloyd, said:

“This is undoubt­ed­ly a sad day for all those who have served on or along­side such a dis­tin­guished squadron, whose pro­fes­sion­al­ism and stand­ing are as strong today as when they were first formed in the August of 1915. How­ev­er, those present today, both in the crowd and on parade, have ensured the squadron will be remem­bered not just through the fac­tu­al records of his­to­ry, but with pride and fond mem­o­ries.

“We are here to cel­e­brate the record of a fine squadron, one whose his­to­ry stretch­es back to the ear­li­est days of aer­i­al fight­ing. A squadron whose wartime record is so inter­twined with the devel­op­ment of air com­bat that its DNA is present in almost every major advance that the Roy­al Air Force has made.”

The squadron stan­dard, which fea­tures bat­tle hon­ours from the First and Sec­ond World Wars, will be laid up at York Min­ster in a cer­e­mo­ny lat­er this year.

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK

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