8 Squadron 100 Year Anniversary
There seems to be an abundance of centenary celebrations in the RAF at the moment; not to be outdone No. 8 Squadron threw a huge hangar party to mark 100 years since its formation.
When the Royal Flying Corps was formed it was given a mandate to form only 8 Squadrons. By the outbreak of war, 7 of these Squadrons had been formed and the eighth was established at Brooklands in Surrey on 1st Jan 1915. No. 8 Squadron was quickly thrown into battle and the Squadron Standard is emblazoned with honours from many of the famous battles of the period, including Loos, the Somme and Arras. Captain Freddie West (later Air Commodore) was awarded the VC for his actions flying on the Squadron, whilst Major Leigh-Mallory cut his teeth as the Commanding Officer.
The Squadron was infamously banished to the Middle East by Lord Trenchard in 1922 for upsetting him after a dining-in-night, and spent over 50 years moving around various bases in the region protecting British interests. It was because of the Squadron’s time in Aden that the unit was given the Gambia (an Arabian knife) in its crest, and became known as ‘Aden’s Own’.
During the drawdown of British forces in the Middle East, the Squadron was posted to RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland in 1972; from here it flew the venerable Shackleton in the Airborne Early Warning (AEW) role. It still carries out this task today with the E-3D Sentry at its base in Lincolnshire, RAF Waddington.
Given the difficulties of holding an event on New Year’s Day, the Squadron decided to mark the centenary of the week it first deployed on operations in 1915. Saturday the 11th April 2015 saw a transformation of the Sentry hangar at RAF Waddington into a spectacular temporary dining facility for 500 people. Given the industrial nature of the hangar it is fair to say that guests on the night were blown away by the setting for the event. The backdrop was the Squadron’s ‘gate-guard’ Hunter aircraft, and an E-3D Sentry decorated in centenary markings. Set out in front of the aircraft was the spectacular sight of 50 tables all decorated in 8 Squadron’s traditional colours and surrounded by impressive displays and lighting. Joining 8 Squadron members were guests including Air Marshal (Retired) Robertson, Air Commodore Portlock (the RAF’s ISTAR Force Commander) and Air Commodore Teakle from NATO HQ at SHAPE, alongside representatives from the Squadron’s commercial partners.
The 500 guests were treated to a fantastic four-course meal, which was no mean feat considering it was mostly prepared at facilities which were almost a mile away from the hangar! Throughout the meal the Squadron’s history was recounted through a variety of interesting and humorous speeches given by current serving personnel. Entertainment during dinner was provided by the D-Day Darlings, with their catalogue of 40s Swing music, before the evening moved to the dance floor with the sound of the 80s, thanks to the band “AKA 2-Tones”. In addition, 8 Squadron have decorated the tail of the aircraft nicknamed ‘Grumpy’ to celebrate their Centenary.
The design represents the BE2-C (the first aircraft the Squadron flew), the Squadron’s gate guard, and the Sentry, all trailing the Squadrons colours in a figure-of-eight.
The 8 Squadron crest is also represented on the radar struts. The event followed months of detailed planning by the Squadron, and the attendance at the dinner reflected the whole community who collectively support No 8 Squadron in its day-to-day operations, and who generously supported the event. In all, it was a fantastic and entirely fitting celebration of 100 years of history, for the last of the founding Squadrons.