New Commanding Officer for Military Affiliate 825 NAS

New Commanding Officer for Military Affiliate 825 NAS

Our military affiliate 825 Naval Air Squadron has a new Commanding Officer and it is with great enthusiasm and that we welcome Commander Scott Simpson to his new post, taking over from Cdr Duncan Thomas.

Past Master David Raines, and wife Jenny, very kindly hosted us as we endeavoured to plan some events which will continue to drive forward the affiliation, notwithstanding Covid 19 restrictions. 

Pictured, Ewan Lacey, Liaison Liveryman and Cdr Scott Simpson, both sporting ‘lockdown’ haircuts.

Follow us on Twitter via our our Squadron account: @825NAS 

603 Squadron Update

The past six months for 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron have been dominated to a great extent by the shared experience of dealing with Covid-19. Indeed, the Squadron’s new Officer Commanding (OC) Squadron Leader Derek Read joined from RAF Force Protection HQ on 20th March, just days before the Prime Minister announced the rigorous restrictions that came to be understood across the country as “lockdown.”

The arrival of the virus changed the Squadron’s work schedules with most of its planned activity falling away and the Edinburgh Headquarters placed on a reduced manning level. During the initial weeks of the lockdown the Squadron was asked to mobilise personnel to support Government efforts to combat the virus and this rapidly became its core activity, with protection of the Squadron’s own personnel also a priority.

The Squadron was asked to mobilise as many personnel as possible and through late March and into April, around 25% of its reserve manpower was organised and committed to fill various roles providing Force Protection at RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Brize Norton while a number of others were on UK backfill duties or overseas operations.

Things quietened down a little in May and June and while the fight against Covid-19 and support for the Squadron’s deployed personnel both continued, some normality returned with planning for a scheduled Annual Continuous Training Camp at Barry Budden in Angus.

The lockdown brought challenges to the Squadron’s recruitment plans but while the face to face element of the process was not possible, enquiries continued to come in and helpful contacts were made in a virtual sense.

Meanwhile, with full safety measures in place, the training of Squadron personnel for mobilisation continued with four RAF Police and eight RAF Regiment Phase Two personnel completing their professional training, becoming fully ready and prepared to support the needs of the Service.

In July, the Squadron’s mobilised personnel who had been sent to Lossiemouth were diverted to help create Covid-19 mobile testing units in the North East of England. At the end of July, this role passed to civilian operators and the 603 personnel either returned to Lossiemouth or were returned to civilian life.

Despite all the other calls on time and resources, 603 Squadron was able to see through its plans for the Barry Budden training camp and this went ahead from 5th September with colleagues from 2622 (Highland) and 2503 (County of Lincolnshire) Squadrons of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force.

The purpose of the two-week camp was to consolidate the year’s training in larger, combined exercises. RAF Regiment personnel stayed on after the first week while their RAF Police colleagues dispersed to RAF main operating bases to take part in on the job training.

Despite their various duties supporting the service through the lockdown and beyond, 603 Squadron personnel managed to stage a fund raising event for the Squadron’s nominated charity, The Yard, which supports disabled children and their families.  Recalling the Squadron’s vital role in the defence of the island of Malta in World War Two, Squadron personnel took on the challenge of running the exact distance – 1,616 miles – between Malta and RAF Turnhouse in Edinburgh where the Squadron was first formed.

This raised £1,040 to help the wonderful work undertaken on behalf of families by the team at The Yard – https://www.theyardscotland.org.uk/

Finally, as Autumn arrived, 603 Squadron has been asked to mobilise more personnel for UK backfills to RAF Brize Norton and RAF Scampton.

The experience of 603 Squadron this year has reflected the difficulty and dislocation created by Covid-19 across the country and beyond. The year that was planned has largely been abandoned but the Squadron and its personnel have been extremely busy supporting the service and the wider country, and as the year moves into its final quarter with a second phase of the virus a distinct threat, 603 Squadron will remain ready, prepared and committed to delivering assistance to wherever it is needed. 

RAF Honington

As part of our Livery connection with RAF 603 (Edinburgh) Squadron a visit to the Headquarters of the RAF Regiment in Honington in Suffolk was kindly arranged by Squadron Leader Jerry Riley who has recently taken the Freedom of the Company. Honington is also the Headquarters of the RAF Police.
A convivial dinner was hosted by the Worshipful Company which preceded our visit to Honington the Home of the RAF Regiment.

Our guests included Air Marshal Sir David Walker and Station Commander Group Captain David Tait.

We were privileged to be hosted by Sir David Walker for a private tour of the Station where members of the RAF Regiment explained the range of armoured vehicles and weaponry that have been used in combat in operational theatres such as Afghanistan.

The role of the RAF regiment is to defend the airfields aircraft and airmen in order for them to operate effectively in areas where they are threatened on the ground by the enemy.

The Regiment was established by Churchill in 1942 following the fall of Crete and the loss of airfield and aircraft. He famously said that henceforth, “Every airfield should be a stronghold of fighting air – groundmen.”

This remains their role to this day although they have developed into an offensive as well as a defensive fighting force ,from participation in the Normandy Landings at Juno Beach to fighting at the Battle of Monte Cassino and to more recent conflicts in Kuwait ,Iraq and Afghanistan.

We were invited to watch the Graduation Parade for Trainee Gunners who had earned the right to wear the coveted Corps Flash on their uniform and which was enlivened by the music of the Central Band of the Air Force.

After lunch in the Officers Mess we were given an extensive tour of the Regiments Heritage Centre which told the story of the Regiment and contained a rich collection of equipment used in conflicts around the world in which it had played a decisive role.

603 Squadron Presentation

When the Worshipful Company of Distillers confirmed its affiliation with 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron of The Royal Auxiliary Air Force, our commitment to the affiliation included the donation of a silver Quaich – “The Distillers Quaich” – to be presented annually at the Squadron Trophy Presentation Ceremony.

“The Distillers Quaich” made its debut at the 2017 Presentation Ceremony at 603 Squadron’s Edinburgh Headquarters on Saturday 9 December.

The Quaich was presented by the Master to Senior Aircraftsman (SAC) Michael Freshour, judged by the Squadron Permanent Staff to have made the biggest overall contribution to the Squadron, including charity fund-raising, over the calendar year. SAC Freshour has the unique (for the Squadron) possession of dual UK and USA Citizenship.

The Master also presented Michael with a bottle of the new “Master’s Cask” – an 18-years-old Knockando.

Supporting the Master at the ceremony was Immediate Past Master Richard Watling while the other presentations were made by Air Marshal Sir David Walker, Honorary Air Commodore of 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron, supported by Squadron Leader Jerry Riley, Officer Commanding 603 Squadron.

Remembering the Channel Dash

It is said that you learn more from failure than success, but there can be a heavy price to pay.

Admiral Lord Boyce with Rear Admiral Blount
Credit: LPhot Dan Rosenbaum
RNAS Yeovilton

The Channel Dash was a hurried attempt to inflict damage on a large flotilla of German capital ships taking the quick route to get from Brest to Danish waters, in a move to protect the occupied country from an expected allied invasion. Spotted by chance by HMS Sealion, a lone submarine in the western approaches and again by an RAF reconnaissance aircraft, the two battleships and one heavy cruiser – the Scharnhorst, The Gneisenau and the Prinz Eugen supported by six destroyers and twenty-one other escorts – were making full speed up the Channel leaving very little time to prepare an attack against them despite them being just a few miles off shore.

Nonetheless with little air cover to support them the Fleet Air Arm launched an attack with six elderly Swordfish biplanes equipped with one torpedo each and a rear facing machine gun.

Pressing home their attack with incredible bravery, they faced the combined onslaught of the heavily armed ships and, now, the myriad of escorting Rocke-Wulfs and Messerschmitts.

All six aircraft of 825 Naval Air Squadron were shot down, 13 of the 18 airmen were killed, and four of the remaining five were injured. Some were fished out and others were never found. Some came ashore as far away as the Medway. Not one torpedo found its target.

On a bright but very cold February day marking the 75 Anniversary, the Master, Past Master Raines, and three Liverymen were privileged to attend a moving memorial service at the Yeovilton base, where the Chaplain told the story and led the service of remembrance. Packed into the little parish church were officers, men and women of the Squadron led by Admiral of the Fleet Lord Boyce, who as Warden of the Cinque Ports is President of the Channel Dash Association, Admiral Blount, head of the Fleet Air Arm and Commander Simon Collins the Commanding Officer of today’s 825 NAS. Two of the congregations were direct relatives of airman who flew the mission including one who won a posthumous VC.

Together they emerged to cluster around one of the five remaining Swordfishes standing proudly on the grass, to watch the four-ship Wildcat fly-past in memory of the men who gave their lives in this heroic operation.

In Ramsgate there is a memorial to the Squadron members who lost their lives, and in Dover there is another memorial to all the many men from the other forces involved in the operation; 72 Squadron RAF who fought the 250 strong Luftwaffe air cover, and the motor torpedo and rescue boats who gave what assistance they could and also took many casualties.

In the autumn there will be a service of remembrance in Dover, when we hope to be represented to witness a fly past of all the aircraft types involved, escorted by today’s modern helicopters. We shall raise a glass of a special gin distilled in their honour and presented by Honorary Assistant Chris Parker.

Richard Watling, Master