No. 94 Squadron (RAAF): Second World War

No. 94 Squadron (RAAF): Second World War

No. 94 Squadron (RAAF) during the Second World War

Aircraft - Locations - Group and Duty - Books

No.94 Squadron, RAAF, was a Mosquito fighter-bomber squadron formed in Australian in May 1945 but that never saw action. The squadron was formed in New South Wales on 30 May 1945 and was equipped with the Australian-built Mosquito FB Mk 40, making it the third RAAF squadron to receive the type in the Pacific theatre. The squadron was still working up when the Japanese surrender ended the Second World War. It just survived into 1946, but on 7 January 1946 was moved to Richmond, and two weeks later was disbanded.

Aircraft
May 1945-January 1946: De Havilland Mosquito FB Mk 40

Location
May 1945-January 1946: New South Wales
January 1946: Richmond

Squadron Codes: -

Duty
1945-46: Fighter-bomber squadron, working up, Australia

Books

How to cite this article:Rickard, J (29 August 2012), No. 94 Squadron (RAAF): Second World War



No. 10 Squadron RAAF

No. 10 Squadron RAAF

No. 10 Squadron is a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) maritime patrol squadron based at RAAF Base Edinburgh, South Australia, as part of No. 92 Wing. The squadron was formed in 1939 and saw active service during the Second World War, conducting anti-submarine operations and patrols from bases in the United Kingdom until it disbanded in late 1945. It was re-formed in Australia in 1949 and since then has contributed to Australia's East Timor intervention, and has been deployed to the Middle East as part of the War on Terrorism and the 2003 Gulf War.


Contents

The squadron was formed at RAF Driffield in Yorkshire, England on 10 October 1942, under Article XV of the Empire Air Training Scheme. The majority of its original personnel were from British Commonwealth air forces other than the RAAF. Their replacement by Australians was a gradual process and it was only towards the end of the war that the squadron's personnel were predominantly members of the RAAF. [2]

The first all-Australian Bomber Command crew to complete a tour of duty in the war, a 466 Squadron Wellington crew at RAF Leconfield, 1943

After the squadron had been equipped with Vickers Wellington medium bombers, it transferred to RAF Leconfield, also in Yorkshire, on 27 December 1942 and flew its first mission on 13 January 1943. Its main roles were strategic bombing over Germany and laying naval mines in the North Sea. [2] The squadron had its first direct encounter with the Luftwaffe on 14 February 1943 when, during a raid on Cologne, a Wellington Mk.X, serial number HE506, identification "HD-N", opened fire on a Junkers Ju 88 night fighter, while it was over either Turnhout Belgium, or the Dutch island of Tholen (sources differ). The crew reported seeing a brilliant flash after the rear gunner, Sergeant Angus, opened fire on it and the Junkers was claimed as probably destroyed. [5] [6]

Following a mission on 14 April 1943, four members of the crew of a 466 Sqn Wellington Mk.X, HZ256, "HD-L", commanded by Sergeant Edward Hicks (Auxiliary Air Force) received medals. [7] [8] A Distinguished Service Order (DSO) was awarded to Pilot Officer Raymond Hopkins (RAFVR), a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) went to Flying Officer Reginald Clayton (RAFVR), a Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM) to Sergeant Frederick Blair (RAF) and a Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (CGM) to Hicks. According to the RAAF Museum, the award of so many decorations to a single crew was "highly unusual". [9] The awards were gazetted on 14 May 1943, with a joint citation (see below). Following subsequent operations, Hicks received further decorations and acclaim. [10]

466 Sqn converted to the Handley Page Halifax heavy bomber in late 1943. In June 1944, the squadron returned to Driffield. From May 1944, operations were focussed on German infrastructure in France, such as coastal artillery batteries and railway marshalling yards, in preparation for the invasion of Europe. [9]

Flying Officer Joe Herman (RAAF), the captain of a 466 Sqn Halifax B.Mk.III, narrowly escaped death in a remarkable incident on 4 November 1944. [7] [9] [11] [12] During a night mission over Germany, his aircraft (LV936, "HD-D"), was badly damaged by Flak. After ordering the crew to bail out, Herman was blown out of the plane, without a parachute. After falling a long way, possibly more than 3,000 metres, Herman fell onto the Halifax's mid-upper gunner, F/O John Vivash (RAAF), and grabbed one of his legs. Both men descended on one parachute, suffered minor injuries when landing and survived the war as prisoners of war. From a total crew of seven, only one other airman, Sgt H. W. Knott (RAF), survived. According to one source, at least three crew members were murdered after being captured. [12]

In May 1945, following the end of the war in Europe, the squadron dumped surplus bombs into the sea and began re-training at RAF Bassingbourn, in Cambridgeshire, as a transport unit. Some sources state that the squadron was renumbered as No. 10 Squadron RAAF on 20 June 1945, [13] while others say the squadron operated as a combined unit with No. 10 Sqn. [14] It was re-converting to Consolidated Liberator heavy bombers when Japan surrendered, [2] [9] whereupon the squadron was disbanded at RAF Bassingbourn on 26 October 1945. [14] [15]

466 Sqn flew 3,326 sorties against 269 different targets, dropping 8,804 tons of bombs and laying 442 tons of mines. A total of 81 aircraft were lost and 184 RAAF personnel serving with the squadron were killed. [2]

London, November 1943. The all-British/RAF crew of 466 Sqn Wellington "HD-L" at Buckingham Palace, about to receive medals resulting from their mission on 14 April: Flying Officer Raymond Hopkins DSO of Newport, Wales (left) Pilot Officer Frederick Blair DFM of Belfast, Pilot Officer Edward Hicks CGM of Newbury Park, Essex and Flying Officer Reginald Clayton DFC of Carshalton, Surrey. Pilot Officer Hopkins, Flying Officer Clayton and Sergeants Hicks and Blair were   air bomber [bomb aimer], navigator, captain and wireless operator respectively of an aircraft detailed to attack a target in the Ruhr. Over Germany the aircraft was attacked by an enemy [night] fighter. The first burst of fire from the attacker fatally injured the rear gunner [Sgt R. F. Field, RAF] and wounded the air bomber, navigator and wireless operator. The fighter made a second attack but Sergeant Hicks avoided its gunfire by turning steeply under the enemy aircraft which was not seen again. Although the hydraulic and brake systems . were damaged, causing the wheels to drop down and the bomb doors to open, the crew decided to continue their mission. Pilot Officer Hopkins . although suffering from a compound fracture of the arm and . retaining consciousness with great difficulty, displayed unsurpassed determination by directing his pilot to the target and bombing it successfully. On the return flight, Pilot Officer Hopkins, Flying Officer Clayton and Sergeant Blair laboured for more than 2 hours to assist the mortally wounded rear gunner, extricating him from his turret and administering morphia some of their efforts were made whilst flying at 15,000 feet and without oxygen. Sergeant Hicks eventually flew the damaged aircraft to an airfield in this country, where he effected a landing without the aid of flaps.

During the first half of 1943 Japanese submarines operated off the Australian east coast, sinking 16 ships and damaging several more. In response to these losses the Australian Government expanded the military's anti-submarine warfare (ASW) forces. Three new RAAF maritime patrol units equipped with Avro Anson training aircraft, No. 66, No. 67 and No. 71 squadrons, were raised during this expansion. While it was recognised that the Ansons lacked sufficient range and payload to be effective in the ASW role, superior aircraft were not available. [1]

No. 71 Squadron was formed on 26 January 1943 at flights located at RAAF Stations Amberley and Bundaberg in Queensland, and RAAF Stations Richmond and Coffs Harbour in New South Wales. [2]

The squadron began flying anti-submarine and convoy escort patrols shortly after its formation. On 17 March a No. 71 Squadron aircraft attacked what its crew believed was a Japanese submarine. The same crew claimed to have been fired on by another submarine eleven days later. [2] On 5 May a No. 71 Squadron Anson was patrolling over a convoy when the merchant ship SS Fingal was torpedoed and sunk. While the aircraft's crew spotted the torpedo tracks, they were unable to locate the Japanese submarine. [3] Ten days later one of the squadron's aircraft on a routine anti-submarine patrol spotted a lifeboat containing survivors from the AHS Centaur which had been sunk by a Japanese submarine on 14 June the loss of the ship was unknown at the time, and this was the first sighting of survivors. No. 71 Squadron took part in the subsequent intensive search for both further survivors and the submarine responsible, but only found empty life rafts. [4] The squadron was involved in another attack on a convoy on 16 June when one of its Ansons was patrolling ahead of Convoy GP55 at the time two ships were torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-174. The aircraft ran low on fuel shortly after the attack, however, and had to return to base without sighting the submarine. [5] Two of the squadron's Ansons crashed during patrols in 1943 with the loss of their entire crew. [6]

In December 1943 No. 71 Squadron's headquarters moved to Coffs Harbour, with the flight at Lowood following in June. [6] In July 1944 it was decided to disband No. 71 and No. 73 squadrons as part of a reduction in the RAAF's ASW effort. [7] The squadron was declared non-operational on 12 July 1944 but continued to fly training exercises until it was disbanded on 28 August. [6]


No. 450 Squadron

450 Squadron, nicknamed the "Desert Harassers", was one of the most famous Royal Australian Air Force squadrons of the Second World War. Its nickname was derived from the taunts of the German propaganda broadcaster "Lord Haw Haw" who, during the squadron's operations in the Western Desert branded it a band of "Australian mercenaries whose harassing tactics were easily beaten off by the Luftwaffe".

Raised under "Article XV" of the Empire Air Training Scheme, 450 Squadron came into existence at Williamtown in New South Wales on 16 February 1941. It was the first of the "Article XV" squadrons to be formed and initially it consisted only of ground crew. After arriving in the Middle East in May 1941 it was combined with the pilots and Hawker Hurricanes of 260 Squadron, Royal Air Force, to form an operational squadron. This combined squadron flew predominantly ground-attack missions during the Syrian campaign of June-July 1941.

In August 1941, 260 Squadron's ground crew arrived from Britain, and 450 Squadron regained its original identity. Awaiting the arrival of its own pilots and aircraft, it moved to Egypt in October and began operating as an advanced Repair and Service Unit. On 18 December, the squadron's first aircraft - Curtis P-40 Kittyhawks - began arriving allowing the squadron to reform as a fighter squadron.

450 Squadron commenced operations on 20 February 1942 and remained active for the rest of the war, taking part in the campaigns in the Western Desert, which spanned Egypt and Libya (February 1942 - February 1943), Tunisia (February - May 1943), Sicily (July - August 1943) and Italy (August 1943 - May 1945). Although designated a fighter squadron, its principal role was ground-attack in close support of the land forces. This role required the squadron's ground organisation to be highly mobile and, particularly in north Africa, it would leap-frog detachments from one forward landing ground to the next to keep pace with the fighting on the ground. During the fighting in Italy, the squadron was often employed on "cab rank" duty in which aircraft would circle close to the battlefield ready to be called in by ground-based controllers to attack targets impeding the army's advance. The commander of the German Army in Italy would later reflect upon the impact of the Allied fighter-bombers: "the effectiveness of the fighter-bombers lay in that their mere presence alone, over the battlefield, paralysed every movement."

450 Squadron's war ended, just as it was preparing to re-equip with North-American P-51 Mustangs, with the surrender of German forces in Italy on 2 May 1945. It disbanded at Lavarino in Italy on 20 August 1945.


Contents

World War I

On 20 September 1916, No. 2 Squadron was established as a unit of the Australian Flying Corps (AFC) at Kantara, Egypt, [1] drawing personnel mainly from Australian Light Horse units of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). Shortly after forming, under the command of Major Oswald Watt, the unit was transferred to the United Kingdom to complete training, arriving at Harlaxton on 30 January 1917. [2] Between February and September 1917, the squadron undertook training with Royal Flying Corps units before being equipped with Airco DH.5 fighters. To differentiate the squadron from the British No. 2 Squadron RFC, it was known to the British military as "No. 68 Squadron RFC". [1] This terminology was never accepted by the AIF who continued to use the AFC designation regardless, [3] and by January 1918 the British designation was officially discontinued. [1]

In late September 1917, the squadron flew its aircraft across the English Channel, landing in St Omer without incident or loss – and after overnighting there it moved to Baizieux. Assigned to the 13th Army Wing, RFC, [4] it undertook its first combat operations on the Western Front a month later. [2] Its first major action came during the Battle of Cambrai in November and December when it was heavily involved as a low-level ground attack unit, attacking German trenches, but suffering heavy casualties in doing so. [2] On 22 November, the squadron shot down its first German aircraft in air-to-air combat during a chance encounter on a ground attack sortie. After this, several more German aircraft were shot down by the squadron's pilots before the squadron was withdrawn from operations in December to re-equip with Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5a fighters. In January 1918, the squadron moved to Savy, and the following month gained its first victories with the new aircraft type. [1]

In early 1918, the Germans launched a major offensive on the Western Front after the collapse of Russia allowed them to increase their forces in the west. [5] Falling initially against the British southern flank, the offensive pushed the Allies back significantly, and the squadron was forced to withdraw to airfields further back from the front as German forces advanced steadily: in March it moved to La Bellevue and then to Fouquerolles, remaining there until June when it moved to Liettres to support the French during the Marne offensive. [6] During this time, the squadron was variously assigned to the Royal Air Force's 10th, 22nd, 51st and 80th Wings, [4] and despite the moves, the squadron maintained a high operational tempo, becoming involved in heavy air-to-air combat during fighter sweeps, and also being used to attack advancing German ground forces. [1] After the German offensive was finally halted, the Allies launched their own offensive in August around Amiens after which the squadron was employed to attack German airfields, and as the Germans were forced back, attacking withdrawing German troops on the ground. [7] Throughout October, in an effort to keep up with the advance, the squadron moved three times and by the time the armistice was signed in November it was based at Pont-a-Marq. [6]

Following the conclusion of hostilities, the squadron was withdrawn to the United Kingdom in March 1919 as the demobilisation process began. On 6 May its personnel embarked on the transport Kaisar-i-Hind for repatriation back to Australia, at which time the squadron was disbanded. [6] [4] [7] During the war, No. 2 Squadron produced 18 flying aces, [6] including Francis Ryan Smith, Roy Cecil Phillipps (the squadron's highest scorer), [6] Roby Lewis Manuel, Henry Garnet Forrest, Adrian Cole, Eric Douglas Cummings, Richard Watson Howard, Frank Alberry, Ernest Edgar Davies, and James Wellwood. [8] The squadron’s total score was 94 aircraft shot down, 73 out of control and 18 driven down. [6] Its casualties amounted to 25 personnel killed and eight wounded. [4]

World War II

In 1922, No. 2 Squadron was briefly re-formed as part of the newly independent Royal Australian Air Force at Point Cook, Victoria, but it never progressed beyond a cadre unit and was disbanded a few months later. [7] It was re-formed again on 3 May 1937 at Laverton. Following the outbreak of World War II, under the command of Squadron Leader Alan Charlesworth, the squadron began maritime patrol and convoy escort operations off the Australian eastern seaboard, operating Avro Ansons, before being re-equipped with Lockheed Hudsons in May and June 1940. [9] [7]

Wing Commander Frank Headlam took over command of the squadron in April 1941, [10] and in early December 1941, shortly before Japan’s entry into the war, the squadron moved to Darwin, Northern Territory where it maintained its maritime role and deployed detachments to the islands to Australia’s north, including Ambon in the Dutch East Indies. After the outbreak of the Pacific War, the squadron mounted reconnaissance and bombing missions against Japanese forces, focusing on Japanese shipping. Success came early with a 306-tonne (301-long-ton 337-short-ton) Japanese vessel being heavily damaged on 8 December, although heavy losses also came early on. In early 1942, the squadron’s detachments were withdrawn back to Australia as Japanese forces advanced south, attacking the squadron’s forward bases. [9] The squadron continued operations after this, maintaining an intense bombing campaign against Japanese shipping and installations on islands including Timor and Ambon from May to October during which 13 crews were killed. For its service, the squadron was awarded a US Presidential Unit Citation. [7] [11]

Throughout 1942–1943, the squadron continued operations with its Hudsons against the Japanese in the East Indies and conducted aerial resupply for elements of Sparrow Force that were fighting on Timor. Late in 1943, the squadron began training on the Bristol Beaufort, completing its conversion in January 1944. The squadron operated the type only briefly before converting to the North American B-25 Mitchell in May. [9] After being withdrawn from operations briefly, it recommenced combat missions in late June, [11] focusing on anti-shipping strikes, but also attacking Japanese airfields. [12] Late in the war, No. 2 Squadron moved to Balikpapan in Borneo where it was used to drop supplies to Allied troops in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps before undertaking transportation duties following the end of hostilities. The squadron returned to Australia in mid-December 1945 and was disbanded in May 1946 at Laverton. Casualties during the war amounted to 176 killed. [11]

Post-World War II

In the post-World War II period, the squadron was reformed briefly as a communications squadron based at Mallala, South Australia, in June 1947 before a reorganisation early the following year saw it redesignated as No. 34 Squadron, while the previously existing No. 21 Squadron, equipped with Avro Lincolns at RAAF Base Amberley, became No. 2 Squadron. [13] In 1953, the squadron was re-equipped with GAF Canberras, which it later operated from RAAF Butterworth during the Malayan Emergency, after deploying there in 1958 to relieve the Lincoln-equipped No. 1 Squadron RAAF. During the emergency, the squadron undertook airstrikes against communist forces and after the conflict ended, it remained in Malaysia throughout the early 1960s during Confrontation, before despatching eight Canberras to South Vietnam in April 1967 as part of Australia's commitment to the Vietnam War. [14] [15]

Based at Phan Rang Air Base in Ninh Thuan province, the unit became part of the United States Air Force 35th Tactical Fighter Wing (35 TFW) and between April 1967 and June 1971, [16] the Canberras flew approximately 12,000 sorties. [17] Although the squadron initially undertook high-level night-time attacks, the majority of its operations were low-level daylight attacks and according to historian Steve Eather the squadron achieved a high success rate, accounting for 16 percent of 35 TFW's assessed bomb damage despite flying only five percent of its missions, while maintaining a 97–98 percent serviceability rate. [18] [15] It dropped 76,389 bombs and was credited with 786 enemy personnel confirmed killed and a further 3,390 estimated killed with 8,637 structures, 15,568 bunkers, 1,267 sampans and 74 bridges destroyed. [19] An aircraft from the squadron responded to a distress call on 24 April 1969 and, against operational orders, bombed a site in Cambodia (the Fishhook) where US special forces were pinned down. [20] Five crew members were killed during the war, [15] and two Canberras were shot down in 1970 and 1971. One was brought down by a surface-to-air missile from which the crewmen – one of whom was the squadron commander, Wing Commander Frank Downing – safely ejected and were rescued via helicopter, and another was lost during a bombing run around Da Nang. [13] The crew of the latter aircraft were not recovered during the war and were posted as "missing in action" however the wreckage of their Canberra was finally located in April 2009 and their remains returned to Australia. [21] The squadron was awarded the Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation and a United States Air Force Outstanding Unit Commendation for its service in Vietnam. [18] [15] During the deployment, the squadron's aircraft used the callsign "Magpie" in recognition of the squadron's emblem. [22]

The squadron returned to Australia in 1971, having been deployed overseas for a total of 13 years. [13] After Vietnam, No. 2 Squadron was based at Amberley, west of Brisbane, Queensland. [17] It briefly returned to bombing role in training, but in the later years of the Canberra bomber's RAAF operations, it was predominately used for target towing in support of the RAAF's fleet of Dassault Mirage III fighters and aerial mapping of Australia and other locations including Papua New Guinea, Irian Jaya and the Cocos and Christmas Islands. Eventually, the squadron's Canberra bombers were retired from service and in late July 1982 the squadron was disbanded. [18] [13]

The squadron was re-formed in January 2000 to operate Boeing 737 Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft procured as part of Project Wedgetail, out of RAAF Base Williamtown and RAAF Base Tindal. [17] [23] On 26 November 2009, the RAAF accepted the first two of six Boeing 737s, [24] and by the end of 2010, the squadron had begun training. In 2011, after a period of conversion training for its crews, it took part in Exercise Talisman Sabre with US and Australian forces. [17] The squadron forms part of the Surveillance & Response Group's No. 42 Wing, which is responsible for the RAAF's AEW&C capability. [25] [26] On 14 September 2014, the Federal government committed to deploying one of the squadron's Boeing 737s to Al Minhad Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, as part of a coalition to combat Islamic State forces in Iraq. [27] The aircraft began undertaking missions in Iraq on 1 October. [28]


History

No. 37 Squadron was established in July 1943 at RAAF Station Laverton, Victoria. It was first equipped with twin-engined Lockheed C-60 Lodestar transports and operated out of Parafield, South Australia, and Morotai in the Dutch East Indies. Towards the end of World War II, it re-equipped with Douglas C-47 Dakota twin-engined transports. [ 2 ] [ 3 ] By May 1945, No.㺥 Squadron was based in Essendon, Victoria. Following the end of hostilities, it was engaged in transporting former prisoners of war from Singapore to Australia, and later in conveying equipment to Japan for the British Commonwealth Occupation Force. [ 1 ] [ 2 ] In August 1946, it joined Nos.㺤 and 38 Squadrons, also flying Dakotas, as units of No.㻖 Wing at RAAF Station Schofields, New South Wales. In February 1948, No.㺥 Squadron was disbanded at Schofields. [ 2 ]

No.㺥 Squadron reformed at RAAF Base Richmond, New South Wales, in February 1966. [ 4 ] Equipped with Lockheed C-130E Hercules, it began long-range missions in support of Australian forces in Vietnam including aero-medical evacuations conveying wounded soldiers back to Australia, generally via RAAF Base Butterworth, Malaysia. [ 5 ] On 5 February 1967, one of the unit's Hercules was the first Australian strategic transport aircraft to land at Vung Tau. The squadron also transported forces out of Vietnam following the Australian withdrawal from the conflict in December 1972. [ 6 ] As well as participating in military exercises and overseas peacekeeping commitments, the Hercules became well known in the Southern Pacific after being called on for relief following many natural disasters including tidal waves in New Guinea, cyclones in the Solomons and Tonga, and fires and floods throughout Australia. [ 7 ] It played a vital part in the evacuation of civilians following Cyclone Tracy in Darwin, Northern Territory, in 1974–75 a No.㺥 Squadron C-130E was the first aircraft to touch down in Darwin following the disaster. [ 5 ] The Hercules also evacuated Australian embassy personnel from Saigon, South Vietnam, and Phnom Penh, Cambodia, following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. [ 5 ] [ 8 ] In January–February 1979, two No.㺥 Squadron C-130Es evacuated Australian and other foreign embassy staff from Tehran, shortly before the collapse of royal rule during the Iranian Revolution. [ 9 ] The same year, the squadron began operations with two ex-Qantas Boeing 707s, handing them over to No.㺡 Flight at the beginning of 1981. [ 10 ]

In 1986, No.㺥 Squadron transported the Popemobiles on John Paul II's tour of Australia its other unusual cargoes have included kangaroos and sheep to Malaysia, and archaeological exhibits from China. [ 5 ] In February 1987, the unit again joined No.㺤 Squadron, along with No.㺡 Squadron, as part of a reformed No.㻖 Wing under the newly established Air Lift Group. [ 11 ] The following year, No.㺥 Squadron achieved 200,000 accident-free flying hours on the Hercules. [ 5 ] The Australian public had the experience of flying in the C-130s when they were employed by the Federal Government to provide air transport during the 1989 Australian pilots' dispute that curtailed operations by the two domestic airlines. [ 12 ]

Described as one of the "busiest" and "hardest-working" units in the RAAF, No.㺥 Squadron re-equipped with new-model C-130J Hercules in 1999. [ 1 ] The unit has continued to support Australian peacekeeping missions around the world, including transport operations during the first Gulf War in 1990–91, and following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. [ 6 ] [ 12 ] [ 13 ] It was strengthened to create a "super squadron" on 17 November 2006, when its force of twelve C-130Js was augmented by twelve C-130Hs from No.㺤 Squadron, prior to the latter re-equipping with the Boeing C-17 Globemasters and relocating to RAAF Base Amberley, Queensland. [ 6 ] [ 14 ] In July 2008, No.㺥 Squadron celebrated the 65th anniversary of its establishment during World War II. [ 13 ] It was transferred from No.㻖 Wing to No.㻔 Wing on 1 October 2010, as part of a restructure of Air Lift Group. [ 15 ]


  • Queen marked the Centenary of the Royal Australian Air Force at the CWGC Air Forces Memorial, Surrey
  • It is reported that 94-year-old monarch made her appearance after receiving her second dose of Covid jab
  • CWGC Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede in Surrey was officially opened by Her Majesty in October, 1953
  • Her Majesty's last engagement was alongside grandson William at Porton Down near Salisbury last October

Published: 22:59 BST, 31 March 2021 | Updated: 09:22 BST, 1 April 2021

The Queen 'got her second Covid jab' before facing the public without a face mask today during her first official engagement after five months in lockdown.

The 94-year-old monarch visited the Commonwealth Air Forces Memorial in Runnymede, Surrey, to mark the centenary of the Royal Australian Air Force.

While she has been seen in video calls this year, today is the first time the Monarch has been seen in public since December, when she welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge back to Windsor after their whistle-stop tour of Britain.

It is reported that she made her appearance, which ties in closely with 12 weeks since she received her first Covid jab, after getting her second dose of the vaccine.

The event was her first in-person official engagement of 2021 - and the first since last October, when she visited the Defence Laboratory at Porton Down alongside her grandson Prince William.

It is also the first time she has been seen since Harry and Meghan's bombshell Oprah interview.

But in a light moment today, the Queen quizzed one Australian serviceman about his work with Typhoon jets and asked if they were 'being sent off to chase the Russians?' and was told, 'That's correct, ma'am, it's a lot of fun for us!'

The Queen, who had her first dose of the jab in January, did not wear a face covering but donned a bright spring-inspired ensemble an ivory Angela Kelly dress, green coat and matching hat adorned with faux daffodils and orchids, and the Australian wattle brooch presented to her on her first tour of the country in 1954.

She joked: 'It's a very long time since I've been here,' as she arrived at the memorial - which she had opened in her coronation year, on October 17, 1953.

The event comes as her husband Prince Philip recovers at home after undergoing heart surgery at St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London earlier this month.

Today also marks the first anniversary of 'Megxit' - when the Queen's grandson Harry and former Suits actress Meghan Markle stepped down from royal duties and stopped using their HRH styles, on March 31 last year.

The visit comes amid a tumultuous time for the family, in the wake of the Sussexes' televised sit-down with Oprah Winfrey at the start of this month which left the royal family facing one of its worst crises for generations.

The Queen issued a statement afterwards, saying that the issues raised - including accusations of racism in their explosive interview - would be dealt with privately as a family, but that 'some recollections may vary'.

The Queen was in good spirits as she arrived at the CWGC Air Forces Memorial in Runnymede, Surrey

The Queen's equerry Major Tom White laid a wreath on her behalf in honour of fallen airmen and women

The 94-year-old viewed panels bearing the names of Australian war dead and a display of fallen airmen and women in the memorial cloister, before meeting serving RAAF personnel

When the Queen arrived at Runnymede she was greeted by Claire Horton, director general of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and George Brandis, High Commissioner for Australia

Service personnel at the event looked delighted to have Her Majesty in their company, as she happily chatted to them all ahead of the service

She chatted to the Honourable George Brandis (left), High Commissioner for Australia

Left, The Queen opening the memorial at Runnymeade in Surrey in October 1953. Right, the Queen today, March 2021

The monarch was animated at the display today, cheerily greeting fellow guests and enjoying the Red Arrows fly past

The Monarch was all smiles as she happily chatted to service personnel at the event, her first public outing this year

The Queen bowed her head as prayers were said for Royal Australian Air Force servicemen and women who have lost their lives in service of their country

The 94-year-old clutched a programme of the day's events as she made her way around the memorial in Runnymede, Surrey

The Queen at the memorial, which commemorates more than 20,000 Commonwealth airmen and women who died during operations in north and west Europe and have no known grave

She joked: 'It's a very long time since I've been here,' as she arrived at the memorial - which she had opened in her coronation year, on October 17, 1953 (pictured here)

More than 350,000 men and women have served in the RAAF since its formation in 1921, fighting in conflicts ranging from the Second World War to others in Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan and Iraq, with more than 11,100 losing their lives in service

After spending the morning chatting with members of the Australian Air Force and taking part in centenary celebrations, the Queen made her way back to Windsor Castle

The ceremony began with a flypast by the Red Arrows, but with white smoke only instead of the familiar red, white and blue. As they do not normally perform at this time of year, their smoke pods are in for maintenance

Her Majesty was pictured leaving Windsor this morning, en route to the War Memorial at Runnymede

More videos

Husband hugs Caroline Crouch's mum before confessing to 'killing'

Handcuffed Babis Anagnostopoulos escorted by officers into court

Villagers in shock after tragic death of 23-year-old girl in Derbyshire village

Longest-known Covid patient dies after ending treatment

Hero guard who escaped armed robbers details attempted heist

Kate Middleton: Time for action is now on early childhood development

Woman is slashed in the face by man in Washington Square Park

Dame Andrea Leadsom says people 'terrified' of return to office

Ex-Commons Speaker and Tory MP John Bercow defects to Labour

Locals concerned about safety at night around Washington Square Park

Russia and China unveil future lunar base construction roadmap

Lorraine hints Emmerdale's Jonny McPherson is single after split

Generations of Royal Australian Air Force members (pictured with the Queen in 1953), have provided outstanding service to Australia in conflicts including WWII, Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq

'Are they chasing Russians?' Queen probes pilots about RAF jets

The Queen was in typically good spirits today as she laughed and joked with fellow attendees - and even asked an RAAF officer working with Typhoon jets if they were 'being sent off to chase the Russians?'

Her Majesty asked the air force personnel about working with Typhoon jets in Northumberland.

The Queen asked: 'Are they being sent off to chase the Russians?'

He replied: 'That's correct ma'am, it's a lot of fun for us!'

The Queen responded simply, 'Hmm'

A source told The Sun: 'Given the Queen has decided to make a public appearance so close to 12 weeks after the announcement of receiving her first vaccine it is clear she has already had her second.

'Aides won’t have wanted to put her at any risk.

'It is obviously much more reassuring to know that anyone who has received two doses of the vaccine is so well protected — even aged 94.'

When the Queen arrived at Runnymede she was greeted by Claire Horton, director general of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and George Brandis, High Commissioner for Australia.

The ceremony began with a flypast by the Red Arrows, but with white smoke only instead of the familiar red, white and blue. As they do not normally perform at this time of year, their smoke pods are in for maintenance.

Prayers were then said for Royal Australian Air Force servicemen and women who have lost their lives in service of their country before Her Majesty's Equerry Major Tom White laid a wreath on her behalf.

It bore a note reading, 'In memory of the glorious dead, Elizabeth.'

She said to one member of the Royal Australian Air Force who'd recently been posted to the UK: 'It's rather bad luck to have arrived in lockdown isn't it?

'I hope in the next couple of years you'll be able to travel a bit more'.

As she arrived at the memorial, which she opened in 1953, the Queen remarked on how long it was since she had last been there.

She added: 'You've got a good day for it. It's a very windy spot normally.'

The Duke of Edinburgh, 99, was admitted to St Bartholomew's Hospital in London on February 17 after feeling unwell.

He underwent surgery for a pre-existing heart condition - three months before his 100th birthday - before returning to King Edward VII hospital.

The couple - who had their first Covid vaccine in January - have spent the pandemic in lockdown at Windsor Castle with a team of staff dubbed 'HMS Bubble.'

Brothers in arms: The RAF and the RAAF

An RAF Typhoon intercepting a Russian 'Bear' bomber off the Scottish coast last September

The Royal Air Force has always had a strong relationship with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

They have an active personnel exchange programme - the officer the Queen was talking to is an RAAF squadron leader currently seconded as an air traffic controller to a Typhoon unit working as the Quick Reaction Force that intercepts Russian planes over the North Sea when they fly into British or NATO airspace.

Earlier this year, the Guardian revealed how Australia's air force personnel had been piloting deadly British air force drone strikes on enemy combatants in Iraq and Syria.

More than 350,000 men and women have served in the RAAF since its formation, fighting in conflicts ranging from the Second World War to Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, with more than 11,100 losing their lives in service.

During World War Two, 65 Australians lost their lives flying from RAF Coningsby, and at least 50 are known to have been decorated for gallantry.

Today the Queen was also given the promise of a present, to be delivered later when they have been made: two RAAF dog jackets for her new corgis.

'That's very kind,' she said. 'I look forward to it.'

HMQ wrote in a foreword to the order of service: 'As one of the oldest Air Forces in the world, it is fitting to pay tribute to the efficiency, skill and sacrifice of the men and women who have served in its ranks, in Australia and overseas, during the past one hundred years.'

The Queen's visit today comes after it emerged Prince Andrew's sex accuser could testify about him at Ghislaine Maxwell's trial.

The original photograph showing the Her Majesty's son, the Duke of York with his arm around Virginia Giuffre's waist at Maxwell's home in 2001 has been requested.

Ms Giuffre's lawyer Sigrid McCawley revealed in court documents that Maxwell's team want access to original copies of various photographs, reported The Sun.

It is thought Ms Giuffre, 37, who currently lives in Australia with her husband and three children, could give evidence alongside victims Maria and Annie Farmer.

It comes after new criminal charges against Maxwell renewed pressure on Prince Andrew because they fall within the time frame that he was meeting paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

More than 350,000 men and women have served in the RAAF since its formation in 1921, fighting in conflicts ranging from the Second World War to others in Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan and Iraq, with more than 11,100 losing their lives in service.

The Duke of Cambridge will also mark the centenary with a video message being released later on Wednesday that reflects on the service, courage and sacrifice made by generations of Royal Australian Air Force men and women.

The message will be played at the RAAF centenary dinner being held in the Australian capital Canberra with guests featuring the country's prime minister Scott Morrison and the governor-general, retired General David Hurley, who is the Queen's representative.

Since the pandemic began the Queen has carried out a handful of official events beyond the walls of Windsor Castle.

She was last seen outside her Berkshire residence in November during the annual Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph and, a few days before that, wore a face mask in public for the first time during a poignant visit to the grave of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey to mark the centenary of his burial.

In October the Queen joined by her grandson the Duke of Cambridge when she visited the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Porton Down in Wiltshire and formally opened the Energetics Analysis Centre.


The Queen’s maskless moment at RAAF ceremony

Runnymede: Of all the 1383 names of lost Australians carved into stone at the Runnymede Air Forces Memorial west of London, four captured the Queen’s attention during a rare journey beyond the walls of Windsor Castle.

Royal Australian Air Force pilot Donald Irving, navigator Stanley King, wireless operator Norman Huggett and air gunner Walter Adam took off from an airfield in Lincolnshire to attack Nuremberg on March 31, 1944 but were never heard from again. The bombing force lost 106 planes and 545 men to the angry skies over Europe that night — its deadliest of the campaign.

The Queen met serving members of the Royal Australian Air Force stationed in Britain. Credit: Getty Images

It later emerged the Lancaster bomber was blown off course and shot down east of Frankfurt. The plane crashed in thick forest, killing all eight crew including a Canadian mission specialist and a British engineer.

Australians John Newman and John Noskey were buried in Berlin War Cemetery but the bodies of Irving, King, Huggett and Adam were never recovered. They are four of the 20,456 men and women from the air forces of the British Empire who died during World War II and are remembered at Runnymede because they have no known grave.

The Queen made a surprise visit there on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 — 77 years to the day since that deadly night over Germany — to mark the anniversary of the Royal Australian Air Force which formed 100 years ago on March 31, 1921.

The event was the monarch’s first public appearance in nearly five months and only the fourth time she has held an engagement away from the castle where she and Prince Philip have sheltered for most of the coronavirus pandemic.

Her attendance had been carefully planned for months by Australian High Commissioner George Brandis and Buckingham Palace officials.

“The Queen receives tens of thousands of invitations to do functions and the fact that she chose an Australian event, here in the south of England, to mark this centenary I think a particularly significant compliment to Australia,” Brandis said.

Wearing the same diamond wattle brooch she was given during her first visit to Australia in 1954, the 94-year-old held court as she met serving RAAF members following the brief service which included a flypast by the Red Arrows.

Speaking to one RAAF officer about Britain’s Typhoon fighter jets, the Queen asked if they were “being sent off to chase the Russians?” The officer replied: “That’s correct Ma’am, it’s a lot of fun for us.”

The Queen first opened the Runnymede memorial in 1953. Credit: Getty Images

In another light moment, the monarch asked Brandis about Australians stranded in the United Kingdom during the pandemic. When Brandis dutifully informed her about efforts to get as many home as possible, the Queen quipped: “There are worse places to be stuck.”

She also beamed when Defence officials presented her with two RAAF-themed dog jackets for her new corgis.

In a formal statement, the Queen said she was “delighted” to congratulate the RAAF.

“As one of the oldest Air Forces in the world, it is fitting to pay tribute to the efficiency, skill and sacrifice of the men and women who have served in its ranks, in Australia and overseas, during the past one hundred years,” she said.

“Throughout my reign, the Royal Australian Air Force has shown immense dedication to duty and defended our freedom in many conflicts around the world.”

High Commissioner George Brandis lays a wreath at the socially-distanced anniversary service. Credit: Getty Images

Prince William — who flew for the Royal Air Force — also marked the centenary with a video message that reflected on the service, courage and sacrifice made by generations of Australians.

The Queen – who served as a driver and mechanic during World War II – first opened the Runnymede memorial in 1953. The then-26-year old had succeeded to the throne just one year earlier.

Group Captain Adrian Maso, the most senior RAAF officer stationed in the UK, said Defence had been in contact with descendants of the lost Australians the Queen heard about on Wednesday and they “are all very humbled by us telling their family story”.

Her appearance - just two days after restrictions were eased on how many people could gather outdoors in England – points to a more public profile this year as the COVID-19 risk subsides.

She has been isolating at home and left Windsor Castle only three times before for public engagements. The first was in October 2020 to meet scientists at a defence facility near Salisbury the other ventures were for the centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey in November, and a service for Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph on Whitehall.

The Queen and 99-year-old Prince Philip were given their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in early January and are thought to have since had the second shot. She did not wear a mask on Wednesday and each guest underwent a COVID-19 test before entry.

The Queen is nearly the same age as the RAAF and has reigned for more than two-thirds of its existence.

Major Thomas White, Equerry to the Queen, prepares to lay a wreath on her behalf. Credit: Getty Images

Under the so-called Imperial Gift of 1920, Britain gave Australia 126 planes which were either surplus to needs or replacements for Australian aircraft lost during battle.

One aircraft – a SE5a fighter – was handed to the Australian War Memorial in 1929 and displayed at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne before being moved to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

The skies over Europe were by far the most dangerous theatre of operations for Australians during World War II, with more than 4100 RAAF members killed while serving under the umbrella of the Royal Air Force Bomber Command.

More than one in three RAAF members who served in the Bomber Command were killed, amounting to 20 per cent of all Australian combat losses during the war.

Flight Lieutenant James Clarke from the Royal Australian Air Force is on a three-year exchange program in the UK and is currently based with 3(F) Squadron Typhoon at Royal Air Force Coningsby Lincolnshire. Credit: Crown Copyright MOD 2021

Flight Lieutenant James Clarke is the only RAAF member flying fast jets in skies over the UK today, via an exchange program. The 32-year-old flies Typhoons - the same aircraft the Queen referred to when joking about chasing off “the Russians” - at speeds of up to 1500 miles per hour or twice the speed of sound.

“Life moves at a different pace - you’re talking split-second decisions,” Clarke told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. “It’s eye-watering.”

Clarke’s base at Coningsby is steeped in World War II history. “The stresses we deal with today are nothing compared with the thought of taking off out of rural Lincolnshire in the fog, flying across really cold and dangerous water and then battling your way in to Europe and turning around and coming back,” he said. “It is awe-inspiring. The skill those men had were absolutely unbelievable.

“I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be on those aircraft very simple cockpit setups, very simple instruments with just them and their crew. And then you stack the odds against them with everything they had to contend with in Europe.

“My heart goes out to them - I’m incredibly humbled to be in this position to almost experience that, albeit with today’s modern technology. It’s an honour to showcase to the world what a potent force the RAAF has become over the past 100 years.”

Nearly 11,200 Australian air force members have been killed on active service.


Royal New Zealand Air Force

As New Zealand’s post-war air force faced up to the challenges of peacetime cutbacks, the onset of the Cold War in Europe led to a new focus for the RNZAF. Aircrews were provided for the Berlin airlift in 1948�, while a squadron of Vampire jet fighters was based in Cyprus from 1952 to 1955 as part of New Zealand’s contribution to Commonwealth defence plans for a possible war against the Soviet Union.

By the mid-1950s, New Zealand’s military commitment had switched to South-east Asia.  Three RNZAF squadrons operated against communist guerilla forces during the Malayan Emergency. Between 1955 and 1958 Vampires and Venom fighter-bombers of No. 14 Squadron flew 115 strike missions against guerilla targets – the first RNZAF combat operations since the Second World War. They were replaced by No. 75 Squadron (Canberras), while No. 41 Squadron (Bristol Freighters) dropped supplies to anti-guerilla forces.

The 1960s saw major changes to the RNZAF’s fleet. Under the guidance of the Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice-Marshal I.G. Morrison, the air force was re-equipped with American-made aircraft – P-3 Orions, C-130 Hercules, Bell UH-1 Iroquois and Bell 47G Sioux helicopters, and in 1970 A4 Skyhawks. They arrived just as new commitments in South-East Asia began affecting the RNZAF.

From 1964 to 1966, a squadron of Canberra bombers was based in Singapore to support Commonwealth operations during Indonesia’s Confrontation with Malaysia. RNZAF units were also part of New Zealand’s contribution during the Vietnam War. The first New Zealand combat troops were airlifted to South Vietnam by No. 40 Squadron (Hercules) in 1965, and No. 41 Squadron (Bristol Freighters) flew regular resupply missions from Singapore until 1975. From 1967 New Zealand helicopter pilots served with the RAAF’s No. 9 Squadron, while others flew with USAF squadrons as Forward Air Controllers. In total, 30 RNZAF pilots served in Vietnam between 1967 and 1971.

In the decade after Vietnam the RNZAF adopted a stronger maritime focus. Long-range surveillance patrols became more frequent in the waters around New Zealand as Orion crews hunted Soviet submarines and foreign fishing vessels operating illegally within New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone. At the same time RNZAF aircrews forged stronger ties with their United States and Australian counterparts through ANZUS-sponsored exercises.

Turbulent years

The 1980s and 1990s were turbulent decades for the RNZAF. New Zealand’s anti-nuclear stance led to its effective exclusion from ANZUS and the severing of overt military ties with the United States. The RNZAF ceased to participate in United States-sponsored exercises and personnel exchanges at a time when New Zealand military was looking to increase its involvement in international peacekeeping missions.

Keeping the peace

The RNZAF’s first peacekeeping deployment was to the Sinai in the 1982. Since then air contingents have been sent to Iran (1988�), Somalia (1993), Uganda (1994), Bosnia (1994�), Bougainville (1997�), Persian Gulf (1998), East Timor (1999� and 2007�) and the Solomon Islands (2003�).

A major government defence review in 1991 led to sweeping changes within the RNZAF. Budget cuts forced the closure of several bases, including Wigram, and around 700 personnel left the service as air force trades were civilianised. By 1999 the RNZAF operated from three main bases at Auckland, Ōhakea and Woodbourne, with No. 2 Squadron (Skyhawks) at Nowra in Australia. Two years later the Labour-led government made the controversial decision to disband the RNZAF combat wing (Nos 2, 14 and 75 squadrons). The mothballing of the Skyhawks and Aermacchi jet trainers led to a massive reorganisation of the air force’s resources and the departure of more personnel.

A new century

The new millennium brought with it a fresh set of the challenges for the streamlined RNZAF. New Zealand’s decision to join the ‘war on terror’ following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States led to a succession of air deployments to the Middle East during the early 2000s.

Helping at home

When the Christchurch earthquake struck on 22 February 2011, the RNZAF (along with army and navy) responded within a few hours. On the afternoon of the quake, an RNZAF Orion flew over the city taking photographs of damaged infrastructure, while a Boeing 757 arrived with search and rescue teams and medical personnel. Other RNZAF aircraft helped deploy police and medical personnel, and evacuate casualties and tourists.

Three months after the attack on the Twin Towers, two Hercules from No. 40 Squadron carried elements of the NZSAS to Pakistan following the invasion of Afghanistan. Another detachment was sent to Kyrgyzstan in 2003 to fly cargo and personnel into Afghanistan, while No. 5 Squadron Orions carried out surveillance flights around the Gulf region in 2003� during the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

These deployments signalled the beginning of a new operational era for the RNZAF. Humanitarian and peacekeeping operations in the Pacific and Middle East reinforced the importance of strategic and tactical air transport, maritime surveillance, and helicopter support for army and naval forces. They also exposed the limitations of the air force’s ageing equipment. In 2002 the government announced a major upgrade programme that has seen the modernisation of the Hercules and Orions and the renewal of the helicopter fleet. By 2012, modern NH-90 and A-109 helicopters had replaced the Vietnam War-era Iroquois and Sioux. The arrival of these modern aircraft, like the arrival of the Blériot in 1913, opens up a range of new possibilities for the RNZAF at home and in the wider world.