The last remaining Search and Rescue Squadron in the world, 84 Squadron, are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year.
Established in Beaulieu, Hampshire, in January 1917 as a Royal Flying Corps reconnaissance and fighter squadron they commenced their international operations on the Western Front in September 1917. On the Western Front its pilots downed 129 enemy aircraft and one of its aces Captain A W Beauchamp-Proctor was awarded the Victoria Cross later that year.
From France 84 Squadron never returned to the UK for residency and at present are the only RAF Squadron to be permanently based overseas.
The squadron has an association with the Middle East which dates back to the Second World War. For much of the war it was stationed in Iraq. This is reflected in the Squadron’s Scorpion emblem.
Their battle honours include the Somme (1918), Iraq (1920), Egypt and Libya (1940-1942) and North Burma (1944) just to name a few.
Former Second in Command of 84 Squadron, Flight Lieutenant Ben Welch, takes us on a journey through the 100 year history of the Squadron.
Throughout the years 84 Squadron have gathered archive materials from photos and documents to a pair of bloomers that were gifted to the Squadron after they rescued a lady in distress after her planed crashed in the 1920s – she was rescued by 84 and as a present of thanks gave the airmen her bloomers as a token of her appreciation.
One of the most interesting pieces of archive material held dearly by the squadron is the ‘Log of the Scorpion’. A diary of the crew who escaped being taken prisoner during the Second World War and managed to sail for 44 days from Java to Fraser Island in Australia.
Forces Radio BFBS produced a dramatised radio broadcast called ‘The Voyage of the Scorpion’ in 1963 sharing the story of their journey to Australia.
The squadron moved to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus in January 1972 where they have remained until the present day. Flying Whirlwind Mk 10 helicopters, the squadron was split into two flights – A flight in Akrotiri which was primarily responsible for search and rescue duties and B flight in Nicosia as a support role with the United Nations.
In 2001 the Western Sovereign Base Area in Cyprus suffered one of the worst nights of rioting in the history of the island when demonstrators attacked the police station in Episkopi. 84 Squadron evacuated injured police officers from the scene to hospital.
In 2016 they tackled one of the worst forest fires in the history of the island which resulted in a letter of thanks from the President of Cyprus and Prime Minister of the UK at the time, David Cameron.
Some of the airmen who were part of the operation explained to BFBS what was required of them to tackle the fires.
To mark 84 Squadron’s 100th birthday a special centenary parade was held in February at RAF Akrotiri. Members from the 84 Squadron Association featuring past and present airmen were also present.
Joining in on the centenary celebrations, RAF Akrotiri Primary School held a competition to design a commemorative mosaic which would be a permanent feature within the school grounds. Daisy Bowles, whose father is an 84 Squadron pilot, was unveiled as the winning artist of the design.
BFBS Cyprus were present at the unveiling and found out where the inspiration came from.
Looking ahead to 2018, a big year for the Royal Air Force who mark their 100th anniversary, Station Commander of RAF Akrotiri Group Captain Mike Blackburn gives an insight into the plans for the centenary.
“The Royal Air Force has got a hugely admired reputation and we’re the best. The RAF 100 is about commemorating, it’s about celebrating and equally it’s about inspiring the next generation of aviators for the next 100 years.”
“Hopefully there will be a 100 Squadron flypast at some point in London next Summer. The plan at the minute is to use a Griffin, similar to the one we’ve got on 84 Squadron. To get one of their aircraft in the air as part of that flypast would be a fitting tribute.”
Earlier this month 84 Squadron welcomed a new Commanding Officer.
On the dispersal at RAF Akrotiri, Squadron Leader Al Ross took command of one of the Royal Air Force’s most historic squadrons in a Griffin helicopter.
At the controls of another Griffin was Squadron Leader Richard Simpson, who handed over control after two and a half years in charge.
The pair flew in formation and, as is traditional for 84 Squadron, the two leaders exchanged command while airborne.
Forces TV’s Simon Newton was on board for the handover.