News of interest
previous page


Military personnel deployed to Kabul last summer will receive the Operational Service Medal Afghanistan with a distinctive ‘OPERATION PITTING’ clasp.
Operation Pitting resulted in the safe evacuation of over 15,000 people from Afghanistan.


Sixth RAF Poseidon named Guernsey's Reply

The UK’s sixth Poseidon MRA Mk1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft, will be known as ‘Guernsey’s Reply’ to honour the close bond between 201 Squadron, the island of Guernsey and Flight Lieutenant Herbert Machon OBE.

To mark the Bailiwick of Guernsey’s 76th ‘Liberation Day’, the Royal Air Force is honoured to announce that the UK’s sixth Poseidon MRA Mk1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft, ZP 806, will be known as ‘Guernsey’s Reply’ to honour the close bond between 201 Squadron, the island of Guernsey and Flight Lieutenant Herbert Machon OBE.

‘Herbie’ Machon left his home in Guernsey shortly before the German occupation during WWII and joined the British Military. He was destined to fly Spitfires in the RAF and, in honour and memory of his countrymen living under occupation, he named his Mk XVI Spitfire “Guernsey’s Reply”. Herbie sadly passed away in 2004 and 201 Squadron personnel had the privilege of acting as pall bearers at his funeral.

When 201 Squadron was disbanded in 2011, it was the last maritime squadron to retain a local affiliation and carried the moniker 'Guernsey's Own' commemorating a link forged in the challenging days just before the Second World War. It was an affiliation under the Municipal Liaison Scheme, announced on 5th May 1939 by the Air Minister Sir Kingsley Wood in Guernsey when he opened Guernsey Airport. The received wisdom is that it is the last surviving affiliation under that scheme. It is also considered to be the only RAF Squadron with such an historic link. Guernsey and 201 Squadron are proud of the fact that the link has survived and will continue to flourish.

This link between Squadron and Island remained strong and in 1994, as part of its 80th anniversary celebrations, the Squadron was granted ‘The Privilege of Guernsey’. It was the first award in Guernsey's history of this ancient military honour, which gives the right to march with colours flying, drums beating, and bayonets fixed.

After a 10-year hiatus, 201 Squadron will return at RAF Lossiemouth later in the year and will be the second squadron operating the state-of-the-art Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft alongside 120 Squadron.

"It is befitting of this long and proud association that one of the UK’s new Poseidon aircraft bears the name ‘Guernsey’s Reply’. No 201 Squadron will stand up this summer and I am looking forward to retrieving the Standard from Guernsey where it was held for safe keeping in the hope that the Squadron would return, and the affiliation could continue. It is an honour to bring the Squadron back to maritime operations; the coming years will be challenging and exciting in equal measure and it is vital that as we move forward, we retain this historic link."

The Bailiff of Guernsey, Richard McMahon, said: "The people of Guernsey take great pride in the long-standing and unique relationship the Island has with 201 Squadron, “Guernsey’s Own”. We are looking forward to re-affirming that affiliation later this year when the Squadron will stand up once again. It is most fitting that this new Poseidon aircraft will carry the name “Guernsey’s Reply”, replicating the style used by Flight Lieutenant Herbie Machon for his war-time Spitfire, which he flew to Guernsey in June 1945 following the Liberation from Occupation the previous month. Herbie, who was later elected as a Jurat of the Royal Court, was a gallant Guernseyman who served during the War to secure the freedoms we enjoy today 76 years later. “Guernsey’s Reply” will further strengthen our links with those who continue to have responsibility for our collective defence effort, keeping us all safe."

"The longstanding bond between Guernsey and 201 Squadron has endured world war and the unit’s disbandment, when the Squadron’s standard was lodged in Government House for safekeeping. I am delighted now to be able to return it to its rightful owners, as we begin a new and exciting chapter in the Squadron’s affiliation with Guernsey."

The former NATO Submarine Force Commander and Head of the UK Submarine Force added: "On a personal note, I’m particularly pleased to see the UK regain its airborne anti-submarine warfare capability. Poseidon is an extremely effective maritime patrol aircraft and an essential component in Britain’s defence against undersea threats. Islanders can be rightly proud of Guernsey having a visible association with a key element of Britain’s defence capability."

Due to be delivered to the RAF in September 2021, ‘Guernsey’s Reply’ is undergoing its final checks at the Boeing factory in Seattle before joining the growing fleet. The first five Poseidon aircraft have been named Pride of Moray, City of Elgin, Terence Bulloch DSO DFC, Spirit of Reykjavik and Fulmar. The RAF Poseidon fleet, which will total nine aircraft, is already providing cutting-edge maritime patrol capabilities working side-by-side with the Royal Navy to secure the seas around the UK and abroad.

In honour and memory of his countrymen living under occupation, Flight Lieutenant Herbert Machon named his Spitfire “Guernsey’s Reply”.

Herbie’s family were delighted to learn that the name of his wartime Spitfire 16, Guernsey’s Reply, would take to the skies on the RAF’s newest Poseidon aircraft. As a young man he evacuated to England at the start of the War, leaving behind his parents who would face five long years of German occupation.

He volunteered for the Army, then transferred to the RAF in 1942, learned to fly in America then taught many would-be pilots, survived two forced landings and flew many of the new American fighters. Returning to the UK he was posted to 603 City of Edinburgh Squadron. His log book reveals one pilot’s diverse combat missions.

Sent to Skebrae, Orkney, he flew in the frigid air eight miles high seeking German aircraft trying to photograph the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow, protected only by a fur lined suit and pressurised oxygen.

When Hitler attacked England with V1 flying bombs and V2 rockets he led his flight of four Spitfires in dive-bombing attacks against the heavily defended Dutch launch sites, anti-aircraft fire streaming past their aircraft.

Herbie dive-bombed railways, bridges, the Shell Mex building in the Hague, heavy gun positions and a garage near Hague Station; machine gunned trains. On one attack three squadron aircraft were hit by flak.

Despite this his only injury was when his Spitfire was struck by an inexperienced pilot on a training flight over the North Sea. He crashed on land after bouncing off the sea, suffering cracked ribs, but was back in the air five days later.

And there were missions protecting hundreds of Lancasters in attacks on Hamburg, Nuremburg and the U-boat pens at Heligoland.

The squadron stood down with the end of the war on 8th May 1945, but three days later Herbie was part of the escort for German Ju52s bringing VIPs for peace talks about Norway.

He was demobbed in 1947 and returned to Guernsey, but you can’t keep a good pilot on the ground. In May 1959 he was called by a former trainee pilot in America, now Captain L. Krazehovich and based at Weathersfield in England. Would Herbie like to fly in a Super Sabre fighter? Herbie would, and went supersonic. Which made his links with 201 Squadron and RAFA perfectly understandable.


New garden village to be created on site of former RAF base


Plans for a national V-Force Memorial to be built at The Vulcan Experience


Lossie Lighthouse Magazine


Two Military Air Shows Impacted By Coronavirus

The announcements come amid the Government's continued call for social distancing to try and stop the COVID-19 outbreak.

One military air show has been cancelled and another postponed amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis. 

The Royal Navy International Air Day 2020 at RNAS Yeovilton has been called off, while the 2020 RAF Cosford Air Show has been postponed.

In a statement, the Royal Navy said it was a "difficult decision" to cancel the International Air Day due to take place on 11 July.

"This decision to cancel has been made as a prudent measure and in accordance with Government guidance on COVID-19," the statement read. 

"We are making sensible and proportionate adjustments to non-essential activity, these decisions are made on a case by case basis to minimise the impact of COVID-19."

Meanwhile, organisers of the air show at RAF Cosford said it has been postponed as they were "unable to guarantee normality" by the start of the event on 14 June.

Crowds walk around RAF Cosford at last year's air show (Picture: Crown Copyright).

RAF Cosford also said the new date is "still to be arranged".

Both air shows have said tickets can be refunded. 

The announcements come after the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford - one of the biggest air shows in the world - was also cancelled on Friday.


What Animals Other Than Dogs And Horses Are Used By The Military?

From dogs and horses to camels, dolphins, elephants and weaponised insects

African Elephant roams free at the Selous
                      Reserve in Tanzania Credit DVIDS Timothy Ryan

Dogs and horses are well known companions of the Armed Forces but dolphins, sea lions, monkeys, pigeons and elephants all feature in the history of the militarisation of animals.

A cat has even been recruited as a spy.

Insects have been weaponised.

There's an army of monkey commandos.

Elephants might be thought of as war animals consigned to distant historic battles – but there is one military force in the world that still uses elephants today.

Throughout history, animals of all shapes and sizes have played a crucial role in assisting the armed forces.

Animals have joined men and women in combat, played a vital role in discovering the location of improved explosive devices, been invaluable during search and rescue operations, and helped transport troops - all while protecting and supporting their human counterparts.

From elephants and insects to military working dogs and spy cats, animals small and large have proven themselves time and time again to be fiercely loyal and useful.

Here, we take a look at a selection of animals and the variety of different ways they have helped defence in history, through the First and Second World Wars to the present day.


Elephants, as well as their use dating back to battles in ancient history, were used as late as the Second World War in the Far East where it was difficult to use bulky vehicles on unreliable roads.

The skill and strength of earth's largest land animals mean they were ideal for tasks like removing fallen trees blocking roads or pulling aircraft into position. 

Elephant Supermarine Walrus Aircraft Fleet
                      Air Arm station India June 1944 Royal Navy
                      Photographer IWM
© IWM (A 24291)

War Elephants 

For many, the term 'War Elephant' conjures up images of military commander Hannibal leading an army of elephants across the Alps during the Second Punic War, 218 to 201 BC.

The elephants, or as Philip Ball, science writer for The Guardian calls them, 'tanks of classical warfare', were used to transport supplies and men and their thick skin was almost impenetrable by the enemy's spears and swords.

Gavin de Beer, Director of the British Museum of Natural History (1950-60), explained in his 1955 study, ''Alps and Elephants'' why Hannibal might have chosen to use the gentle giants. He wrote: 

''Not only did the elephants' appearance, their smell, and the noise of their trumpeting alarm both men and horses opposed to them, but they were highly dangerous when charged, fighting with their tusks and their trunks and trampling down their opponents.''

War Elephant Illustration Army of Carthage
                      Credit Shutterstock Sammy33
Credit: Shutterstock / Sammy33

There is one place on earth where elephants are still used by an armed force.

In Myanmar, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), branded by the government as a terrorist organisation, defends its land, Kachin State, against what it believes is domination by Myanmar’s military. 

The KIA military group uses elephants because, while deep in the jungle, it is difficult to bring in supplies any other way in the unforgiving terrain.

Food, medicine and weapons, which any other military might transport by a vehicle, are easier to transport by elephant.

Jacob Shell, a geography professor at Temple University and author of 'Giants of the Monsoon Forest' and an expert on elephants, claims the large mammals are the ideal animal to assist humans in the jungle. He said:

“[Asian elephants] are evolved to be mobile in precisely these sorts of conditions.

“They’re happy in the rain, don’t get stuck in mud — the musculature in their feet prevents this — and can ‘fuel up’ by eating the bamboo shoots and other nutritious vegetation they encounter as they traverse the landscape.”

Keeping Elephants Safe

On June 16, 2004, the United States Army published a field manual (FM) as a “guide for Special Forces (SF) personnel to use when conducting training or combat situations using pack animals.” 

It captures some of the expertise and techniques that have been lost in the US Army over the last 50 years. However, at one point, the FM makes it clear the material in the manual “is not intended as a substitute for veterinary expertise nor will it make a veterinarian out of the reader.” 

The FM covers animals like horses, donkeys and camels – all mammals associated with transporting either people or items over large distances. 

However, it also covers elephants, perhaps the largest animal used by humans for combat and, in the modern period, non-combat engineering and labour roles.

African Elephant roams free at the Selous
                      Reserve in Tanzania Credit DVIDS Timothy Ryan
Credit: DVIDS / Timothy Ryan

The FM categorically states that because elephants are an endangered species, after being drastically poached for their ivory tusks for centuries, they should not be used by US military personnel. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the number of elephants has decreased from an estimated 10 million in 1930 to as little as 415,00 in 2016 across Africa. 

To keep elephants healthy, the FM recommends that elephants need 169 litres of water per day and they should “quit work” in temperatures over 39.4C. 

Elephants are no longer used by British or American forces. Instead, the British Army now plays a vital role in keeping them safe. 

The British Army is playing a crucial role in the fight to prevent poaching. Teams from various regiments remove traps set by poachers to kill endangered wildlife that resides in places like Liwonde National Park in Malawi, East Africa. 

They also pass on the latest operational techniques that could enhance anti-poaching teams in Africa in their war on the illegal trade in animal ivory, pelts and bones. 

Spy Cat 

A CIA project, codenamed ‘Acoustic Kitty’, was launched during the Cold War in the 1960s to help the United States spy on the Kremlin and Soviet embassies. 

In the 1995 BBC documentary ‘The Living Dead: Three Films About the Power of the Past’, British filmmaker Adam Curtis looked at the fascinating story of the cat whose life’s purpose became to fight the Cold War. 

According to former CIA employee and whistleblower Victor Marchetti, the project cost around $25 million.

Cat Spy Rose Thorns Grass Credit:
                      Shutterstock / Fauren
Credit: Shutterstock / Fauren

The idea was for a veterinary surgeon to create a ‘spy cat’ by turning the feline secret agent into a prowling audio device by inserting technology into the animal via surgery. Victor said: 

“The cat that was used for the experiment had to be cut open and have a power pack placed inside its abdomen. 

“Wires were run up to its ear, to its cochlea, wires to its brain to determine when it was hungry or sexually aroused and wires to override these urges."

Sadly, the experiment did not go as planned. Once the scars had healed, the cat was sent across the street to eavesdrop on a conversation while being monitored. Suddenly, everything changed. Victor said: 

“As this poor little monstrosity waddled across the street, a taxicab came down and ran it over.

“So, it was $25 million down the drain.” 

The Often Forgotten Hero Of War - The Horse

Horses have been right at the heart of military operations for thousands of years.

During the First World War, horses were a regular sight on the battlefield.

Taken from farms back home, they were sent into service alongside soldiers, where they faced the horrors of trench warfare.

And they weren’t just used to carry officers or cavalry charges. 

Every bit of kit from candles to cannon was transported by horsepower.

By the end of World War One, eight million horses died on all sides.

As recently as 100 years ago, horses would have gone to battle, but now the horses stay behind when the soldiers go to war.

Instead, their moment to shine comes at state occasions such as royal weddings and military parades.

Horses are still used around the world, not only for military ceremonies, but also as an aid to transport, alongside other animals such as mules.

WW1 First World War Horse Flanders Mud Credit
                      Shutterstock / Everett Historical
Credit: Shutterstock / Everett Historical


In 2010, a former version of 1st Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment (1 YORKS), who were based in Munster, Germany at the time, welcomed visitors at the camp gate with some furry and sometimes disobedient recruits.

Ferrets, Imphal and Quebec were a gift to the battalion by a farmer near their base.

During the First World War, ferrets would be used when there were food shortages. They would be encouraged down holes to bring rabbits up to be eaten.

The Yorkshire tradition of keeping ferrets has since declined but Imphal and Quebec stayed with 1 YORKS until 2012.

The sharp-clawed pets had their own passports and even wore little camouflage jackets. Corporal Terry Walters, who was given the title of 1 YORKS Ferret Handler, spoke to British Forces News reporter Julie Knox in 2010 and said: 

“On parade obviously they’ve got their own jackets and we walk them up and down on the leads.

"People come up to us and ask us questions about them and basically the kids come up and stroke them and things like that.” 

Helping Farmers In Afghanistan 

In March 2011, a Veterinary Teaching Initiative was established by troops from Delta Company of Canterbury-based 5 SCOTS to help develop farming across Helmand - assisting local veterinarians to tackle some of the many problems arriving at their doors. 

Many farmers would bring their animals to clinics which were supported by the Afghanistan Government. Some animals had worms or internal problems. Others had been injured and some had diseases from other countries or parasitic diseases.

Royal Army Veterinary Corps officer goat free
                  veterinary clinic Helmand Afghanistan Defence Imagery
                  Credit MOD

The scheme was led by Captain Lowe who spent time educating local nationals on better ways to care for their animals. The event was very popular; approximately 60 people attended on the first day and more than 100 on the second. Captain Lowe said: 

“The aim of these two days was to educate the local people on modern methods of animal husbandry practices and medical care. 

“This knowledge will help to make them more self-reliant and also help to improve their livelihoods.” 

The scheme was designed to help boost farming, make it a viable source of income to take people away from poppy growing and to provide more food for the local community. 

The Strong Bond Between Handler And Dog 

There is a long history of dogs in active military service – in everything from serving alongside their handlers in patrols, search and rescue missions, sniffing out arms and explosives and working alongside military police forces.

Dogs can be trained to the highest standard and handlers often form an incredible bond with their Military Working Dogs.

For instance, the British Army’s Canine Training Squadron, part of the Defence Animal Training Regiment, trains dogs for an array of sectors within the Ministry of Defence, while RAF Police train dogs to carry out searches of airfields and bases among other defence and policing duties.

Some of the world’s militaries have used dogs as therapy and morale dogs, an uplifting presence during deployments to conflict zones, for example, or as a mascot to keep up spirits.

One notable partnership in recent history was that of the British Army's late LCpl Liam Tasker, of the 1st Military Working Dog Regiment, who with his devoted dog Theo, held a record for the most confirmed finds of improvised explosive devices (IEDs)  ever, in the months before the pair died in the service of their country while on deployment.

In just five months, they had uncovered 14 Taliban roadside bombs and hidden weapons. 

Their actions helped prevent the potential deaths of countless numbers of British personnel.

On one occasion, the brave pair discovered an underground tunnel leading to a room in which insurgents were suspected of making bombs and hiding from coalition forces. 

Sadly, their incredible teamwork came to an end on March 1, 2011, when 26-year-old Lance Corporal Tasker was shot by insurgents while on patrol and died of his injuries. 

Just hours later, Theo died after suffering a seizure.

LCpl Liam Tasker Theo Royal Army Veterinary
                      Corps Afghanistan Credit MOD
LCpl Liam Tasker and his devoted dog Theo

Theo was posthumously awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal for his heroic actions on 25 October 2012. His citation stated: 

“Without doubt, Theo’s actions and devotion to his duties, while in the throes of conflict, saved many lives.” 

The medal is the highest award any animal can receive for life-saving bravery in conflict. 

Theo’s ashes accompanied his handler’s coffin when they were repatriated, and the pair were laid to rest together in Scotland. 

How Have Militaries Weaponised Insects?

In July 2015, San José State University School of Information lecturer and author Dr. Susan L. Maret filed a Freedom Of Information Request about “DARPA’s role in the development and application of Hybrid Insect Microelectromechanical Systems and microelectromechanical (HI-MEMS) systems.” 

Because of this request, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) released an 88-page document about their vision for Hybrid Insect Microelectromechanical Systems and Susan shared this with the world when she published it all on her blog in October 2016. 

DARPA’s vision was to “create technology to reliably integrate microsystems payloads on insects to enable insect cyborgs.” 

Early Metamorphosis Insertion Technology (EMIT) 

The document revealed experiments were taking place in the 1940s to discover whether microsystems could be reliably inserted into pupas for insect control. They would cut pupas in half and insert pipes for hormone transport. They said: 

“... it is a challenge to implant electronic systems to modulate the insect’s flight without disturbing the insect’s own efficient flight mechanism.

Death's-Head Hawkmoth Credit
Credit: Shutterstock/Gwoeii

They were able to prove that when halved, a pupa will still develop into a moth. They then successfully inserted a glass tube to transport hormones between the two halves. The next step was to create a miniature flying cyborg by correctly inserting microsystems to control the insect. 

It was discovered that insertion during the early or late pupae stage resulted in fair to good electrical and mechanical coupling. 

There were concerns whether a Micro-Air-Vehicle (MAV) or insect-sized autonomous aircraft would be able to create enough lift or energy to work for long periods. 

The 88-page document said: 

“EMIT can benefit from any insect/animal that has metamorphic development (moths, butterflies, beetles, etc.) to create insect cyborgs with different locomotion capabilities.”

Cyborg Beetles 

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) surprised many in 2006 with an unusual request. 

They asked scientists to submit "innovative proposals to develop technology to create insect-cyborgs". 

This caught the attention of Michel Maharbiz, a professor with the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley who specialises in extreme miniaturization of technology. 

He presumed that many scientists would choose to experiment with moths, like in the 1940s or flies so he and his team chose to work with beetles instead as they are sturdier. 

Their work involved stimulating the left and right wings of flower beetles to change its flight course.  

A micro-backpack was attached to the beetle and electrodes were connected to the beetle’s optic lobes and flight muscles. Maharbiz said:

“In our earlier work using beetles in remote-controlled flight, we showed excellent control of flight initiation and cessation, but relatively crude control of steering during free flight.

“Our findings about the flight muscle allowed us to demonstrate for the first time a higher level of control of free-flying beetles.”

This research could, in turn, lead to making search-and-rescue operations in areas too dangerous for humans much safer.


The US Navy trains bottlenose dolphins as part of its Marine Mammal Program. 

The aquatic mammals are trained to search for and mark the location of undersea mines, either floating from an anchor or buried in the seafloor. 

The US Navy began working with dolphins in the 1960s to help with mine detection and the design of new submarines and underwater weapons.  

The largest maritime exercise in the world, The Rim Of The Pacific (RIMPAC) takes place every other year in and around the Hawaiian Islands and involves 25 countries, including Australia, Brunei, Canada and the UK. 

The US Navy uses RIMPAC to carry out training with their bottlenose dolphins as part of their mine countermeasure. 

The mammals are used in a simulated mine hunting session where they are directed to seek out and mark simulated mines. 

Paul Nachtigall, Director of the Marine Mammal Research Program at the Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology in Kāne‘ohe Bay, says dolphins cannot be beaten when it comes to finding mines. 

"[Bottlenose dolphins] are better than any machine as far as detecting mines." 


This is because dolphin's sonar is so precise. 

Dolphins navigate around their environment by sending out a series of sounds that ‘bounce off’ objects found in the sea like coral, whales and submarines. Just like bats, the mammals pick up the return echoes and form an idea of what is around them. This is known as echolocation or biosonar.

Sea Lions And Beluga Whales

Sea lions and beluga whales join dolphins in the list of sea creatures used by armed forces around the world for military strategies.

Russia and the United States are among nations that have turned to sea lions and belugas to bolster their marine and naval forces.

Russian state television reported in 2017 that its military had been carrying out experiments to train beluga whales and other marine creatures to guard naval base access points, work alongside armed forces divers and even ward off intruders who entered military marine territories.

American military has trained marine animals such as Californian sea lions, as well as dolphins, in experiments dating back to the 1960s.

Reports suggest these marine creatures can detect and hunt out undersea mines faster than their human counterparts.

The US Navy trains the animals to locate mines that are tethered to anchors, floating or covered on the sea floor in murky waters – an operation that humans often struggle to carry out with such efficiency even with the best technologies.

Sea lions and bottlenose dolphins are also trained to hunt down and retrieve missing equipment that has been lost or discarded during training exercises, such as unarmed training ordnance like practice mines, and to identify intruders in restricted military zones.

While dolphins have excellent sonar abilities, sea lions have excellent eyesight which allows them to carry out such operations with a degree of efficiency over and above human divers.

Earning Your Dolphins 

Incidentally, the Royal Navy's 'Dolphin Badge' is awarded to all submariners who successfully pass their training to join the Submarine Service.

The tradition started in the 1950s and the current badge has been issued since 1972.

Dolphin Badge Royal Navy Submarine Service
                  Defence Imagery 45155740

Pigeons And Other Birds

During the Second World War, an arm of the British intelligence service, known as MI14, is reported to have run a Secret Pigeon Service

The UK intelligence would parachute containers with the birds over occupied European territories with a questionnaire. Those pigeons that returned carried messages useful to predict and counter-act German missions.

A pigeons could fly at speeds of up to 60mph, they were fast and efficient in delivering coded messages from the front.

Their speed and flight altitude made it difficult for snipers to pick them out.

Pigeon close up pic 140919 credit unsplash.jpg

Britain’s Armed Forces paid civilian pigeons fanciers to look after about a hundred pigeons for military use right up until about 1950.

With the advent of the Cold War, the majority of British pigeon operations are believed to have shut down, but not the CIA's.

Declassified documents revealed in 2019 how the CIA trained pigeons to carry out clandestine spying missions by photographing restricted sites inside the Soviet Union during the 45 years of the Cold War, which stretched from the late 1940s to the earlier 1990s.

Pigeons, and other birds such as ravens, had been used to carry bugging devices and other spying gadgets and leave them on window sills.

By 1967, the CIA was spending more than $600,000 (today's rough equivalent of $2.2m, or £1.7m) on three programmes which involved animals and spying operations.

Some armed militia are reported to still use pigeons in today's conflicts. It emerged in 2016 that Islamic State had turned pigeon fanciers themselves to train birds to carry messages between some of their factions.


The People’s Liberation Army of China has enlisted the service of macaque monkeys to defence aircraft from migrating birds, which present the threat of bringing down military planes by inadvertently flying into aircraft engines.

China’s monkey commandos are keeping swathes of birds, in one of the busiest migration routes for birds in the world, away from air force jets in an animal operation that is succeeded where human endeavour has failed.

Soldiers had been using various tactics such as the setting off firecrackers, firing guns, putting up scarecrows and climbing trees to destroy nests but the birds still kept on finding resting places around a Chinese military base, the location of which has been kept secret by Chinese state media in its reporting of the monkey commandos.

It has been reported that the monkeys are trained to destroy bird nests and scare away birds in flight on command.


Yesterday marked the 35th anniversary of the horrific accident that cast a long shadow over the entire RAF. This memorial was dedicated on the 3 July 2016 at RAF Cranwell, in memory of the RAF musicians of the RAF Band who lost their lives along with an RAF Policeman George Crawford and their coach driver in Germany on 11 February 1985:

Sqn Ldr Robin Tomsett
WO Gordon Harrison
FSgt Brian Hadden
Chief Technician Paul Jenkins
Chief Technician Philip Parker
Chief Technician Alun Thomas
Chief Technician Paul Woods
Sgt William Boyd
Sgt Brian Perry
Sgt John Pettit
Sgt John Tickle
Cpl William Buzza
Cpl Sean Cripps
Cpl Andrew Saunders
Junior Technician Simon Goodge
Junior Technician Andrew Mannas
Junior Technician Ian Smith
Junior Technician Philip Smith
Junior Technician Colin Wilson
Cpl George Crawford RAF Police
Herr Kronke the coach driver

May they all Rest in Peace.


Hundreds pay farewell to hero of nations, Jim Auton, whose Royal Air Forces Association military funeral took place at Newark Parish Church

He was a brave fighter of the second world war, a lovely friend, a hero for Britain, for Poland and my hero.

These were the words spoken by seven-year-old Daniel Michalak at the funeral of Jim Auton, a hero of the Warsaw Uprising.

There was concern that having no family and being 95 years of age that the highly-decorated Auton's funeral might not be well-attended.

Jim Auton as a young serviceman (28526883)
Jim Auton as a young serviceman (28526883)

An appeal featured in the Advertiser saw to it that wasn't the case as every seat in Newark Parish Church was filled, leaving some to stand while others waited on the street outside.

Jim, of Newark, received a full military funeral thanks to the efforts of the Royal Air Forces Association who stepped in after it was learnt he had no known family.

Representatives from a number of grateful nations were in attendance, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Canada and South Africa.

Colonel Jiri Niedoba, Czech Republic Defence Attache
              and his aide, Chief Warrant Officer Tomas Kaspar.
Colonel Jiri Niedoba, Czech Republic Defence Attache and his aide, Chief Warrant Officer Tomas Kaspar. (28526885)

Former RAF Bomb Aimer Jim died last month.

Many of those who attended today's (Thursday) service came out of respect, having never met him.

Among them were Michelle Woodruff and Pauline Williams, from Newark.

"We came out of respect. We saw it in the Advertiser and were worried that there wouldn't be many people here.

Jim Auton's Union Flag-draped coffin. (28526924)
Jim Auton's Union Flag-draped coffin. (28526924)

"We couldn't let that happen given what he did for the country."

Colonel Jiri Niedoba, Defence Attache to Britain from the Czech Republic, said: "He was a friend to Czech pilots in the second world war and it is our honour to be here."

Derek Wardally, a former Corporal in the Royal Engineers, said: "It was unbelievable to have known someone of that stature. He always had plenty of stories to tell ­— an amazing man."

The coffin is carried from Newark Parish Church.
The coffin is carried from Newark Parish Church. (28526918)

Former RAF policeman Chris Gangel said: "It was a privilege to have known him. He deserves everyone's respect."

Jim was understood to be the last surviving British member of the 1944 Warsaw Air Bridge ­— an allied air forces operation to drop supplies to the Polish Resistance.

The coffin is carried from the hearse. (28526894)
The coffin is carried from the hearse. (28526894)

The dramatic 63-day battle cost the lives of over 150,000 civilians and destroyed large parts of the city.

The service was conducted by the Rev Paul Franklin who told the story of the man and the wartime exploits.

The story was of a man of great humour who had at times been tormented by his wartime service and sought out former opponents afterwards in reconciliation.

Jim Auton at Remembrance Day.
Jim Auton at Remembrance Day.

Jim's Warsaw Uprising was explained by Dave Baliol-Key. It heard how that when many others turned back, Jim's crew persisted for 50 minutes on the night of that first air drop over a burning city, and amid heavy flak to locate the drop zone and ensure their cargo of supplies reached the beleaguered Polish resistance.

The Consulate General of the Republic of Poland, Leszek Rowicki, spoke of how he had had the honour of meeting Jim in December when it was near to the end and decorated him with Poland's highest military honour that can be bestowed on a foreign national.

"He was a hero and someone I would like to call a friend. May the bravery of Francis James Auton never be forgotten," he said.

The coffin of former RAF Bomb Aimer Jim Auton rests
              in Newark Parish Church. 060220TV2-2
The coffin of former RAF Bomb Aimer Jim Auton rests in Newark Parish Church. 060220TV2-2

Jim was wounded during his 37th mission with 178 Squadron at the age of 20, and lost sight in his right eye.

After the war, he was awarded 20 medals by six different countries, including the Polish Presidential Gold Order of Merit and the Soviet Union War Veterans’ Medal.

He turned down the opportunity to work for British Intelligence and became an entrepreneur, exporting goods around the world. He also helped to raise substantial amounts of money for military charities and received an MBE from Prince Charles.

Jim was responsible for the creation of the Warsaw Air Bridge Memorial ­in 1989 — another name for the airlift ­— in Newark Cemetery, which stands next to the Polish and Commonwealth War Graves section.

After the service, he was interred in a grave next to it that his treasured late wife Peggy already occupied.

The memorial cross was erected to commemorate both the Home Army and the 250 British, Polish and South African airmen who died in support of the freedom fighters of Warsaw.

Standards were lowered, the Last Post and Reveille sounded either side of the silence as many nations bid farewell to a hero.

Daniel Michalak threw and handful of soil over Jim's coffin.

Victor Szolin, a standard bearer and Daniel Michalak,
              7. 060220TV-16
Victor Szolin, a standard bearer and Daniel Michalak, 7. 060220TV-16

It was at the Airbridge services that he and his parents befriended Jim.

"He was a brave fighter in the second world war. He was a lovely friend," said Daniel.

"He was always telling stories, which I loved.

"He was a hero for the Poles and for the Brits."

Three Polish friends, Przemyslaw Makowski, Daniel Wozniak and Mirek Przetacznik waited at the side of the grave to lay flowers shaped in the Polish flag.

Prezemyslaw Makowski, Mirek Przetacznik and Daniel
              Wozniak pay their respects. 060220TV-13
Prezemyslaw Makowski, Mirek Przetacznik and Daniel Wozniak pay their respects. 060220TV-13

Przemyslaw said: "He was our hero.

"We are very proud of people like Jim."

Daniel said: "We came to say thank you and goodbye on his last journey."

Mirek said: "We make sure that the memories for us never die."

Mick Jeffrey befriended Jim while documenting his experiences for the RAF Bomber Command Archive some ten years ago and looked after him until he moved to Newark and Paul Trickett became his primary carer.

Katie Jeffery holds a collection of medals that
              belonged to RAF Bomb Aimer Jim Auton. 060220TV-15
Katie Jeffery holds a collection of medals that belonged to RAF Bomb Aimer Jim Auton. 060220TV-15

Mick and family proudly carried Jim's medals and looked after his beloved dog, Lester, who they'd taken along for his final goodbye.

"He was a brave and a modest man at the same time and you very rarely get that," said the Polish Defence Attache to Britain, Colonel Mieczyslaw Malec.

"There is seldom such a man.

"He was a son, father and grandfather of Poland.

"Without men like Jim we would not be free nations. He is a great example to follow.

Polish Defence Attache Colonel Mieczysia Malec and
              his aide, Warrant Officer Chris Stolarczkk.(28526960)
Polish Defence Attache Colonel Mieczysia Malec and his aide, Warrant Officer Chris Stolarczkk.(28526960)

"Today, in the sunshine, where the birds sing, it is a sad day but also a lovely day because we salute a hero. It is what he deserved for a funeral."

'Farewell and fly high Jim' - 300 attend funeral for Second World War hero who died with no family

'He was a witty man with an RAF twinkle in his eye'

Hundreds of people turned up to the funeral of a highly-decorated Second World War hero after it emerged he had no family to the attend the service.

RAFA arranged for the Queen's Colour Squadron to carry Jim's coffin and for a flypast of aircraft from RAF Waddington to pay tribute - and put out an appeal for people to attend.

Jim was 95 when he died.

Heartwarmingly, around 300 people attended the ceremony held today, Thursday February 6, at St Mary Magdalene Church in Newark.

Personnel from RAF Cranwell, RAF Waddington and the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Manchester, Leszek Rowicki, attended the funeral.

During the service, Mr Rowicki read out a letter of thanks from the Polish Government and his voice broke as he named Jim a 'true friend of Poland'.

He said: "Jim was a true friend to the Polish people.

"He was an acclaimed hero who served both the British and Polish nations and he never gave up on building bridges between us.

Jim Auton MBE in his war years 

"When I saw him last, I had the honour of placing the Commander's Cross around his neck. I was grateful I got to meet him and spend a few hours with him.

"Let him never be forgotten. He is the epitome of brave."

Jim, who was born on April 13, 1924, grew up on an active RAF airfield. After witnessing the devastation of the Blitz, he joined the RAF in the hope of becoming a Spitfire pilot but eventually retrained as a bomb aimer.

Jim flew 37 missions with 178 Squadron before he was injured at the age of 20, losing the sight in his right eye and suffering injuries to his head and chest. He left the forces shortly after.

He married his wife Peggy, In March 1948, but she sadly passed away in 2016. After her death, Jim said he always missed her terribly.

Over the course of his life, Jim established his own business and travelled the world, making connections in high places.

He learned judo with the Japanese Olympic team and even had dinner at the Kremlin in Moscow, which led British intelligence forces to attempt to recruit him twice due to his valuable connections.

Jim was awarded 20 medals throughout his life, including the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland, which was handed to him in the final months of his life.

Ailsa Gough, divisional manage for the RAF Association, had met Jim many times and described him as a 'witty, handsome man with an RAF twinkle in his eye'.

She said: "For all that he achieved, he was a very modest man.

"He had a very dry sense of humour, and dare I say it, an RAF twinkle in his eye.

"When you think about all the lives that were saved because of what they did. The bravery to fly so low over enemy territory, under fire, is just outstanding.

"I think it's fantastic that so many people have come out, it's an appropriate send off."


First of RAF's new 'Russian submarine hunters' arrives in Scotland

The Boeing P-8 Poseiden, nicknamed the "Pride of Moray", made the transatlantic crossing from Jacksonville in Florida.

The spy plane will be stationed at RAF Lossiemouth
                in Scotland
Image:The spy plane will be stationed at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland
The first of the RAF's new £3bn fleet of spy planes has landed at a military base in the north of Scotland.

The maritime patrol aircraft will form a new squadron responsible for hunting Russian submarines and protecting the country's nuclear fleet.

The Boeing P-8 Poseiden, nicknamed "Pride of Moray", made the transatlantic crossing from Jacksonville in Florida - it will operate in the Arctic and north Atlantic and can perform a search and rescue role if needed.

It is the first of nine ordered by the British government of the aircraft. They will be delivered by 2021 and stationed at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland. The RAF has calculated that nine is the fewest number of aircraft it needs to protect the nuclear deterrent.

The plane, nicknamed the Pride of Moray, made a
                  transatlantic crossing from Jacksonville in Florida
Image:The plane, nicknamed the Pride of Moray, made a transatlantic crossing from Jacksonville in Florida

Russian submarine activity has increased to Cold War levels as Moscow looks to assert claim over the Arctic and pushes its naval forces close to NATO territory. On one occasion last October the Russian Navy put ten submarines at sea in the High North at the same time.

The P-8s will drop sonobuoys, small buoys with an attached sonar system, into the sea to monitor enemy submarine movements.They can operate as high as 41,000ft and as low as 200ft above the water; they will also carry Harpoon anti-ship missiles and torpedoes to defend against


It is eight years since its predecessor, the Nimrod, stopped flying in 2012. Britain has relied on allies to protect its coastline in the intervening years.

Royal Navy escorts Russian warships through
                    English Channel

Royal Navy escorts Russian warships through English Channel

The RAF fleet will operate closely with US and Norwegian allies to cover a region of recent heightened military activity.

The Pentagon has injected £80m into new facilities at RAF Lossiemouth so that their aircraft can be stationed at the Scottish base if necessary.

"The Poseidon MRA1 is a game-changing Maritime Patrol Aircraft," said the Chief of the Air Staff Mike Wigston.

"I am delighted and proud to see the 'Pride of Moray' and her crews returning to maritime patrol flying from Scotland, working alongside the Royal Navy to secure our seas and protect our nation. Russian submarines have nowhere to hide."

The spy plane, centre, was accompanied by two
                  other aircraft before it landed in Scotland
Image:The spy plane, centre, was accompanied by two other aircraft before it landed in Scotland

Its arrival was watched by senior figures in government and the armed forces, include Defence Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

She said: "Our Poseidon fleet will soon join an integrated UK force of fighter jets, ships, submarines, helicopters and highly-trained Royal Marines, ready to operate in Arctic conditions. The UK will not stand by if peace in the Arctic region is threatened.

"RAF Lossiemouth's strategic northerly location makes it one of the most important air stations in the UK: already home to half of the UK's Typhoon Force, and now sitting at the heart of our anti-submarine operations."


Stunning Typhoon flypast in Lincoln sees Guy Gibson's wings return to the skies

The 'wings' of Commander Guy Gibson were inside

An RAF Typhoon Jet (file photograph)

Anyone looking skywards in Lincoln today may have caught a glimpse of an RAF Typhoon jet on a very special mission.

The iconic jet performed a flypast over the city just after noon today, Friday, January 24, while carrying the 'wings' belonging to legendary Second World War airman Guy Gibson.

The 'wings' badge, which is used to signal that a member of the RAF is a pilot, was on one of Wg Cmdr Gibsons uniform at RAF Coningsby after he was killed in action in 1944.

The flypast was arranged to mark the opening of the 'Bastion in the Air: A century of Valour' exhibition at The Collection Museum in Lincoln that features Gibson's Victoria Cross medal that he won for leading the Dambusters mission in 1943.

The pilot with Guy Gibson's wings 

The pilot of the Typhoon said: "Guy Gibson flew most of his operations from Lincolnshire, at Scampton and here at Coningsby.

"It’s a huge honour and privilege to be asked to carry his wings with me as I fly over Lincoln today."

Dave Harrigan, Aviation Heritage Manager at Lincolnshire County Council, added: "This is a fantastic opportunity to again highlight Lincolnshire's vital contribution to the defence of our country through the bravery of such incredible individuals.

Wing Commander Guy Gibson, VC, DSO, DFC, was the most highly decorated and first Commanding Officer of 617 (Dam Busters) Sqn. 

"It is very appropriate and gratifying that RAF Coningsby agreed to fly the wings as a tribute to Gibson and all of the other people that we are celebrating in this exhibition.”

The Typhoon flew over the city today 
Movie of the Typhoon taken from the castle walls by my grandson


First female RAF Regiment Gunner to complete 20-week course

The first female RAF Regiment gunner has successfully completed the 20-week course required to join the RAF Regiment and graduates at RAF HoningtonSuffolk, today.


Leading Aircraftman Georgia Sandover (19) of Kings Lynn, Norfolk, said she always wanted to join one of the services.  While attending the College of West Anglia she completed the uniformed services course and was inspired by one of her teachers who happened to be ex-RAF Regiment to join.

“I am really proud and thrilled that all of us on the course graduated today. We have all supported one another from beginning to end and without that support we wouldn’t be here today. I am looking forward to my posting and can’t wait to get on with my new job.  To anyone that is thinking of joining the RAF Regiment, male or female, I say ‘Don’t be afraid to give it a go"

LAC Sandover

Leading Aircraftman Georgia Sandover (19)

Georgia is one of 18 gunners who have now successfully completed their phase 2 training at RAF Honington to become RAF Regiment Gunners. 


Each graduate is now welcomed into the family that makes up the RAF Regiment that delivers global Force Protection for the Royal Air Force. They will now be posted to one of the RAF Regiments field squadrons and immediately commence mission specific training for contingency operations. 

The Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP, Secretary of State for Defence said: “My congratulations to all those graduating today which includes the first female regular serving RAF Gunner. The RAF Regiment will benefit from increased diversity and I wish Georgia and all her colleagues the very best for the future.”

“The RAF Regiment Gunners graduating today can be very proud of everything they achieved to get where they are. We are equally proud of them because they include our first regular service female Gunner, making history with every role in the Royal Air Force now open to all.”

Air Chief marshal Mike Wigston
 The Chief of the Air Staff


Government fulfils promise to veterans with new railcard

Military veterans to get cut-price train travel to help boost job prospects and bring them closer to family and friends.

Image of the veterans rail card.
  • new railcard, available from Armistice Day this year, will help boost veterans’ job prospects and strengthen family bonds through cheaper travel
  • over 830,000 eligible for a third off their fares, saving veterans and their families hundreds of pounds a year
  • discount forms part of government’s new veterans strategy to support former servicemen and women

Military veterans will get cut-price train travel to help boost job prospects and bring them closer to family and friends, with a new railcard on sale from Armistice Day, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced today (22 January 2020).

Available from Armistice Day this year, the railcard will extend discounted train travel to the more than 830,000 veterans not covered by existing discounts.

Joined by veterans at St Pancras railway station, the Transport Secretary and the Minister for the Cabinet Office underlined the government’s commitment to supporting former service personnel and recognised their service to the country.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:

Every part of society should honour the debt we owe those who’ve served our country. I’m proud that the Department for Transport, together with other government colleagues and the rail industry, is doing its bit.

This railcard will help open up opportunities to veterans, whether through employment and retraining, or by strengthening links with friends and family. I believe that enabling former service personnel to travel more easily is the least we can do.

The money-saving announcement, delivering on a manifesto commitment, forms part of the government’s veterans strategy.

This action plan, which is also being launched today, outlines what government is doing to deliver more for our veterans and sets out holistic support for those who served, in areas including community and relationships, employment and skills, health and wellbeing, finance and debt, housing, and contact with the law.

The strategy will be coordinated by the recently-established Office for Veterans Affairs.

Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden, who represents the Office for Veterans Affairs (OVA) in Cabinet said:

The Office for Veterans’ Affairs was set up to get things done for our veterans. I am pleased to see that the OVA is already able to show it is achieving just this, working with the Department for Transport to deliver this railcard.

Our new action plan will help to make the UK the best place in the world for veterans. The Office for Veterans’ Affairs will drive the plan from the heart of government, working to help veterans on jobs, housing and health, through better data and a more joined up approach.

Minister for Defence People and Veterans Johnny Mercer said:

Discounted train travel is a fantastic way to recognise those who have served this country, and the speed at which plans have been worked up shows how seriously we are taking our commitments to make the UK the best country in the world to be a veteran.

The railcard is only the start though, and I’m clear we need to do more to look after the people who so selflessly put their lives on the line to look after us.

Now the action plan has been published, I look forward to continuing to drive forward this issue across government and the services we offer.

Today, the government is also releasing its response for the consultation into the veterans strategy, which includes an action plan on how the Office for Veterans’ Affairs will coordinate departments to help veterans over the next 2 years.

Public responses to the consultation underlined the need for a more coordinated approach to veterans support. Other key findings include a call to promote a positive perception of veterans and a need to increase awareness of the support already offered from across central and local government.

Rail media enquiries

Thousands Pay Tribute To Fallen At National Memorial Arboretum
The annual ride brings people from all across the UK and further afield together to remember those who ‘can no longer ride by our side’.

More than 7,000 motorcyclists have gone to the National Memorial Arboretum to pay tribute to those commemorated on the Armed Forces Memorial.

The ride has been taking place each year since 2007, with people attending from across the UK and overseas.

There are 11 designated start locations across the country, with the majority of the bikers heading together to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

As part of the annual tradition, the motorcyclists are saluted by Northern Ireland veteran David Andrew for five hours as they arrive.

A service of remembrance took place at the Arboretum once all bikers had arrived, with Anthony Cooper laying a wreath at the Armed Forces Memorial.

Anthony was injured in Afghanistan by an IED, losing both legs, his right eye, two fingers on one hand and fingertips from the other.

Anthony Cooper during Ride to the Wall

Philippa Rawlinson, Managing Director of the National Memorial Arboretum, said: "This is my first ever Ride to the Wall and the sight of thousands of riders streaming in to pay their respects is simply incredible.

"Today provides a fantastic example of people coming together from across the UK and further afield to pay their respects in their own way."

Martin Dickinson, Founder of Ride to the Wall, said: “Each year we gather at Ride to the Wall to remember those who can no longer ride by our side.

"We ride to make sure that the names on the walls of the Armed Forces Memorial will never be forgotten."

The annual ride has generated almost £1 million to the National Memorial Arboretum, with the event raising £151,000 in 2018 alone.


Photo gallery: Benches at Castle Dyke and the Broad Street war memorial in Stamford commemorate 100 years of the First World War, the Royal Air Force and RAF Wittering

Take a look at these photos featuring three distinctive new benches installed in Stamford to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War, the Royal Air Force and RAF Wittering.

Stamford-based photographer Don Lambert was behind the idea, and lots of people and businesses contributed to make the project happen.

The benches can be seen on the corner of Castle Dyke and Bath Row in Stamford, and by the war memorial in Broad Street.

Those contributing included Alex Pistolas, Ash Ltd 2, Peter Stevens, Maureen Jalili, Patricia Reed, Paul Mills, Andrew Moore, Dave Hudson, Tom Riley, The Green Man, Stamford Endowed School, Vision Express Stamford, the M&S staff, Sue Bishop, The Crown Hotel, Stamford Civic Society and Stamford Town Council Grant Fund.

Councillors who contributed part of their annual community grants and gave personal donations included David Brailsford, Brian Sumner, Brenda Sumner, Bill Turner, Mike Exton, Breda Griffin, David Taylor.

Former Stamford mayor Tony Story, who is retired from the RAF, said: “Don and I would like to thank everyone involved for their generosity and support given to help create this permanent memory in Stamford of those who fell in both World Wars and later conflicts, and the special relationship between RAF Wittering and Stamford.

“It is hoped these visual and tactile reminders of the past century’s conflicts will be seen and used by all age groups including our younger generations acting as a permanent reminder of sacrifices made to ensure our freedom today.”

One of the benches features eight silhouettes of RAF aeroplanes alongside its red, white and blue roundel.

Group Captain Tony Keeling, Station Commander at RAF Wittering, said: “A big thank you to Don and Tony for bringing this project to life. They’re beautiful designs and I’m certain these benches will be very well used over the coming years.

“What makes it special is the way that local people, businesses and organisations have funded this project.

“It is an expression of the genuine goodwill the people of Stamford have for the Royal Air Force. That goodwill makes a real difference to us at Wittering.”


THE Queen’s Flight will be back at RAF Benson this month for the first time in almost 25 years.

The Royal Air Force’s VIP transport Squadron, 32 (The Royal) Squadron, will return to its historic home temporarily until October.

The short relocation is necessary due to runway resurfacing work takling place at RAF Northolt in West London, where 32 Squadron is currently based.

The Queen’s Flight was established as the King’s Flight at RAF Benson in 1936, when Edward VIII was on the throne, and remained there for more than half a century.

In 1996, 32 (The Royal) Squadron was formed at RAF Northolt from the merger of the Queen’s Flight and 32 Squadron to provide VIP transport to UK military and government leaders.

Group Captain Adam Wardrope, station commander at RAF Benson, said: “In our 80th anniversary year, we are delighted to temporarily welcome 32 (The Royal) Squadron back to RAF Benson. We have been working closely with our colleagues at RAF Northolt to ensure that we can deliver the same outstanding level of service to their passengers while minimising the impact on our local community.

“While those in the local area will see BAe 146 aircraft, and on occasion small helicopters transporting passengers, operating alongside the RAF Benson Puma and Chinook helicopters for the period, we do not expect there to be a significant increase in air traffic.

“We are also working closely with other local airspace users to ensure that air safety is maintained for all.”

At times, there will also be visiting Leonardo AW109 helicopters, which are similar in size to the Puma helicopters that have operated at Benson for many years

Wing Commander Caz Viles Officer commanding 32 (The Royal) Squadron, said: “RAF Benson is the historic home of VIP flying for the Royal Air Force, so we are grateful and honoured to return there during the runway works at Northolt.

“Although the squadron’s location will be different our role remains the same: to get the right person to the right place at the right time.

“The Northolt and Benson teams have been working together brilliantly to make that happen.”

In October, a £23 million contract to resurface the runway at RAF Northholt was awarded to Lagan Aviation Infrastructure.

The work will extend the life of the runway by 10 to 15 years and ensure military flying operations continue.

RAF Northolt, which is the last military airfield inside the M25, is home to 33 supported units.

RAF Benson says it cannot give details of aircraft operations but does not expect there to be a “significant” impact on the community. It has asked residents to remain vigilant and report anything of a suspicious nature to the RAF Police or Military Provost Guard Service at RAF Benson on (01491) 837766 ext 7450 or (01491) 827247.

Meanwhile, the base has asked Benson Parish Council for permission to erect “no drone zone” signs in areas that are likely to be used for drone flying, notably Sunnyside recreation ground. Areas falling within 5km of the airfield are inside the zone.

Benson Parish Council chairman Bill Pattison said: “There will be signs going up in places where they think people might go and fly a drone. It’s so open around here it could be anywhere.

“With the possibility of dignitaries being in the area now as well, they are going to be really stringent.”

Councillor John Sharman asked if the base would consult with the council, saying: “I don’t like signs.”

Cllr Pattison replied: “They have said they are not going to go silly with it.”


RAF Linton-on-Ouse was built in 1937 and served as an important part of Britain's defence in the Second World War.

It also became a training base for Royal Air Force and Royal Navy pilots.

In July 2018, the Ministry of Defence, who own the site, announced its permanent closure would take place in 2020.

But in a series of 'last opportunities' for members of the public to visit the Memorial Room, a museum-like space in memory of the fallen, pre-arranged guided tours will begin until the site is almost decommissioned.

An RAF spokesperson said: "RAF Linton-on-Ouse has performed with distinction in its important roles in the RAF's history.

"Apart from flying many bombing raids over enemy territory during World War Two, losing over 1300 aircrew in the process, its fighters were an integral element of the nation's air defences from 1946 to 1957.

"The Memorial Room at Linton will be opening on a pre-booked basis to members of the public on a selection of Sunday afternoons this year.

"It will open at 2pm for guided tours on April 7th and subsequently on the first Sunday every month, up to and including October.

"This year’s visits may well be the last opportunities for members of the public to view the Memorial Room prior to the RAF drawdown from the site."

The guided tours will be free, and visitors are advised to register to call 01347-847660. Larger groups are advised to call 01347-847673.


New veterans ID cards rolled out to service leavers

All service leavers will receive a new ID card to mark their time in the armed forces.

ID card

An example of the new Veterans ID card

A new ID card for armed forces veterans, which will help them access specialist support and services, has started to be issued to service leavers.

From today, any personnel who have left the military since December 2018 will automatically be given one of the new ID cards, which will allow them to maintain a tangible link to their career in the forces.

The cards allow veterans to easily verify their service to the NHS, their local authority, and charities, helping them to access support and services where needed.

All other veterans will be able to apply for a new ID card by the end of this year, to mark their time in the armed forces.

Minister for Defence People and Veterans Tobias Ellwood said:

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the ex-forces community, and we are working hard to ensure they receive the support they deserve.

These new cards celebrate the great commitment and dedication of those who have served this country, and I hope they can provide a further link to ex-personnel and the incredible community around them.

Veterans UK - which manages pensions and compensation payments for the armed forces - local authorities, service charities, NHS and GPs will also benefit from the change, as they will not have to conduct time-consuming checks to identify individual veterans.

The new ID card is one of three that are available to service leavers. Personnel leaving the armed forces are also able to keep their military IDs, known as the MOD Form 90, allowing them to maintain their emotional connection with their service. Additionally, veterans can access a range of discounts through the Defence Discount Service, the official MOD-endorsed service for the armed forces.

Last year saw the launch of the Strategy for our Veterans, published jointly by the UK, Welsh and Scottish Governments, which sets out the key areas of support for those who have left the armed forces. The consultation closes this Thursday (21st February).

All relevant Government departments have a responsibility to ensure that the military community is treated fairly, and not disadvantaged by their service, as part of the Armed Forces Covenant. The new ID cards will ensure the process of validating service is as straightforward as possible, so that ex-forces personnel can access support for issues related to their service quickly, where needed.

The cards will complement the NHS’ commitment to providing specialist health support for veterans in every part of the health service, enabling ex-service personnel in England, Scotland and Wales to access treatment where they have been affected by their service. Last year, NHS England announced that dedicated mental healthcare services are up and running in every part of the country, backed by £10 million of investment, with increasing numbers of GPs and hospitals becoming ‘Veteran Aware’, in order to fully address the needs of those who have served.

Any veteran in need of support can contact the Veterans’ Gateway – the 24 hour service which signposts ex-forces personnel to the wide range of support available to them, including housing and financial advice, career guidance, and medical care from the NHS. Since being set up in 2017, the Veterans’ Gateway has already received over 20,000 contacts, advising ex-forces personnel and their families.


Security guard is fined £430 for attaching blue lights to his girlfriend's Ford Mondeo and taking an armband marked 'RAF police' while on patrol

A security guard who fitted flashing blue lights to a car and bought a peaked cap and ‘RAF police’ armband to use while on patrol has been fined £430.

Clive Eglen, 52,  attached blue warning beacons and black and white chequered transfers to his girlfriend’s Ford Mondeo.

Eglen, from King's Lynn, Norfolk, appeared in Magistrates’ Court yesterday where he received a fine of £430 for using the the lights on a non emergency vehicle.

Clive Eglen from King's Lynn, Norfolk, was fined
                  a total of £430 for fitting blue flashing lights to
                  his girlfriend's Ford Mondeo, pictured

Clive Eglen from King's Lynn, Norfolk, was fined a total of £430 for fitting blue flashing lights to his girlfriend's Ford Mondeo, pictured

The security guard denied impersonating a police
                  officer when he was stopped on April 26

The security guard denied impersonating a police officer when he was stopped on April 26

Police found an 'RAF police' armband and a peaked
                  cap when they searched the car

Police found an 'RAF police' armband and a peaked cap when they searched the car

The court was shown pictures of the dark green 51-plate Mondeo with black and white chequered transfers on its sides and rear side windows.

The judge also heard an armband marked ‘RAF police’ and a peaked cap was also found in the vehicle.

Eglen was stopped by police in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, on April 26 last year and told police during an interview that he used the car as part of his work as a security officer.

The 52-year-old, who was originally charged with impersonating a police officer, but denied this in a hearing last July, pleaded guilty to having blue warning beacons fitted.

In mitigation, Hugh Cauthery told the court on Monday that Eglen found the blue lights on eBay and believed he could use them on private land.

The driver bought the car about three years ago for £400 and said he used it informally for security purposes, driving it only on private land.

Eglen said he bought the car three years ago for £400
              and used it informally for security purposes and driving
              it only on private land

Eglen said he bought the car three years ago for £400 and used it informally for security purposes and driving it only on private land

The defendant had been asked by the owners of a car boot and storage company, who were having trouble with the travelling community, to use his vehicle as a deterrent.

Mr Cauthery told the court that the vehicle was never used on a public road with flashing lights and that nowhere on the car did it say ‘police’.

Eglen had been stopped a number of times by police with lights fitted to his vehicle but no concerns had been raised before the instance last April.

The Ford Mondeo had since been impounded but the court allowed it to be released after instructing Eglen to remove the lights and anything that makes it look like an emergency vehicle.

Eglen was fined £300 and ordered to pay £100 costs and £30 victim surcharge.

After receiving his court bill, Eglen apologised to the court and said he did not know it was illegal to have blue lights on a car even if it is not being used on the road.


Council leaders sign off £400,000 to help build permanent home for Doncaster’s XH558 Vulcan bomber


Council leaders and South Yorkshire metro mayor Dan Jarvis have agreed to give £400,000 to help build a permanent home for the iconic XH558 Vulcan bomber. The Sheffield City Region Combined Authority signed off sum to the Etna Project Heritage Hanger,  which will house the famous Cold War era aircraft at Doncaster Sheffield Airport.  The money is set to provide a secure and permanent base for the restored bomber and other heritage assets. Space will also be made available for conferences, corporate and private events and educational activities for young people aged 7-14. It will also provide an ideal airfield viewing area and create a total of 25 jobs.  SCR bosses predict the scheme will generate 4.3 million to the local economy over 10 years.  Dr Robert Pleming, speaking on behalf of the Vulcan to the Sky Trust ,said:“The funding from the Sheffield City Region will be vital in delivering this heritage hangar, ensuring that XH558 is given the home she deserves and that the public can once again visit this iconic aircraft. “We look forward to being able to announce the completion of contractual arrangements, and will keep supporters of the Vulcan up to date with our progress.” 


New radar at Saxa Vord


In the footsteps of the Dambusters: Walking with ghosts in Lincolnshire

 617 Squadron (Dambusters) At Scampton, Lincolnshire, 22 July 1943
The 617 Squadron at Scampton CREDIT: GETTY

 Chris Leadbeater, travel writer
16 MAY 2018 • 8:30AM
A bomb before dinner seems a lot to digest, but there it is anyway – tucked beside the Twenties swimming pool, which has been turned into a fountain. It looks, at first glance, like a heavy roller for a cricket pitch, idle between innings. But a sign in front reveals the truth – that this is a prototype of the famous “bouncing bomb” cleverly devised by the British genius Barnes Wallis to target German dams in the heat of the Second World War.

It looks oddly at home on the lawn of the Petwood Hotel, the evening sun slanting across it. I have slipped out of the restaurant and across the terrace to inspect it – and as I do so, I hear a cascade of exuberant laughter from the lounge. Ghosts adrift on the early summer breeze? In a property built in 1905, which became a hotel in 1933, this seems almost within the realms of possibility.

Petwood Hotel
The prototype of the famous “bouncing bomb” looks oddly at home on the lawn of the Petwood Hotel CREDIT: DOUBLE RED/JAMES WRIGHT
The source of the mirth is a table of guests and a bottle of rosé – but the idea of guffaws echoing down the years is not so far-fetched. Petwood may have settled into a groove as a luxury retreat in the Lincolnshire village of Woodhall Spa, but it is still revered for having been the officers’ mess of the RAF’s 617 Squadron in 1944 and 1945. These dashing aviators called it “a splendid place remote from battle”. And they had earned their refuge.

On the night of May 16-17 1943, 133 of them had flown 19 Lancaster bombers towards Germany as part of Operation Chastise – a daring attack on the Möhne, Edersee and Sorpe dams in the Ruhr valley, with Wallis’s new bombs as a spear-tip. Largely a success, the raid made a celebrity of the squadron’s commanding officer Guy Gibson, and landed his men the joyful nickname “Dambusters”.

It is a word, and a mission, which has stuck fast to the British consciousness. This week, its 75th anniversary will be marked with everything from flyovers to nationwide screenings (Thursday) of the 1955 film that transported the derring-do to the cinema (with a DVD re-release to come, on June 4).

Petwood remains a treasure trove of memories, the Squadron Bar preserved as a salute. In a photo in one corner, Gibson stands on the terrace, flashing the cocksure smile that characterised his existence; above the fireplace, a frame of black and white shows the entire 617 Squadron at their home base, RAF Scampton – five long rows posed formally in front of a Lancaster, amid the puddles of July 9 1943. The sturdy tree limb above the bar apparently became wedged in the front of one of the bombers on 617’s other fabled mission – to assist in the destruction of the German battleship Tirpitz, on Nov 12 1944.

There are further echoes in the area: the memorial to the squadron on Royal Square in Woodhall Spa, where 204 men are listed as dying on duty in the Second World War, the words “Australia”, “Canada” and “New Zealand” after some of the names re-emphasising the global nature of the conflict; and Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre in East Kirkby, which has one of the three Lancasters still in operation.

Then there is the soul of the Dambusters, RAF Scampton – still a functioning base, but one that lets civilians peek at infrastructure, which sings of 1943. Upstairs in the RAF Scampton Heritage Centre, Gibson’s office has been restored to its appearance in 1943 – a dial-telephone on the desk, a pipe and ashtray, a pair of leather gloves, a chalkboard detailing the personnel for the May 16 mission.

 A still from The Dam Busters, a 1955 retelling of the mission
A still from The Dam Busters, a 1955 retelling of the mission CREDIT: STUDIO CANAL
There is context, too, in the next room, where a board names all 133 airmen who flew that night, with a poppy – 53 in all – next to each who did not return. And there is a frisson to entering the hangar behind, and knowing that it was here where the Lancasters were readied.

The hangar is currently given over to Bastion in the Air, an exhibition that examines Lincolnshire’s role in the air-defence of the realm during the First World War, via artefacts as varied as a new-build Sopwith Camel, and an officer’s cricket bat, taken to the Somme. It is part of a drive to celebrate the county’s links to aviation – which will bear further fruit in November with the unveiling of an art installation, next to the A46 at Hill Holt Wood, which will mimic the Angel of the North, but take the wing of a Lancaster as the core facet of its design.

“Lincolnshire has been at the forefront of flight in this country for more than a century,” says David Harrigan of Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire – an RAF veteran who has been instrumental in the exhibition’s creation. “It’s been that way since the first German zeppelins came over, using the Humber as a navigational aid.”

 Breaking Of The Möhne Dam
The breaking of the Möhne Dam CREDIT: GETTY
Bastion in the Air extends to The Collection, a museum at the heart of Lincoln – a city that understands its heritage. Its cathedral marries 11th-century magnificence to 20th-century remembrance in its trio of military chapels – including the Airmen’s Chapel, with stained-glass tributes to the men who flew and died with Bomber Command. Its castle manages a similar leap in time, visibly Norman in shape, but mighty enough still for its Observatory Tower to be used as a lookout point in the Forties.

 The Guy Gibson Lancaster bomber
The Guy Gibson Lancaster bomber CREDIT: GETTY
From the tower, I can see the latest addition to the view. International Bomber Command Centre opened on the outskirts of the city in April, arranged around a spire of weathering steel which, at 102ft, replicates the wingspan of a Lancaster. The curves of the same metal that radiate out around this elongated epicentre are inscribed with the identities of those who lost their lives in the war fighting for UK-based bomber squadrons.

“That’s 57,861 people,” says the centre’s director Nicky Barr, “pretty much the capacity of Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.” She pauses, then adds: “There are no honours or ranks on these walls. We decided that, at the exact time of sacrifice, everyone was equal.”

 Petwood Hotel
"Petwood remains a treasure trove of memories, the Squadron Bar preserved as a salute" CREDIT: GETTY
There is also equality within the centre, which balances honouring wartime heroism and acknowledging the damage. A video introduction to the main exhibition reminds the viewer that “almost a million people across Europe died as a result of bombing”. Screens show interviews with veterans – re-created by actors – which include the testimonies of Luftwaffe pilots who had to face the Lancasters. Items such as an Italian board game teaching children air-raid precautions underscore the terror on the ground.

But then you emerge to images of British airmen, in their 90s, and you are reminded that this era is slipping beyond living memory – George “Johnny” Johnson, the final surviving Dambuster, is now 96 – and of the human beings behind these legends.


Where to stay

Double rooms at Petwood Hotel (01526 352411; cost from £99, including breakfast.

More information;;;;;


Iconic Vulcan bomber WILL have new home after hangar plans given thumbs up

The new Vulcan Heritage Hangar and Visitor Centre is set to open in Spring 2019

The iconic Vulcan bomber will get her much-anticipated new home after plans for a heritage hangar and visitor centre were given the thumbs up by planners.

The Vulcan to the Sky Trust revealed planning permission for their new project has been approved after a decision taken just before Christmas.

This means the Vulcan's adoring fans will be able to see her at a dedicated base at Doncaster Sheffield Airport at Finningley once it is built.

Speaking on behalf of the Trust, Robert Pleming said: “This is a fundamental milestone passed, with vital element of full funding for the build now to achieve.

"We are talking with a number of interested potential individual investors with regard to raising the total of £3million needed to complete the project, with the hope of concluding negotiations by the spring.

"Our business model is well-tested and will deliver an educational and inspirational experience for over six million people within a one-hour driving distance.

"It is believed that the detailed internal design and construction can be completed within 12 months, enabling a spring 2019 opening date.

"The full approval comes with a few standard conditions for further surveys and environmental reports that do not present any concerns to our appointed agents.”

The new Vulcan Heritage Hangar and Visitor Centre will house Avro Vulcan XH558, the last aircraft of Britain’s mighty V-Force that ceased flying in 2015.

The vulcan, which was once based at RAF Waddington, was subject to a restoration project supported mainly by public donations that gave a further eight seasons of display flying beyond that achieved while she was operated by the Royal Air Force.

The aircraft gained millions of followers and generated what became known as ‘The Vulcan Effect’ at airshows across the country and Europe.

It is estimated over 25 million people saw the aircraft around the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, many of whom would not have been born when the aircraft type was fully operational in its original role.

The base project is spearheaded by the RG Group’s Doncaster office, under the supervision of director Dave Dixon. The trust says he has been driving forward with the support of local and national construction companies and suppliers, many of whom are offering materials and expertise at cost or below usual commercial rates to help the charity secure its new home.

Speaking on behalf of Doncaster Sheffield Airport where the hangar is planned to be built on land on the northern perimeter with access to the runway, chief executive, Steve Gill, added: "This new development to house the Vulcan can provide a truly outstanding visitor attraction that along with other developments we are aiming to realise for the airport site, will bring significant educational and tourism benefits to the immediate area.

"The excellent motorway transport links including the soon-to-be finished final section of the Great Yorkshire Way right to the main terminal building, will allow people from all over the country to easily visit the site.

"We look forward to working with the Vulcan team on making their vision a reality."

Mr Pleming added: "This is the first stage of an exciting plan the Trust is developing for 2018 and over the next 10 years.

"We will use the undoubted attraction of Vulcan XH558 for the benefit of all, and importantly future generations, both in what we can deliver now in terms of inspirational experiences, and on what we can promise through demonstrating, preserving and utilising examples of Britain’s valuable aeronautical and engineering achievements.”

The Trust plans that XH558 will be joined by working exhibits and activities that will inspire youngsters of all ages to become involved with aviation, engineering and technology, through showcasing British design and innovation from its world-leading aeronautical industry.

If you would like to help, email Michael Trotter on


RAF Northolt: Boris Johnson secures government pledge to put cap on the number of commercial flights at RAF Northolt

The Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP worked with cabinet colleagues to limit flights to 12,000

West London MP and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has negotiated with cabinet colleagues to cap the number of civilian flights at RAF Northolt.

The Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP waded into the debate over the future of RAF Northolt by demanding a limit to the number of non-army flights to 12,000.

RAF Northolt lies within Boris Johnson's constituency and has been allowing thousands of private planes to land and take off from the aerodrome every year.

Some residents are concerned that the airfield, which will close in spring 2018 for a £45 million renovation including runway improvements, is a ploy to increase the number of civilian flights at the RAF site.

The increase in the number of non-military flights at RAF Northolt over the last decade has occurred without any local public consultations.

Commercial airline Flybe has made many public calls to RAF to allow commercial flights to use the spare capacity at RAF Northolt, which generates income for the MoD.

Mr Johnson met with newly appointed Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood to warned against commercialisation at the airbase.

Writing to campaign group Stop Northolt, he said: "I am delighted to have secured a firm commitment from the Government that the strict limits on the type and number of commercial flights - 12,000 annual movements of civil registered aircraft - will stay in place and that flights by scheduled airlines will remain prohibited."

The development came at the same time as Sadiq Khan hinted at regulating growth of Northolt as a non-military airfield, in his draft London Plan, which states:

"Any significant shift in the mix of operations using an airport – for example introduction of scheduled flights at airports not generally offering such flights – should normally be refused."

The Ministry of Defence has repeatedly maintained that the renovation is part of regular maintenance works and that there are no plans to commercialise RAF Northolt, and that it remains a key RAF site.


Veterans To Be 'Formally Recognised With Official ID Cards'

The White Helmets: Going Out On A High After 90 Years

Fans of the Royal Signals Motorcycle Display team have until the autumn to watch them before they disappear for good.

'The White Helmets' have opened their season with a performance for family and friends at Blandford Camp in Dorset.

However, time is running out for fans - the axe has fallen on the White Helmets – meaning this is their final season.

Some have considered that the show isn't a reflection of the modern work of the Royal Signals.

The unit was formed from dispatch riders, who ferried vital messages around on battlefields - first on horseback, and then on two wheels.

Their stunts have become legendary: a popular recruiting tool for the British Army, and a chance for signallers to do something very different for a couple of years.

This season will be the last for the Royal Signals riders as they focus on core skills with particular emphasis on digital and cyber operations.

The three-year posting involved performing at shows every weekend from May to October.


Second World War veteran to be presented with new medals at RAF Northolt following theft

A World War II Spitfire engineer will be proudly re-presented with his medals today thanks to the work of an RAF Association befriender.

RAF Northolt will be the venue for a special ceremony for Ted Rexter-Baker.

The 94 year-old, who kept the Spitfires of 72 Squadron flying during the war, had been awarded the Africa Star, the Africa Clasp, the Defence Medal and the 1935-1945 Star, but they were all stolen.

Since November 2016, Ted has been visited by Air Vice-Marshal Gary Waterfall as part of the RAF Association’s nationwide befriending scheme.

The scheme pairs RAF veterans with volunteers from their community. Befrienders visit regularly to chat, keep an eye out for the veteran’s welfare, talk about life in the RAF and to make sure their contribution is not forgotten.

“It was clear to me from the start of my relationship with Ted, that the loss of his medals had taken a part of him with them,” Gary said.

“It was the least I could do to help him try to get them replaced.

“This ceremony to re-present them to him will be very special – a proud moment for him and for his friends and relations who will be there too.

“It is very fitting to hold it at RAF Northolt too, given its historical association with Spitfires. I’m looking forward to chatting about the medals with Ted when I next visit him at home. ”

During his regular befriending visits, Gary discovered much of Ted’s service history.

Ted had joined the RAF in September 1938 as a boy apprentice at RAF Halton.

After graduation he was posted to RAF Sealand before moving on to become a Spitfire engineer with 84 Squadron – being posted as far as Tunisia.

He served for more than 10 years and left from RAF Hornchurch, having become a Senior Technician. He now lives in north London.

With more than half of the UK Armed Forces veteran population aged 75 or over, relationship/isolation issues affect approximately 170,000 RAF veterans, with 85,000 of them specifically experiencing loneliness.

Rory O’Connor, Director of Welfare and Policy at the Royal Air Forces Association, said:

“Loneliness is a critical issue to the Royal Air Forces Association, and this service will ensure that more is done across the board to support our service men and women.

“The befriending service is an important initiative which provides invaluable welfare support for the 1.5 million strong RAF family.

“If you or someone you may know could benefit from befriending, we’d encourage you to get in touch with us as no veteran should ever feel lonely or isolated.

“A veteran’s service should be shared, celebrated, and never forgotten.”

Those who could benefit from this scheme can call 0800 0182 361 or


It is more than 50 years since there was an RAF station at Jurby, but its legacy has made the parish what it is today.

Walter Fayle (Sandra Kerrison's (nee Quaye)  uncle) of the RAF Police on the right of the picture, pictured in front of the Guard Room, RAF Jurby early 1940s.

Without the RAF, Jurby would have a tiny population, certainly not large enough to support a school, shop, parish hall, industrial estate, motor museum, motor sports and medical centre, as it does today.

The Friends of Jurby Church are planning an exhibition about RAF Jurby, to be shown in the church from August 17 - October 15, and they are asking people to share their memories.

Secretary, Sandra Kerrison said: ’Although the war years and the buildings are quite well documented, we are especially looking for personal photos and stories relating to RAF Jurby during the lifetime of the station from 1939 to 1963. Anything relating to RAF Jurby is of interest. Many of the people who lived in Jurby will have stories to tell as the RAF station was such a big part of life in the parish’.

In the 1930s, Jurby was a dying parish. The depression in agriculture resulted in its population falling to fewer than 400 as people left to find work.

With war looming, the Air Ministry considered the flat low-lying farmlands to be ideal for building an aerodrome and a bombing training station. RAF Jurby opened in 1939, just after the outbreak of war as No. 5 Air Observer School. Two months later it was renamed No. 5 Bombing and Gunnery School. In the later war years it became No. 5 Air Navigation and Bombing School.

By the end of the war some 10,000 people had been trained at RAF Jurby and RAF Andreas. Hundreds more were employed in the building of the aerodrome and in staffing what was, in effect, a self-contained village with its own cinema, church, shop and messes. There was employment not just for the people of Jurby and the north but from across the island. By 1951 the population had increased to over 900.

The RAF station elevated Jurby to a new status, with visits by Air Commodores, members of the royal family and the Lieutenant Governor. Farmers became prosperous as they cultivated more land to meet the increased demand. Station bands attended Tynwald Day and other civic events as well as playing at local dances. Many local women married men from the station.

At the end of the war, RAF Jurby was an Air Navigation School and from 1946-47 an Air Gunnery School. From 1947-1949 it was under ’Care and Maintenance’ and was re-opened in 1950 as an Initial Training School to provide basic ground training to aircrew recruits.

From 1953 until the station closed in 1963 it was an Officer Cadet Training Unit when children from the station attended local schools. This is the period that many people today will remember.

Scans of photos can be emailed to For those in the Isle of Man photos etc can be collected for scanning and returned. For all enquiries contact Sandra Kerrison on 898003 or email


Her Majesty The Queen, accompanied by The Duke of Edinburgh, will attend a Service of Dedication on Horse Guards Parade before formally unveiling the new Iraq Afghanistan Memorial on Victoria Embankment Gardens, London, on Thursday, 9th March.

The Iraq Afghanistan Memorial Memorial honours all UK Service personnel and civilians who took part in conflicts in the Gulf region, Iraq and Afghanistan between 1990 and 2015.

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, The Duke of York, The Earl and Countess of Wessex, The Princess Royal and Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, The Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra will also attend the Service of Dedication, together with 2,500 invited guests.

Guests at the Service of Dedication will include current Service personnel, veterans, representatives of departments and bodies including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the National Health Service, and representatives of various charities and aid organisations.

Following the Service of Dedication, The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh will travel to Victoria Embankment Gardens, where Her Majesty will unveil the Iraq Afghanistan Memorial in the presence of the Memorial Trustees, together with individuals who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families.

Members of the Royal Family, led by The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, will then attend a reception on Horse Guards Parade for those who attended the Service of Dedication.

Further information about the Iraq Afghanistan Memorial and the Service of Dedication can be found at


Rare 1967 BSA RAF Police motorbike goes under the hammer

A very rare 1967 BSA motorcycle, thought to be just one of three left in the world, is going under the hammer.

The motorbike, which was used by the RAF Police, is estimated to be worth £5,000 - 6,000, and is marked with air force emblems.

The bike will be sold at the Charterhouse auction of classic motorcycles on Sunday February 5.

“This ex-RAF Police motorcycle is believed to be just one of three known survivors as the vast majority of these bikes have been civilianised or scrapped over the past 50 years,” said valuer Matthew Whitney.

“It certainly makes a different alternative to the civilian Police force Velocette LE which were affectionately known as Noddy bikes.”

Made by British manufacturer Birmingham Small Arms Company, the 1967 BSA B40 is fitted with a 350cc engineand has been lovingly restored.

1967 BSA

At its peak, BSA, who also owned Triumph, was the largest motorcycle producer in the world.

It was bought as a retirement project by the owner and features its correct and rare original fairing, blue light, higher handle bars and RAF blue saddlebags, but sadly little is known its history in the RAF.

During its current ownership, it was sympathetically restored and has been much admired at classic motorcycle shows.

However, the owner prefers to ride his modern Kawasaki with its electric start and has decided to sell the bike.

Charterhouse is now accepting further entries for this specialist auction of classic and vintage motorcycles on Sunday February 5 which is held in conjunction with the hugely popular Bristol Classic Motorcycle Show at The Royal Bath & West Showground, Shepton Mallet.

Charterhouse is also accepting entries of classic and vintage cars for the following week also at The Royal Bath & West Showground.


RAF Waddington's runway ready for take-off after £35m re-build
WAD-OFF-20161114-0735-0006 - Runway

Ready for take off Comments (0)RAF Waddington's runway is now fully open after a £35 million re-build.
It will extend its operational life by at least another 25 years.
Work began in July 2014 and the original target date was November 2015 but the work meant the 2015 Waddington International Air Show, which would have attracted 140,000 people, was cancelled and subsequently axed for good, over security fears.
However, the discovery of more than 1,000 historic underground cables and pipes at the base and waterlogged earth is why the project was a year behind schedule.

Surveys had found most of the ground under the airfield was made up of limestone, but large areas of clay were found when the runway surface was removed.
This meant the new runway needed to be redesigned otherwise it would have sunk when built.
And Second World War practice bombs were discovered and removed during the project.
Waddington, home to Reaper drone operators and the E-3D Sentry, Sentinel R1 and Boeing RC-135V/W Rivet Joint intelligence and surveillance aircraft, will play an increasing role in the war against the self-styled Islamic State terrorists.

Planes have been flying from other bases during the work but now they have all come home to roost.
Throughout the refurbishment, the operational tempo and demand for RAF Waddington's intelligence gathering capabilities has remained extremely high with flying squadrons almost constantly deployed.
This will remain the case as RAF Waddington continues to play a critical role in the coalition air campaign to defeat the so-called Islamic State and elsewhere around the world.

RAF Waddington Station Commander, Group Captain Al Marshall said: "This has been a major and very challenging project, which has placed significant pressure on personnel and their families.
"Despite the challenges, we have managed to sustain operational output throughout the resurfacing period owing to the outstanding dedication and professionalism of RAF Waddington personnel and those who support us.
"It will give me great pleasure to see many personnel return home and to have our aircraft regularly flying in and out of RAF Waddington once again."

Conducted in several phases the old runway has been dug up, levelled and resurfaced.
The upgrade which significantly changed the profile of the existing runway includes the provision of a new section of airside perimeter road, new visual airfield approach aids, aeronautical lighting and signs, all of which improves the overall safety of the airfield and operations.


MPs back new ‘Walter Mitty’ medals law to criminalise ‘military imposters’

Medals worn by Simon Buckden, a genuine former soldier who was jailed for for defrauding people out of thousands of pounds by pretending to be a decorated war veteran with cancer

A new “Walter Mitty” law should be introduced to make it a crime, punishable by up to six months in jail, for anyone to pose as a military veteran by wearing medals they have not earned themselves, MPs say.
The Commons Defence Committee warned that the lack of any legal deterrent to imposters wearing medals awarded for service and bravery is not only an “insult” to genuine recipients but could threaten public trust in the military honours system itself.
Although there are no official figures to show the extent of the practice, because it is not currently a crime, one survey found that almost two thirds of members of the forces community had personally come across people wearing medals or insignia awarded to someone else.
Anthony Church, a former town crier who resigned abruptly after admitting his claims of military heroics were untrue
The committee gave its backing to a private member’s bill tabled by the Conservative MP Gareth Johnson, creating a new criminal offence similar to bans in place in other countries, carrying a maximum penalty of six months or a fine of £5,000.
The proposal is due to be debated by the Commons on Friday.
A Defence Committee report into the proposal details how it used to be a crime to dress up as a member of the Armed Forces or wear medals fraudulently, under Victorian legislation updated by Winston Churchill as Secretary of War in 1919.
But the ban, similar to that preventing people impersonating police officers, was discontinued in 2009 as part of a wider legislative tidying-up exercise relating to the Armed Forces.
Roger Day, who posed as a retired member of the SAS wearing 17 medals at a Remembrance parade in Warwickshire in 2009. Charges of military deception against him were dropped as the law changed a fortnight before the march.
Ministry of Defence officials told the committee that the reasoning had been that it is potentially possible to prosecute military imposters for other offences, such as fraud.
They added that the law as it previously stood did not include any exceptions for fancy dress or theatrical productions.
In its report, entitled "Exposing Walter Mitty" - after the character in the James Thurber short story who lives in a fantasy world - the committee insists that despite a lack of figures, anecdotal evidence suggests such deception is a “continuing” problem.
Last year Anthony Church who served as town crier in Oxford and a string of other towns nearby resigned abruptly after admitting his claims to be a former regimental Sergeant Major in the Coldstream Guards who had been awarded the British Empire Medal, Imperial Service Medal and an MBE were all fictitious.
One internet vigilante group, known as the “Walter Mitty Hunters Club”, claims to have exposed more than 200 imposters. On its Facebook group it also exposes people it says have been collecting money for bogus military charities.

Crucially, Mr Johnson’s bill would allow close family members of servicemen or women who have died or been injured to wear their decorations at special commemorations, effectively on their behalf, but within strict limits.
“Both the sponsor of the Bill and the other witnesses took the view that the unauthorised and deceitful use of military decorations and medals is a harm that is worthy of specific criminal prohibition,” the report concludes.
“We support their arguments that such behaviour is not only insulting to the rightful recipients of these awards, but also damages the integrity of the military honours system and the bond of trust and respect between the public and the Armed Forces.
“The enactment of criminal prohibitions should always merit the most serious consideration.
“We conclude that there is a tangible and identifiable harm created by military imposters against members of society who should rightly be held in its highest esteem.
“Therefore, we believe that specific prohibitions to mitigate this harm are justified.”