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Historic RAF squadron disbands

The squadron - which formerly trained fast jet pilots - has been disbanded following the Strategic Defence and Security Review which has resulted…

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The squadron - which formerly trained fast jet pilots - has been disbanded following the Strategic Defence and Security Review which has resulted in a reduction in the numbers of fast jet pilots being trained by the RAF.

207 Squadron has a long history as a bomber unit and is a direct descendant of No 7 Squadron of the Royal Naval Air Service, which was formed in 1916. With the formation of the Royal Air Force on 1 April 1918, the squadron was renumbered as 207 Squadron, before re-equipping with the Handley Page O/400 bomber, with which it carried out long-range night attacks on railway centres and aerodromes until the Armistice, by which time it had dropped a total of 587 tons of bombs.

After operating the outdated Fairey Battle aircraft at the start of the Second World War the squadron became the first to be equipped with the new twin-engined Avro Manchester bomber, carrying out its first offensive mission of the Second World War on 24 February 1941 in a raid on a Hipper Class cruiser in the French port of Brest.

In early 1942 the squadron was re-equipped with the Lancaster, and the squadron participated in most of the major raids of the war, including attacks on targets as far afield as Berlin, Genoa, Gdynia and the experimental station at Peenemunde on the Baltic coast.

The final wartime mission, an attack on Hitler’s mountain retreat at Berchtesgaden in Bavaria, was flown on 25 April 1945. Overall, the squadron flew 4,563 operational sorties on 481 raids and lost 148 aircraft (17 Manchesters and 131 Lancasters); a further eight Manchesters and 19 Lancasters were destroyed in crashes. Casualties were high; the squadron suffered 954 fatalities whilst its personnel were awarded seven Distinguished Service Orders, 115 Distinguished Flying Crosses and 92 Distinguished Flying Medals.

The squadron survived the run-down of the RAF that followed the end of the war, re-equipping with the Lincoln in 1949 before disbanding in 1950 to reform the following year with the Washington (the RAF name for the Boeing B-29).

Other post-war aircraft flown by the squadron included the Canberra, the Valiant V bomber and when reroled as a communications and transport squadron the Devon, Pembroke and Bassett.

The squadron carried out its role of transporting senior military officers until it disbanded in June 1984 upon the retirement of the Devon. Eighteen years were to pass before the squadron reappeared on 17 July 2002.

The squadron was reformed at RAF Linton-on-Ouse to provide basic fast jet pilot training to ‘wings’ standard on the Tucano T Mk1 aircraft for RAF and Royal Navy students. One notable member of the squadron during this time was Prince William, who completed a course on the Tucano as part of the training for the award of his RAF pilot’s ‘wings’ in April 2008.

The squadron standard was paraded for the last time at RAF Linton-on-Ouse, watched by hundreds of former squadron personnel and their families, senior officers and dignitaries including the Lord Mayor of York Councillor David Horton, the High Sheriff of North Yorkshire Mrs Alexandra Holford and the Dean of York The Very Reverend Keith Jones.

The parade featured the Central Band of the Royal Air Force and a flypast by Tucano aircraft - the last aircraft type operated by 207 Squadron.

The Reviewing Officer, Air Vice-Marshal Mike Lloyd, said:

This is undoubtedly a sad day for all those who have served on or alongside such a distinguished squadron, whose professionalism and standing are as strong today as when they were first formed in the August of 1915. However, those present today, both in the crowd and on parade, have ensured the squadron will be remembered not just through the factual records of history, but with pride and fond memories.

We are here to celebrate the record of a fine squadron, one whose history stretches back to the earliest days of aerial fighting. A squadron whose wartime record is so intertwined with the development of air combat that its DNA is present in almost every major advance that the Royal Air Force has made.

The squadron standard, which features battle honours from the First and Second World Wars, will be laid up at York Minster in a ceremony later this year.

Published 16 January 2012