A historic milestone was celebrated at RAF Valley recently when 208 (Reserve) squadron reached its 100th birthday. Born in the tumult of the First World War as a Royal Naval Air Service squadron, it has served with distinction since then as both a front line fighting squadron and latterly as a fast jet training unit.
No. 208(R) Squadron Royal Air Force was formed on 26 October 1916 as No. 8 (Naval) Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service. During WW1 the squadron flew Sopwith Pups, Nieuport Scouts, and Sopwith Camels and was assigned to artillery spotting duties. When the Royal Air Force was formed on 1 April 1918, the unit was renumbered to No. 208 Squadron RAF. The squadron is now based at RAF Valley in Anglesey, North Wales operating BAE Hawk TMk1 aircraft in the advanced flying training and tactical weapons role, training fast jet pilots from the RAF and Royal Navy to front line operational conversion unit input standard. In addition, as part of International defence Training, the Squadron trains non-UK student pilots in preparation for their own conversion to host nation front line aircraft.
The squadron has the distinction of being one of only a few RAF units to spend the majority of its service in the Middle East – most of its time since formation has been “East of Suez”. The distinctive Sphinx badge is a testament to this legacy.
Sadly, 208(R) Squadrons’ centenary year will also be its last as the decision has been made to disband the squadron to focus advanced flying and tactical weapons training on the newer Hawk T2. The squadron’s Hawk T1s will be retained for use by other Hawk T1 operators; 100 squadron at RAF Leeming, the Red Arrows at RAF Scampton and 736 Naval Air Squadron at RNAS Yeovilton. RAF Valley will still retain links with the Hawk T1 however, as depth maintenance will still be carried out at Valley, as well as conducting ground school for refresher courses and operating the Hawk T1 simulator.
Officer Commanding 208(R) Squadron, Wing Commander Chris Kidd said; ‘It’s been an honour to command 208(R) Squadron during its centenary year. During my time here I have had the privilege of being part of training the future of the RAF and RN’s front line of fighter pilots. All of the student pilots that have graduated should be rightly proud of their achievements and I hope that they look back fondly on 208(R) Squadron from their Typhoon and Tornado GR4 cockpits. The success of 208(R) Squadron has been the direct result of having a great team – instructors, operations and admin staff, and, of course, our skilled and hard working engineers. They can be proud that the squadron has performed an outstanding job for the Nation over the past century, and that they have been a part of it”.
Group Captain Brian Braid, Station Commander RAF Valley said: “Most of the fast jet pilots in the RAF and the Royal Navy over the last 22 years have graduated from Valley. All of these pilots have been trained by 208(R) Squadron, so we look back not only at its links to RAF Valley and the Hawk T1 but over the last 100 years with a great deal of pride. All the personnel of 208 – military, civilian and contractor – can be justly proud of the part they have played on such a historic squadron.”
© MOD Crown Copyright 2016
Source / Author: RAF