Pilots taking to the air with a Lossiemouth based Typhoon squadron today can reflect on the fact that it is exactly 100 years to the day when their unit made its first operational deployment.
It was on October 6 1914 that a mixture of twelve aircraft from the squadron, BE2s, BE8s and Henri Farman biplanes, departed from Farnborough bound for Dover – and two days later were undertaking reconnaissance flight from Bruges over the trenches in Belgium.
The Squadron had been formed at Farnborough in January that year but on the outbreak of hostilities in August had to give up most of its pilots and aircraft in order to put all of the available strength of the Royal Flying Corps into the field.
At the beginning of the First World War only five fixed-wing squadrons had been formed, namely Numbers 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. All were short of men, machines and transport and 6 Squadron was little more than a nucleus.
Another three squadrons had been authorised but of these, No. 7 was only a small cadre, No. 1 had just begun to reform as an aeroplane squadron after beginning its life as a balloon squadron, and No. 8 had not moved beyond the paper stage. Therefore the decision was made to mobilise 2 to 5 squadrons and transfer most of the pilots and aircraft from 6 Squadron to the mobilising squadrons.
In September 1914 the first reinforcement to the Expeditionary Force of the Royal Flying Corps was sent to replace casualties in the squadrons in France. Again, 6 Squadron provided pilots and aircraft and one flight led by the squadron commander, Major John Harold Whitworth Becke, flew to France.….and a BE2 from 1914
On arrival, the pilots and machines were posted to No. 2 Squadron and Major Becke returned to Farnborough to continue his Squadron’s build-up.
At the beginning of October a plan was drawn up to provide a squadron of aircraft to accompany the 7th Infantry Division and the 3rd Cavalry Division under General Sir Henry Rawlinson in the effort to save Antwerp.
So it was that on October 4 orders were issued for 6 Squadron to get ready at once to go overseas and inside two days they had departed. The deployment of the whole squadron within those two days and the mounting of operations with four days notice was a remarkable feat.
Today 6 Squadron again holds an expeditionary commitment, ready to deploy at short notice to the four corners of the globe.
The biplanes have been replaced by a modern jet fighter, the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4. The Squadron is no longer limited to reconnaissance but can operate in the air to air and air to ground roles,.
Wing Commander Jim Walls is the current Officer Commanding of 6 Squadron. He is full of pride for his current charges, saying of the Squadron’s history: “In our centenary year we will continue to look back at the notable achievements of No. 6 Squadron over the last century of aviation with immense pride.
“We continually strive to match the standards that they have set and to be able to say, as they were, we too are always ready.”