This month 60 Squadron celebrates 100 years of service. From Venoms to Vampires, and a special cameo from Lawrence of Arabia, this unit bears an illustrious history and heritage.
To mark this milestone Prince Michael of Kent GCVO visited RAF Shawbury to join the Squadron in their celebrations. A ceremony supported by the Band of the Royal Air Force College, included displays from both the Defence Helicopter Flying School and the Red Arrows.
Life for 60 Reserve (R) Squadron began on May 1, 1916, at Gosport with the unit and their aircrafts being despatched to France almost immediately. Possessing three variations of the Morane Scout meant that they were one of the very first specialist fighter squadrons in the Royal Flying Corps.
The Squadron played a notable part in the Battle of Somme, which began on July 1, carrying out offensive patrols over the other side of the German line. The unit suffered heavy losses during this time and so were re-equipped with Nieuport Scouts.
By July the following year SE5 fighters arrived and these remained with the Squadron until it was disbanded on January 22, 1920.
As one of the few squadrons that survived the post-war cuts, 60 Squadron was reformed on April 1, 1920, now equipped with de Havilland bombers. The unit remained as a bomber Squadron for 23 years, with 21 of these years being spent on operations in the Middle and Far East.
Between the wars, the unit found itself involved in many conflicts, carrying out patrols and bombing raids in support of the Army. It was during this period that Lawrence of Arabia, T E Lawrence, spent time attached to the Squadron, as a supply clerk and clerical assistant.
In February 1941, the Squadron moved to Burma and suffered heavily as a result of enemy action by the Japanese forces.
From 1943-1955, the Squadron's focus was air defence, escort and ground attack duties which were carried out in a range of aircraft, including Hawker Hurricanes, Thunderbolts, Spitfire F18s, Vampires and Venoms.
In October 1959, Meteor night fighters arrived following the unit's return to Singapore. By July 1961 the Squadron had once again been re-equipped, this time with Javelin fighters; and for a time became the largest RAF Squadron operating 30 Javelin aircraft.
The Squadron eventually disbanded in April 1968 concluding 48 years of unbroken operational service.
The following year, 60 Squadron was transferred to the RAF Communications Squadron based at RAF Wildenrathin in Germany, flying Pembrokes, Herons and Andovers. This would be the Squadron’s 'home' for the next 23 years making it the longest residency in their history.
After 72 years of service abroad, 60 Squadron finally returned to the UK in 1992 where their association with the helicopter began. The unit spent a brief period at RAF Benson with Wessex helicopters, but later disbanded and the number plate was passed on to the RAF element of the Defence Helicopter Flying School at Shawbury.
The Squadron now focus on delivering world-leading pilot and rear crew helicopter training for all three services.