So it was reunion time with my old colleagues from my Royal Air Force squadron back in the day. 3(Fighter) Squadron is the oldest military flying unit in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth having been formed in May 1912 under the Royal Flying Corps; it became a Royal Air Force squadron on 1 April 1918 on the formation of that force.
A Squadron Association was formed in 1985 by Alan East who flew with the squadron in 50s, and rapidly built up to have 300+ members. In the heady, early days of the Association we used to get 100 – 150 at our annual reunions, but in the last few years this has tailed off and we’re now lucky if we get 20 in total, half of whom are wives of members. That’s the way of the world I guess, with the pressures of modern life, and it’s costs and of course our membership is getting older with not many newer younger members of the current operational squadron wanting to join the Association. But still, though we were few in number we still had a high old time, regaling each other with stories of the our time on the squadron, ribbing others with their indiscretions and err happy (as in overindulgence of alcoholic beverages) times. No, it’s not that getting drunk was a natural thing to happen, but we worked hard, and relaxed hard. My own personal time was in the mid seventies:The Cold War was at it’s height, tensions between the Iron Curtain and the Western Alliance was high, NATO was in the vanguard. We operated the Harrier jump jet, and the brief was to stop the red hordes from crossing over the East German border to invade the rest of Europe. It was a time of tension, and we maintained the Harrier Force along with other types in service at the time: Phantoms and helicopters to keep up the presence of a vital, coercive force ready to repel the commies. It never came to anything, Russian and East German jets used to buzz the borders occasionally and tanks would rumble up and down the borders. Berlin was in the middle of East Germany and was seemingly a normal Western city, although sharply divided. This had been the case since the erection of the Berlin wall in the 60s, but stretched back further than that to 1945 when Churchill said ‘An Iron Curtain has descended on Europe’. So the brief for over 30 years was the protection of the West, until Gorbachev put a stop to it all. The last RAF forces left Germany in the late 90s. But in our time in the 70s, it was quite frankly a bit like a three year holiday for most of us: we got extra pay for being there, petrol coupons, duty free cars, booze, fags and other goods, and the work although hard at times, was never threatening. So we did three and a half years in Germany and many, many friends who we are still close to 40 years later.
So to this weekend and the latest reunion. I am current Chairman of the Association having taken from someone who stood down after 2 years, he having taken over from the founder Alan East, who passed away 2 years ago. I have now been Chair for 5 years and it is my personal remit to keep the Association going, more for Alan’s memory and hard work than anything else. I maintain a webpage: and produce a thrice yearly newsletter for members only. I think there is an avid readership of both but I don’t get that much feedback so maybe I’m doing it wrong. This latest reunion included the last Officer Commanding 3(F) Squadron who has moved on to pastures new, but will join the Association as a member in his own right. There is a good liaison between the Association and the Squadron, based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire and I hope this contact continues. We visit there several times a year for formal dinners, informal BBQs and open days to which we are invited. Our reunion was at the Bridge Hotel, Thrapston in Northamptonshire, thanks to them for putting on a great meal on Saturday night. I think everyone enjoyed the whole weekend, I certainly did. Future reunions are in doubt as it’s a voluntary effort to find a hotel, book and pray that everyone who says they are coming, turn up. I know I’ve organised 10 of them. Although we did have a special one in 2012, when the squadron celebrated it’s 100th birthday and there was a big bash at Coningsby to which many people came. Sadly the same numbers don’t ccome like they used to. Still I’m hopeful that we shall have a reunion next year, some people have already bandied a few ideas about so we’ll see what happens.
Thanks to all who made the effort this year and hope we can repeat it, with more people, next year. Bon Chance!