78 Squadron, the Royal Air Force Unit embedded within the NATS Swanwick Centre, held a commemorative parade this week to mark both Remembrance Day and the recent re-formation of No. 78 Squadron.
The historic 78 Sqn number was awarded to RAF(U) Swanwick earlier this year. First formed on 1st November 1916 as part of the Royal Flying Corps, later the Royal Air Force, 78 Sqn was tasked with protecting the southern English coast. One of the satellite airfields that it operated from during the First World War was Gosport – some 105 years later the Squadron has returned to this area.
During the Second World War the Squadron returned to front-line duties as a night-bomber squadron, equipped first with Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys and later Handley Page Halifaxes. In February 1941, Whitleys from 78 Sqn were used to drop paratroopers over Southern Italy for Operation Colossus, the first British paratrooper operation of WW2. In May 1942, the Sqn contributed 22 Halifaxes to Operation Millennium, the first ‘1,000 bomber’ raid against Cologne. The Squadron continued in its bomber mission until the end of the war in Europe, after which it transferred into Transport Command, eventually converting to helicopter operations in 1965 which it continued in various forms until 2014. The squadron number was then allocated to RAF(U) Swanwick in early 2021.
This illustrious and storied history, which exemplifies the Sqn’s motto of ‘Nemo Non Paratus’ (‘Nobody unprepared’), has seen 78 Squadron awarded battle honours in WW1, WW2, Iraq, and Afghanistan. In recent years it operated the Augusta-Westland Merlin helicopter, which was on full display at the parade with a unique Merlin flypast from 846 Naval Air Squadron to pay tribute to 78 Squadron’s 100-year history, and the people who gallantly served it in that time.
Tributes to them, and to all others who have served, were led by Officer Commanding 78 Sqn, Wing Commander Miller, and Rev (Sqn Ldr) Sheldon, Station Chaplain of RAF Odiham, along with readings from members of the Squadron and Gary Dixon, NATS General Manager of Swanwick Operations.
“And now the torch and poppy red, we wear in honour of our dead” recited Gary. “Fear not that ye have died for naught: We’ll teach the lesson that ye have wrought, in Flanders Field.”
Wing Commander Miller laid a Wreath on behalf of all 78 Squadron personnel alongside Chris Norsworthy, NATS Deputy General Manager, who laid a Wreath on behalf of all NATS staff. Remembrance can mean different things to many people, but today, we all remember these words…
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning;
We will remember them.
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