From Gp Capt W A Mears RAF (Ret’d) BA
Reading your ‘Out of the DV Window’ editorial in the March 2017 edition, I was reminded of an event in my first month as OC 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron in September 1976 that might be of some interest to your readership.
In September 1976 there had been a Battle of Britain flypast in London led by the Lancaster KM B escorted by Spitfires and Hurricanes. This was the period of the Rhodesian independence disputes with the British Government and some sharp-eyed person wrote a letter to the Times remarking how inappropriate it was that the flypast had been led by an aircraft bearing the markings associated with a squadron that had Rhodesia in its title. Shortly after that I received a letter from the office of the Secretary of State for the RAF saying that it had come to notice that we were using the title of 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron on official correspondence, and that this was to cease immediately.
I was in a quandary. I knew that the Squadron and its active ex-members’ Association were intensely proud of its history and I did not want to be the one to tell them to change the name. What was I to do? As I pondered this seemingly insoluble problem my eyes lit on the original of the Squadron crest on the wall in front of me. The name it showed was 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron and it bore the signatures of Chester Herald and King George VI.
I replied to the minister’s office saying that although I would not wish to embarrass HM Government, I was in possession of the original crest signed by King George, clearly instructing that the Squadron should bear the name on the crest, 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron. However, if the minister could arrange for the late King’s order to be countermanded by someone of equivalent rank, I should be pleased to comply. I received no reply.
It might of course be a complete coincidence, but not much later it was decided that it was inappropriate for one squadron to monopolise the Lancaster and that henceforth the fuselage markings and associated squadron crest would be changed regularly. Unsurprisingly, they chose 617 Squadron markings and also unsurprisingly, they are still there.
With best wishes to you and all members of our Association.
From Peer Petersen
I promised both of you some information from the visit of HRH The Duke of Kent. It was a pleasure and honour to meet him. The enclosed photo is from the Ambassadors residence in Copenhagen.
Six of the gentlemen in the photo are the members in ‘The Denmark Team’. The Reverend is from St. Albans Church in Copenhagen.
I had a 10 minute talk with HRH and told him about my visit in Waddington and that we celebrated the Squadron’s first 100 Years. HRH was well aware of 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron and talked about the Vulcans and specially about the attack on The Falklands.