201 (Guernsey’s Own) Squadron Royal Air Force
201 Squadron became affiliated with Guernsey in 1939 as part of a programme to link squadrons with different towns and cities around the UK to encourage support and recruitment for the RAF. The affiliation between Guernsey and 201 Squadron was thought to be the last one remaining from the programme and acknowledged by the Air Force Board.
First formed as No 1 Royal Navy Air Squadron, at Gosport, in 1914 and soon saw service supporting the fleet, acting as reconnaissance and gunfire spotting during the First World War.
Throughout the war the squadron evolved taking part in bombing raids and becoming a fighter squadron and were moved to France which saw them take part in the battles of Ypres and Arras during which two squadron members received Victoria Crosses and the squadron received the Croix de Guerre from the French Government.
In April 1918 the squadron was designated as No 201, as the RAF was formed, before being disbanded in 1919 after the war.
201 was reformed in 1928 at Calshot near Southampton and began operating the Supermarine Southampton, a type of flying boat, which saw them nicknamed “the flying boat squadron”; they continued operating these craft until 1957. Later it operated the Short Sunderland during the Second World War and was involved in several major actions including the battles of Norway and the Atlantic, the search for the Bismarck and the Normandy Invasion of 1944.
Along with the Southamptons the squadron operated Saro London flying boats and later after the Second World War the squadron were involved in the Berlin Airlift taking supplies to the city and flying out evacuees and then in 1957 were once again disbanded.
In 1958 No 201 was again reformed operating the Avro Shackleton and continuing the maritime role for which they had been known since the 1910s. The Nimrod first came into service with the squadron in 1970, with the mark two version of the aircraft entering service in 1982 and the MRA4 expected to enter active service in 2012.
The link with the Squadron meant members wore a Guernsey flag on their flight suits and regularly attend events in the island, as well as supporting local charities and organisations. In 1994 201 Sqn was granted the Privilege of the Bailiwick allowing them to parade “with Colours flying, drums beating and bayonets fixed through the street and highways of the island”.
Following cuts made to the UK’s defence budget in 2010 it was announced that 201 Squadron would be disbanded. The squadron made a final appearance on Liberation Day in May 2011 with the standard now ‘lodged’ at Government House.
History of 201 Squadron
- 1 April 1918 – With creation of RAF unit named 1 (Naval) Squadron renamed 201 Squadron
- 1929 – Reformed with flying boats after being disbanded in 1919 due to end of WWI
- 5 May 1939 – Air Minister Sir Kingsley Wood announces the affiliation with Guernsey under the Municipal Liaison Scheme
- 26 May 1939 – Officially inaugurated by the visit of a flying boat from 201 Squadron to St Peter Port Harbour
- 1940 – Commenced anti-submarine patrols
- 3 June 1945 – Carried out the final Coastal Command patrol of WWII
- 1 October 1958 – Reformed after being disbanded the previous year
- 1970 – The unit started to use the Nimrod, which saw service in South Atlantic, the Gulf and Balkans conflicts
- September 2010 – MRA4 Nimrod, due to be rolled out in 2012, takes part in the Battle of Britain Air Display over Guernsey
- October 2010 – MRA4 Nimrod project cancelled in defence cuts
- 9 May 2011 – Squadron’s last public parade held in Guernsey
- 26 May 2011 – Officially disbanded at RAF Kinloss
- 27 October 2011 – Squadron standard lodged with Guernsey’s Lieutenant Governor