RAF’s Senior Bombing Squadron Turns 100

The RAF’s IX(B) Squadron, which formed at St Omer in France, was  100 years old on 8th December 2014.

Personnel from IX(B) Sqn joined association members and French dignitaries for a day of celebration at the Squadron’s birthplace, a small airfield which is 30 miles south of Calais

The day started with presentations by serving airmen from the Squadron about it’s formation and development 100 years ago. A formal ceremony followed and this was attended by a number of high ranking RAF officers, including Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Marshal Greg Bagwell, the RAF’s senior combat pilot, Air Vice-Marshal Peter Dye, Air Commodore David Waddington, the current Tornado Force Commander and Air Commodore Spike Milligan, the Chairman of the IX Squadron Association. All of these air officers had previously served on the Squadron.

At exactly 1100hrs an RAF Tornado conducting a training sortie from its base in RAF Marham performed a flypast over the crowd that had gathered by the memorial. Following this, the St Omer Flying Club hosted the  guests in its light aircraft hangar for lunch.

The RAF contingent then travelled to Mendinghem Military Cemetery, Poperinge, which is the final resting place of twenty two IX(B) Squadron Royal Flying Corps Pilots and Observers who were killed in the Great War. A  small cross was placed on the graves of each of the IX(B) personnel and a short piece was read out about each of them by a current member of the Squadron that had researched each individual.

Officer Commanding IX(B) Squadron, Wing Commander Chris Snaith said “ Today has been a truly amazing experience for the personnel of IX(B) Squadron and it’s association members. To stand on the very spot where this fantastic Squadron was  formed exactly 100 years ago and to remember those brave souls that have served on IX(B) Sqn and given their lives for our country was very emotional.”

As evening fell, guests travelled to Ypres in Belgium and attended the Menin Gate Parade at 8pm. Due to the special date in its history, the Squadron took centre stage at the parade and wreaths were laid by Air Commodore Dave Waddington, Air Commodore Spike Milligan and Wing Commander Chris Snaith.

Warrant Officer Dean Wood from IX(B) Squadron said, “It has taken a lot of planning and hard work to bring the Squadron here today but to see the guys looking so proud and smart taking pride of place at the Menin Gate ceremony has made it all worth while. All of the Squadron personnel who attended today have taken a personal interest in researching those that have previously served on the Squadron and the one thing that has stood out from all the research is the sense of pride and camaraderie that came with serving on this historic Squadron and this is exactly the same 100 years on.”

The Centenary event was organised by Group Captain Alan Ferguson, a former commanding officer and Vice President of the Association in tandem with Squadron Leader Derrick Chatten, on behalf of the current Squadron. Special thanks must also go to the leadership of the St Omer Flying Club and RAF members of the British Embassy who were pivotal to making the event such a memorable occasion.

• The Sqn Crest features a green bat (which was the night camouflage colour in 1927) and the Sqn’s official motto “Per Noctem Volamus” (Throughout the night we fly).

• The Sqn’s unofficial motto is “There’s always bloody something”, abbreviated to TABS.

• IX(B) Squadron was the first squadron to use wireless telegraphy -1915.

• IX(B) Squadron was the first night bomber squadron -1917.

• IX(B) Squadron was the first squadron to drop bombs in WWII – 4th September 1939.

• IX(B) Squadron was the first squadron to bomb from above 50,000ft – Canberras 1952.

• IX(B) Squadron was the world’s first operational Tornado squadron – June 1982.

• IX(B) Squadron was the first squadron to operate the Tornado GR4 – May 1998.

• A IX(B) Squadron Association Memorial in honour of IX(B) Squadron personnel who gave their lives during the Second World War is situated at the spiritual home of the Squadron at Bardney, Lincolnshire.

• A IX(B) Squadron Association Memorial in honour of IX(B) Squadron personnel who gave their lives during the Iraq War in 2003 is situated at the Squadron’s Headquarters at RAF Marham, Norfolk.

• The IX(B) Squadron Association have a display at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre at East Kirby, Spilsby, Lincolnshire.

• The IX(B) Squadron Association have a huge display at the Bardney Heritage Centre in Bardney, as they were the only squadron to operate from Bardney during WWII.

• The IX(B) Squadron Association part-funded the Tirpitz display at the RAF Museum, Hendon.

•The IX(B) Squadron Association made a generous donation to the Bomber Command Memorial, Green Park, London, which was unveiled by HM The Queen on 28th June 2012.

• The IX(B) Squadron Association have designed a memorial to celebrate it’s centenary and it is hoped this will be erected at the National Arboretum in 2015.