Hawk – 1991 to Present

1991 ended with the final sorties undertaken by the Canberra during a detachment to the Hebrides. In January 1992, 100 Squadron entered a new operating environment with the smaller and faster Hawk T1 aircraft under the command of Wg Cdr John Pitts. Many Canberra pilots attended training courses at Valley, but navigators were trained at squadron level. New aircrews were posted into 100 Squadron from Tactical Weapons Units and operational squadrons. Some of the ground crews converted to the Hawk, with further Hawk qualified ground staff being posted in as the number of the new aircraft built up. Specific initial tasks included familiarising Air Traffic Control and to Operations Wing with Hawk operations and to establish a new set of Standard Operating Procedures.

Changing to the Hawk meant that the Squadron lost some of its roles. These included Rushton Target Towing, radar calibration and Pluto 5 calibrations. The maritime exercises were maintained, and new roles were developed including the training of Forward Air Controllers with the Army. Also added to the Squadron tasks were numerous ground attack sorties, extended fighter affiliation activities and the introduction of new crews to fast jets prior to posting to full combat duties. 100 Squadron continued to receive deliveries during 1992 to bring it up to an established strength of twelve Hawk aircraft. Notwithstanding the effort devoted to re-equipment and the associated training activities, a successful detachment to Akrotiri for banner towing was undertaken early in the year.

1993 saw re-training and re-equipment completed, and the Squadron embarked on what would prove to be a very busy year. In the first half of the year, detachments were made to Gibraltar, Norway, Scotland and Cyprus. In August, the Squadron moved from Wyton to a new home at RAF Finningley. After the move, further detachments were made to Italy, Denmark, Scotland and Norway. The successes achieved in 1993 were recognised by the award to the Squadron of the “Sky Fame” trophy, 18 Group’s efficiency prize.

In 1994, John Pitts handed over command of ‘The Boneyard’ to Wg Cdr Sid Vincent. This year saw “The Hornets Nest” published; this major book on Squadron’s history was researched, written and edited by Arthur White, the Association’s Newsletter editor. Also in 1994, early warning came of a major change to the servicing of the Squadron’s aircraft. From August 1995, a civilian engineering company would undertake all servicing and support on a ‘contract’ basis. 100 Squadron lost all of its RAF ground crews with aircraft maintenance and ground handling transferring to civilian control. 1995 also saw the closure of Finningley, and yet another move for the Squadron to RAF Leeming. Wg Cdr Vincent led a 9-ship formation in a mock attack on Leeming airfield before landing to join the Tornado F3’s already in residence. In 1996, 100 Squadron undertook detachments to Scotland for joint maritime exercises, followed by deployment to Karup in Denmark to take part in Exercises ‘Natinad’ and ‘Brilliant Foil’. During a detachment to Lossiemouth, Flt Lt Merv Smith received a Green Endorsement for superb airmanship following a major bird strike that caused serious damage to the aircraft.

In 1997, Sid Vincent handed over command to Wg Cdr Gordon Buckley. This was to be a very busy, and somewhat worrying year for 100 Squadron. Over 4,500 sorties were flown, but with Defence Cuts in the offing, there were rumours of disbandment circulating. New roles were added by Wg Cdr Buckley including combat training, acting as an ‘aggressor’ squadron simulating fighter aircraft acting as a threat to bomber aircraft, and acting as a bomber package for fighters carrying out air combat training. In addition to the new roles instituted by Wg Cdr Buckley, it is worth reminding ourselves of the activities and roles performed by ‘The Boneyard’ as we continue our journey. These include:
• The provision of ‘live’ targets for the Tornado F3 OCU (56 Squadron);
• A service to the School of Fighter Control;
• Acting as targets for radar trials and threat simulators;
• Deployments out of Leeming in support of Qualified Helicopter Instructor courses;
• Deployments in support of Combined Weapons Instructor and other squadron operational work up phases of training;
• Maritime exercises, routine detachments to Cyprus and banner target towing;
• Deployments to many European countries including visits to former Warsaw Pact countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic;
• Visits to Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia for joint exercises.

October of 1997 saw a magnificent celebration of the 80th Birthday of 100 Squadron at Leeming. The Reunion involved flying displays, and an excellent dinner. We were favoured with a large contingent of our Canadian friends, which helped to make this a memorable celebration.

In 1998, 100 Squadron hit the headlines. One of the Hawks, crewed by Flt Lts Geoff Sheppard, and Iain Brosche, experienced engine trouble at 41,000 feet whilst en route to an air show in Norway. After descending to 20,000 feet, the engine ‘died’ with a resulting loss of all electrics, instruments and radar. Geoff ascertained that the nearest air base was Vigra in northern Norway. He made a successful ‘glide’ to Vigra, landing at 150 mph with no hydraulics. He managed to bring the Hawk to a stop, 50 feet short of the end of the runway, which ended with a sheer drop into the sea. Needless to say, the brakes were just a bit warm! Subsequently, Geoff Sheppard was awarded the Air Force Cross (AFC).

On 16th May 1999, Wg Cdr Buckley led a four-ship formation to Ronaldsway Airport in the Isle of Man to join in the family celebrations for Lt Roy Shillinglaw’s 100th Birthday. Wg Cdr Buckley presented Roy with a print of the Hawk signed by all the current members of the Squadron and, on behalf of the Association, Air Commodore Bonnor presented a print of a painting by the aviation artist John Young of FE2bs taking off from Ochey. Roy had a splendid birthday!
Later in 1999, Wg Cdr Buckley added a further role to the growing repertoire of the Squadron. He negotiated and managed the move of the Navigator Training Unit (NTU) from No. 4 Flying Training School at RAF Valley to 100 Squadron. Since then, the NTU has trained all fast jet navs destined for operational service in the Tornado F3 and GR1 and GR4 front-line squadrons. In September1999, we lost the last of the Squadron’s WWI veterans – Lt Roy Shillinglaw. His passing broke the final link with the intrepid fliers of WWI. Alex Wedderburn and John Willis of 100 Squadron Association attended a Memorial Service which paid tribute to a remarkable gentleman who had ‘kept it going’ for over 100 years.

October 1999, saw tragedy strike 100 Squadron yet again. Sqn Ldr Mike Andrews and Flt Lt Steve Todd were both killed when their Hawk crashed near Shap in the Cumbrian fells. The crew were posthumously praised for staying with their aircraft, rather than ejecting, thereby preventing the aircraft crashing onto the village of Shap. The crews of 100 Squadron continue to pay the high price.

In November 1999, Gordon Buckley handed over command of ‘The Boneyard’ to Wg Cdr Nick Seward. 2000 was to become an exceptionally busy year for 100 Squadron with over 50 detachments to many destinations across Europe including Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and The Netherlands as well as Cyprus and Qatar. On the 18th September 2000, a Squadron Hawk crashed near Berwick-on-Tweed after suffering a massive bird strike. Flt Lt Darren Berris was lucky to escape with only scratches when the initial bird impact ripped off his mask, smashed his visor and rendered him temporarily unconscious; Flt Lt Nick Mathews in the back initiated Command ejection and thus save them both.

2001 was another year with many detachments in Europe, including new destinations in Austria, The Czech Republic and Iceland plus a Squadron exchange to Nancy in France which involved dissimilar air combat training with the Mirage 2000 of the French Air Force. However, in the UK, the Squadron’s tasks were severely disrupted by the Foot and Mouth Crisis with low flying banned or curtailed in many areas; normal operations did not resume until November. Late in 2001, Wg Cdr Mike ‘Simpo’ Simpson took command of 100 Squadron. At this time, the Squadron comprised 26 very experienced staff who had amassed a total of over 70,000 flying hours – with over 30,000 on type.

In 2002, the Squadron continued flying their wide of tasks but also became heavily involved with supporting trials of the Eurofighter Typhoon. In September, a detachment to Kecskemet in Hungary for dissimilar air combat training with the Mig 29; the Squadron completed another successful exchange to France – this time to Colmar. On 12 December 2002, Flt Lt Wirdnam and his student navigator, Fg Off Allen, suffered a major birdstrike on a low level sortie. Fortunately, despite a shattered canopy, they were able to recover to Edinburgh airport where the airport authorities initially demanded £1,000 a night for hangarage; not exactly the welcome you would hope to get after a very frightening experience. In June 2002, several members of this Association, together with serving Officers from the Squadron, were invited to the dedication of a memorial to the crew of Lancaster ED973 which was shot down by a nightfighter while on route to Oberhausen. The plane, with a full load of fused bombs crashed into the ground near the village of Grashoek in Holland, and exploded leaving no survivors. We were given a great welcome by the community. Every 5 years, a memorial service is held following the protocol set up by Arthur White.

In May 2003, Wg Cdr Simpson led a detachment to The Netherlands for the Dutch Remembrance Day. A three aircraft formation was flown over 100 Squadron memorials, culminating in a poignant sunset overflight of the Eelde memorial. The crews were fêted on arrival in Eelde and were splendidly hosted by the enthusiasts from the area who have subsequently become Association members. In June, the Squadron was also tasked with providing the whipper-in aircraft for the annual Queen’s Birthday Flypast over Buckingham Palace; this gave a superb opportunity for Sqn honorary member and ace air-to-air photographer Geoff Lee to obtain images of many RAF aircraft. Regular training tasks continued through 2003, but many of these were enhanced by the introduction of the RAIDS Pod. RAIDS stands for Rangeless Airborne Instrumentation Debriefing System and effectively eliminates the need to use the Air Combat Manoeuvring ACMI Range in the North Sea which has only limited availability.

Wg Cdr Wayne White took command of 100 Squadron shortly before the Association Reunion on 25/26 June2004. Chris Bulteel, the Association Liaison Officer, took advantage of the major air show held the same weekend at RAF Waddington to persuade most of those involved to make their final practice at Leeming and so provided an exceptional air show for the Association and the Squadron members. The aircraft in the display included: a Typhoon, an Apache helicopter, a Tucano, a Harrier, Tornados, a Jaguar, a Hunter, a Nimrod, Mirage 2000s from the French Air Force and the RAF Falcons who dropped in from a Hercules. Our Associate members over from The Netherlands also had a short flight in a VC10.

2004 was again a busy year with three detachments to Florennes in Belgium for the NATO Tactical Leadership Programme, to Cyprus for Air Combat Training and other detachments in UK to support Joint Maritime Exercises and the Qualified Weapons Instructor Courses. The Squadron also provided support for the introduction of the Typhoon to service; this ranged from air-to-air photography of the aircraft to the provision of targets for the Operational Evaluation Trials of 17(R) Squadron. Detachments to The Netherlands in May also provided fly-pasts at 100 Squadron memorials at Eelde, Twello, Grashoek and Nijmegen.

Despite a shortage of Adour engines and poor weather at the start of the year, 2005 followed a similar activity pattern to 2004 with support for trials with both 17(R) Squadron and 29 Squadron – the recently formed Typhoon OCU. Joint Maritime Exercises and Qualified Weapons Instructor Courses were also supported. Again there were detachments to Florennes and Cyprus, but there was a new task in Poland where the Squadron helped introduce the Polish Air Force at Lask to western tactics and doctrine. Other tasks included Dissimilar Air Combat Training for front line squadrons and fighter evasion training for helicopters. By the end of 2005, Flt Lt Dave Harvey completed his third season as the 100 Squadron Display Pilot; Dave averaged 40 displays a year and brought much credit on both the Squadron and the RAF for his immaculate flying. His replacement for the 2006 season was Flt Lt Duncan Wylie.

2006 was another busy year with detachments to Belgium, Denmark, Hungary, Norway and Poland. Support continued for the Typhoon OCU and the School of Fighter Control. Wayne White left the Squadron in March and command was taken temporarily by Sqn Ldr Dave Owen until Wg Cdr Darren Legg arrived in October. A number of more unusual tasks were undertaken including air-to-air photography of a 6-ship formation of Typhoons, and simulating a rogue airliner as the target for the Tornado QRA (South).

2007 started with a run of new detachments to Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Nordholtz in Germany together with the usual detachments to Lossiemouth and Akroitiri in Cyprus. Highlights of the year included two prestigious awards to Squadron aircrew. Firstly, the award of the L G Groves Memorial Award for Air Safety to Flt Lt Kinno Kinnersley, the Squadron Liaison Officer, in recognition of his considerable efforts in improving the safety of fixed-wing aircraft operating in the Iraq theatre. And secondly, the award of the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery in the Air to Flight Lieutenant Stuart Grimsey. On August 22nd, Grimsey was returning to Leeming from an NTU training exercise when, just west of Barnard Castle, his Hawk suffered a major bird-strike. Debris struck him on the head removing his dark visor and damaging the clear one. Faced with a serious emergency while flying with a very inexperienced student, Grimsey displayed exemplary airmanship in effecting a safe diversion and landing and outstanding captaincy in reassuring his student.

On 27th April 2007, our Lancaster veterans from World War II were honoured when at RAF Coningsby, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster, PA474, was rolled out in 100 Squadron colours as EE139, ‘The Phantom of the Ruhr’. Ron Clark, who flew 25 ops in the Phantom had the honour of unveiling the nose art. We also celebrated our 90th Anniversary in true 100 Squadron style with a splendid Reunion weekend at RAF Leeming, for which we commissioned a montage of the types of aircraft flown by the Squadron by Mike Setterfield, which was printed and distributed to all members who attended. The other major effort to celebrate the Anniversary was the production of an excellent DVD history of the Squadron produced and edited by Keith Ellis.

Wing Commander Peter J. M. Squires took command in April, 2009. The Squadron was tasked with flying 4850 hours per year with 16 aircraft, 21 pilots, 6 navigators and 7 support staff. The Weapon Systems Officer Training Unit (WTU) graduated 10 WSOs during the year for the Tornado GR4 fleet. The Squadron continues to provide close air support training for Forward Air Controllers in JFACSU as they prepare for deployment to Afghanistan. Support via ‘Red Air’ is also provided to Typhoon, Tornado and Harrier fleets. Detachments were made to Gibraltar, to Alasetti (Spain) and the Czech Republic for NATO exercises. These were in addition to the routine detachments in support of the OCU’s.

A large number of Association Members attended the parade for presentation of the new Squadron Standard on 2nd November 2010, when the Association President – Air Commodore Norman Bonnor – marched off the old standard and Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cornwall presented the new one. Two WWII veterans, Stamper Metcalfe & Ted Gordon, met with Her Royal Highness in the Officers’ Mess after the parade.

Wing Commander Christian Gleave MA took command on 9th April 2011. Forty Association members and their families joined the personnel and guests of 100 Squadron for a formal service to rest the old Squadron Standard in Ripon Cathedral on Friday 11th November 2011. At that time, the Weapon Systems Officer Training Unit (WTU) was training the final intake of students before ceasing to operate in April 2012. During his time as “The Boss”, Christian Gleave also presided over the magnificent celebration of the Squadron’s 95th Birthday at RAF Leeming in June 2012. Christian also led the EIIR formation at the Queen’s Jubilee Parade and Muster.

On Thursday 28th June 2012, Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness, The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh attended the Dedication and Unveiling of the Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park opposite the RAF Club in Piccadilly. After a welcome address by Air Commodore Malcolm White, Chairman of the Bomber Command Association, Her Majesty unveiled the Memorial Statues which were sculpted by Philip Jackson and represent the seven-man crew of a heavy bomber returning from an operation. The Memorial is dedicated to the 55,573 airmen of RAF Bomber Command who died in World War II. As the service came to a close, five Tornado GR4s flew past in tribute, but all present were waiting for the BBMF Lancaster “The Phantom of The Ruhr”. EE139 completed 30 operations as HW-R with ‘C’ Flight of 100 Squadron at RAF Grimsby, Lincolnshire and, when the Flight broke away to form the new 550 Squadron at RAF North Killingholme, was re-assigned as BQ-B and flew another 91 operations to become a centurion. “The Phantom” had arrived on 100 Squadron in 1943 in the hands of Sergeant Ron Clark (later Flight Lieutenant Clark DFC), who was invited to fly with the BBMF on the 28th June and release the poppy petals over the Memorial site.
While Ron flew past above us, the 100 Squadron Association was well represented on the ground. The Squadron Standard was on parade together with the RAF Colour and nine others from serving squadrons that flew with Bomber Command.

Wing Commander Tony Cann MA(Cantab) MA took command on 19th April, 2013. Heavy snowfall at Leeming in the following winter months had closed the airfield for several weeks, but the Squadron still met its annual task of flying 4,500 hours. The main tasks continued as “aggressor” support for the Typhoon squadrons and the OCU as well as similar support for Tornado units. The training of Forward Area Controllers was another continuing task. Because the Hawk aircraft is relatively inexpensive to operate and easy to support, it is a favoured aircraft for exercise deployments both overseas and in the UK. In 2013, these have included: Cyprus, Spain, two to France and Scotland; plans for the 2014 included: Albania, Cyprus, Spain and Scotland. With the closure of the WTU, the Squadron had 17 aircraft and 25 pilots; a number of holding officers also provided excellent work in support of the Squadron.

On 25th February, Wing Commander Cann and five 100 Squadron members attended a memorial service to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the loss of JB 604 at Marly in France. Two Hawks flew into the French Air Force Base at Nancy the day before, while a ground party drove across to France with the Squadron standard. The ceremony started in St Brice’s church with a memorial service before forming a procession to the cemetery where wreaths were laid and a minute’s silence was observed. The procession then departed to the town’s war memorial, where more wreaths were laid and the National Anthems played. The Mayor of Marly, Thierry Hory, read an address, which illustrated the very strong feelings that the inhabitants of Marly still hold for 100 Squadron and the crew members of JB 604.

Wing Commander Andy Wright MA BSc replaced Tony Cann as The Boss on 7th May, 2015. To enable members to visit the RAF Museum at Cosford, the Annual Reunion was held at a hotel near Telford. In his speech at the dinner, The Boss gave many details about the Squadrons recent operations and detachments and his expectations for the future.

Our journey through nearly 100 years of the history of 100 Squadron, from February 1917 until today, has included much for us to be proud of. Our links to the past are strengthened through our ties with the 100 Squadron of today. Today’s 100 Squadron, although very different from the Squadron of 1917, is imbued with the same spirit of endeavour to ‘keep it going’. The airmen of today can be proud of knowing what a Squadron they belong to.