Second Canberra Era 1972/91

100 Squadron was reformed at RAF West Raynham on 1st February 1972, equipped with English Electric Canberra B2, T4 and T19 aircraft. Wing Commander Burley assumed command of the reformed Squadron.
100 Squadron had reformed for what was to be its second era with Canberra aircraft. This would turn out to be a 19-year stint in a variety of demanding roles. 100 Squadron had returned to ‘keeping it going’ and our journey can resume.

Air Chief Marshall Sir Andrew Humphrey, at the Stand-Up Parade held at RAF West Raynham on 23rd February 1972, returned the Squadron Standard to 100 Squadron; the Standard had been laid up in St George’s church, Stamford since 1968. This event was exactly 55 years to the day since the Squadron had come into existence in 1917.

The re-born Squadron was initially tasked with a variety of roles including:
• The provision of pairs of Canberras for training fighter controllers in Practice Interceptions;
• Target towing facilities to give the live interception experience for student crews from Fighter OCUs;
• Playing ‘the enemy’ for fighter squadrons at home and abroad with many deployments and detachments;
• Participation in Air Defence Exercises where banner targets were used for fighter pilots to attack using live ammunition;
• Participation in maritime exercises involving navies from the UK, USA and the Netherlands simulating missiles or conventional attacks on shipping.

The maritime exercises established a long lasting association with 8 Squadron equipped with Airborne Early Warning Shackletons.

However, the Squadron continued to pay a heavy price when Canberra WJ610 crashed killing all crew members. But despite such tragedies, the Squadron enjoyed their time at West Raynham under both Wg Cdr Burley and Wg Cdr Harcourt-Smith.

1975 saw a major defence review, which resulted in 85 Squadron merging with 100 Squadron. Then in January 1976, under the command of Wg Cdr Harvey, the Squadron moved to RAF Marham. Early in 1976, 100 Squadron received 2 E15 Canberras, which had been modified with updated navigation and radio equipment, plus the aircrews from 98 Squadron. At the time, these additions made 100 one of the largest squadrons in the Royal Air Force.

During the remainder of 1976, the Squadron carried out detachments to Dhahran in Saudi Arabia towing banner targets for the Royal Saudi Air Force, and to Stornoway for exercises with NATO shipping in September. In August 1977, E15 WH 948 caught fire during an air test with the crew having to eject close to Holt in Norfolk. Both of the crew survived and there were no civilian casualties. 1977 brought a detachment to Malta, and also the 60th Birthday of the Squadron with many former Squadron members attending the celebrations.

November 1978 saw the unveiling of the memorial at Holton le Clay, close to the Squadron’s WWII base at Waltham. An emotional gathering of Lancaster veterans witnessed the ceremony with Wg Cdr Peter le Marquand performing the unveiling. This was one of his last acts as CO; he handed command to Wg Cdr Blockey at the end of the year.

1979 was a busy year with detachments to Akrotiri in February for target towing exercises with fighter crews, and to Saxa Vord in March to carry out a major radar calibration of the Air Defence Radar. In July, the Squadron deployed to Stornoway to operate in an anti-shipping role; during this detachment, one crew suffered an engine failure during the approach and ‘landed’ on the beach then bouncing onto the runway with no more damage than a burst main tyre and a slightly bent nose-wheel mudguard!

1980 saw the Squadron continuing to operate in its various roles with detachments to Akrotiri in January to be followed by work at Gutersloh and Leeuwarden. Further E15s were received and WJ 975, the last T19 was pensioned off to Marshalls of Cambridge. The Squadron continued to pay a heavy price, when B2 WH667 suffered engine failure during take off from Akrotiri, and both of the crew lost their lives.

In January 1981, 7 Squadron merged with 100 Squadron under the command of Wg Cdr Landeryou. 7 Squadron were equipped with TT18 Canberras towing the Rushton target using the Rushton Winch. The Rushton Winch permitted the towing of targets on 20,000 feet of wire for the training of Army and RAF Regiment Units firing Rapier Missiles in a ground to air mode. 13 Squadron also disbanded with 4 of its PR7 Canberras joining the now very large 100 Squadron. Concurrent with absorbing new aircraft and roles, the Squadron also undertook a major exercise from Ovar, a NATO airfield in northern Portugal, with the Canberras being directed to their targets by aircraft of the Portuguese air force.

100 Squadron left Marham and moved to RAF Wyton on 5th January 1982 where the Squadron aircraft strength was 7 B2s, 4 PR7s, 5 E15s and 7 TT18s. After the move to Wyton, the Squadron flew a philatelic cover for the RAF Museum at Hendon commemorating the Fe2b. It depicted Fe2bs taking off from Nancy/Ochey. The Canberra’s carrying the covers retraced the routes flown 64 years earlier by Lt Williamson, who had flown the Fe2bs in 1918, and later he signed special versions of the covers. The Squadron deployed to Akrotiri again in February 1982. During this detachment WK 116 crashed into the sea with both crew members surviving the accident.

The first detachment using the ‘Rushton target’ to Kinloss involved the Squadron flying under radar control to the Royal Artillery Range off Benbecula. This was a highly successful detachment, and resulted in such events becoming a routine aspect of the tasking for the Squadron. From April 1982 onwards, the Squadron flew a large number of sorties within the UK in support of the Falklands war effort, and although Squadron PR7s were prepared for a Falklands deployment, they were not required. Wg Cdr Adams took command in August 1982. 1983 saw further extensions to 100 Squadron’s training roles with the addition of sleeve targets for the RN Gunnery School, and the provision of low level targets for Army Air Defence Units. There were detachments to Lajes in the Azores participating in maritime exercises, and also to Belize via Keflavik, Gander and Bermuda to flight check the Belize airfield radar and TACAN. Wg Cdr Mike Purdie took command in October 1983.

On 14th December 1984, 100 Squadron received its new Standard from MRAF Sir Michael Beetham the then Chief of the Air Staff. Amongst many distinguished guests, including Lt Roy Shillinglaw. Roy had been a FE2b Observer in 1918. Also in attendance was Sqn Ldr Dave (Robbie) Robb from Canada. He told Wg Cdr Purdie about a reunion of ex-100 Squadron Canadians held in Mississauga. This meeting sparked the beginnings of the 100 Squadron Association. The old Standard was laid up for the third and final time on 20th October 1985 in St George’s, Stamford, where it still rests.

During 1985, the Squadron participated in large scale exercises from bases in Skrydstrup in Denmark, Lista and Stornoway. Detachments to Warton for Tornado F2 trials work, and to Akrotiri providing banner targets for USN F14 Tomcats operating from USS Nimitz. Also during 1985, the 100 Squadron Association was formed.

In 1986, the Squadron deployed to Akrotiri and Kinloss, and also took part in a French maritime exercise based at the French Naval Air Station of Landisvisiau. The Squadron also deployed to Machrihanish during August and September for a further maritime exercise, and in October undertook a detachment to Bergen/Flesland for a major exercise involving simulated attacks on the UK Air Defence System. Wg Cdr Reg McKendrick was now in Command.

1987 saw the 70th Anniversary of the Squadron, and in October a Reunion was held at RAF Wyton with Lt Roy Shillinglaw present. AVM John Herrington became the first President of the Association, and the guests were treated to a magnificent air display.

1988 was another very busy year for 100 Squadron. In addition to carrying out all of the, by now, routine detachments, the Squadron also deployed to Keflavik and to Nordholz in Germany. The Squadron visited Bergen carrying out low-level simulated attacks against shipping well north of the Arctic Circle. In August, the Squadron displayed aircraft at the Bilbao air show; this raised a lot of interest, as this was the first visit of RAF Canberras to Spain. However, 1988 ended with TT18 WK127 leaving the runway during a landing at Wyton with the undercart having to be retracted to avoid collision with the control tower! Wg Cdr Keith Douglas took command in December.

Yet another busy year followed in 1989 with the Squadron visiting Kinloss to carry out trials into the use of Canberras in a Short Range Maritime Patrol task. This proved to be very popular with the crews as it afforded the opportunity to fly at 250 feet and investigating every ship in sight! Also in 1989, Wyton hosted celebrations marking the 40th Anniversary of the first Canberra flight with more than 1,500 Canberra aircrew and engineering officers in attendance.

1990 proved to be every bit as busy and interesting as the previous year, with 100 Squadron’s capability being stretched even further. The year contained the familiar detachments to Akrotiri, the Hebrides and a return to Keflavik in April. Also in April, 100 Squadron sent 2 Canberras to the Royal Netherlands Air Force base at Valkenburg to take part in the 45th Anniversary of ‘Operation Manna’. On 29th April the 2 Canberra’s performing a fly past at Ypenburg, the site of the Squadron’s first Manna drop. The waiting crowds gave the Canberras a very warm welcome. Later in 1990, overseas training flights to the Spanish military air base at Getafe, Madrid were made on 2 occasions. In September of 1990, Sqn Ldr Alex Wedderburn retired after a long and distinguished career in the RAF. He had flown in almost all of the Canberra types, and 100 Squadron provided him with a retirement befitting his contribution to the RAF. In true 100 Squadron style, Alex had ‘kept it going’. Shortly after this, Wg Cdr Keith Douglas took over command.

Monday, 18th March 1991 was a black day for both Wyton and for 100 Squadron. T4 WJ 877 crashed on take off and exploded on the A141 road. In this crash Gp Capt McKendrick the Wyton Station Commander, who had also been CO of 100 Squadron during the 70th Anniversary Reunion, was killed. Also killed in the crash were Flt Lts Adam and Wilkinson. The Squadron continued to pay the price, and in so doing, lost excellent airmen. Shortly after this, Wg Cdr Robb Metcalfe took over command. Robb had previously served on the Squadron as a squadron pilot in 1974/75 at West Raynham and as a flight commander at Marham in 1981/83.

By June 1991, it was confirmed that the Canberras were to be withdrawn and that 100 Squadron would re-equip with Hawk T1 aircraft from 1992. By September 1991, only 10 Canberras remained with the Squadron, with the first three Hawks arriving at Wyton. The final Canberra deployments were to Montijo near Lisbon, to Leck and Stavanger and to Birigat in Egypt with the last detachment to the Hebrides taking place in December 1991. With the ending of the second Canberra era for 100 Squadron, it is worth noting that during the period from January 1972 until December 1991, the Squadron had operated a total of 48 Canberras in a variety of roles.

Adding in the first Canberra era between 1954 and 1959, 100 Squadron had operated the first jet bomber of the RAF for over 24 years contributing much to Bomber Command and to the Royal Air Force. During these 24 years, 100 Squadron had lost many good airmen but, and true to her traditions, had ‘kept it going’. 100 Squadron’s journey is not yet over. Re-equipping with Hawk T1 aircraft opens the next part of the journey of this remarkable Squadron.