230 SQN CENTENARY – The Tigers Roar!
Whilst deployed on Op TORAL in mid-2017, OC A Flight Sqn Ldr Nick Monahan received the news that he, as successor to the 2IC role on his return, was also by default the lead for the Squadron Centenary celebrations.
A Flight put their abundant spare time and slight detachment from reality to good use, generating all sorts of grand ideas for events and memorabilia to mark this historic anniversary.
Not wishing to have the RAF100 celebrations dominate the calendar and headlines, a small committee was subsequently formed to try and realise all the plans. Not everything came off but, given the Squadron experienced its busiest year in recent history in terms of operational and exercise commitments, the Centenary was still marked in some style.
Sgt Ronnie Barker was the first to create and deliver a short presentation to the whole Squadron, covering the first 25 years; from flying boats at Felixstowe to the mighty Sunderland in Singapore. The first major undertaking was a Force Development Staff Ride to Thailand and Singapore, dubbed Ex Eastern Tiger.
There was always a collective determination to see an anniversary paint scheme applied to an aircraft, particularly for added kudos on the 2018 NATO Tactics Meet but also for use in various airshows and flypasts in the UK. It was a long and convoluted process but eventually the OC and Station Commander prevailed and XW224’s fantastic paint scheme was unveiled and nicknamed the ‘Tiger Prawn’. The paint scheme has been widely praised especially during its outing to the NATO Tactic Meet in Poznan and also at Poznan Airshow.
After a phenomenal engineering effort led by FS Rob Calverley, May saw XW224 was able to ferry a Squadron team to the 2018 NATO Tactics Meet in Poznan, Poland, in the 40th year of the Squadron’s membership of the NATO Tiger Association. Though it was a 33 Squadron crew that conducted an Overseas Trainer for most of the transit, the ProjO Flt Lt Mark ‘AC’ Austin-Carroll was on the sticks for the arrival at Poznan-Krzesiny airbase, where 6th Fighter Squadron laid on the customary tiger welcome. Just two operating crews kept up a relentless planning and flying cycle during the 2-week exercise; a considerable feat of professional dedication. Whilst the team did not return with any of the trophies on offer, 230 Squadron’s strong reputation was secured through the presence of the Tiger painted aircraft and a disproportionately large contribution to the COMAO planning and execution, as well as multiple ‘Squadron Song’ renditions.
The Tactics Meet also saw ingenious promotion of the squadron fund with income generated through the selling of badges, with 3 specifically designed for the Centenary. Spotters at the Poznan Airshow, and collectors amongst the NATO Tiger Association community, helped the Aircrew Fund raise enough to subsequently fund a promotional gazebo adorned with punchy Puma 2 pictures and Squadron emblems.
On 10 July a 230 Squadron crew comprising Sqn Ldr Nick Monahan, Flt Lt Mike Forwood and Sgt Ronnie Barker held position as Vortex 2, alongside 28 Squadron and 33 Squadron crewed aircraft, as the Puma Force led a historic RAF100 flypast of over 100 aircraft down The Mall. A second 230 crew (Flt Lts Cowen and Speirs, and Sgt Macdonald) flew a spare 4th Puma as far as Shuttleworth; while they didn’t make it into the flypast, they still got to purchase the unique badges and gizzits for the participating crews!
This was shortly followed by participation in the Royal International Air Tattoo, unfortunately without XW224 itself owing to unservicabilities issues, but by this stage with a fantastic Centenary print available. As well as this print and the various badges, cufflinks and a commemorative whisky and gin were produced thanks to Sgt Matt Fricker, totalling 230 bottles. Squadron veterans and fans were also offered the opportunity to purchase a Centenary watch, produced by Bremont and facilitated by Sgt Will Jones.
The first official outing for the new Squadron gazebo was at the Station Families Day in July, housing a small 230 Squadron Association stand.
The whole area outside the Squadron was set aside for Squadron members and their families to enjoy the exclusive BBQ and soft drinks as well as a bouncy castle.
The flagship occasion in this series of events was on 9 Aug with an ‘Association Day’ leading into a Centenary Dining in Night. Sgt Matt Fricker coordinated the visit of around 40 members of the Association during the afternoon, which included briefs from the OC and on each of the 4 quarter centuries of Squadron history, a visit to the simulator facility and a combined formal photograph in front of XW224. This photograph was the first time that the OC, after 9 months in command, had all of his aircrew in the same place at the same time. In the evening the largest dining in night in recent history was staged in the Officers’ Mess, with Flt Lt Austin-Carroll putting together a highly memorable evening for over 130 guests, presided over by 2IC Sqn Ldr Monahan as President of the Mess Committee. Eight former OCs were present, including ACDS Ops AVM Andy Turner, his father Wg Cdr (Retd) Bob Turner (Association President) and the Stn Cdr, Gp Capt Hamish Cormack. A very loud, raucous affair culminated in cake being cut and CR badges awarded in the Mess bar, which had been styled after Raffles’ famous Long Bar in Singapore.
The following night, the OC, 2IC and Flt Lt Austin-Carroll represented the Squadron at the Association’s own reunion dinner in Dorchester-on-Thames; a jovial and poignant occasion. It was three in a row for the trio as, a night later at the RAF Club, Piccadilly, over sixty Squadron members from the last 10 years (the ’10 Percenters’, as coined by ProjO Squadron Ldr Will Lucas) gathered for a magical reunion, punctuated by hilarious speeches by Flt Lt (Retd) Charlie Webster (Iraq era), Flt Lt Austin-Carroll (Kenya days), Flt Lt Charlie Emmerson (Op TORAL) and the Sqn Cdr.
After two previous thwarted attempts to stage it, a Standard Parade will be held on 7 Feb 2019, marching off the previous standard and consecrating the new, both with ‘Iraq 2003-2011’ Battle Honours added.