Auxilliary Squadron Memorial Unveiled at Leeds International Airport
A World War 2 Royal Auxiliary Air Force Squadron that was formed almost 80 years ago, returned to the place it began it’s life for the unveiling of a new memorial to the Squadron’s flying history and to recognise it’s new combat role; 609 (West Riding) Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force was formed at the old the RAF station of Yeadon, known today as Leeds- Bradford International Airport (LBIA),
John Parkin, the Chief Executive of LBIA said: “We made a promise to 609 (West Riding) Squadron some time ago and we wanted to make sure their memorial recorded their history and recognised their present day achievements appropriately.”
The previous 609 (WR) Squadron memorial had moved around the airport several times, but as LBIA recently undertook an extensive and on-going building program, the final positioning of the memorial became more realistic. John added “we wanted a prominent and permanent location for the memorial at the airport that is growing at quite a rate, the position we have chosen in conjunction with the 609 (WR) Squadron Association means just about everyone of our customers visiting the airport will see it”.
Also present at the ceremony was Mr David Darley. David’s father Squadron Leader Horace ‘George’ Darley, was the Officer Commanding 609 (WR) Squadron during the Battle of Britain. David, who is the President of the 609 (WR) Squadron association, had driven the project over many years, said, “It is a remarkable turn out today and I am delighted to see so many friends and family here that have links with the Squadron. The previous memorial had been moved 3 times, and it has taken roughly 1/6th of my life to get to this stage” He added: “From the wartime Squadron here with us today we have Walter Dixon who is 102 years old, and Charles ‘Pud’ Crowther who is 99 years old.”
On how he felt about the memorial, David said: “It is befitting that 609 (WR) Squadron should have a memorial as they still serve, with it, the ‘new’ 609 has been recorded and the ‘old’ 609 has been remembered. I must thank John Parkin and all of his supporting staff at LBIA for making this possible today.”
Squadron Leader Jeff Metcalfe is the present day Officer Commanding 609 (WR) Squadron. He said: “It is a great honour to be here today. 609 is no longer a flying Squadron and we are no longer based in the West Riding, however we are still proud to serve under the White Rose.” Squadron Leader Metcalfe also spoke of the present day Squadrons activities: “609 has served in Iraq since 2003 and we regular supported operations there until the UK withdrew. We have also had Squadron members serve in Afghanistan alongside our regular service counterparts. As an Auxiliary Air Force Squadron, we recruit from the all over the North of England and as far away as North Wales.”
Jeff told us a little of the Squadron’s recruiting history; “When the Squadron began it’s life, it was truly a West Riding Squadron as all of its recruits came from the immediate area around Yeadon and Leeds. But during 1940- 41, and as the war took its toll, our Squadron Operations Record Book reflects the increased numbers of ‘foreigners’ on the Squadron. Personnel are recorded as being ‘foreigners from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Belgium, France and even Lancashire!’ “
Jeff concluded by saying: “the Squadron today is very proud of its heritage and links with former members and long may it continue.”
Editor: Tim Reid
The 609 (WR) Squadron Mascot, Flight Lieutenant Jeffers de Goat and Corporal Keith Woods at Leeds Bradford International Airport for the unveiling of the 609 (WR) Squadron memorial.
Close-up of the new Squadron Plaque at Leeds Bradford International Airport.
RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2013