Over seventy-five years ago and a million miles away from the field kitchens and logistics support of today’s Squadron, the pilots of 504 Squadron were defending the skies of southern England during Britain’s greatest aerial military engagement.
Twelve chefs and instructors from 504 Squadron immersed themselves in their Squadron’s history during a visit to the well preserved Battle of Britain Bunker at RAF Uxbridge and the famous Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon – where 504 Squadron was stationed during WWII.
activities of this kind are called ‘force development events’ and require
participants to actively research a given subject or place. In this instance,
the chefs had to present short lectures and discussions on the history of their
Squadron during the Battle of Britain.
Junior ranks in particular can be unused to public speaking and so tasks like this can be a valuable aid to confidence building. Confidence is essential in the armed forces where personnel may have to immediately take command of stressful situations.
A famous 504 Squadron pilot was Sergeant Ray Holmes. On 15th September 1940 Sergeant Holmes was flying a Hawker Hurricane when he saw a German bomber heading for Buckingham Palace. His guns having jammed, Sgt Holmes elected to ram the Dornier with his Hurricane.
Sergeant Holmes survived the engagement and the engine block of his crashed Hurricane was recovered in 2005 and is now on display at Hendon. Seeing the engine block was, unsurprisingly, a highly resonant moment for the 504 Squadron chefs.
For Corporal Gavin Hall, a chef instructor at 504 Squadron, force development activities are a working necessity. He said; “The learning curve was massive, seeing what happened in the bunker and understanding what 504 did during the Battle of Britain was a full on learning experience.”
Squadron Leader Andy Ham is the Officer Commanding 504 Squadron. He said; “You have to look beyond the boundaries of your own trade or profession once in a while, if you’re going to understand that shared Squadron history.”
He continued: “The role may have changed, but the Squadron’s number and badge are the same; that shared history is more than uniform-deep and in many senses reinforces teamwork and the service bond we share.”
Anyone interested in
joining the Royal Air Force Reserves can find out more at https://www.raf.mod.uk/recruitment/lifestyle-benefits/life-as-a-reserve/.
Editor: Ed Palmer
The Battle of Britain Operations Room at RAF Uxbridge.
504 Squadron’s Catering Flight at the RAF Uxbridge monument.
Pilot Sergeant Ray Holmes (courtesy RAF Museum Hendon).
© MOD Crown Copyright 2016