63 Sqn RAF Regt History
63 Squadron Royal Air Force Regiment
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE QUEEN’S COLOUR SQUADRON OF THE ROYAL AIR FORCE (63 SQUADRON ROYAL AIR FORCE REGIMENT)
The Royal Air Force has had a ceremonial drill unit based at Royal Air Force Uxbridge in Middlesex since the early 1920s. Through its doors, under the assumed name John Hume-Ross, passed T E Lawrence famous for his World War 1 exploits as Lawrence of Arabia. On the 1st of November 1960, the Royal Air Force Drill Unit, as it was then known, was re-named The Queen’s Colour Squadron of the Royal Air Force and since then has been manned exclusively by the officers and airmen of the Royal Air Force Regiment.
The Sovereign, in recognition of the achievements of the Royal Air Force, has awarded it the Queen’s Colour. The Queen’s Colour Squadron is the custodian of The Queen’s Colour for the Royal Air Force in the UK and has the honour of providing the Escort Squadron whenever the Colour is paraded.
The Queen’s Colour Squadron is responsible for representing the Royal Air Force at most ceremonial occasions. It also provides Guards of Honour for the Royal Family, visiting Royalty and foreign Heads of State, often in unusual locations. Events such as the Royal Guard of Honour to receive Her Majesty The Queen onto the hallowed turf at Wembley for the final of Euro ’96, the closing ceremony for the Commonwealth Games at Manchester 2002, the Windsor Castle Royal Tattoo in May 2010 and the State Opening of the Welsh Sennedd in June 2011.
The Queen’s Colour Squadron has also represented the Royal Air Force at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, a high profile occasion on the world stage and provided the Royal Air Force element of the Royal Guard of Honour for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Muster Parade at Windsor. In addition to this the Squadron provided the mainstay of personnel for the Royal Air Force contingent of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Service of Thanks Giving. For this event the Squadron provided personnel to line the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral and also the streets of London.
The Squadron also mounts The Queen’s Guard at Buckingham Palace, St James’ Palace, The Tower of London and Windsor Castle. The Royal Air Force Regiment’s tradition for the Royal Palace Guards began in 1943, with its first mount uniquely being viewed by King George and Queen Elizabeth, later The Queen Mother.
Major ceremonial events often require considerable preparation such as the hand over ceremonies of Hong Kong back to China. However, the role the Squadron played in ensuring the dignified repatriation of Diana, Princess of Wales to Royal Air Force Northolt occurred without any prior planning and little preparation.
The Squadron also performs regularly on television in addition to the annual Festival of Remembrance in the Royal Albert Hall, and Remembrance Service at the Cenotaph; a fitting conclusion to the Squadron’s ceremonial duties, often earning high praise from unexpected quarters. Sebastian Faulks of the London Evening Standard encapsulated the Squadron’s approach to such occasions in his account of one Cenotaph ceremony, commenting that “…the Royal Air Force Regiment’s thunderous drill threatened to split the surface of the road.”
The Queen’s Colour Squadron is probably better known for its unique and world-renowned Continuity Drill Displays. These displays have excited and thrilled audiences throughout the world and the Squadron has performed displays in numerous foreign venues including Berlin, Poland, Holland, the United States of America, Canada and Australia.
Each drill display is performed without words of command and the Gunners are required to memorise up to 400 separate drill movements. This takes hours of hard work by all members of the team and represents perfection in drill. The Squadron is the only unit in the world to perform such displays using the standard infantry rifle and drill movements are taken directly from the official Royal Air Force Drill Manual. In fact, the Squadron appears in the Guinness Book of Records having completed over 2,700,000 foot and rifle drill movements in 23 hours and 55 minutes. This still stands as a record that, unsurprisingly, has not been challenged.
Along with its ceremonial responsibilities the Squadron maintains an operational role as No 63 Squadron Royal Air Force Regiment serving in the defence of Royal Air Force assets and installations around the world. The Squadron saw action as No 2865 (light Anti-Aircraft) Squadron Royal Air Force Regiment in Algeria and Northwest Europe. In 1963, the Squadron converted to an Anti-Aircraft role with Bofors Guns and was responsible for the defence of Royal Air Force Tengah. 63 Squadron later carried out internal security duties at Royal Air Force Gan, Kai Tak, and Hong Kong. The Squadron also provided short range air defence with Rapier missiles during the Falklands Conflict and more recently has seen personnel deployed on operations in the Royal Air Force Regiment Field Squadron role to Bosnia, Cyprus, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.
63 Squadron are currently engaged on operations in Afghanistan, which once again shows the versatility of the Squadron to undertake its Ceremonial role and also conduct operations as a Royal Air Force Regiment Force Element.
After completing a 4 week intensive drill course the Gunners can expect to serve on the Squadron for a period of up to 3 years, before returning to serve within the wider Royal Air Force or Royal Air Force Regiment.
The Squadron remains unique as a dual role squadron undertaking both ceremonial and field squadron commitments. The men, who represent the Royal Air Force and the Royal Air Force Regiment impeccably at all times, can be justifiably proud of their elite unit, The Queen’s Colour Squadron of the Royal Air Force.
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