609 (West Riding)

The facts

Station name: RAF Leeming

Station address: Northallerton, North Yorkshire DL7 9NJ

Motto: Tally ho

Mission: To provide RAF Regiment Gunners and force protection specialists to support RAF operations at home and overseas.

Roles: https://www.raf.mod.uk/recruitment/roles/

Get in touch: 0345 606 9069

More about this squadron

Based at RAF Leeming, 609 (West Riding) Squadron is one of the six RAF Reserves units with a Force Protection role. The unit consists chiefly of RAF Regiment gunners trained in infantry skills, but it also has a limited number of personnel in support duties.

Roles and specialist skills

Gunners are required to master a range of skills, including infantry tactics, covert observation, target acquisition and close combat. Gunners also receive specialist weapons training, and become expert at handling everything from a bayonet to an anti-tank missile. The RAF Regiment needs to operate 24 hours a day, in any weather, so our Gunners become skilled in the use of the latest night-vision aids and other surveillance equipment. The progressively challenging training begins with general service knowledge and basic foot drill, before moving onto weapons and tactics, signals, first-aid and off-road driving.

Combat training is physically and mentally demanding and can take place anywhere in the world, from the jungle to the Arctic. Gunners need to be fit, active and prepared to endure difficult and demanding situations.

For reasons of combat effectiveness, women cannot be accepted for this role.

Recent deployments

More than 60 of 609 Squadron’s Reservists were deployed to Iraq in 2003, and more served in both Iraq and Afghanistan in the years following. Other personnel have been deployed to Cyprus and around the world on exercises and operations.


Like many RAF Reserves’ units, 609 Squadron was a flying unit between its formation in 1925 and stand-down in 1957. The unit was formed at Yeadon in 1936 as a bomber squadron, and converted to fighters in 1938. Mobilisation for war in 1939 saw the unit in possession of just two Spitfires and a single Fairey Battle because of a general shortage of aircraft.

The unit achieved a particularly distinguished record in the Second World War. It was the first Spitfire squadron to achieve 100 air-to-air ‘kills’, and was also responsible for the first confirmed kill by an American airman. Later in the war 609 Squadron pioneered the use of the Hawker Typhoon in the ground-attack role, and performed this vital and dangerous work until 1945.

After the war, 609 returned to its ‘ancestral’ home in Leeds and converted to the Gloster Meteor jet fighter, winning the Esher Trophy. Like all Royal Auxiliary Air Force flying units, the squadron was disbanded in 1957, but it returned to life in 1999 as an Airfield Defence Support Squadron. The current name followed a year later.

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