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Letter from the Squadron - 2003

Throughout the summer, Steve will be displaying in a ‘standard’ 208 Squadron aircraft, emblazoned with the Eye of Horus on the tail, Blue and Yellow fuselage bands, and the Buccaneer arrowhead on the nose. Further details of Steve’s season may be found on the growing 208 Squadron Internet Website (now superceded by this one! - Webmaster).

Speaking of ‘corporate communications,’ the Squadron has been very active in support of 2 major BBC programmes. The first is an episode of ‘Wildlife on One’ that compares the ‘air combat training’ of peregrine falcons with that of their human counterparts. This is due to be screened in the summer as part of the BBC’s celebration of 100 years of powered flight. The second project is for BBC Wales (hopefully, it will be screened nationally) who are compiling a 6-part documentary about RAF Valley and its role in training future combat pilots. Entitled ‘Life in the Fast Lane,’ it is due to be screened in early 2004 and, naturally, 208 Squadron plays a prominent role. Lastly, on matters of publicity, I have given the Squadron diaries for the Buccaneer era on extended loan to the Buccaneer Association for its museum at Elvington. Hopefully, it will allow many more people to enjoy them than would be the case in their cupboard at RAF Valley!

I was deeply honoured to lead a 4-ship flypast of Perth to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Battle of El-Alamein on 26th October, thus linking the exploits of the Squadron of the past with the training task of the present. Flying from RAF Leuchars, a Dominie of 55 Squadron and a Hercules of 70 Squadron were followed by a ‘box-4’ of Jaguars from 6 Squadron (the Flying Canopeners) and a ‘box-4’ from 208 Squadron (the Flying Shuftis). All aircraft flew down the main parade line, after which both the 6 Squadron and 208 Squadron elements returned to fly a ‘missing man’ finger-4 formation over the saluting base to honour fallen comrades. Following the flypasts, I flew to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire and then onwards by train to London to attend the Annual Reunion Dinner in the RAF Club, where I was delighted to meet 2 former members of the Squadron who had served at the time of the El-Alamein battle. It was a rare privilege to share in the tales of their exploits which, I hope, will add in no small part to the sense of ethos and history amongst the trainee pilots of the modern Squadron.

I was also greatly saddened to learn of the death on 3rd January of Flight Lieutenant Henry Botterell (Ret’d) who, at the age of 106, was believed to be the only surviving WWI lighter pilot and a member of 208 Squadron at its inception in 1918. Henry's exploits were captured in the famous aviation painting ‘Balloon Buster’ by Robert Taylor, which depicts Henry shooting down a German observation balloon near Arras on 29th August 1918. As Association members will know, I had the great honour to lead a visit to meet Henry in the Veterans’ Hospital in Toronto in 2001 but, regretfully, the news of his death reached us too late for anyone from the Squadron to attend his Memorial Service on 13th January Our thoughts are with his family; his courage and dedication to duty continue to be an inspiration to all of us.

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