Picture gallery: Squadron marks its 90th anniversary at RAF Honington

Surrounded by camouflage, replica army vehicles, weapons and even a second world war songstress, one may be forgiven for believing they had stumbled into a film set.

The veterans, troops and families at A Hangar at RAF Honington yesterday, though, were not extras in an extravagant production but visitors to the 90th anniversary celebrations of 1 Squadron RAF Regiment.

The hangar was unrecognisable to visitors as they negotiated their way through camouflage hanging from the ceilings and displays depicting the squadron's conflicts from 1921-1945, the Cold War, Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.

There were demonstrations of current equipment, weapons and vehicles, including a scaled-down replica Chinook, songs from the second world war era, and even a climbing wall.

Gordon Todd, 83, served with 1 Squadron RAF Regiment during his national service between 1946 and 1948 when he drove an armoured car.

Mr Todd, of West Earlham in Norwich, first travelled from Dover to Port Said in Egypt and on to Jerusalem and Palestine.

'There was a lot of camaraderie in the regiment and we always stuck together,' he said. 'Being here is very emotional but it's very nice – we're number one squadron, so the main one, so it's important to remember the history.'

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He added: 'There's been a lot of change since I was in the RAF, with all its radar and that sort of thing, but I think it's a good thing – you've got to keep up with the times.'

Now the oldest in the regiment, the squadron can trace its roots back to the Number 1 Armoured Car Company formed at Heliopolis in Cairo in 1921.

Equipped with Rolls Royce Type A armoured cars, which became known as 'tin trams', the men were drawn from a collection of trades within the RAF and assigned to protect British interests in the Middle East.

Since then, 1 Squadron has seen regular active service and following the attacks on New York's twin towers has been in almost constant deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Squadron commander, Squadron Leader Jim Rowe, said it was important for the airmen to recognise their history.

'Ethos is the end identity and identity helps with fighting power so remembering your history is important,' he said. 'For the gunners it helps to understand where we've come from and where we're going in the future. It underpins everything.

'It's very humbling to be part of the squadron and I'm very proud of all the troops I look after. What you see today is the culmination of the efforts of the lads over the past couple of weeks with limited financial resources and I think it's fantastic.'

Senior Aircraftman Kai Stevens, 17, from Bury St Emdunds, joined the RAF in September 2010 and is due to fly out to Afghanistan next year.

'Seeing what the squadron does is good,' he said. 'The vast array of where we've been is amazing. Some squadrons don't have as many battle honours and it's nice to know we have. I turn 18 just before I go next year and I'm excited already. I get asked by my friends how I'm feeling but I just think that it's my job.'

rebecca.gough@archant.co.uk

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