100 years apart: Flying over the front line

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From BE-2 biplane to Tornado GR4 fast jet, spanning more than a Century; one of the oldest fixed wing Squadrons in the World marks its anniversary with the release of rare video footage from 1914.

Formed on 13 May 1912, No 2 Squadron Royal Flying Corps were trained to carry out reconnaissance, a role their modern day counterparts have continued to fulfil to this day. Ordered to fly to France at the outbreak of World War I, pilot Lieutenant Hubert Harvey-Kelly became the first British military aviator to land in France going on to claim the first RFC aerial victory when he forced down an enemy aircraft. In 1915, during the battle of Neuve Chapelle, the Squadron pioneered the use of aerial photography in order to map the trenches of Northern France; they have continued to be an intelligence gathering asset through their history, from photography of the D-Day beaches in 1944 to the ‘eye in the sky’ full motion video they provide to ground commanders on current Operations.

Today their 21st Century RAF successors fly over the frontline in Afghanistan, from where Wing Commander Jez Holmes, Officer Commanding No II (Army Cooperation) Squadron pays tribute to those who flew and fought before them.

“I write this on the 102nd anniversary of the formation of No 2 Sqn of the Royal Flying Corps having landed from another operational sortie over Afghanistan in support of ground forces. “ 

“The intervening years have seen an astonishing progression from the early string kites that took 8 days to fly from Farnborough to Montrose in 1913, to the cutting edge modern technology of today that can deliver a range of precision effects at vast ranges and at great speed. When the Squadron converts to the multi-role Typhoon and moves to RAF Lossiemouth in 2015 the Squadron’s history books will record over 100 bases and 40 aircraft types.”

“Whilst the how and where have changed, what the Squadron does hasn’t; 100 years ago the personnel of 2 Squadron were the first to land in France where they flew in support of the Army on the Western Front, providing reconnaissance imagery and attacking targets from the air. Furthermore, 70 years ago the Squadron flew low level over the D-Day beaches providing vital reconnaissance and spotting for naval gunfire. Whilst the context and technology continues to change, the tenacity and spirit of the men and women of II (AC) Squadron remains a constant. Our role of defending the United Kingdom and her Allies remains the golden thread that links us back to those first airmen from 1912, underlining our proud motto; ‘Hereward’, meaning Guardian of the Army.”




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