|CCXXI DONA FERENS (216 Bearing Gifts) Love the humour|
The Royal Air Force was formed in 1918 by an amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps and the flying squadrons of the Royal Navy.
Naval squadrons had their origins preserved by placing a 2 in front of their original number, hence No 16 Squadron Royal Navy became 216 Squadron. Always pronounced 'Two Sixteen.'
I was fortunate enough to join the squadron at a young age, in 1963. We were flying the very first military pure jet transport in the world, the Comet. Whilst we cruised at 40,000 feet and 600 miles per hour the rest of the world trundled along below. Boeing was still designing the 707.
We mainly flew in the passenger role along the routes to Singapore and Hong Kong, Aden Cyprus and Australia with a regular schedule to Washington DC.
Our Other roles were Aero-medical and Casualty evacuation, where we carried two doctors three nursing sisters and a nursing team. Here we carried 12 stretcher cases and 60 sitting cases. Often from nasty places that didn't like us very much, Aden, Yemen, Iran etc.
I left the Squadron in 1967 for three years on 10 Squadron but returned in 1970 until 1975. In this period we were flew purely in the VVIP role and carried the Royal Family, Heads of States, Ministers of State and 'anybody who was somebody'. We only flew long range and we went everywhere. For example: The Queen around Africa, Princess Alexander to Brazil, Princess Margaret to Nepal, Prince Charles to Australia and Canada. We were the envy of every other Squadron in the RAF and were know, sarcastically, as 'the flying club'.
"You could always tell 216 Squadron aircrew," it was said, "they were always dressed immaculately and would, to a man, stand when a lady entered the room."
I accumulated a little over 5000 flying hours with Two Sixteen... and last week they 'laid up the colours' in the village church at Brize Norton. The end of an era. Most of my pals from those early days have slipped the bonds of earth but would be pleased to have never seen the laying up of the Squadron Standard (the Colours) with Battle Honours embroidered on it!
RIP DONA FERENS