A History of No 8 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Edited for the New Millenium By
Flight Lieutenant Christopher Dean
Most members of 8 Squadron, both past and present, can name Capt “Freddie” West as the winner of the RAF’s first VC while flying with 8 Squadron on the Western Front in 1918. However, how many can tell the story of Cpl E Jones, the gunner of an 8 Squadron BE2, who shot down a Fokker, and drove away a second, during the Fokker scourge of 1915? Or of Plt Off Vincent who won the DFC by, literally, picking up his stricken aircraft in the face of the enemy? Then there is the tale of Sqn Ldr The Hon Cochrane who landed in Aden harbour by mistake when he should have been at a dining in night. Perhaps the anecdote about the divisional General who took cover underneath the Squadron ammunition lorry during an air raid may make you smile?
All these incidents – and many more – are contained in the West Room on No 8 Squadron at RAF Waddington. As well as being the Squadron’s briefing room, the West Room contains 8 Squadron’s archive of diaries, photographs, letters and memorabilia relating to our long and illustrious history. The aim of this album is to present a brief history of No 8 Squadron based on the stories collected over the years and held in the West Room. Some of these stories are humorous – others are humbling – and yet the story of No 8 Squadron is not yet finished. The later chapters about the operations in Bosnia and Kosovo are very similar to those of Iraq and Aden in the 1920s; namely the attempt to bring a dissident people to negotiation and peace by air power, and even more parallels can be drawn in our current operations in the Middle East. Although the equipment and capability has changed beyond measure it remains for the reader to decide if the spirit of those early pioneers of aviation history still lives on today in the name of No 8 Squadron.
Writers more capable than I have contributed to the many documents contained in the Squadron archive. Therefore it would be remiss of me if I did not copy some of their words. To this end I must mention the following authors whose work has been most beneficial to this history:
Flt Lt Phil Langrill who compiled a very detailed Squadron history in 1967.
Mr Colin Richardson, an ex-venom pilot with No 8 Squadron, who has written a comprehensive record of the Jebel Akhdar campaign for the Squadron.
Mr J Campbell, who wrote to the Squadron about his experiences in Khormaksar in 1937.
Capt Pat Reid who wrote the autobiography of Freddie West – “Winged Diplomat” published by Chatto and Windus in 1962.
The maps and background details about the East African Campaign come from “War Maps – Great Land, Sea, and Air Battles of World War II” by Simon Goodenough published by Macdonald in 1982.
The brief excerpts about Suez and Middle Eastern conflicts in the 1950s/1960s come from “The Atlas of Modern Warfare” by Chris Cook and John Stevenson published by bca in 1978.
However, greatest thanks must go to the many nameless Squadron members who have selflessly given their diaries and photographs to the Squadron over many years.
Without their help this history could not have been written.
Former No 8 Sqn Historian,
Waddington, Spring 2002