Senior representatives of the RAF Reserves and RAuxAF foundation attend the dedication of a refurbished steam locomotive as part of the preparations for the RAuxAF Centenary celebrations.
As the Royal Auxiliary Air Force looks forward to 2024, when it will mark 100 years of volunteer reserve service in the RAF, a milestone event has taken place at the Nene Valley Railway near Peterborough. Battle of Britain Class locomotive No:34081 has been temporarily renamed from “92 Squadron” to “Royal Auxiliary Air Force” to honour the thousands of men and women who have given so much to support the Royal Air Force in its work at home and overseas in the last 100 years.
The Battle of Britain locomotives were introduced to serve on the railways from 1945 with some 47 locomotives carrying names commemorating individuals, RAF stations and operational RAF Squadrons which took part in the Battle of Britain. These names included the celebrated “Winston Churchill”, “Tangmere”, “Sir Keith Park”, and “257 Squadron” and became a familiar and much-loved sight on the Southern Region over the following three decades. Today there are just 9 of these locomotives left, being carefully preserved by heritage railway groups with” 92 Squadron” residing at the Nene Valley Railway near Peterborough.
The Battle of Britain Locomotive Society was keen to support the Royal Auxiliary Air Force with a temporary name change after learning that some 41,000 RAF Volunteer Reserves were killed in action whilst serving with the RAF in World War II and to this day thousands of ordinary men and women continue to give up their spare time to train as RAF Reserves and deploy with the RAF on operations all over the world.
New name plates were cast and mounted on the locomotive in time for the gala unveiling by Air Vice Marshal Ranald Munro, Commandant General of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force and the moment was marked by a fly past by a World War II Spitfire aircraft from the RAF’s famous Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
In addition to new name plates, the engine’s cab sides pay a special tribute to the outstanding service given by members of the RAuxAF. Using a precedent set by locomotive number 34050 “Royal Observer Corps” which was unique in carrying the Corps’ long service medal ribbon painted beneath the number on the cab side, “Royal Auxiliary Air Force” now carries the medal ribbon of the Queen’s (now King’s) Volunteer Reserve Medal, beneath its temporary new number 34111. The QVRM/KVRM is a state honour awarded to Reservists who have given exemplary service to the country. Locomotive number 34111 was the next un-issued number in the sequence and could well have been given to a locomotive related to the RAF Volunteer Reserve had more been built in the 1940s.
Having been renamed, locomotive “Royal Auxiliary Air Force” will now go into a programme of engineering and maintenance work to prepare it to pull passenger services next season to commemorate the RAuxAF 100th anniversary. At the end of the season, the locomotive will resume its name “92 Squadron” and the “Royal Auxiliary Air Force” brass name plates will be auctioned to raise funds for the Royal Auxiliary Air Force Foundation which works to maintain the various memorials to the Service and its personnel and curate the history of this unique and valued component of the Royal Air Force.
The Royal Auxiliary Air Force is grateful to the Battle of Britain Locomotive Society and the Nene Valley Railway for their support and assistance in making this happen.