Today was an historic one for the RAF’s oldest Reserve Squadron, 502 (Ulster) Squadron as it was presented with a new Battle Honours Standard at Aldergrove Flying Station, the ‘home’ of the Royal Air Force in Northern Ireland.
The Presentation of a new Standard recognises the history and valour of the Squadron since its formation on 15 May 1925 and replaces the last Standard presented in 1954 which was laid up in St Anne’s Cathedral.
The new Standard was presented by the Lord Lieutenant of County Antrim, Mrs Joan Christie CVO OBE as a Hawk T1 jet trainer aircraft, with a Northern Ireland navigator, passed overhead.
Air Vice Marshal Harvey Smyth OBE DFC MA RAF, Air Officer Commanding 1 Group RAF who was at the ceremony said the presentation of the new Standard marked another proud moment for the Squadron and for Northern Ireland.
“The North Atlantic is still highly important to us and protecting the lines of supply and communication there is of vital strategic importance. As when in World War Two members of 502 Squadron played a significant part in securing victory in the Battle of the Atlantic, so too today the RAF is committed to ensuring that we are able to keep our sea lanes open”.
Air Vice Marshal Harvey Smyth OBE DFC MA RAF
Air Officer Commanding 1 Group RAF
The event was a special occasion for all of the personnel involved, but particularly those Veterans of the original 502 Squadron watching from the stands. They included 96-year-old Bill Eames from Enniskillen who was a wartime bomber pilot and went on to serve in 502 Squadron in the 1950s.
Today 502 (Ulster) Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force provides trained reservists to support RAF operations in the UK and around the world. In the past year reservists from Northern Ireland have supported RAF deployments in Crete, Cyprus, the Gulf States, the Falkland Islands, Croatia, France and Hungary as well as diverse locations in the United States.
One of them was Senior Aircraftswoman Magennis from County Antrim who volunteered for a six-month tour of duty in Crete. SAC Magennis worked in support of the detachment based there flying the Rivet Joint aircraft and said it was the highlight of her life so far as Reservist: “Going out I was a bit nervous as those I would be working with were all regulars with operational experience”.
And the satisfaction of being part of the overall RAF effort is something which SAC Magennis says shows that 502 Personnel are helping to support key RAF objectives: “We were well briefed on what was going on and the importance of the missions. We were included, and it meant I felt part of the effort carried out by the aircrew,” said SAC Magennis. “We also had good opportunities off duty to enjoy the facilities in Crete including a beach on the base” she added.
The Officer Commanding the Squadron, Wing Commander Steve McCleery said the presentation marked another milestone in the unit’s continuing tradition of service to the country within the Royal Air Force:
“Many of those on parade today joined the Squadron when it was re-established at Aldergrove on 1 January 2013 as a General Service Support Squadron, while others have only been with us for a short time. All deliver their service with enthusiasm and passion in unity with the Squadron motto ‘Nihil Timeo’ – “I fear nothing”, said Wg. Cdr. McCleery. “Being honoured with a new Standard today reflects the great work achieved and confidence in the new era for 502 (Ulster) Squadron”.