We use cookies to improve your experience on our website.
If you continue, we will assume you are happy to receive cookies that
enable you to move around our website and use essential features.

We will also collect anonymous information about website usage.

You can accept other cookies that remember the choices
you make to improve your visit and ensure the information
we serve you is more relevant.

Do you want to receive these cookies?

Find out more

654 Squadron Army Air Corps

Overview

654 Squadron Army Air Corps, located at Wattisham, is part of 3 Regiment Army Air Corps and a unit of 16 Air Assault Brigade. The Squadron formerly served at Herford and Detmold, Germany, in support the British Army of the Rhine. The Squadron was a Royal Air Force Air Observation Post Squadron during the Second World War and their motto is 'Progressive'.
654 Sqn AAC badge

Squadron History

 654 Air Observation Post (AOP) Squadron Royal Air Force (RAF), formed up at RAF Old Sarum on 15 July 1942, under command of Major TC Willett, Royal Artillery. The Squadron was equipped with the Tiger Moth aircraft and later re-equipped with the Auster Mk3. 654 (AOP) Sqn RAF was mobilised and sent to Algeria in North Africa, arriving on 4 March 1943. Initially the Squadron was allocated to 9 Corps but it then transferred to the 8th Army. As the North Africa campaign was in the closing stages the Squadron was involved in supporting the invasion of Sicily. By the autumn, the invasion of Italy had begun and the Squadron consisted of three Flights plus a Squadron Headquarters. In the campaign that followed these flights generally operated separately, supporting amongst others 10 Corps, 1 Canadian Corps and the Polish Corps. The involvement in this campaign continued throughout 1944, with the Squadron progressively re-equipped with the Auster Mk4. In October 1944 the Squadron was granted the honour of wearing the Sirena (Syrenka) Badge (Maid of Warsaw) by the Polish Corps.

During the winter of 1944/1945, on the arrival of the Auster Mk4, the Squadron continued service in Italy through the spring, carrying out information gathering and tank hunting in addition to its Air Observation Post role. After the defeat of Italy, the Squadron remained there until 1947, based at Ronchi and finally Udine. It was disbanded on 24 June 1947 with the flights re-allocated to join 651 AOP Squadron, then based in Palestine. 654 Light Aircraft Squadron reformed at Hildesheim on 10 August 1958 with Nos. 4 and 5 and later 17 Recce Flights, supporting 2nd and 4th Divisions, but administered by 1st Division. In October 1962 the 4th Division commitment was taken over by 655 Squadron and the squadron became part of the 2nd Division on 1 February 1963.

By 1 October 1969, the Squadron was based at Herford as a result of reorganisation and was equipped with the Sioux and Scout Helicopters. It supported 4th Division through 4 Regiment Army Air Corps which also had its Headquarters at Herford. The other Squadrons in the Regiment were 661 Squadron Army Air Corps at Detmold and 662 Squadron Army Air Corps at Munster. On 1 December 1977, restructuring took place as part of the Wide Horizon Scheme and 654 Squadron Army Air Corps moved to Soest and was renamed 653 Squadron Army Air Corps and 661 Squadron Army Air Corps at Detmold was renamed 654 Squadron Army Air Corps.

The Squadron was therefore co-located with Regimental Headquarters 4 Regiment Army Air Corps at Detmold, supporting the 4th Division. The other squadron in the Regiment was 664 Squadron Army Air Corps based in Minden, equipped with Gazelle aircraft. The Squadron's Scout aircraft changed to the Anti Tank Guided Weapons(ATGW) Role in the Summer of 1978, which also marked the arrival of the Lynx in the utility role. The Squadron had six of each type of aircraft organised into two Flights. On 21 February 1981 the Squadron took delivery of the first Lynx TOW (tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided) missile to replace the ATGW Scout. Being the first unit in the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) to receive these aircraft gave the Squadron the opportunity to form the basis of operations for the complete replacement programme and in this capacity it was heavily involved in trials and demonstration of the new equipment.

In 1983 BAOR lost one Division but formed three larger Armoured Divisions. Within 4 Regiment Army Air Corps, 664 Squadron Army Air Corps was lost to support HQ 1(BR) Corps and the two Squadrons of 9 Regiment were amalgamated with 4 Regiment Army Air Corps. For the first time the Regiment was together in one location. 4 Regiment Army Air Corps, now consisting of 654, 659 and 669 Squadrons Army Air Corps, formed two Attack Squadrons and one Reconnaissance Squadron. The two Attack Squadrons consisted of nine Lynx/TOW and three Gazelle with 669 Squadron Army Air Corps providing reconnaissance support with 12 Gazelle. 'Attack Squadron' was not a new term to 654 Squadron Army Air Corps. During 1982 the Squadron had been involved in a valuable partnership with C Company (Attack) 501st Aviation Battalion of the United States Army based at Illersheim. Through exchange visit the partnership was developed and opportunities to test and practice many aspects of interoperability, tactics, sport and social customs were seized upon with enthusiasm on both sides. The Affiliation was recognised on the 15 September 1983 with the granting of a formal North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) partnership between 654 Squadron Army Air Corps and C Company (Attack) Helicopter Company, United States Army.

On 16 November 1990 the Squadron was warned for deployment to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation DESERT SHIELD. By 2 January 1991 the Squadron was complete in Al Jubail and training for war against Iraq as part of the coalition forces. On 24 February 1991 the Squadron moved into Iraq in support of Operation DESERT SABRE and on the 26 February 1991 it engaged and destroyed seven armoured vehicles of the Iraqi 12th Armoured Division. The war only lasted some 1000 hours and the Squadron returned to Detmold on 22 March 1991 without loss. In December 1994 the Squadron began its move with 4 Regiment AAC to Wattisham Airfield in Suffolk. The Squadron was complete in station by February 1995. It then began the work of converting to the Airmobile role in support of 24 Airmobile Brigade - now 19 Air Assault Brigade. (On 1 September 1999, 24 Airmobile Brigade became 16 Air Assault Brigade prior to the introduction of the Apache attack helicopter.)

On 15 December 1996 the Squadron deployed to Bosnia Herzegovina, in support of the Stabilisation Force (SFOR) and the Multi National Division South West (MND SW) on Operation LODESTAR. The Squadrons role consisted mainly of Command and Liaison, Reconnaissance, the monitoring of the Former Warring Factions movements and equipment, re-supply of hilltop sites, movement of troops and equipment and the support of Special operations. The Squadron returned to Wattisham on 17 June 1997 without loss.  

Squadron Badge

Squadron motto - 'Progressive'
Squadron badge heraldry - A propellor and gun barrel in saltire

In 1944 when the Polish 2nd Corps moved to the Monte Cassino sector of the Italian Front, General Anders asked the British for aircraft to assist with the direction of artillery fire by Polish artillery officers. A Polish AOP squadron was formed and, until operational, 651 and 654 AOP Squadrons Flights were at the disposal of the Corps’ command. These two squadrons assisted during the Battle of Monte Cassino and the Adriatic campaign in recognition of which General Anders gave them the right to bear the Corps’ ensign, the Warsaw Siren on a red shield.
Maid of Warsaw badge