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651 Squadron Army Air Corps

Overview

651 Squadron Army Air Corps is located at Joint Helicopter Command Flying Station, Aldergrove, Northern Ireland from where it operates the Defender fixed wing aircraft. The Squadron was the first Air Observation Post Squadron to be created during the Second World War. Their motto is 'Dirige' or 'Direct' (as in pointing the way).
651 Sqn AAC

Squadron History

651 Air Observation Post (AOP) Squadron Royal Air Force (RAF) formed up on 1 August 1941 at RAF Old Sarum, under command of Squadron Leader ED Joyce. This was the first AOP Squadron and it was equipped with the Auster aircraft. On 4 October 1941 Major HC Bazeley, Royal Artillery, who was instrumental in the creation of the AOP Squadrons, assumed command from Squadron Leader Joyce. The whole Squadron moved to Dumfries, Scotland, on 31 July 1942 having carried out nimerous exercises in the south of England. In preparation for mobilisation overseas the Squadron moved to RAF Kidsdale, Dumfries And Galloway, on 11 August 1942. On 12 November 1942 the Squadron, less 'A' Flight landed in Algiers, Algeria (North Africa) on Operation TORCH where they were engaged in action. In January 1943 the whole Squadron were in action in North Africa, where Major R Neathercoat assumed command on 2 February 1943. On 4 September 1943 651 (AOP) Sqn RAF were the first AOP unit to cross the Straits of Messina from Sicily in support of the 8th British Army's invasion of Italy. By the 17 May 1944 the Squadron had been reassigned to work with 654 (AOP) Sqn RAF in support of the 2nd Polish Corps during their capture of Monte Cassino. The Squadron continued to provide support to the 2nd Polish Corps until the end of the Second World War and were granted the honour of wearing the Sirena (Syrenka) (Maid of Warsaw) badge by the Polish Corps.

Post Second World War the Squadron saw service in Palestine, Eritrea, Tunisia and Cyprus. In 1957, with the formation of the Army Air Corps, 651 AOP Squadron was redesignated 651 Squadron Army Air Corps, based at RAF Debden in Essex. In 1958 the Squadron moved to Middle Wallop to take up the role of the Overseas/Middle East Squadron. Between 1960 and 1962 the Squadron deployed to Northern Ireland and were the first Army Air Corps unit ever to do so. The aircraft in theatre at this time were the Skeeter and the Auster Mk IX. This was the time of the Irish Republican Army's border campaign and the primary role of 13 Flight (a Squadron component) was to complete reconnaissance flights gathering information on potential helicopter landing sites. 13 Flight were based at RAF Aldergrove but also flew out of RAF St Angelo and RAF Ballykelly.

Following the restructuring of the Army Air Corps  in 1983, 651 Sqn AAC relocated to Hildesheim, Germany, as part of 1 Regiment Army Air Corps, equipped with the Scout and Lynx Mk 1 aircraft. In 1993, following the end of the 'Cold War' era the Squadron relocated again to Gutersloh and in 1996 saw active service in Bosnia and Herzegivina, as part of the Implementation Force, flying the Lynx Mk 7 on Operation Joint Endeavour. In March 2000 the Squadron returned to Middle Wallop, becoming the Apache Fielding Squadron spearheading the first stages of Apache training in anticipation of the introduction of the aircraft to Army Air Corps in 2001. In 2003 the Squadron was disbanded and reformed again in 1996 at RAF Odiham as the primary operator of the Defender AL1, providing fixed-wing manned airborne surveillance in support of counter terrrorist operations, making it the first fixed-wing Squadron within the Corps. In July 2008 651 Squadron Army Air Corps moved back to RAF Aldergrove, Northern Ireland, almost 50 years after its first deployment there. The Station became Joint Helicopter Command Flying Station Aldergrove on 20 September 2009 when, after 91 years, the RAF ensign was lowered for the last time.

 Squadron Badge

Squadron motto - 'Providence'.
Squadron badge heraldry - A seashell fired.

1 Flight

This unit traces its ancestry back to February 1947 when 'C' Flight of 647 Sqn was retitled 1901 Flight. The aircraft used by 1 Flight were the Hoverfly R-6 and the Auster Mk6, initially flown from Andover before the Flight relocated to Middle Wallop in January 1948. In 1956 the Auster Mk6 was replaced by the Auster Mk9. On the formation of the Army Air Corps on 1 September 1957 the Flight was retitled 1 Reconnaissance (Recce) Flight and received its first Skeeter Mk12 on 20 December 1958. In January 1964 a further reorganisation resulted in the Flight becoming part of 655 Squadron Army Air Corps and redesignation to 1 Flight Army Air Corps. In August 1968 the Flight was amalgamated with the Air Troops of the 17/21 Lancers, Queen's Dragoon Guards, and 3 Royal Horse Artillery to form 1 Interim Squadron Army Air Corps at Detmold, subsequently renamed 661 Squadron Army Air Corps in 1969. The title 1 Flight lay dormant until 1 October 1988 when the existing Beaver Flight at RAF Aldergrove was redesignated 1 Flight Army Air Corps. The Flight remained in existance until it was amalgamated with 651 Squadron Army Air Corps following their arrival in Northern Ireland.

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

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