29(R) SQN UPDATE One to one online


29(R) Squadron has always played host to a lot of visitors throughout the year.

From Rugby World Cup winning captains (did we mention we took Richie McCaw flying?!), to foreign dignitaries and work experience students, regardless of who comes, the same question is always asked: “Why do you  have XXX in roman numerals on your aircraft, doesn’t that mean 30?!”

Indeed, since long before the Battle of Britain, 29 Squadron aircraft have been adorned with three X’s, and this tradition has continued to the present day. The most common explanation given by current members of the  Squadron is that during the years following the First World War, one of the slower members of the ground crew was told to paint “29” in roman numerals on either side of the roundel of an aircraft, but wasn’t too swept up on Latin, so had to ask how this would look. The reply, “Just paint XX and then One X” had been misinterpreted by the poor liney, but the result was the start of “Triplex”.

Unfortunately, there are some fairly large holes in this explanation. As can be seen in the photo below, the “XXX” markings were in fact repeated either side of the roundel. Additionally, the use of roman numerals for Squadron numbers has only become common since the Second World War.

It seems more likely that the original adoption of “XXX” for the 1920s Squadron markings was nothing to do with roman numerals, but was a reference to the brewers’ mark for “extra strong”, frequently applied to kegs of beer, and that it is only a coincidence that this resembles the numeral for “29”.

Whether it be an illiterate painter, an extra strong beer, a film by Vin Diesel or a formation callsign, as 29(R) Squadron celebrates its centenary this year, it is clear that this is one tradition that is set to continue for a while to come!