XI SQN Centenary Celebrations
￼￼￼￼￼ON 14 FEB 1915, XI SQUADRON WAS FORMED AT RAF NETHERAVON IN THE UK. 100 YEARS LATER, THE CURRENT XI SQUADRON AT RAF CONINGSBY HELD ITS CENTENARY CELEBRATIONS ON THE 7TH AND 8TH MAY 2015.
The first event to mark this incredible achievement was a Laying-Up Ceremony at Lincoln Cathedral. Current members of the Squadron, along with selected XI Squadron association members and VIPs, attended a service which formally placed the old standard of XI Squadron in the Airmen’s Chapel of the Cathedral. Here, the XI Squadron standard will remain alongside many other squadron standards forming an integral part of the RAF’s history in Lincolnshire.
On the evening of the 7th May, the XI Squadron association held its annual dinner at the Petwood Hotel in Woodhall Spa. This offered a unique opportunity for current and past members of the squadron to meet in a relaxed atmosphere and share stories of new and old. Following an excellent dinner, Air Vice Marshall John Cliffe gave a welcoming speech in anticipation of the formal parade and centenary celebrations the following day. The Patron of the XI Squadron Association, former Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshall Sir Michael Graydon GCB CBE RAF, was also in attendance and drew the meal to a close, but not before encouraging people into the hotel bar for a few night caps.
In the morning of Friday 8th May, RAF Coningsby was the stage for the XI Squadron centenary celebrations. The day started with a formal parade lead by the current Officer Commanding XI Squadron, Wing Commander Chris Layden. The reviewing officer, Air Chief Marshall Graydon, was hosted by the current Station Commander of Coningsby, Group Captain Jez Attridge. The Squadron parade was blessed with beautiful weather in order to parade the current XI Squadron standard with style and professionalism in front of large crowd. Four Typhoons performed a flypast in a diamond formation shortly before the reviewing officer inspected the parade.
After the formalities, all guests were invited to a families’ open day at the Sergeants’ Mess for food. A wonderful spread was put on by the Mess whilst the guests were allowed to peruse various attractions laid on by the Squadron. This included an XI Squadron history tent which gave guests an opportunity to look at the staggering history XI Squadron has had whilst flicking through past diaries of the Squadron to brush up on old memories. Rolls- Royce kindly donated a Typhoon engine to be displayed, which no doubt impressed guests at what incredible technical skill is required to produce such a machine. During the afternoon, Wing Commander Layden gave a welcome speech to all and provided a chance to reflect on some of the incredible achievements and ‘firsts’ of the squadron. He also announced the presentation of an oil painting, commissioned to mark the XI Squadron Centenary, which was painted by the talented aviation artist Ronald Wong. The painting was revealed by Lady Graydon who is a talented artist herself. The picture depicts seven XI Squadron aircraft, both new and old, flying in formation at RAF Coningsby which is a fitting tribute to the Squadron’s centenary.
Finally, there was a Typhoon display performed by this year’s display pilot, Flight Lieutenant Jonny Dowen. A previous XI Squadron pilot himself, there is no better way to demonstrate the sheer performance of the remarkable aircraft that XI Squadron now flies. Following this, Group Captain Attridge gave a beautiful display of a BBMF Hurricane, another aircraft that XI Squadron flew during World War II.
The day was drawn to a close with a party in the Sergeants’ Mess which finished in the early hours after many drinks and much dancing – a fantastic way to finish.
Let us all hope that XI Squadron is alive and kicking for the next 100 years. If there is one certainty, the professionalism and camaraderie seen by the squadron over the last 100 years is sure to carry on for generations to come.