Sunday, 19 September 2021

RAF Benson celebrates 100 years of service

A HELICOPTER unit based at RAF Benson held a parade to commemorate its centenary

A HELICOPTER unit based at RAF Benson held a parade to commemorate its centenary.

33 Squadron conducted the celebration inside the aircraft hangar which has been its home since 1997. More than 80 RAF personnel took part.

Wg Cdr Mark Biggadike, who was stepping down as officer commanding, formally handed the squadron over to his successor, Wg Cdr Andy Baron.

John Harwood, the vice Lord-Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, acted as reviewing officer. Several former commanding officers also attended.

Among the guests was Michael Percifull, a former member of the squadron who was celebrating his 90th birthday.

Afterwards, there was a short memorial service for everyone who had served with the squadron since its formation.

A commemorative painting was unveiled, which will be hung in the main entrance to the squadron barracks.

33 Squadron was formed at Filton, near Bristol, on January 12, 1916, and has taken part in a range of combat and humanitarian missions around the world.

It spent most of the Second World War operating over Europe then moved to the Far East.

The squadron’s A Flight is currently deployed in Afghanistan supporting Operation Toral, NATO’s ongoing training mission.

It flies the upgraded Puma 2 helicopter, which provides airlifts for combat, disaster relief and humanitarian missions. Gp Capt Simon Paterson, RAF Benson’s station commander, said: “It is not often in your career you can say you’ve been part of such a significant event.

“The squadron has such a colourful and extensive history. It is only fitting that its centenary was marked with such gravitas.”

Wg Cdr Biggadike said: “It has been an absolute honour to command the squadron for the past two years. I can think of no better way to complete my duties than to celebrate our centenary.”

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