A Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will provide an aerial ‘salute’ to the veterans, current serving personnel and other members of the 609 (West Riding) Squadron Association attending the annual reunion at the Yorkshire Air Museum on Saturday 25th June. No doubt this spectacular flypast will delight general visitors on the day, making this a great day to come and enjoy all the fascinating things to be seen at the award winning museum.
Formed in 1936 at Yeadon airfield, 609 (West Riding) Squadron was initially an Auxiliary Squadron within the Royal Air Force, therefore largely made up of ‘civilians’. It was originally a Bomber Command Squadron, but in 1938 it was designated to Fighter Command and equipped with the new Mk. 1a Spitfire. Under the gathering clouds of war in 1939, the Squadron was called for full time service and during the Spring of 1940, escorted Winston Churchill on his two visits to France.
In May that year, the Squadron moves to the South of England, to RAF Northolt to fight during the Dunkirk evacuation and as the Battle of Britain intensifies, fights on a daily basis, now from Middle Wallop. By the end of the Battle of Britain, 609 had become the first Spitfire Squadron to destroy 100 enemy aircraft, with the terrible price of the loss of most of the original pre-war pilots.
Continuing the theme of serving at many of the famous Battle of Britain bases, 609 moves to Biggin Hill in 1941, by this time having completed an outstanding record of 18 months continuous service. The next year sees a move to Duxford where it changes aircraft to the Hawker Typhoon, where it remained to the end of the war, serving during the D-Day invasion before finally being stood down after VE Day. It had become a very ‘cosmopolitan’ squadron, with pilots from Belgium, New Zealand, Rhodesia, Poland and others. One notable was a German Jew, Klaus Hugo Adam, who had left his homeland for England before the war. His Anglicised name was Ken Adam and he later became famous as a set designer for the early Bond movies and many others.
The Squadron has been disbanded and reformed a number of times since the war, but from 2000 it has been based at RAF Leeming, still as an Auxiliary Squadron and has served in all the current ‘hotspots’.
The Museum’s Spitfire exhibit, which stands outside the 609 Squadron Memorial Room, is painted in the colours of Spitfire Mk 1a R6690, which was flown in the Battle of Britain by both a Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader H S ‘George’ Darley and Pilot Officer Daunt, who was shot down and killed in the aircraft on 15th September 1940 over South London.
It is unusual, but very fitting, to have both the Hurricane and Spitfire allocated for the flypast, reflecting the types flown by the Squadron during its distinctive wartime service.