No kidding, the re-incarnation of 609 (West Riding) Squadron’s wartime mascot, ‘Air Commodore’ William de Goat, will be attending the Squadron Association’s annual reunion which takes place at the Yorkshire Air Museum on Saturday 26th June. ‘He’ will be attending for a few hours from around 10am.
The Squadron, initially to be a bomber squadron, was formed at Yeadon, now Leeds / Bradford Airport, in 1936, before being designated as a Fighter Squadron and moving to airfields in the South of England. It served with distinction in the Battle of Britain, becoming the first Squadron to attain 100 enemy kills.
During 1941, a humble goat was presented to the Squadron by the Belgian landlady of the Old Jail Pub, Biggin Hill, reflecting the number of Belgian pilots who served with the Squadron, amongst othe nationalities. The goat was adopted as the Squadron Mascot and given the rank of Pilot Officer and named William de Goat! William moved with the Squadron to Gravesend, Digby and Duxford – sometimes by air in a Harrow transporter!
However, when he was left behind when the Squadron moved to Manston in 1942, it was noticed thatthe morale amongst air and ground crew dropped! So, the Officer Commanding decided to bring William back, hoping that he had not been sold on for meat. Luckily, William had survived and the day after he rejoined the Squadron, some very succesful missions were recorded and normal service resumed. This earned William the DSO and ‘promotion’ to Wing Commander!
He later earned the DFC by flying into Normandy in a Douglas Dakota with the ground crew on 1st July 1941, shortly followed by the aircrew and their formidable Hawker Typhoon aircraft. He moved around Europe with the Squadron, eventually arriving in Germany just before Victory in Europe Day on 8th May 1945, now with the rank of ‘Air Commodore’.
Back in England later in 1945, the Squadron was disbanded and William was presented to a local farmer, who kept him in his retirement.
Now reformed as an Auxiliary RAF Regiment Squadron at RAF Leeming, 609 Squadron has recently adopted a goat that is cared for by our neighbours at the Yorkshire Museum of Farming, as the ‘reincarnation’ of this legendary mascot. He is called Jeffrey, possibly after the Officer Commanding, Squadron Leader Jeff Metcalfe, but as he is only a humble Officer Cadet, he is sometimes known as Jeffers! After his service to date, appearing at an earlier event at Leeming, it is possible that Jeffrey will be promoted to Pilot Officer during the occasion!!
Also supporting the reunion is a Spitfire from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, which will perform a flypast in the early afternoon, weather permitting, a fitting tribute to the Squadron in this 70th Anniversary of the legendary battle of the skies and a great way for visitors to celebrate Armed Forces Day.