RAF No 600 (City of London) Squadron

Motto: Praeter sescentos (More than six hundred)

Formed at Northolt on 14 October 1925 as a light bomber squadron in the Auxiliary Air Force. Initially equipped with DH9As, it later received Wapiti's in August 1929 and Harts in January 1935. It continued in the bomber role until 1 July 1934 when it was redesignated a fighter squadron, but it was February 1937 before the first Demons arrived, conversion being complete by April. Blenheims arrived in January 1939 and although originally intended to operate both in the day and night role. In February 1940 Fg Off Tollimarche won a George Cross as a result of attempting to rescue his passenger following a crash landing in which his aircraft caught fire. Not expected to live he actually recovered, becoming one of the first 'Guinea Pigs'.

The day the Germans invaded France and the Low Countries, 10 May 1940, the squadron dispatched 6 a/c to attach Waalhaven Airfield in Rotterdam. 5 of the 6 were shot down by German Bf 110's and 7 aircrew killed, including Sqn Ldr "Jimmy" Wells the CO. As a result of operations like this it soon became obvious that the Blenheim was not suitable for the day fighter role. However, the squadron soon adapted to the night fighter role and was one of the first units to use Airborne Interception (AI) radar. Beaufighters replaced the Blenheims in September 1940 and it continued to operate this type until 1945.

It moved to North Africa in November 1942, Malta in June 1943 and finally to Italy in September 1943, continuing to operate in the night fighter/intruder role throughout. Mosquitos were received in January 1945 which were retained until the squadron disbanded on 21 August 1945.

With the reactivation of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, 600 was reformed on 10 May 1946 at Biggin Hill as a day fighter squadron under the command of under Sqn Ldr Norman Hayes, who had flown the only Blenheim to make it back from the raid on Rotterdam on 10 May 1940. It was initially equipped with Spitfire F14Es, F21s and F 22s, until March 1950 when Meteor F 4s began to arrive, the squadron being fully re-equipped by November. These were replaced by F 8s in November 1951 but along with all the flying units of the RAuxAF, it was disbanded on 10 March 1957.

With the decision to resurrect the RAuxAF squadron numbers, it was reformed from No 1 (County of Hertford) MHU in 2001 and is designated HQ Augmentation Squadron.

No 600 is the only squadron in the RAF to have two official badges, the explanation for which I give here in the words of the 600 Squadron historian, Flt Lt Robin van Geene: - "The one featuring the City of London crest is called "The Dustcart Crest" as the City badge is found on all vehicles operated by the Corporation of The City of London. The second badge is called "The Moon and Paperknife" from the City dagger crossing the crescent moon. The design was decided on when the Sqn was based in N Africa and represents the Squadron's role as a Night Fighter unit at that time. Post war, on the reformation of the Sqn at Biggin Hill as a day fighter Sqn the Officers reverted to the original crest. This was unofficial until the CO, Sqn Ldr David Proudlove spoke to the Honorary Air Commodore about it. She replied that she would "Have a word with her husband about it". As our HAC was HM Queen Elizabeth, and her husband was King George VI, the authorisation of the second (but to us the first) badge quickly followed. The Herald "Chester King of Arms" was against it, but the King was talked around by our HAC and the Dust Cart badge was approved. We now display both badges, but the Dust Cart Badge is the primary badge of the unit."

The squadron also holds two Standards, one official (see above) and one 'unofficial' and the story of the presentation of the first is also given here in Flt Lt van Geene's words: - "In 1931 Sqn Ldr “Freddie Guest” retired to become the Sqn’s first HAC. He handed over command to Sqn Ldr “Stan” Collett who was posted in from 601Sqn to assume command on promotion. Stan was employed as Assistant Company Secretary of the Great Western Railway, and was the son of Sir Charles Collett who was involved in local government in the City of London.

In 1934 the Sqn was involved in the Hendon Air Pageant, and Sqn Ldr Collett chose to fly in the Observer’s position of one of the Squadrons Wapiti aircraft piloted by Fg Off Robert Lea. The aircraft suffered engine failure on take off (the subsequent Board of Inquiry actually found that the fuel cock had been turned off accidentally) and Lea turned back to the airfield to make a forced landing. He stalled and crashed and the aircraft caught fire. Lea escaped but Collett was knocked unconscious in the crash and died in the fire. His father was Lord mayor of London in the year of his death, and a large scale military funeral followed at St Paul’s Cathedral.

In memory of her son, the Lady Mayoress had a Squadron Standard embroidered, which was presented to the Squadron by her in 1935. It was subsequently carried by the Squadron in the Lord Mayor’s Show that November. At that time, no formation of the RAF or its reserves was authorised to hold a standard. In fact the presentation of Standards to the RAF did not begin until 1953. However the Squadron was given permission to parade with this banner only within the boundary of the City of London as recognition of it’s personal connection with the Lord Mayoralty. This custom was extended, and ratified by King George V on 1 April 1935, so that the Squadron could parade with the banner on St George’s Day of that year. Photographic evidence exists in one of the post war Squadron Scrap Books showing the Squadron under command of Sqn Ldr David Proudlove with the Collett Standard on parade for St Georges Day 1949. The standard continued to be paraded through the streets of the City of London on every Lord Mayor’s Show until the Squadron was disbanded in 1957.

The official records containing the letters authorising the custom were lost following the disbandment of the Squadron. Currently evidence exists only in the form of the photograph mentioned above, an article in Flight magazine dated 3 Nov 1949 which mentioned the custom, a further article written by Wg Cdr J Meadows, ex CO of the Sqn in Aeroplane Monthly in April 1987 and personal testimony from several members of the Sqn Association who were on parade when the Collett Standard was carried."

Squadron Codes used: - MV Jan 1939 - Sep 1939; BQ Sep 1939 - Aug 1943; 6 Aug 1943 - Jul 1944; RAG May 1946 - 1949; LJ 1949 - Apr 1951

Standards: - Standard originally awarded on 15 Jan 1952 but presented:- xx xxx xxxx HRH Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother.

Battle Honours: - Home Defence, 1940 - 42: France and Low Countries, 1940:, Battle of Britain, 1940: North Africa, 1942 - 43: Sicily, 1943: Italy 1943 - 45: Salerno: Anzio & Nettuno: Gustav Line: Gothic Line:

 

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This webpage was updated 25th January 2019