ONE of the most senior squadrons in the RAF will be celebrating its centenary in Shoreham next week.
Members of 14 Squadron RAF will hold a short commemorative parade at Shoreham Airport on Tuesday to mark the occasion.
The squadron was formed in Shoreham on February 3, 1915, and thanks to its almost continuous service since, it is now the fifth most senior in the RAF.
Pilot Michael Napier details the history of 14 Squadron RAF over the course of the last 70 years in his new book, Blue Diamonds. It is a follow-up to Winged Crusaders, which was published last year.
Mr Napier said: “RAF squadrons’ seniority in the service is decided not simply by the squadron numbers, but actually by the number of years that each unit has accrued of operational service.
“Over the years, many units have been formed and disbanded, but thanks to its almost continuous service since 1915, 14 Squadron is now one of the most senior squadrons in the whole of the RAF - and the story started at Shoreham.”
The elder son of an army officer, Mr Napier joined the RAF in 1978 and served with 14 Squadron as a Tornado pilot.
He was appointed as honorary secretary of the 14 Squadron Association in 2003 and since then has carried out extensive research into the squadron’s heritage.
“Blue Diamonds tells the very human story of the high points – and low points – of the people who have served with the squadron in Germany, Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan over the last 60 years,” he explained.
“It is a story that would make fascinating reading for anyone with an interest in history – and particularly in this country’s recent past.”
When Mr Napier served with 14 Squadron, it was based at Bruggen in Germany. He was a Tornado pilot from 1985 to 1987 and returned the year after the squadron celebrated its 75th anniversary at Shoreham Airport, serving from 1991 to 1994.
He is now an airline captain and lives in the Cotswolds with his wife and two children.
In the seven decades since the Second World War, 14 Squadron has operated a wide array of aircraft types in a fascinating variety of roles.
For much of this time, the squadron was based in Germany but it also participated in the Gulf War in 1991, operations over Iraq from 1991 to 2009, in the Kosovo conflict in 2000 and latterly during the war in Afghanistan.
Today, the squadron operates in great secrecy in an intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance role.
Having had access to log-books, contemporary diaries, maps and photographs, as well as oral and written accounts from a large number of ex-squadron members, Mr Napier has been able to produce as complete an account as possible of the operational history of 14 Squadron.
Blue Diamonds : The Exploits of 14 Squadron RAF 1945 - 2015, priced £25, is published by Pen & Sword Books in hardback.