Mel, Chair of our Collections Management Committee, recently shared a set of newsletters that had been donated to our Museum.
The newsletters were printed twice yearly; they include information about 12 Squadron RAF, memories of service men and women, the occasional recipe, stories of times past… But perhaps the thing that spoke to both of us was the inclusion of a poem on the back of each issue; we’re looking forward to sharing them with you!
In this first post, I’ll introduce 12 Squadron as described in one of the newsletters, along with one of the poems.
“Formed at Netheravon, Wiltshire on February 4th 1915 the squadron was first equipped with B.E.2c aircraft and went to France in September of that year to perform various roles. The B.E.s were replaced with R.E.8s in August 1917.
After the Armistice the squadron formed part of the Army of Occupation in Germany until July 1922 when it was disbanded at Bickendorf. In April 1923 it was reformed at Northolt as a bomber squadron equipped with DH.9As. In 1924 the aircraft were Fairey Fawns and in 1926, Fairey Fox high speed bombers. On many exercises No. 12’s Foxes outran the defending fighters and this led to the adoption of the motto ‘Leads the field’. The highly polished metal nose cowlings of the aircraft also gave the squadron its nickname ‘Shiny Twelve’. The Fox’s mask badge was given Royal Assent in February 1937 by King George VI. In 1931 No. 12 became one of the first squadrons to have Hawker Harts and four years later it moved to Aden to reinforce the Middle East Command, returning home in 1936 to be re-equipped with Hawker HInds at Andover. 1938 saw another aircraft come into service with the squadron when the Fairey Battle made its debut in February.
In May 1939 the squadron moved to Bicester and there awaited the call to arms. On September 2nd its 16 Battles landed at Berry-au-Bac in France to become part of 76 Wing of Advanced Air Striking Force. The rest of the story is well known.”
Though the Register is no longer published, we can learn more about the squadron by looking in on the Museum in Wickenby.
The first of the poems is titled The Originals. It was dedicated to the pilots of WWI.
Billy Bishop, von Richtofen,
Edward Mannock, Ernst Udet,
James McCudden, Hermann Goering,
Sometimes diving, sometimes soaring,
Rickenbacker, Lanoe Hawker,
Werner Voss and Albert Ball,
In their Nieuports, Sopwith Camels,
Fokkers, Spads and all.
Fledgling British, Germans, Frenchmen,
Writing history in the sky,
Banking, rolling, gliding, swooping,
Duelling with their machine guns,
Parachutes were still unknown,
Men of honour and a special
Courage of their own.
Sitting in their freezing cockpits,
Faces streaked with oil and grime,
Learning all the ways of flying,
Sometimes living, sometimes dying,
They were young and brave and frightened,
Wise and sad beyond their years,
Cynical to those outside
The circle of their peers.
Flying over bloody trenches
On their daily dawn patrol,
S.E. 5s and Albatrosses,
Doggedly ignoring losses,
In their flimsy aircraft made
Of wood and wire and cloth and string,
They came closest to the feel
Of birds upon the wing.