A COBRA in the SKY ©
With a foreword by Bob Stanford Tuck
As a young RAF Flying Officer I was posted to 92 Squadron, based at RAF Gütersloh in Germany, in August 1973. I had recently qualified as a pilot on the BAC Lightning, the most formidable twin engined, single seat fighter, capable of flying at twice the speed of sound. As I drove across Western Germany in my Triumph Spitfire Mk IV towards my new job and my new home I was as excited as any 23 year old could be. I had left behind a girlfriend in the U.K. but I had no other ties with England. My parents were living in East Africa where I had lived as a boy with my younger siblings.
The welcome I received at my new base was amazing. The officers mess at RAF Gütersloh, like all the buildings on the base, was unchanged from the day the war had ended. My new colleagues greeted me on arrival as a real fighter pilot which I had just become.
I had only been on the squadron for a few weeks when I heard that some members would be able to fly back to the U.K. to attend a Squadron reunion on 8 December. This sounded like a good opportunity to see the young British Airways stewardess whom I had left behind, so I volunteered to go. With the Squadron commander, Chris Bruce, “Taff” Harries and Russ Morley, I boarded a Belfast RAF transport aircraft to attend the reunion dinner at RAF Bentley Priory, the former Fighter Command headquarters. It was after the dinner that I met some of the former squadron members who had flown Spitfires on 92 Squadron during the Battle of Britain. Speaking to them I soon realised that I was privileged to be able to chat to famous names like Brian Kingcome, “Tich” Havercroft and Stanford Tuck and to hear their memories of 92 Squadron at first hand; I soon got hooked on the history of the Squadron and was to attend all the reunions that I could from then on. At the next reunion at the RAF club in Piccadilly I met some of the same characters again and this time Johnny Kent was there. These people were as interested in me, a current squadron member, as I was in them and their history and they made me feel like a member of their elite club. One thing all former 92 pilots have in common is the opinion that “ 92 had a stronger bond of loyalty and pride than any squadron they had known before or after they were on 92”.
Back in Germany I started to research the squadron history and found that the original records were still held in the adjutant’s safe, marked “Secret”. These documents, referred to in the RAF as Form 540, were a monthly record or log book of the squadron’s activities but during the early 1940s they were written daily and due to a tradition, which the RAF inherited from the Royal Navy, in pencil. After thirty years the writing had faded and I felt obliged to record the details by writing this narrative. The adjutant, Warrant Officer Ernie Steer, let me “sign out” the 540s, a large stack of binders which I took back to my room in the mess. Then the adjutant’s assistant, Corporal Roger Hore, found me other old files and documents of historical interest. We were amazed to find the ‘Authorization Book’ from the First World War which probably should have been sent to the archives decades before but was still being held on the squadron and still classified Secret fifty five years after that war had ended! One file was entitled ‘Squadron reunion’. From that file I got the names and addresses of all the former squadron members who had ever attended a reunion and I wrote to them asking for their memories of their time on the squadron. I received replies from those who had served during the First World War in the Royal Flying Corps, in the Battle of Britain and in the desert during the Second World War; pilots and ground crew. One reply was written in his hospital bed by Mr. H.T. Wallace who wrote out his memories for me, just before he died.
By then I was in a unique position of having more material evidence than anyone before me could have held and probably ever would do again. Each evening I would painstakingly decipher the faint handwriting of earlier adjutants in the 540s and transcribe the text which the Squadron Commander’s secretary, Mrs. Pam Spencer, would type up for me the next day. After a couple of years I returned the Authorisation Book and the 540s to the adjutants safe. When the squadron disbanded I presumed that these records were declassified and sent to the Public Records Office. However, recently the original Form 540 covering the years 1939 to 1958 has turned up. It was rescued from a skip and handed to a former member of the RAF who had it for many years before passing it to me.
After weaving together all the information from the various written sources and interviews with former squadron members, I have come up with this book. No publisher seems interested in publishing regimental or squadron histories. There just isn’t a wide enough interest to sell sufficient numbers of copies but now through the internet I have sufficient capacity on my web site to publish it for the benefit of the few who are interested.
This e-book has hyperlinks that make a word, usually a name, appear like this. Just click on that word to get a more detailed account of that person or event which is outside the brief history of the squadron itself. In this age of the internet more information is coming to light every day. People from Germany, France, South Africa, Canada, Honduras and The U.K. have contacted me through this web site. The information that I am able to gather from them is continually added to the text of this book. Links to their work and other new sources are being added on a weekly basis.