THE Duchess of Cornwall has paid tribute to the courage of past and current members of a celebrated RAF squadron at an event to mark its centenary.
The duchess, an Honorary Commodore to RAF Leeming, met with 100 Squadron servicemen and women and their friends and families at the base near Bedale, and viewed a parade and Hawk jet flypast before addressing the crowd.
She spoke of the squadron’s history, which involved taking part in raids against the Red Barron, Manfred Albrecht Freiherr’s Airforce during the First World War, through to modern conflicts in Syria and Iraq.
She said: “On this very special occasion we honour the heroism and valour of our predecessors.
“But, let’s not forget that as today marks the passing of the baton to a new generation of airmen, the next chapter of this great Squadron is yet to be written.”
Jack Swales, a 95-year-old veteran from Guisborough was among those who spoke to the duchess.
Mr Swales was an armourer on the RAF Vildebeests in Singapore and was one of the few remaining survivors when the squadron was decimated by the Japanese.
He said: “I’m the last one of 100 Squadron left that served in Singapore. The duchess asked me how I managed to look so young.”
The event was also a proud occasion for Fiona Collins and her children Oscar, three, and Charlotte, six, whose father, squadron leader Adam Collins led the flypast.
Mrs Collins said: “I think it is a lovely opportunity for the squadron to showcase what they do,” adding that Oscar, dressed in a miniature flying suit, ran round shouting ‘there’s daddy’ as the jets took off for their display.
Wing Commander Andy Wright, the leading officer commanding 100 Squadron said that the Duchess’s appearance was "quite special" for the base.
He added: “It has been such an event we almost have not had the chance to let it sink in.”
Wg Cdr Wright said he was proud to be leading the squadron in its centenary year and had been studying its illustrious history.
He said: “When you look back at these things you realise there is such a rich history there and certainly it is about celebrating and reflecting on the achievements of our predecessors, but also looking towards the future.
“We are carrying the baton for the squadron, but in a very different way.”