Although it has yet to be delivered, the Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) sixth Boeing P-8A Poseidon MRA1 maritime patrol aircraft has been named ‘Guernsey’s Reply’ to honour the close bond between No 201 Squadron, the island of Guernsey and Flt Lt Herbert Machon OBE.
The name was officially announced by the RAF on May 8. This aircraft – serial ZP806 (c/n 66106, line number 8680, formerly registered as N634DS) – has already had the name applied on its forward fuselage, just behind the crew door and beneath the ‘Royal Air Force’ titles. The name also marks the Bailiwick of Guernsey’s 76th ‘Liberation Day’ anniversary.
Flt Lt Herbert ‘Herbie’ Machon left his home in Guernsey shortly before it fell under German occupation during World War Two and joined the British military. He was destined to fly Supermarine Spitfires in the RAF and, in honour and memory of his countrymen living under occupation, he named his Spitfire Mk.XVI ‘Guernsey’s Reply’. ‘Herbie’ sadly passed away in 2004 and No 201 Squadron personnel had the privilege of acting as pall bearers at his funeral.
When No 201 Squadron was disbanded in 2011, it was the last maritime unit to retain a local affiliation with the island and carried the moniker ‘Guernsey’s Own’, commemorating the link forged in the challenging days just before World War Two. It was an affiliation under the Municipal Liaison Scheme, which was announced on May 5, 1939, by Air Minister Sir Kingsley Wood when he opened Guernsey Airport.
The received wisdom is that this is the last surviving affiliation under that scheme. It is also considered to be the only RAF squadron with such a historic link. Guernsey and No 201 Squadron are proud of the fact that the link has survived and will continue to flourish. This link between the island and the unit remained strong and in 1994, as part of its 80th anniversary celebrations, the squadron was granted ‘The Privilege of Guernsey’. It was the first award in Guernsey’s history of this ancient military honour, which gives units the right to march with colours flying, drums beating, and bayonets fixed.
After a ten-year hiatus, No 201 Squadron will return to RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland, later this year to become the air force’s second P-8A Poseidon MRA1 unit. When operational, the squadron will work alongside the already established No 120 Squadron.
Wg Cdr Adam Smolak, officer commanding No 201 Squadron, said: “It is befitting of this long and proud association that one of the UK’s new Poseidon aircraft bears the name ‘Guernsey’s Reply’. No 201 Squadron will stand up this summer and I am looking forward to retrieving the Standard from Guernsey, where it was held for safe keeping in the hope that the squadron would return, and the affiliation could continue.
“It is an honour to bring the squadron back to maritime operations; the coming years will be challenging and exciting in equal measure and it is vital that as we move forward, we retain this historic link,” he added.
Due to be delivered to the RAF in September 2021, ‘Guernsey’s Reply’ is now undergoing its final checks at Boeing’s facility in Seattle, Washington, before it eventually joins the UK’s growing Poseidon fleet. The first five aircraft have been named: ZP801 ‘Pride of Moray’; ZP802 ‘City of Elgin’; ZP803 ‘Terence Bulloch DSO DFC’; ZP804 ‘Spirit of Reykjavik’ and ZP805 ‘Fulmar’.
The RAF Poseidon fleet, which will total nine aircraft, is already providing cutting-edge maritime patrol capabilities working side-by-side with the Royal Navy to secure the seas around the UK and abroad.
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