A special event was held at Joint Flying Station Aldergrove on Friday to mark the re-forming of the RAF’s No. 502 (Ulster) Squadron.
Almost 90 years since it was originally formed, the reserve squadron is returning to its home at Aldergrove, with plans for the unit to be fully operational by 2015.
To mark the occasion - and to launch a local recruitment drive for reservists - two Tornados and a Hawk flew into Aldergrove on Friday for an event attended by several local veterans.
Among those attending the event was Dick Spencer, who was one of the last to fly as part of the original stand-by force before it was disbanded in 1957.
Originally from Coventry, but now living in Antrim, Mr Spencer spoke of his delight that the squadron is being reformed.
“I am so pleased to see the squadron being reformed - I really enjoyed my time with the squadron, there was such comradeship,” Mr Spencer said.
At the launch event, the 88-year-old was invited to sign a piece of fuselage dating back to his time of service in the 1950s.
Mr Spencer added: “I hope members those joining up will have the sort of enjoyment and pleasure that we had.”
Similar sentiments were shared by fellow veteran Bill Eames who joined in 1941 and was promptly whisked off to Canada for training by the US Army Air Corps.
Bill was very badly wounded at Arnhem during the D-Day landings but that didn’t stop his life-long passion for aviation.
After he left the RAF he became an air traffic controller, eventually becoming the senior air-traffic controller at the civilian airport at Aldergrove, working part-time as a flying instructor and also joining 502 Aux Sqn as an air traffic controller where he stayed until 1957.
The 90-year-old speaks with great fondness of his time in the RAF and added: “I am now delighted to assist the reformation of 502 (Ulster) Squadron and support their RAF Reserves recruitment campaign.”
The original No. 502 Squadron was the first RAF unit to sink a German U-boat during the Second World War, and won 10 distinguished flying medals during the campaign.
Wing Commander James Armstrong, Commanding Officer of the squadron, is relishing the challenge of reforming this historic squadron.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for anyone who may in the past have considered a career with the RAF but didn’t pursue it and now finds themselves looking for new challenges,” Wing Commander Armstrong said.
He added: “In return for giving us their time we can promise that as a reservist of they will learn new skills, develop talents and be play a vital role in the future of our countries defence.”
Wing Commander Armstrong also paid tribute to Air Marshal Sir Timothy Anderson, who was heavily involved in the formation of the new squadron.
Air Marshal Anderson said: “Reservists have shown tremendous support... and bravery across the last number of years and I am sure that RAF 502 will become one of those.
“There is a benefit to society as a whole when young men and women go out and get professional training and understand what camaraderie is and bring those experiences back into the host community.”
The RAF is recruiting for reservists and is holding a number of information meetings. For more information, www.raf.mod.uk/rafreserves.