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Old Squadrons Do Die
by James Dunnigan
April 16, 2011

The latest round of defense cuts in Britain is shutting down a lot of high-tech units that have been around for a long time. The latest casualty is the 111 Fighter Squadron, a 94 year old unit that had been using the older Tornado, which is being replaced a smaller number of more expensive Typhoon fighters. This means fewer fighter squadrons are needed. The loss of 111 Squadron is particularly aggravating because it is considered a Scots squadron (having been stationed in Scotland for nearly half a century). Scotland takes it military heritage more seriously than any other part of the United Kingdom (at least according to the Scots) and the loss of so many Scots ground and air units in the last few decades is keenly felt up there.

But the oldest squadron to be disbanded in the current round of cuts is 1 Squadron. This one was flying Harrier jets, a model that was completely retired in Britain recently. The unique thing about 1 Squadron is that it traces its origins back to 1878, with the formation of the 1st Balloon Company. In 1912, this unit was re-designated the 1st Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps (later to be the RAF, or Royal Air Force). Thus does an aerial squadron, whose history spans three centuries, disappear from service.

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