Welcome to the home of the No. 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron Association
Fulmina Regis Iusta
No 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron was based at Waddington from June 1937 to May 1943, equipped with the Handley Page Hampden and the Avro Lancaster, and again from August 1969 until December 1982 with Avro Vulcan Mks 1 and 2. The addition of the word (Rhodesia) to the Squadron badge inscription reflected the contribution to the war effort by the citizens of Rhodesia during WWII. The Squadron Motto translates as ‘The King’s Thunderbolts are Righteous’.
At the beginning of 1982 the decision was made that the final event in the history of the V-Force would be the simultaneous disbanding of Nos 44, 50 and 101 Squadrons at a major ceremony at Waddington on 1st July 1982. By late April 1982, aircraft and crews from all three Squadrons were becoming involved in combat operations in the South Atlantic and the July disbandment plans were quietly dropped.
In anticipation of the disbandment, the Squadron had planned a reunion in May for past members of the Squadron, and with people coming from many Commonwealth countries, planning was too far advanced to cancel the reunion. On the 22nd of May 1982 over 700 current and past members of the Squadron and their guests gathered at Waddington, including many former Squadron Commanders and Mrs Betty Nettleton, widow of Wing Commander John Nettleton VC, leader of the Augsburg Raid in which, on 17th April 1942, a force of 12 Lancasters made a low level daylight attack on the MAN diesel engine factory in Bavaria. His name is reflected in the Station history, the Operations Briefing Room and the Station Commander’s house.
In 1982, the Station Commander put the No 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron Commander in charge of RAF Waddington’s bombing and anti-radar operations in the Falklands Conflict. The Vulcan operations were code-named Black Buck and at the end of the conflict in June 1982, the Squadron Commander returned to the Squadron with the Black Buck crews. They formed the nucleus of a Squadron whose role changed from nuclear to conventional bombing, with an air-to-air refuelling capability. 101 Squadron disbanded in August 1982 and 50 Squadron became an air refuelling squadron, with aircraft equipped with a refuelling hose and drogue. No 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron disbanded on 21 December 1982, the last Vulcan bomber squadron and the last strategic bomber squadron in the RAF.
Towards the end of 1982, the decision was taken to form a Squadron Association. The Association was formed with Air Chief Marshal Sir Ruthven Wade, a former Squadron Commander, as its President. Membership of the Association is open to all air and ground crew who served on the Squadron, including men and several women who were posted to the Squadron after it re-formed in 1937. In the early days the majority of members were Lancaster aircrew from WWII. The membership settled down at around 450 and has gradually reduced over the last 40 years to its present strength of around 225. As the number of WWII members dwindled, they have been replaced by Associate Members who include the wives and family of former members.
The Association now has Air Commodore Simon Baldwin MBE, the last Squadron Commander, as its President and is run by a committee of six. Their main task is to organise an annual reunion, held at Waddington over a three day weekend, to coincide with the anniversary of the May formation date. Members travel to the reunions from all over the world; our most-travelled member, the late Colin Watt, used to make the round trip from Australia each consecutive year for an astonishing 25 years.
Three 44 Squadron Lancasters led by Colin Watt
In 1986 a memorial stone in remembrance of all who gave their lives while on the Squadron at Waddington was placed in the Remembrance Garden on High Dyke. Plaques were were also placed in the churches of St Chad at Dunholme and All Saints at Great Steeping, near Spilsby, to mark the Squadron’s locations from 1943 until the end of WWII. Wreaths are laid at a memorial service on the Sunday morning of each reunion and again at each location on Remembrance Day in November every year.
A close association has been formed with the William Farr School at Welton. When the Squadron left Waddington in May 1943, it reformed at RAF Dunholme Lodge, near Scampton. Today the school, which was built on the former administrative site of the airfield on the edge of Welton village, is a thriving Comprehensive supporting some 1300 pupils. In 2003, in concert with the Aircrew Association, 44 and 619 Squadron Associations, the Headmaster initiated a project to recognise the sacrifice made by allied airmen flying from Dunholme Lodge. This resulted in a memorial and a Book of Remembrance being place in the school, which records every individual 44 Squadron aircrew who lost his life while flying from Dunholme Lodge between May 1943 and September 1944. The number is huge, 498, as that period saw the Battle of Berlin and all the flying in support of the invasion of Normandy during the spring and summer of 1944. The Association presents an annual prize to the pupil adjudged by the School Council to have made the most significant contribution to the social wellbeing of the William Farr community. In 2005, the close association between RAF Waddington and the school resulted in the new Officers’ Mess extension being named ‘The Dunholme Lodge’.
In the recent past the Association was invited to join with members of the 619 Squadron Association in sharing a memorial at Dunholme Lodge Farm. The memorial has a number of crew plaques including one commemorating John Nettleton’s crew lost in July 1943.
No 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron’s Operational History was compiled from accounts by air and ground crew who flew and worked on the Squadron during both World Wars. The book’s annex contains many accounts of aircrew who survived bale outs and some who evaded capture while on the run in occupied territory. It recalls vividly the experiences of those unfortunate enough to have spent much of the Second World War in prison camps.
The title of the book comes from the Squadron’s motto ‘Fulmina Regis Iusta’ (The King’s Thunderbolts are Righteous). There are 255 A4 pages and it is in a laminated softback form. The recommended retail price is ￡24, plus postage and packing. However, the price has now been heavily discounted to just £12, (a total of £16 including postage and packing for UK residents and ￡22 for overseas customers). To order a copy of this excellent book please send your remittance (cheques made payable to 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron Association) to The Membership Secretary, 40 Eagle Road, North Scarle, Lincoln, LN6 9EW. Alternatively payment may be made direct to the Squadron’s bank account by BACS transfer. Please email email@example.com for further details.
Photo Courtesy of Charles Toop
Photo Courtesy of Charles Toop