Local duo help to get 90 year old squadron off the ground again

The Lord Lieutenant of Antrim, Mrs Joan Christie OBE, presents the Northern Ireland Aircrew Cup to (L) Dickie Spencer and (r) Bill Eames.
The Lord Lieutenant of Antrim, Mrs Joan Christie OBE, presents the Northern Ireland Aircrew Cup to (L) Dickie Spencer and (r) Bill Eames.

Two local RAF veterans in their 80s and 90s have been honoured for their part in helping to get a reserve squadron off the ground again at Aldergrove.

Appropriately, Bill Eames from Dickie Spencer, both from Lisburn, received a silver trophy for their efforts in rounding up 502 Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force’s table silver, which had been scattered around Northern Ireland after it was disbanded in 1957.

The local duo were members of the Squadron in the 1950s with 91 year old Bill having seen World War Two action as a Sterling bomber pilot.

Reformed in 2013, 502 Squadron marked its’ 90th anniversary with a parade at Aldergrove Flying station.

There, present Commanding Officer of the Squadron, Wing Commander James Armstrong paid tribute to the tenacious two’s efforts to help in the unit’s rebirth.

“These two gentlemen spent a great deal of effort re-gathering Squadron property and its silverware which had been scattered around Northern Ireland when it was disbanded in 1957,” he said.

“They tracked it down however, getting it back from councils, golf clubs and even Parliament Buildings in Stormont itself.”

The presentation was made by the Lord Lieutenant of Antrim, Joan Christie, who also took the salute from the parade made up of around 100 recent recruits from all walks of life in Northern Ireland.

In her speech, Mrs Christie said Bill and Dickie exemplified the rich history of the Squadron which lost 174 men in the Second World War as it battled against the German U boat threat.

The Lord Lieutenant also noted the number of women reservists in the Squadron parade which she described as “terrific to see.”

As a multi-role squadron, 502 provides a wide diversity of fully trained personnel to support RAF current and future worldwide commitments.

The unit is still growing with room for further expansion having had a very effective recruiting campaign. Around 20 per cent of those undertaking part time Reservist roles have medical backgrounds, whilst other needs include seeking specialists to fill roles in a wide range of areas such as flight operations, catering, logistics, public relations and RAF Policing.

On reaching the 90th anniversary, Wing Commander Armstrong said it was terrific for the Royal Auxiliary Air Force to again have a growing footprint at Aldergrove.

“Already, we are making a contribution by providing well trained reservists to support the RAF when and where they are needed.

“And our doors are always open to anyone who thinks they might want to experience the huge range of opportunities there are to support air operations around the world.”