Link with RAF is restored by the naming of new Poseidon

GUERNSEY’S link with the Royal Air Force has been resurrected, after the RAF confirmed the UK’s sixth Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft will be known as Guernsey’s Reply.

This picture from Boeing shows the Guernsey’s Reply Poseidon, which is being fitted out at the manufacturer’s Seattle plant.
This picture from Boeing shows the Guernsey’s Reply Poseidon, which is being fitted out at the manufacturer’s Seattle plant.

The name honours the long link between the island, 201 Squadron and Flight Lieutenant Herbert Machon OBE.

Herbie Machon left Guernsey shortly before the Occupation and joined the British military, eventually flying Spitfires.

In honour and memory of his friends and family living under Occupation back home, he named his Mk XVI Spitfire Guernsey’s Reply.

At his funeral in 2004, 201 Squadron personnel acted as pall bearers.

When 201 Squadron was disbanded in 2011, it was the last maritime squadron to retain a local affiliation and carried the nickname Guernsey’s Own, commemorating a link forged just before the Second World War.

It is believed to be the last surviving affiliation under that scheme and is the only RAF squadron with such an historic link.

The link remained strong and in 1994, as part of its 80th anniversary celebrations, the squadron was granted the Privilege of Guernsey.

After a 10-year hiatus, 201 Squadron is reforming once again at RAF Lossiemouth later in the year and will be the second squadron operating the state-of-the-art Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft alongside 120 Squadron.

New commanding officer Wing Commander Adam Smolak is looking forward to retrieving the standard from Guernsey, where it has been 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,’ he said.

‘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.’

Bailiff Richard McMahon said the people of Guernsey took great pride in the island’s longstanding relationship with 201 Squadron.

‘We are looking forward to reaffirming that affiliation later this year when the squadron will stand up once again,’ he said.

‘It is most fitting that this new Poseidon aircraft will carry the name Guernsey’s Reply, replicating the style used by Flight Lieutenant Herbie Machon for his war-time Spitfire, which he flew to Guernsey in June 1945 following the Liberation the previous month.’

He described Herbie, who was later elected as a Jurat of the Royal Court, as a gallant Guernseyman who served during the war.

‘Guernsey’s Reply will further strengthen our links with those who continue to have responsibility for our collective defence effort, keeping us all safe,’ he said.

Since 2011, 201 Squadron’s standard has been kept at Government House.

Current Lt-Governor Vice Admiral Sir Ian Corder is delighted to return the flag to the squadron as it starts a new chapter.

As a former submariner, Sir Ian held appointments as Nato’s submarine force commander and head of the UK submarine force.

‘On a personal note, I’m particularly pleased to see the UK regain its airborne anti-submarine warfare capability,’ he said.

‘Poseidon is an extremely effective maritime patrol aircraft and an essential component in Britain’s defence against undersea threats.

‘Islanders can be rightly proud of Guernsey having a visible association with a key element of Britain’s defence capability.’

Due to be delivered to the RAF in September, Guernsey’s Reply is undergoing its final checks at the Boeing factory in Seattle before joining the growing fleet.

About Poseidon

A contract for the aircraft’s development was awarded in June 2004 and the first flight followed on 25 April 2009.

The US Navy announced initial operating capability on 29 November 2013 and the Poseidon is now been delivered widely, not only to US units, but also to the Indian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force.

The RAF’s 201 Squadron used to use Nimrod aircraft, but these were withdrawn in 2010 and the squadron disbanded in 2011.

It left the UK without effective long-range fixed-wing maritime cover.

In 2015, the Strategic Defence and Security Review confirmed the intended purchase of nine Poseidons for the RAF.

With the Poseidon squadron numbers chosen, the type is operating from RAF Lossiemouth in north-east Scotland.

The aircraft are being equipped with US weapons, although British ones may be integrated in future.

The aircraft will work side-by-side with the Royal Navy to secure the seas around the UK and abroad.

The first five Poseidon aircraft in RAF service have been named Pride of Moray, City of Elgin, Terence Bulloch DSO DFC, Spirit of Reykjavik and Fulmar.

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