Time Frame: The 8th Squadron at RAF Sharjah
Surrounded by mechanics, a Hawker Hunter of Britain's Royal Air Force's 8th Squadron undergoes routine maintenance at the Sharjah airbase.
This photograph was taken by Ray Deacon, who served with the squadron in the early 1960s, when it was based in Aden but paid regular visits to RAF Sharjah. At the time the airbase was used for training and maintenance, despite, as the image shows, lacking a hangar to protect crews from the burning sun.
The squadron was long associated with Arabia, and carries an image of a khanjar, the curved ceremonial dagger, on its crest. Formed in 1915, the squadron was disbanded after the First World War but reformed to support the British occupation of Iraq in the 1920s before moving to a new base in Aden. During the Second World War, the squadron supported ground forces against the Italian army during the North Africa Campaign and conducted U-boat patrols in the Gulf of Aden.
After the war, the squadron continued with patrol duties over Aden, policing the borders with Yemen before temporarily moving to Cyprus to fly ground support missions during the Suez Crisis of 1956.
At around the time of this photograph, the British faced a nationalist insurgency in Aden that rapidly escalated into full-scale conflict and ended with the withdrawal of British forces and the creation of the People's Republic of South Yemen in November 1967.
After leaving the Middle East to be disbanded, the long history of 8th Squadron in the region seemed to be over.
Instead, the squadron was reformed in the early 1970s, this time as a reconnaissance unit flying first Shackletons and currently Boeing E-3 Sentrys, more commonly known as Awacs. With the unit now conducting operations over Afghanistan and Iraq, it means that, 95 years later, the khanjar of RAF 8th Squadron still flies over the skies of Arabia.
Time Frame is a series that opens a window into the nation's past. Readers are invited to make contributions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Published: October 14, 2011 04:00 AM