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The Royal Welsh Air Force has used many different aircraft since its formation in 1919. From Nieuports in the Twenties to the Gripens and Strike Hornets of today they have been diverse and colourful in type and scheme.
The Welsh Air Force has had many influences over the years and we will touch on the two major ones of the last 50 years. The Germans in the thirties and the United States in the Fifties had a major effect on many of the types and docterine that the Welsh employed. The Luftwaffe stayed only a few years. However, the USAF on the other hand, remained based in Wales until 1987 when the last F111s departed for RAF Upper Heyford in Suffolk. Examples of German, US and British aircraft based here will also be shown.
1919 to 1935The first of our plates shows the first SPAD Vii Ddwbl (Double) bi-plane of the trials unit of the Cymdeithas Awyrenneg Frenhiniol Gymreig or Royal Welsh Aeronautical Society as it appeared in France in 1918. The colour scheme is identical to that used by the British RFC and RAF in 1918 with the only difference being the addition of the gold in the centre of the roundel. It retained the twin vickers guns of the original but gained a slight incrrease in power due to the tinkering of the units mechanics.
Plate 2 is a Bristol F2 fighter. This plane was used as a light bomber and recon aircraft as well as carrying mail and despatches around Southern Wales. It is interesing as the picture shows that in 1920 the roundel changed to a black and gold version of the British one but the tricolor of the Allies was retained. Welsh F2s had the Vickers removed from the nose and the usual tuning undertaken to increase speed. This example was in use with 3 Sqn at Llantwit but is shown as it looked in Greece in July 1920.The Hawker Hart in plate 3 shows an example flying from St Davids in 1932. The type provided a solid bomber and was used in Ireland and also in the colonies to police the Welsh interests in Africa. This plate shows a very plain (sic) version in the standard polished aluminium finish.
Plate 4 depicts a DH Dragon Rapide of the Station Courier Flight of Wrecsam Garrison Aerodrome. The roundel is now in widespread use across the Air Force. This plate also shows the first use of a camouflage paint scheme by the service. Rapides were widly used by the LAFG up until 1954 and at least one remains with the Royal Squadron now.
1935 - 1950
By 1935, with the treaty of Berlin signed in 1933, the influx of German personnel had begun in earnest. In March of 35 Luftwaffe advisors started to arrive. New bases were built and new aircraft began to come into service as part of a Military 'Brotherhood' pact signed in December 33. The aircraft were more modern, advanced and faster than the aging Glosters and their ilk. The first major units to take aircraft were the interceptor units at Llantwit and St Davids. He112s began in service with 1, 2, 3 and 4 Sqwadrons during 1936. Ju52s had already began service in 1935 and limited numbers of He111s in 1935. Stukas, Storch and a myriad of smaller light aircraft also joined the Air Force alongside other aging types already in service.Plate 5 shows one of these 112s. CY554 came into service with 1 Sqwn on 12 Jan 1936. It served as an interceptor patrolling the border with Britain. In 1940, with war on the horizon, Wales was gripped by a period of civil war. Units of all three sevices were split between Loyalist units fighting against the Germans and those siding with them. Lieutenant Iolo Tomos flew his 112 against Luftwaffe Me 109s over Cardiff until he was killed by an Me110 during the final fight for Rhoose as he supported loyalist ground troops. On the nose 1 Sqwadrons numeral insignia as well as the loyalists red skull and crossbones badge.
The Ju52 began service in 1935 with the newly formed 66 Sqwadron. As part of the expanding transport fleet CY876 was engaged as a troop transport and freighter in and around South Wales. It carries the air force ensign on the rear troop door as well as a county coat of arms on the tail. Overall the colour scheme is identical to Luftwaffe machines as more than likely 876 is a former German aircraft passed to the LAFG.
This plate shows one of 6 Stukas delivered in 1939 to 6 Sqwn. Intersting is the German cross still on the underside of the wing. CY665 wears the county flag on its cowling as well as an unidentified German insignia. 6 sqwn was a unit loyal to the king and as such flew against the RAF and loyalist units in 1940. 665 was passed to the gunnery range at Castlemartin in 1941 and destroyed.
Plate 8 is a Spitfire VB Trop of 698 Sqn RAF. This was a unit made up of Welshmen flying as part of the RAF. Originally formed in September 1940 to fly in the Battle of Britain many of the crews were from 8 Sqwn. In 1941 despite being an RAF unit they were brought under Welsh AF command. 636 is shown as she was in 1942 in Egypt as flown by Fg Off (Lieutenant) Glyn Thomas from Castell Nedd. It wears RAF roundels and 8 sqns crazy eyes badge. Thomas went on to finish the war as a Flt Lt in the RAF before returning to the LAFG in 1946 as an Air Major. He was one of the highest scoring aces of the LAFG shooting down 19 German and Italian aircraft.
This plate shows CY778 a B24 Liberator Bomber of 56 Sqwn based at RAF Swinderby in Lincolnshire from 1942 to 1945. The Unit flew daylight raids alongside the US 8th Air Force despite being colocated with the RAF who flew night raids. Taffy's Revenge was the steed of Major Stefan 'Taffy' Morrys, at 24 one of the youngest holders of the Pendragon Star, having rescued twenty British and French pilots and ground crew whilst serving with the RAF in France in 1940. Morrys transferred to the Welsh Air Force in 1941 and took command of 56 Sqwn in 1943 at Swinderby. The Aircraft had flown on 35 missions over enemy until being destroyed with all crew on June 6th 1944 whilst on a support mission near Sword Beach. Of note on 778 are the coat of arms of Morrys' home county and the mission markings on the nose.This plate shows Jane of the Preseli's. A B24J of 5 Sqn flying from Shawbury AFB near the A-S Border. The Aircraft, flown by crews on bomber/strike missions during WW2 still carries its mission marks from that conflict. A modified national insignia roundel still shows CY543's USAF origins and the tail colours in the gold and black of Wales. The Aircraft flew from 1944 to 1952, transferring to the Coastal Patrol Training Flight at Pembroke Dock in 1951 before being retired and displayed at the RWAF museum in Cardiff.