03 November, 2020

Fourth RAF Poseidon MRA1 maritime patrol aircraft named

The fourth Royal Air Force Poseidon MRA1 maritime patrol aircraft, which will arrive at RAF Lossiemouth tomorrow, has been named Spirit of Reykjavik in honour of the role played by the Icelandic capital and its people in enabling the Allied victory during the Battle of the Atlantic.

During World War II a lack of range prevented RAF Coastal Command aircraft and crews from covering the North Atlantic ocean from their stations in the UK. In the area they couldn’t patrol, wolf packs of German U-boat submarines wreaked havoc on the Allied ships bringing essential food and supplies to the UK, without it could not have carried on the war effort. The introduction of the long-range B-24 Liberator bomber and a new airfield, seaplane base and refuelling port at Reykjavik which extended the range of RAF aircraft and Royal Navy escort vessels, had almost immediate effect as the German submariners lost their immunity from air attack in the North Atlantic air gap.

A black and white image showing Consolidated Liberator GR.IIIs flying over the sea.
Consolidated Liberator GR.IIIs of 120 Squadron rounding the mountains of Iceland after taking off from Reykjavik to escort an Arctic convoy. (Credit: Air Historical Branch)

Number 120 (‘CXX’) Squadron, which has been selected to be the first RAF Poseidon squadron, deployed a flight of seven Liberators to RAF Reykjavik on 4th September 1942. The Squadron, in its entirety, was based there between April 1943 and March 1944 before returning to the UK to help protect domestic sea lanes in the build-up to D-day. The connection between CXX Squadron and Reykjavik was cemented by His Majesty King George VI approving the addition of an Icelandic Falcon, standing on a demi-terrestrial globe, to the official squadron badge. Iceland remains a key strategic location for NATO Maritime Patrol Aircraft and CXX Squadron hopes to reinvigorate its ties with the people of Reykjavik over the coming years.

“The connection between RAF maritime flying and Iceland is particularly significant for CXX Squadron. The anti-submarine warfare tactics we use today can be traced to those developed by CXX Squadron and other RAF units during the missions flown from Reykjavik. We look forward to rekindling the warm relationship between the RAF maritime aviation community and the people of Iceland.”

Wing Commander James Hanson
Officer Commanding CXX Squadron

He added, “Today, we have the benefit of the best maritime patrol aircraft, tactics and support available in the world. We have state-of the art sensors, global communications and tactics refined over decades. In 1942, our predecessors had vulnerable aircraft, cold and dangerous conditions with unproven sensors and experimental tactics. Their bravery, fortitude and initiative helped turn the tide of the Battle of the Atlantic, saving lives and preserving the British Isles as a base for the allied liberation of Europe. Their story is one we are humbled to tell at this time of Remembrance”.

image shows a black and white photo of some of 120 Squadron from 1943.
Flight Lieutenant AW Fraser and his crew, stand in front of their Consolidated Liberator I, AM929/H, of 120 Squadron RAF, at Reykjavik, Iceland, after sinking the German type IXD2 submarine U-200 on 24 June 1943. Fraser was awarded a bar to his DFC for attacking the U-boat in the face of determined anti-aircraft fire, and for bringing his damaged aircraft and crew safely back to base following the engagement. Left to right: Sergeant AW Parsons (flight engineer), Flight-Sergeant K Johnson (wireless operator/air gunner), Flight-Sergeant W Stott (wireless operator/air gunner), Flight Lieutenant AW Fraser (pilot), Flight-Sergeant LC Heiser (navigator), Flight-Sergeant EA Mincham (wireless operator/air gunner), and Sergeant HJ Oliver (2nd pilot). (Credit: Air Historical Branch)

The first three Poseidon aircraft have been named Pride of Moray, City of Elgin and Terence Bulloch DSO DFC. The RAF Poseidon fleet, which will total nine aircraft, will provide cutting-edge maritime patrol capabilities working side-by-side with the Royal Navy to secure the seas around the UK and abroad.

Image shows the Poseidon aircraft in the factory.
The fourth Poseidon MRA1 maritime patrol aircraft is due to be delivered to the RAF on Tuesday 3rd November 2020.

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