Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Sixth RAF Poseidon named Guernsey's Reply

To mark the Bailiwick of Guernsey’s 76th ‘Liberation Day’, the Royal Air Force is honoured to announce that the UK’s sixth Poseidon MRA Mk1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft, ZP 806, will be known as ‘Guernsey’s Reply’ to honour the close bond between 201 Squadron, the island of Guernsey and Flight Lieutenant Herbert Machon OBE.

‘Herbie’ Machon left his home in Guernsey shortly before the German occupation during WWII and joined the British Military. He was destined to fly Spitfires in the RAF and, in honour and memory of his countrymen living under occupation, he named his Mk XVI Spitfire “Guernsey’s Reply”. Herbie sadly passed away in 2004 and 201 Squadron personnel had the privilege of acting as pallbearers at his funeral.

When 201 Squadron was disbanded in 2011, it was the last maritime squadron to retain a local affiliation and carried the moniker 'Guernsey's Own' commemorating a link forged in the challenging days just before the Second World War. It was an affiliation under the Municipal Liaison Scheme, announced on 5th May 1939 by the Air Minister Sir Kingsley Wood in Guernsey when he opened Guernsey Airport. The received wisdom is that it is the last surviving affiliation under that scheme. It is also considered to be the only RAF Squadron with such an historic link. Guernsey and 201 Squadron are proud of the fact that the link has survived and will continue to flourish.

This link between Squadron and Island remained strong and in 1994, as part of its 80th-anniversary celebrations, the Squadron was granted ‘The Privilege of Guernsey’. It was the first award in Guernsey's history of this ancient military honour, which gives the right to march with colours flying, drums beating, and bayonets fixed.

After a 10-year hiatus, 201 Squadron will return 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.

Wing Commander Adam Smolak, Officer Commanding 201 Squadron said: "It is befitting of this long and proud association that one of the UK’s new Poseidon aircraft bears the name ‘Guernsey’s Reply’. No 201 Squadron will stand up this summer and I am looking forward to retrieving the Standard from Guernsey where it was 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; 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."

The Bailiff of Guernsey, Richard McMahon, said: "The people of Guernsey take great pride in the long-standing and unique relationship the Island has with 201 Squadron, “Guernsey’s Own”.  We are looking forward to re-affirming that affiliation later this year when the Squadron will stand up once again.  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 from Occupation the previous month.  Herbie, who was later elected as a Jurat of the Royal Court, was a gallant Guernseyman who served during the War to secure the freedoms we enjoy today 76 years later.  “Guernsey’s Reply” will further strengthen our links with those who continue to have responsibility for our collective defence effort, keeping us all safe."

 

"The longstanding bond between Guernsey and 201 Squadron has endured world war and the unit’s disbandment, when the Squadron’s standard was lodged in Government House for safekeeping. I am delighted now to be able to return it to its rightful owners, as we begin a new and exciting chapter in the Squadron’s affiliation with Guernsey."

Vice Admiral Sir Ian Corder
Lieutenant-Governor of Guernsey

The former NATO Submarine Force Commander and Head of the UK Submarine Force added: "On a personal note, I’m particularly pleased to see the UK regain its airborne anti-submarine warfare capability. 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 2021, ‘Guernsey’s Reply’ is undergoing its final checks at the Boeing factory in Seattle before joining the growing fleet. The first five Poseidon aircraft have been named Pride of Moray, City of Elgin, Terence Bulloch DSO DFC, Spirit of Reykjavik and Fulmar. The RAF Poseidon fleet, which will total nine aircraft, is already providing cutting-edge maritime patrol capabilities working side-by-side with the Royal Navy to secure the seas around the UK and abroad.

Herbie’s family were delighted to learn that the name of his wartime Spitfire 16, Guernsey’s Reply, would take to the skies on the RAF’s newest Poseidon aircraft. As a young man he evacuated  to England at the start of the War, leaving behind his parents who would face five long years of German occupation.

He volunteered for the Army, then transferred to the RAF in 1942, learned to fly in America then taught many would-be pilots, survived two forced landings and flew many of the new American fighters. Returning to the UK he was posted to 603 City of Edinburgh Squadron. His log book reveals one pilot’s diverse combat missions.

Sent to Skebrae, Orkney, he flew in the frigid air eight miles high seeking German aircraft trying to photograph the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow, protected only by a fur lined suit and pressurised oxygen.

When Hitler attacked England with V1 flying bombs and V2 rockets he led his flight of four Spitfires in dive-bombing attacks against the heavily defended Dutch launch sites, anti-aircraft fire streaming past their aircraft.

Herbie dive-bombed railways, bridges, the Shell Mex building in the Hague, heavy gun positions and a garage near Hague Station;  machine gunned trains. On one attack three squadron aircraft were hit by flak.

Despite this his only injury was when his Spitfire was struck by an inexperienced pilot on a training flight over the North Sea. He crashed on land after bouncing off the sea, suffering cracked ribs, but was back in the air five days later.

And there were missions protecting hundreds of Lancasters in attacks on Hamburg, Nuremburg and the U-boat pens at Heligoland.

The squadron stood down with the end of the war on 8th May 1945, but three days later Herbie was part of the escort for German Ju52s bringing VIPs for peace talks about Norway.

He was demobbed in 1947 and returned to Guernsey, but you can’t keep a good pilot on the ground. In May 1959 he was called by a former trainee pilot in America, now Captain L. Krazehovich and based at Weathersfield in England. Would Herbie like to fly in a Super Sabre fighter? Herbie would, and went supersonic. Which made his links with 201 Squadron and RAFA perfectly understandable.





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