659 AOP Sqn RAF

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by oldbaldy, Apr 12, 2006.

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  1. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
    1. Battlefield Tours

    I am looking into the history of my uncle who was a pilot with the AOP.
    I know the realationship between the Gunners (he was one) and the RAF but can anyone tell me who holds the history of the AOP Sqns? Is it Army Aviation or is it the RAF?

    Also posted on history forum.
  2. Have you tried the Museum of Army Flying They have histories of all of the AOP Sqns I understand.

  3. Flyingrockdj

    Flyingrockdj War Hero Moderator

    I was 59. not in the war mind, well not in that war!

  4. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
    1. Battlefield Tours

    Why is that?
  5. Flyingrockdj

    Flyingrockdj War Hero Moderator

    I am............... mostly
  6. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
    1. Battlefield Tours

    Brush up on your history of Army Aviation then.


    The Origins

    In the late thirties Captain HC Bazeley RA, an enthusiastic amateur pilot and Secretary of the Royal Artillery Flying Club, advanced the idea that artillery could be best directed from the air by artillery officers trained as pilots, rather than by RAF pilots flying aircraft which had other combat roles besides observing for the guns. They would fly simple, unarmed light aircraft, depending for survival on being agile and inconspicuous and by flying, as far as possible, over areas held by friendly forces, but using height and freedom of movement to look into areas not visible to ground observers.

    Bazeley’s ideas gained the support of Lieutenant Colonel (later Major General) JH Parham and Brigadier HRS Massey, two other like minded members of the Flying Club. In 1939 Massey was Brigadier Royal Artillery Southern Command and was able to add weight to the Army’s case for the ‘Flying OP’ as it was called, in the face of some scepticism and opposition from the Air Ministry.

    After tentative trials in 1938-1939 a flight was established for the purpose in 1940 (D Flight RAF). Bazeley, who had already been seconded to the RAF as an Army Co-operation pilot, was given command.

    The Formation of Air Observation Post Squadrons

    The D Flight Trial convinced most of the doubters and authority was given in 1941 for the formation of Air observation Post Squadrons. To overcome inter-service wrangling over ‘ownership’ of the squadrons a compromise was agreed. Squadrons were to be RAF units, each one commanded by a gunner major (pilot) with an RAF adjutant. The RAF would provide the aircraft (Auster) and the airmen to maintain them; the Army would supply vehicles, ground radios and soldiers to man them; all the pilots would be artillery officers, trained to fly by the RAF. The RAF would be responsible for technical flying matters but - a crucial point - the Army would command in the field. Later experience proved the need for observers in the rear seats of the aircraft to watch out for enemy fighters. As no official provision had been made for this, volunteers from the Squadrons' Army and RAF groundcrews carried out this duty when needed.

    Wartime Service

    The first Squadron into action was No 651 commanded initially by Bazeley and then Major RWV Neathercoat. The Squadron fought throughout the North African campaign in 1942-43 where it amply proved the Air OP concept, often flying in the face of enemy air superiority. 651 was followed by the formation of 15 more squadrons during 1942-45, numbering 652-666. Of these 663 was mainly Polish manned and 664-666 were Canadian. The squadrons flew in every theatre of war and made a significant contribution to the use of artillery. Their outstanding attribute was their ability to put a skilled artillery observer into the air at short notice, fully aware of the tactical situation and the needs of the troops on the ground and able to direct the fire of every gun within range, using artillery wireless nets. By the end of hostilities air OP pilots had been awarded more than 90 DFCs.

    Post War Development

    The air OP organisation remained essentially unchanged until the mid fifties. The number of squadrons had been reduced after the war but those that remained contributed to every operational commitment, including Korea, the Malayan emergency and many lesser campaigns.

    The war Office was now becoming increasingly aware of the value of light aircraft and the potential of helicopters in performing a variety of roles besides air OP, so that the pressure was mounting for the Army to have its own air arm. Eventually it was agreed that the Army should take over full responsibility for the air OP Squadrons together with the light liaison flights which had been formed from the former Glider Pilot Regiment and in 1957 these were all incorporated in a new Army Air Corps.

    Direction of artillery fire remained an important role of the new corps and its squadrons retained the former air OP squadron numbers and crests, which are still in use today.
  7. Flyingrockdj

    Flyingrockdj War Hero Moderator

    I know baldy, having been a small part of it(very small in fact)

    The royal artillery provided soldiers working alongside the RAF engineers and RA pilots in the AOP squadrons which although numbers RAF sqns with Raf owned aircraft they were Army assets normally under the commander RA.

    they morphed into the AAC on formation hence the reason AAC senors and orfficers wear RA pants with Mess dress to this day.

    If you'd only asked!
  8. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
    1. Battlefield Tours

    Wow a precis of my post! Except for the pants thing. Me? I prefer trousers, wife's pants won't fit. :lol: :lol:
  9. Flyingrockdj

    Flyingrockdj War Hero Moderator

    No you miss the point, they are pants!
  10. me dad was an AOP when he was in the RA
  11. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
    1. Battlefield Tours

  12. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
    1. Battlefield Tours

    Far from me to disagree :roll: :roll:
  13. sorry this was 60s and 70s
  14. 659 (1981 - 1992) anyone else ???
  15. Flyingrockdj

    Flyingrockdj War Hero Moderator