Battle of Britain squadron gathers for launch of new tribute

Surviving members of 607 Sqaudron who were based at the Sunderland Airfield, now the site of Nissan, were at the opening of a new exhibition - in their name - at the North East Aircraft Museum

Surviving members of 607 Sqaudron who were based at the Sunderland Airfield, now the site of Nissan, were at the opening of a new exhibition - in their name - at the North East Aircraft Museum

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VETERANS from a Battle of Britain squadron gathered for the launch of a new display dedicated to its history.

Members of 607 (County of Durham) Squadron attended the North East Land, Sea and Air Museum in Washington for the ceremony.

Display designer John Stelling said: “Although the museum has always had a small display about the squadron, this is the first time it has been recognised with its own dedicated display room.”

Formed at RAF Usworth in 1930 as a unit of the Auxiliary Air Force, the squadron was led for nine years by Squadron Leader Walter Leslie Runciman, later Viscount Runciman of Doxford.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, the squadron and their Gladiator aircraft were sent to France and took part in the Battle of France before returning to Usworth to be re-equipped with the Hawker Hurricane.

They were soon relocated to RAF Tangmere in southern England.

Some 26 pilots from the squadron were killed flying Hurricanes in the Battle of Britain.

In 1942, the squadron left for India and converted to Spitfires in 1943, adding ground attack missions to its role.

It flew Spitfires until the end of the Burma campaign, disbanding in 1945. In 1946, it reformed at RAF Ouston in Northumberland as a day fighter squadron of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force.

After flying Spitfires for five years, it converted to Vampire Jets in 1950 and was disbanded in 1957.

Museum chairman Hugh Newell said he was “honoured and delighted” that 15 squadron veterans were able to attend the launch of the display.

“The opening was a wonderful occasion and the museum is very pleased to have created a permanent display room recording the history and achievements of the squadron,” he said.

“The weather was kind to us, and more veterans of the squadron were able to attend than we thought possible.

“I believe the oldest veteran was 94 years old.”

RAF Usworth was closed in 1958 and became Sunderland Airport.

The airport itself closed in 1984 to make way for the Nissan car factory. The museum now stands on what used to be the squadron’s living quarters.