Twenty-five years ago this year, the Squadron said farewell to the Buccaneer at a memorable reunion at Lossiemouth at the end of March 1994. It was not only the Squadron that was losing the Buccaneer but it was also the end of the aircraft’s outstanding twenty-five years of service in the Royal Air Force.

The Squadron Commander, Wing Commander Nigel Huckins, and his team worked as hard as ever and there was no let up in the flying effort. During the final year of service, a small detachment went to RAF Valley and successfully fired four AIM 9G Sidewinder air-to-air missiles – how we needed them from the outset. In July 1993 the Squadron paid a last visit to Cyprus, which provided the final opportunity to fly past the Pyramids, an iconic landmark that had been such a significant feature of the Squadron’s history for over 60 years. In February 1994, with just weeks before the final stand down, a visit was made to Gibraltar where there had been so many detachments in the later period of the squadron’s life. During the two-week detachment, many sorties were flown in support of Royal Navy exercises including co-ordinated attacks with the Sea Eagle missile. For very many years, the Buccaneer force had yearned for improved weapons attack systems and a powerful stand-off capability. How ironic that the Squadron’s capability in the anti-shipping role should reach such a peak with just weeks to go before the aircraft’s withdrawal from the front line.

However, it was not in the nature of the Buccaneer Boys to go quietly and no-one will forget the final weekend. The organisation could not have been better and Nigel Huckins’ orchestration of the final flying display was both outstanding and memorable. Nigel’s brief to his crews was simple: ‘lots of panache  and  style  and  an immaculate formation flypast, then we break up for the airfield attack when we will make lots of noise and stay low. Any questions?’

At 1400 hours on 26 March 1994, he taxied out at the head of eight Buccaneers to the end of Runway 23. After a series of immaculate flypasts, the rules appeared to go out of the window for what was the very last official flight of the mighty Buccaneer. A series of ‘airfield attacks’ from every direction then followed. This final show was spectacular beyond words and displayed the skill and panache that has always been the hallmark of the Squadron and the ‘display’ will live long in the memory. After forming up again for a final flypast followed by a perfect run-in and break, the aircraft taxied in through the crowds, turned into line, folded wings on the leader’s command and then sixteen Spey engines wound down in unison. The silence was deafening and even the Buccaneer hard men in the large gathering were observed with a tear in their eye. Farewell to the Buccaneer.

   Graham Pitchfork

This article first appeared in the 2019 Newsletter.                 Naval 8 - 208 Sqn Association Historian

Farewell Buccaneer

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