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The Air Observation Post Squadrons 1941 - 1957

In 1933 an article appeared in the Journal of the Royal United Services Institute written by Captain H J Parham of the Royal Artillery. It criticised the existing method of directing artillery fire from Army Co-operation aircraft using Morse code over a one-way wireless and ground signals. The Army Co-operation Squadron aircraft were flown by Army officers seconded to the RAF and the organisational set-up resulted in a considerable delay before a target could be engaged. Captain Parham suggested that a light aircraft, flown by a gunner officer, and equipped with a two-way radio would be much more effective.

Official trials were held in 1939 with the Army Co-operation Squadrons’ Lysander aircraft. However, pilots warned that the Lysander was unable to survive against determined enemy fighters and an experimental unit, D Flight, was formed equipped with light aircraft and two way radios. They could operate from unprepared grass landing stripsand overcame the threat of fighter attack by ‘nap of the earth’ flying – using trees, buildings and hills for cover.

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The success of D Flight led to the formation of 651 Air O.P. Squadron in 1941, the first official Air Observation Post Squadron. This unit saw action in Tunisia in 1942 and later, Sicily and Italy. 651 Squadron proved highly successful and fifteen more Air O.P. Squadrons were raised during the war, serving in all major operational theatres.

After the war most Air Observation Post Squadrons were disbanded but those that survived were used for service in Palestine, Malaya, Korea, Cypus and many other places. The Squadrons were formally disbanded in 1957 when they were amalgamated with the Glider Pilot Regiment to form the Army Air Corps of today.

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