Home' Air Force News : April 2010 Contents 23
AIR FORCE April 1, 2010
By FLGOFF Melody Earl
PAST and present members of 87SQN stood side by
side when the CO WGCDR Richard Trotman-Dick-
enson and former member, SQNLDR (ret'd) Sir
Hugh Bonython unveiled the squadron's new Battle
The Governor-General presented the squadron with
the board late last year.
The honours are Darwin 1942-44, the Pacific
1942-45, Philippines 1944, Dutch New Guinea 1945,
Borneo 1945 and Morotai 1945.
During these campaigns, one member was made
a Member of the British Empire, four received the
Distinguished Flying Cross and seven were Mentioned
On a more sombre note, five squadron members
lost their lives, including SQNLDR Jim Gillepsie. His
son Peter was a guest at the ceremony.
The award followed 87SQN's reactivation in 2006
as the Air Force's intelligence squadron. It is a part of
the Information Warfare Wing (IWW), falling within
the Aerospace Operational Support Group (AOSG).
Several senior personnel from IWW and AOSG
and distinguished guests joined the squadron for the
WGCDR Trotman-Dickenson said that history tells
us who we are, what we are and often why we are.
"History provides the context to our lives," he said.
"87SQN are the proud inheritors of a grand squad-
ron history from WWII, and the Battle Honours that
we have unveiled reinforce that history and serve to
remind us of the extraordinary exploits, the everyday
dangers and heroic inspiration that 87SQN's forebears
have bequeathed to us."
87SQN was formed as No. 1 Photo Reconnaissance
Unit (1PRU) at Laverton in June 1942. In December,
it deployed to Coomallie Creek, exactly 87km south
of Darwin. Initially, it flew Lighting, Wirraway
and Buffalo aircraft, but was later re-equipped with
Mosquito aircraft that were reconfigured to a photo-
reconnaissance role. The Mosquito proved ideal for
the role because of its high speed and manoeuvrabil-
ity. On September 9, 1945, 1PRU was redesignated
87SQN. It flew long-range intelligence collection and
photo-reconnaissance missions against Japanese land
and naval forces as far afield as the Philippines and
the South China Sea. Often the aircraft were harassed
by Japanese anti-aircraft fire and fighters and it was
only the Mosquito's superior qualities that resulted in
comparatively few casualties.
Back on the ground, the photographers, photo-
interpreters and intelligence personnel worked in the
primitive conditions, heat and humidity afforded by
non air-conditioned wooden huts to process the image-
ry and data collected by the aircrews.
The squadron disbanded in 1953 and, consequent-
ly, could not receive its honours with the other units
that had their's presented in the 1950s.
Last September, Doug
Nicholas donated several
historical photos, documents
and trench art owned by his
late father Ron.
His donation coincided
with a period where 87SQN
was fielding personnel to
Afghanistan to support the
initial work-up of the Heron
UAV. The team was develop-
ing a Concept of Operations
and believed that it was
breaking new ground.
It was a capability that the
team thought it was building
In WWII, 87SQN was
deployed in fairly rudimentary
facilities and supporting a
surveillance platform, so it
turns out that 87SQN was
doing it just as well 65 years
HONOURED: CO 87SQN WGCDR Richard
Trotman-Dickenson and SQNLDR (ret'd) Sir
Hugh Bonython unveil the Battle Honours.
MEMORIES: FLGOFFs Kimberley McKinnon and Bronwyn Rowe look through a
wartime photo album donated to 87SQN by Doug Nicholas (centre). The album was
owned by his late father, Ron, who served as a photographer with 87SQN.
Photos: LAC Glen McCarthy
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