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201 Squadron Museum


You may wonder why the RAF flag flies in the heart of an ancient castle. Enter this small museum to find out...

The 201 Squadron was the oldest in the RAF and was the last to retain a local affiliation. Until it was disbanded in 2011, it carried the soubriquet 'Guernsey's Own'.

This museum celebrates the history and exploits of 201 Squadron, its pilots and the planes they flew.

It began as No1 Squadron, Royal Naval Air service in 1914 and was re-numbered as 201 Squadron on the formation of the RAF in 1918. During the First World War, Flight Sub-Lieutenant Warneford brought down the first Zeppelin in 1915 using bombs from a fragile Morane-Saulnier monoplane and won the first squadron Victoria Cross.

From the late 1920's to modern times, 201 specialised in maritime reconnaissance. During the Second World War its pilots flew Sunderland flying boats to attack German U-boats. The squadron remained vigilant during the Cold War, flying Shackletons and then Nimrods. In more recent years, the Nimrods were active in search and rescue operations as well as supporting operations in the Gulf and Afghanistan.

Special prominence is given to the link between 201 Squadron and the Island of Guernsey, a link forged in the dark days just before the Second World War. In 1994, as part of their 80th anniversary celebrations, the Squadron were granted The Privilege of Guernsey. It was the first award in Guernsey's history of this ancient military honour, which gives the right to march with colours flying, drums beating and bayonets fixed. Even after the squadron disbanded, links between former members of the Squadron and the island remain strong.

The first squadron museum was opened in 1978 in the castle guardhouse. It was moved to its present location and re-opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II in 2001.


A New Lease of Life - a future secured 

When No. 201 ( Guernsey's Own ) Squadron was disbanded in 2011 some personnel left the RAF for civilian life. Others chose to remain and were posted into maritime patrol units in US, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand air forces. This exchange programme, codenamed Seedcorn, enabled those crew to maintain their skills. 

Four years later, the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security review announced that nine Boeing P-8 Poseidon aircraft were to be ordered from the US. These would fill the UK's vacant maritime-reconnaissance, protection and search-and-rescue needs.  

It was subsequently decided that No. 201 Squadron would be reformed to fly the aircraft alongside No. 120 Squadron. 

A number of ex-201 Squadron personnel returned to the RAF and those in the Seedcorn exchange were re-tasked back to the squadron. 

In RAF-service the aircraft was re-designated as the Poseidon MRA1. The first aircraft was officially named ZP801 Pride of Moray. This aircraft was completed at Boeing's production facility in Seattle, USA in 2019. It arrived at Kinloss Barracks in Scotland in February 2020 and relocated to its new operational home at RAF Lossiemouth in October.  

In May 2021 the sixth aircraft being produced in the Boeing plant was officially dedicated as ZP806 Guernsey's Reply. This is in honour of the name that Guernseyman Herbie Machon gave his spitfire aircraft when he served as a fighter pilot during WWII.  

The P-8 Poseidon aircraft is equipped with state-of-the-art systems that include an APY-10 radar for high-resolution mapping. It also boasts an acoustic sensor system which includes passive and multi-static sonobuoys, electro-optical/Infra-Red turret and electronic support measures. This provides the aircraft with comprehensive search and tracking capability. The Poseidon also carries weapon systems which include torpedoes for targets under the water in its role as a submarine hunter. On-board fuel tanks allow the aircraft approximately ten hours flight time. A typical crew consists of twelve personnel and both squadrons operate nine crews on rotation to fly the aircraft.  

Lossiemouth RAF base had to be significantly upgraded to accommodate the new aircraft. The Poseidon Strategic Facilities include a huge new hanger which holds up to three aircraft at a time. They also feature new squadron accommodation, crew and maintainer training facilities, flight planning facilities, a new digital air traffic control and workshop areas. The Lossiemouth runways also had to be widened and resurfaced. 

Long may No. 201 Squadron's service continue. 

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