194 (F) Sqn. was formed at Pembury 1st January 1952 then posted to Akrotiri, Cyprus in 1958 where they were disbanded on 16th November 1960
En-route to Suez 194 Sqn were suddenly diverted to Cyprus due to the ending of the Suez Campaign. The squadron was assigned to an area 2 or 3 miles outside the main RAF base at Akrotiri. The area was called French Camp after the disused Tymbou airfield which had been used by the French Air Force after the war.
An entirely tented camp was built with added amenities built by members of the squadron.The conditions were the same as those afforded to us on 3 LAA Wing on the main camp at RAF Akrotiri and no worse than those of 5 LAA Wing and 8 Wing at RAF Nicosia. We all lived in tents, and the offices, NAAFI , PBX and a number of other amenities were built by the airman. Though primitive, next to the modern purpose built billets of the RAF, WRAF and a Royal Engineers Detachment, the tented site did have its advantages. No 'BULLSHIT'. You can't shine a concrete floor and tents don't have windows to clean or ablutions to scrub and shine.
Though conditions were much the same for the Rockapes at French Camp, RAF Akrotiri and RAF Nicosia, there the similarity ended. We didn't have a Commanding Officer who had been posted in from the Aden Levies.
Riot at French Camp
I was on 3 LAA Wing compound guard and had just come off stag, late in the evening, when the whole guard was 'stood to' an unusual occurrence. It had never happened before and it was apparent there was a flap on.We were told to parade without our rifles as we were going to be issued with Sten Guns. There was lots of to-ing and fro-ing from the guard tent to a land rover full of Snowdrops who had arrived at the guard tent. The Guard Commander, a sergeant, eventually stood us at ease and told us that 194 Squadron were rioting. Reports evidently from the Snowdrops indicated that someone had driven a 3 Tonner through the NAAFI wall, the COs office had been burnt down and several other huts were on fire and the squadron was on the rampage, evidently looking for NCOs a particular sergeant they had scores to settle with.
We were told that the RAF Police were there but had been ordered not to take any action, that's why we were stood to as we might be sent in (there were eight of us) One of us asked about the issue of Sten Guns did they expect us to fire on our own troops? The sergeant assured us that if we went in, under no circumstances were we to do so. Only his orders were to be followed. Then he was called back to the Guard Tent by the Orderly Officer. We had a quick discussion about what we heard and agreed that if ordered to shoot we would refuse, point blank!
Eventually the Stens arrived. They were given to us without ammo and we just stood around waiting for a a decision to be made. Then eventually a grim faced Orderly Officer told the Guard Commander that the guard should 'stand down' and return to normal guard duty. Earlier we had been told we might have to help alert the whole Wing but this was never done.
Meanwhile II Field Squadron, A Flight and Mortar Flight (B Flight were patrolling the Mason-Dixon Line in Nicosia) were alerted to go down to Akrotiri and assist 3 Wing in controlling a riot.
The Flt.Commander and one land rover set off early and the rest followed at convoy speed. An officer from 3 Wing met the Flt. Cmdr.and escort at the gate of RAF Akrotiri and told them they were not required as the incident had been dealt with, and they were to return to Nicosia. By this time the convoy had reached Halfway House when the Flt Cmdr. contacted them by radio and instructed the column to halt and await further orders.
Wen he arrived he ordered the convoy to return to RAF Nicosia and stand down.
The Night that Shamed the Regiment
Is there an explanation or even an excuse for the fiasco that took place at Akrotiri in 1959? According to the lads of 194 Sqn at the time there was. The Commanding Officer. Fresh from the Aden Levies he apparently treat 194 Sqn much the same. There had been murmuring of discontent for months I remember. One of his specialties was a rifle inspection, at night, in the dark. Another was ordering men on static guards, in temperatures approaching 100 Far. to wear their best blue peaked caps. Aided and abetted by the Adjutant and a few NCOs they conspired to make the rest of the Squadrons life a bloody misery. That night something pushed them over the edge and the rioting began when a 3 ton Bedford was driven through the NAAFI wall. Wisely, some one had made the decision not to ask the RAF Police to intervene, but merely observe. And as for using Rockapes to sort out a 100+ Rockapes on the rampage, that would have been like pouring petrol on to a fire.
The Sqn CO, Adj and a few NCOs were taken to the main camp for safety until the mayhem gradually died a natural death or there was nothing left to burn.
Whether any charges were brought against the rioters isn't known. At the time and for weeks afterwards there wasn't any news at all of any disciplinary measures taken against the squadron.
Until that night 194 Squadron had led a fairly undistinguished existence in the UK. The squadrons tough image was certainly enhanced for a while but tarnished by the fact that their 'riot' had wider implications for all Rockapes at Akrotiri. Naturally senior officers were not going to allow 'that sort of thing' to happen again, so discipline was tightened up. Any good relations we had with the RAF Police disappeared overnight and henceforth they viewed all RAF Regiment not only with suspicion, but with a certain amount of contempt. Not to mention the near calamitous consequences had RAF Police or other Rockapes been used to intervene.
The riot had the desired effect and the CO was posted back to the UK being replaced by a more humanitarian leader.
Though the battle was won. The war was lost. 194 Squadron were disbanded a year later and its name banished from the history books.
42 Years later, the squadron has an active association who meet once a year in Blackpool. I wonder what they talk about?
Suppression and Censorship
Efforts have been made by ex- members of 194 Sqn and the 194 Sqn Association to suppress this tale. They refuse to talk to me about it, and warned others 'who were there' not to give me any info. Apparently they believe if there story is published it will discredit the Squadron. Strange, going back 42 years I seem to remember they didn't mind discrediting the RAF Regiment and were quite pleased with themselves and openly bragged about the riot. Also were they aware that at the time how other squadrons were affected? No doubt those chaps had bottle then. Over the years they seem to have lost it. As promised chaps the tale will be told, remembered by myself and an airman who was with 2 (F) Squadron at that time.
Throughout this tale I have omitted all names and ranks.
I served in the RAF Regiment 1973-78, with 37 Sqn, which became 66 Sqn. I Heard a different version to the riot story. Apparently the Squadron supposedly rioted because they were supposed to have gone home, but the order was rescinded and they had to stay. Apparently the order to leave was rescinded several times, even when the plane was taxiing to take off. That was the last straw, so the Squadron barricaded themselves into the NAAFI and wrecked the place, once the beer had run out. Order was then brought, with the Squadron placed on the plane home. But, the Snowdrops arrived and arrested the 'ringleaders'. I heard this from guys who had been in the Regiment for 18 years (I joined 1973) and took the story as being true. Obviously it had become a 'folk' legend by then.
SAC B8105484 Kevin Boxford
"The above account refers to an incident that occurred in 1982 and the the squadron concerned was 27sqn. Alex King"