RAF Akrotiri Cyprus 1955 – 1980

The following concise history of RAF Akrotiri was published in 1980, to mark the 25th Anniversary of the station.

Royal Air Force Akrotiri was formed in 1955 to become the main strike and reconnaissance airfield in the Near East Air Force, with Royal Air Force Nicosia discharging the air defence, transport support and staging functions.

By the end of 1956 Royal Air Force Akrotiri provided a base for five squadrons of fighter-ground-attack and reconnaissance aircraft No. 103 Maintenance Unit, No. 280 Signals Unit and The Princess Mary’s Royal Air Force Hospital and was responsible for No.1153 Marine Craft Unit operating from Limassol harbour.

On the closure of Royal Air Force Nicosia in 1966, Royal Air Force Akrotiri assumed responsibility for air defence, transport support and staging functions in Cyprus and thus became the largest multi-role station in the Service.

The Station then comprised two major operational air wings, bomber and fighter, and their transport support and search and rescue service, togethor with the staging post responsibilities.

The Bomber Wing, comprising two Vulcan Mk B2 squadrons, formed the Near East Air Force’s main contribution to the Central Treaty Organisation, while the Fighter Wing, consisting of a Lightning squadron’s Bloodhound missile squadron and two light anti-aircraft gun squadrons provided the local air defence under the control of a Master Radar Station at Cape Gata.

Following the 1975 Defence Review, all the fixed wing squadrons were withdrawn and the Maintenance Unit, Marine Craft Unit and mountain rescue elements of the search and rescue services were disbanded.

In 1976, a number of Army support units moved to the Station to occupy the accommodation surplus to Royal Air Force requirements.

The remaining resident squadrons were No. 84 Squadron with its Whirlwind helicopters and No. 34 Squadron Royal Air Force Regiment.

No. 84 Squadron was formed in France in 1917 and has seen action in no fewer than 14 countries, mainly in the Middle East and has never served in the United Kingdom.

On 17 January, 1972 the Squadron was established at Royal Air Force Akrotiri with Whirlwind Mk10 Helicopters.

The squadron is split into 2 flights. ‘A’ Flight at Akrotiri is a multi-role unit primarily responsible for SAR duties, troop support and communication flying. .B. Flight operates in a support role with the United Nations Forces in Cyprus.

Like 84 Squadron No.34 Squadron has never served in the United Kingdom. It was formed at Yatesbury in November 1951 and was deployed in the Canal Zone before transferring to Cyprus in 1956. The squadron badge, a lion in front of afinbriated Cross, refers to the squadron’s long association with Cyprus.

In the summer of 1978 air activity at Akrotiri began to increase with the start of Armament Practice Camps for Royal Air Force air defence fighter squadrons based in the United Kingdom and Germany. With each camp occupying some five weeks, the Station now has a squadron of Phantoms Or Lightnings, together with target-towing Canberras of No. 100 Squadron, in residence for 10 months of each year.

The Station also hosts regular detachments from other Royal Air Force operational and training units in the United Kingdom and Germany.

In 1974 Royal Air Force Akrotiri was awarded the Wilkinson Sword for its humanitarian activities, particularly during the Cyprus Emergency of that year when the Station looked after and subsequently evacuated a total of 24,801 tourists and Service dependants, thereby earning world-wide acclaim. Although on a reduced scale, Royal Air Force Akrotiri’s current tasks make the Station’s motto “ACRA SEMPER ACRIA” -freely translated as “The Peninsula is Always Eager”-as appropriate today as throughout its previous 25 years of varied achievement.

War Life