1914 - 1918

World War One

100 years family service

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Posted by Peter Berrisford on

My family ties with the Royal Air Force dates all the way back to the days of the Royal Flying Corps. My great grandfather, Athol James Sargent, was born towards the end of the 19th century and joined the RFC as James Sargent (service no 43997 or 43977). He was posted onto 42 Sqdn an Army Co-op Squadron, and was sent to the western front. The squadron's  and my great grandfather's primary role was flying over the battlefield, spotting and observing for the artillery. As the war entered it's latter stages and modern technologies were rapidly being introduced to the battlefield, my great grandfather was attached with the heavy guns and their crews. Equipped with a receiver and some primitive radio communications kit, he began relaying live reports and intelligence messages, directly from his colleagues flying over the enemy lines, to the gunners, who in turn would alter their fire missions accordingly for the best effects possible. However during this time spent with the artillery, he was gassed during a German attack. When the RAF were formed in 1918 he was posted on to HMS Pegasus (because the Navy didn’t get back control of what became the Fleet Air Arm until the 30’s), where they were policing the Crimean area, following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and evacuating White Russians following the revolution. The aircraft were mainly Fairy III and Short 184 seaplanes. He died quite young in 1965, and apparently, in accordance with my family, the gassing didn’t help. The photo I have attached shows my great grandfather (2nd from the left on the back row) posing in front of a Short 184 (Registration Number N9199), along with his fellow brothers in arms. In 1950, my great uncle, 586034 AA Peter N Sargent, joined the Royal Air Force as an Air Radio Fitter. He was posted to 617 squadron and supported the Canberra bombers during the Malayan Emergency and even served on the Cyprus RAF mountain rescue team in 1957. 100 years after my great grandfather witnessed the formation of the Royal Air Force, I now proudly witness the centinerie of not just the start of the world's first and greatest air force, but 100 years of my family serving with the RAF. I myself have served almost 7 years in the RAF, most of this time was spent on UKMAMS (United Kingdom Mobile Air Movements Squadron).  I have supported UK and NATO operations and exercises, supplied humanitarian side relief missions on a worldwide scale; in all climates, weathers and terrains. I even met my wife during basic training at RAF Halton; she served 4 years and is now a proud veteran. You will see in my other photograph, myself on task  with UKMAMS, in Washington with C17 (Registration Number ZZ178) from 99 squadron.   In my opinion, serving in Her Majesty's Royal Air Force is one of the best and most rewarding careers/ lifestyles in the world. Per Ardua Ad Astra. 

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