PRINCESS Anne commended the pioneering work of ‘the most famous unknown squadron in the RAF’ as it marked 100 years since its formation.

The Princess Royal visited RAF Brize Norton yesterday as 101 Squadron – which flew as part of Bomber Command during the Second World War and still operates in the Middle East – celebrated the centenary.

Members of the squadron paraded before the princess and veterans at the event and aircraft signifying its past and present soared overhead.

The Princess Royal congratulated those who took part in the parade as she spoke to 101 Squadron veterans and station executives.

She said: “It’s extraordinary to be able to celebrate this centenary on the same day this squadron was formed in July 1917 – another squadron older than the RAF to celebrate its formation.”

The princess covered the broad range of places across the globe the squadron had served and offered a potted history of its past endeavours, but fell short of covering every one of the squadron’s achievements.

She joked: “It is appropriate on this day we shall remember what the squadron’s history contains – or some of what it contains, otherwise we could be here for some time.”

Princess Anne said the squadron could ‘look back proudly on its hard-earned reputation’ and said it will continue to ‘lead the way’ in operations worldwide.

Arnold Greethurst, 92, served with 101 Squadron as a navigator between 1946 and 1947, and then again between 1957 and 1962. He was among the first men to fly in the Avro Lincoln and Avro Vulcan.

He said: “I could never get over the fact they were paying me to do something I loved doing.

“Coming here, it’s as if I’ve never left. The training is such that you feel exactly the same as the kids flying for them now.”

The squadron is not a household name, despite its rich and varied history, which, according to Mr Greethurst, led to members referring to it as ‘the most famous unknown squadron in the RAF’.

Speaking yesterday station commander, Group Captain Tim Jones, said: “101 Squadron has been one of our busiest squadrons in all the years it has served, not least during the Second World War.

“More recently they’ve been delivering air-to-air refuelling all over the Middle East, which is a reminder of how operationally relevant it is and why it’s important to come together and celebrate.

“This is bound to be a poignant day for both current members and veterans.”