Author(s): Guy Warner
656 Squadron will celebrate its 70th Anniversary on 31st December 2012. Over the intervening years the Squadron has served with great distinction in India, Burma, Java, Malaya, Borneo, Hong Kong, the UK, the Falkland Islands, Bosnia, Kosovo and, most recently, in Afghanistan. This is 656's story, told in full and for the first time. 656 Squadron's story is a diverse one, characterized by active deployment in a diverse range of wartime theaters. It was the only Air Observation Post (AOP) squadron to serve with the "Forgotten Army", 14th Army under General Sir Bill Slim in Burma and, after the successful conclusion of this campaign, the Squadron was posted to Malaya, from where it took part in the little known but fierce campaign countering separatists in Java. This was followed by the long campaign against Chinese communist terrorists in Malaya (Malayan Emergency). In addition, many members of the Squadron served in the Korean War. Subsequently there was considerable involvement in the "Confrontation" with Indonesia in Borneo and policing and internal security work in Hong Kong.
Following its return to the UK in 1979, there were deployments on active service to Rhodesia, the Falkland Islands (both during and after the war) and Bosnia and Kosovo. In 2001 the Squadron was chosen to be the Army's first Apache Attack Helicopter Squadron, and has now undertaken three operational tours in Afghanistan. Overall it has amassed well over 200,000 operational flying hours making it the most operational squadron in the entire history of army air warfare. It was also, of course, most recently on active service as a sea-based strike unit over the skies of Libya. It is a quite remarkable fact that the Squadron, and indeed the British Army, have both come full circle; directing fire from the air in 1944, to being the artillery in the air, directed from the ground in 2011.
Guy Warner is a retired schoolteacher, who grew up in Newtownabbey, attending Abbots Cross Primary School and Belfast High School before going to Leicester University and later Stranmillis College. He now lives in Greenisland, near Carrickfergus in Co Antrim with his wife Lynda. He is the author of eighteen previous books and booklets on aviation and has written a large number of articles for magazines in the UK, Ireland and the USA. He also reviews books for several publications, gives talks to local history societies and has appeared on TV and radio programmes, discussing aspects of aviation history. He is the Vice Chairman of the Ulster Aviation Society. He is also a member of the RAF Historical Society and 230 Squadron Association.