On the 7th of August 1956 the museurm’s Hawker Hunter Mk 5, WP190, then just 12 months old and serving with No.1 Squadron at Tangmere, celebrated its first ‘birthday’ by receiving movement orders to deploy to Cyprus for air defence duties in connection with Operation Musketeer, the Suez crisis. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Op Musketeer – the Suez Campaign – when No 1 Squadron and our Hunter F5 (WP190) deployed from RAF Tangmere to Cyprus.
On arrival at RAF Akrotiri, black and yellow bands were painted around the rear fuselage and wings in order to facilitate allied aircraft recognition. The squadron aircraft moved up to Nicosia on 1st September, and from 21st October were tasked to provide an air defence posture in anticipation of possible attacks by the Egyptian Air Force.
After serious military action began at Suez on 31st October, the Hunters also carried out ‘top cover’ for Canberras employed on bombing and reconnaissance sorties over Egypt and for transport aircraft carrying paratroops. A number of fighter sweeps were made as far south as Cairo but little opposition was encountered. The greatest danger emanated from closer to home when, on 12th November, No 1 Squadron’s WP180 was destroyed by an EOKA time bomb placed in its wheel bay while parked on the aircraft servicing platform.
Offensive action ended when the ceasefire came into force at midnight on 6th November, but it was not until late December that it was considered acceptable to release the two Hunter squadrons. The aircraft left Nicosia on 21st December en route to Luqa, Malta, where they remained due to thick fog covering the south of England – an anxious time! But all turned out well with the last aircraft finally touching down at Tangmere on Christmas Eve.