Being ‘tip of the sword’ a family tradition for 808 Squadron XO

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Andrew Herring (author), ABIS Sarah Williams (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Albatross, NSW

Topic(s): 808 Squadron, HMAS Albatross

Executive Officer 808 Squadron Lieutenant Commander Dom Cooper RAN, holds the ceremonial sword used for the commissioning of 808 Squadron. (photo: ABIS Sarah Williams)
Executive Officer 808 Squadron Lieutenant Commander Dom Cooper RAN, holds the ceremonial sword used for the commissioning of 808 Squadron.

When 808 Squadron Executive Officer (XO) Lieutenant Commander Dom Cooper drew his ceremonial sword and took his place as Parade Commander for the commissioning of Navy’s newest squadron at HMAS Albatross this morning, he carried on a family tradition dating back more than a century.

The sword he held is a family heirloom that was first wielded by his Great Grandfather, Captain Earnest Betts RN, who joined the Royal Navy in 1898 and retired as a Captain.

It was later used by Lieutenant Commander Cooper’s great uncle, Lieutenant Commander Michael Betts RN, who was an observer in the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm.

Lieutenant Commander Betts initially flew the Fairey Swordfish biplane and then ended his career flying the Douglas Skyraider Airborne Early Warning Aircraft in the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet with 849 Squadron in the 1950s - during the same decade in which 808 Squadron last operated as a Royal Australian Navy Squadron.

Lieutenant Commander Cooper said that based on the sword’s family history, its King’s Crown markings and the age of the firm that made it, he believes it to be about 110 years old.

So it was a fitting tribute that an antique sword so steeped in naval aviation history led the parade today as 808 Squadron, which has origins as a Royal Navy squadron, was recommissioned into the Royal Australian Navy Fleet Air Arm in a traditional naval ceremony.