The Honourable Company of Air Pilots incorporating Air Navigators

The Johnston Memorial Trophy

Awarded for outstanding performance in the operation of airborne or space systems, manned or unmanned.

(amended Terms of Reference 2019)

The Johnston Memorial Trophy


2019 awarded to:   The Tornado GR Force

The Tornado GR Force (TGRF) formed the bedrock of the Royal Air Force's ground attack capability for over one-third of the Service's existence. Entering service in June 1982 to replace the Vulcan in the nuclear strike role, the TGRF contributed to NATO's deterrent posture with an all-weather day and night low-level capability that remained unrivalled throughout Tornado's 37-year service life.

The TGRF played a part in the effective grounding of the Iraqi Air Force during the opening nights of the 1991 Gulf War, helping to set the stage for the successful ground campaign which followed. Attacking heavily-defended airfields required immense courage and these dangerous missions led to six of the 60 deployed aircraft being lost in combat. The dignified conduct of captured aircrew and heightened public awareness of the risks being faced helped to elevate 'Team Tornado' to the iconic status which it enjoyed for the remainder of its service.

9 Tornado GR Force Johnston Memorial Trophy1991 heralded a 28-year run of deployed TGRF operations, unbroken but for three weeks. No-fly zone operations were mounted over Iraq until 2003 and the Force saw action over Kosovo in 1999. During the Iraq War of 2003 the TGRF was heavily engaged on defence suppression, reconnaissance and attack missions. Aircraft remained deployed to the Gulf until May 2009 to support ground forces during the counter-insurgency that followed. Although quiet operationally, this was a period of profound change for the Force. By June 2009's deployment to Afghanistan, improvements to weapons, sensors and training had transformed the TGRF into a capable close air support outfit which remained highly sought after by ground troops until combat operations ceased in 2014.

The Libya campaign of 2011 returned the TGRF to national prominence.  With events moving swiftly, the Force showcased the responsiveness and flexibility of air power with a 3000-mile Storm Shadow mission from Marham to Libya and back. Once deployed to Italy, Tornado’s highly effective laser-guided missiles rendered armoured vehicles ineffective, eliminating the regime’s advantage over lightly-armed militias and helping to avert threatened atrocities. The TGRF remained at the forefront of British military operations in Libya until their successful conclusion.

With the emergence of Da'esh in 2014, the TGRF swiftly deployed to Cyprus and resumed operational sorties over Iraq. For a few weeks the Force was triple-tasked, also providing relief for the French Air Force's reconnaissance detachment in Chad. Once this and the Afghanistan commitment had finished, the TGRF reconfigured itself to sustain operations over Iraq and Syria until the aircraft's planned retirement. So pivotal was Tornado's contribution considered that the disbandment of a squadron was reversed, a decision vindicated by the TGRF’s part in crucial battles for Fallujah, Mosul and Raqqa.

Twenty-eight years after the Gulf War, the TGRF's final homecoming and finale flypast tour saw an outpouring of affection for an icon of the Royal Air Force. Characterised by excellence, commitment, dependability and understated professionalism throughout almost four decades of outstanding service to the United Kingdom, the TGRF is awarded the Johnston Memorial Trophy.


008 Tornado GR Force - Johnson

Previous Winners:

1931 Sir Francis Chichester

1932 Squadron Leader Herbert/ J L Hinkler Esq

1933 J A Mollison Esq

1934 Not Awarded

1935 E W Percival Esq

1936 Miss Jean Batten

1937 A S Wilcockson Esq

1938 D C T Bennett Esq

1940 - 1948 Not Awarded

1948/49 W H Crowther Esq/ R B Tapp Esq/ L R Ambrose Esq QANTAS

1949/50 Captain P G Taylor

1951 Not Awarded

1950/51 Captain P G Taylor

1952 Not Awarded

1951/52 Captain P G Taylor

1952/53 Captains and Crew of Service Aircraft "Aries"

1953/54 Pilots and Navigators of Comet Fleet BOAC

1955 Not Awarded

1955/56 Captain J H Saffery and Pilots and Navigators of Hunting Aero Surveys on Antartic Expedition

1956/57 Squadron Leader J H Lewis, Commanding the RAF Detachment Unit with the British Commonwealth Trans-Antartic Expedition

1957/58 Captain and Navigational Crews of the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment

1959/60 The Decca Navigator Company Limited

1961 Not Awarded

1961/62 G E Beck Esq, M Morgan Esq of Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Co.

1962/63 Wing Commander D F H Grocott

1964 - 1967 Not Awarded

1967/68 Wing Commander E W Anderson

1969 - 1973 Not Awarded

1973/74 Flt Lt R M S Cook & Flt Lt R W Hardisty

1974/75 Flt Lt E G Candlish & Flt Lt J Vinales

1976 Not Awarded

1976/77 W P Robinson Esq

1977/78 The Royal Air Force Tanker Wing 

1979 Not Awarded

1979/80 Captain G Vette & M Forsyth Esq 

1981 - 1982 Not Awarded

1982/83 Commander S C Thornewill RN

1984 - 1985 Not Awarded

1985/86 The Giotto Space Probe Navigation Team

1986/87 The Voyager Team

1988  Not Awarded

1988/89 Wing Commander Raymond L Lomas RAF

1989/90 Peter Norvill Esq

1991 - 1994 Not Awarded

1994/95 Flight Lieutenant J W Hendy

1995/96 Captain Alex Fisher

1996/97 Captain David Massy-Greene QANTAS

1997/98 James C Lawson Esq

1998/99 Jon Johanson

1999/2000 Flight Lieutenant David Wilson RAF

2000/01 Thomas Beverley Nichols

2001/02 Flight Lieutenant Timothy Carr RAF

2002/03 Geoffrey Alan Burtenshaw

2003/04 Number 33 Squadron RAF

2005 Not Awarded

2005/06 Sea King Mk7 Trials Team - Lieutenant Commander Tite RN, Lieutenant Commander Ling RN, Lieutenant Commander Smith RNR, Lieutenant Commander Richardson RN (retd)

2006/07 Boeing J0UCAS Programme X-45A

2007/08 815 Naval Air Squadron Training Team

2008/09 5 (AC) Squadron

2009/10 51 Squadron RAF

2010/11 Attack Helicopter Force ("UK Team Apache")

2011/12 Squadron Leader J Jody McMeeking RAF

2012/13 Squadron Leader Simon Mellor RAF

2013/14  3rd Special Operations Squadron USAF

2015  Not Awarded

2016  Royal Air Force UK Reaper Force

2017 British Antarctic Survey Air Unit

2018  700X Naval Air Squadron

2019  The Tornado GR Force