29 Squadron: very Very VERY strong!

29 Squadron ATC has a genuine WWII barrack feel to it. It should - the building is original. It wouldn't take much effort to use it as a movie set for a WWII movie

If you spend a little time looking at the walls of 29’s Unit in Rotorua, you will eventually see a number of these: XXX29XXX.  It is even found as a footer on every page of our Unit Standing Orders.  So what does it all mean?

It is borrowed from 29 Squadron RAF.  In the Royal Air Force, every squadron have their own embellishments around the roundel.  (What is a roundel?)

As you can see, No 29 Squadron R.A.F. has a three red X on either side of the roundel.   If space was limited, the XXX would appear only on one side.  And after a while, the XXX by itself was recognised as 29 Squadron.

RAF Patch Royal Air Force 29 Squadron Tornado XXX PI

At this stage, a lot of people go… “what’s with the XXX?”, and “how is that possibly related to 29?” … and “Isn’t XXX 30 in Roman numerals, not 29?”.

The rather sad thing is that it isn’t recorded why XXX was associated with 29 Squadron, but there are a number of theories as to how it came about.  One of them has been adopted as the most likely explanation, and that has become the official one.

Since the late 1920s, the squadron marking has been three (red) Xs (XXX). Since this closely resembles the Roman numeral for "29" (XXIX) there is a belief among current squadron personnel that this originated as a "misspelling" of the Roman numeral.  Although various versions of the tradition are put forward, the most common explanation is that a mis-understood instruction to ground crew to paint "2 X's in front of the roundel and IX behind it" meaning "X,X,(roundel), and 'IX' or 'one-X'" resulted in "XX(roundel)'one times' X". In fact, the marking was always applied as "XXX(roundel)XXX" or as "XXX(roundel)" on smaller types, such as Siskins.  It seems probable that the original adoption of "XXX" for the 1930s squadron marking was nothing to do with Roman numerals, but was a reference to the brewers' mark for "extra strong", frequently applied to kegs of beer, and that it is only a coincidence that this resembles the numeral for "29" (XXIX).

And XXX has been used to indicate “extra strong” in other areas of life:

Extra Strong Mints

So there you have it:  No. 29 (Rotorua) Squadron Air Training Corps: EXTRA STRONG!

This tradition traces back about 100 years, and it is good to see it continue.