Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation
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Formed at Gosport on 8 June 1916 from a nucleus provided by No 28 Squadron. Moving to London Colney in July, it operated a variety of types until March 1917, when it became the first squadron to be equipped with the SE5, which it took to France in April. It operated over the Western Front until the end of the war, except for six weeks in June and July 1917 when it returned to the UK for defensive duties, and became one of the foremost fighter squadrons of the RFC/RAF. It was commanded by or counted in its ranks some of the leading British 'aces' of WW1 including Albert Ball and James McCudden. The squadron returned to the UK in February 1919, disbanding at Shotwick (Digby) on 22 January 1920.
The squadron soon reformed and on 1 February 1920 No 80 Squadron at Aboukir was re-numbered. It flew Snipes in Egypt until 23 September 1922 when it disbanded once again, however, its detachment with No 208 Squadron in Turkey continued to use the number despite a new 56 Squadron having already formed on 1 November 1922 at Hawkinge. Still operating Snipes, these were replaced by Grebes in September 1924 and in their turn by Siskins in September 1927. Bulldogs replaced the Siskins in October 1932 and Gauntlets arrived in May 1936 and their final biplane fighter, the Gladiator in July 1937.
The first monoplane Hurricane arrived in May 1938 and it was with this aircraft that the squadron entered the war, operating over the Dunkirk beaches and throughout the Battle of Britain until September 1941. In that month the squadron became the first to operate a new type, the Hawker Typhoon, but the early models proved to be troublesome and it was May 1942, before they became operational on this type. It soon became obvious that the Typhoon was not suited to normal fighter operations and soon began acting in the ground attack role, carrying bombs from November 1943 and rockets from February 1944. However, in April the squadron converted to Spitfire IXs, flying escort and reconnaissance sorties until June when it converted to yet another type, this time the Tempest V. Initially engaged on anti-V1 operations, the squadron joined 2 TAF in September and continued to fly armed reconnaissance sorties until the end of the war, being disbanded when it was re-numbered No 16 Squadron on 31 March 1946.
No 56 reformed the next day at Bentwaters, when No 124 Squadron was renumbered. It was now flying Meteor F Mk 3s, which were replaced by Mk 4s in August 1948 and Mk 8s in December 1950. From 11 February 1949 to 31 December 1951, the squadron was linked to No 87 Squadron. The squadron became the first to introduce another new type in February 1954, when the Swift F Mk 1 arrived, followed by some F Mk 2s in August,. however, the Swift failed to meet its expectations as an interceptor fighter and they were replaced by Hunters in May 1955, which the squadron operated until January 1961. In that month the first Lightnings for the squadron arrived and these remained its main equipment until June 1976. F Mk 1As were operated until 1965, when the F Mk 3 arrived, the final model to be used being the F Mk 6 from September 1971. In 1967, the squadron re-located to Akrotiri in Cyprus, where it formed the fighter element of Near East Air Force, the squadron returning to the Wattisham on 21 January 1975.
In March 1976 No 56 (Designate) Squadron began forming at Coningsby on the Phantom FGR Mk 2. When this unit had worked up on the new type it moved to Wattisham, where on 29 June 1976 it replaced the Lightning unit. It continued to operate from Wattisham as part of the UK Air Defence Region until 1 July 1992 when it disbanded. On the same day the Tornado F Mk 3 OCU at Coningsby adopted the numberplate as No 56 (Reserve) Squadron, moving to Leuchars in April 2003 where it remained until disbanding on 22 April 2008. The same day the numberplate was transferred to the Intelligence Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) Operational Evaluation Unit (OEU) at RAF Waddington. In its new role it became responsible for the operational testing and evaluation of the Sentry AEW Mk 1, Sentinel R Mk 1 and all versions of the Nimrod as well as associated ground based equipment.
Motto: Quid Si Coelum Ruat ( What if heaven falls?)
Squadron Codes used: -
Formed on 8 June 1916 at Copmanthorpe near York from a nucleus provided by No 33 Squadron. Until October it undertook training duties but then began to receive operational equipment in the form of FE2bs and these were taken to France in December. Initially intended as a fighter squadron, by then its equipment was obsolete and in May 1917 it received DH4, converting to the bombing and reconnaissance roles in the process. These duties were maintained up to the end of the war and following the war the squadron remained on the continent, taking on a mail carrying role in May 1919 with DH9As. In August 1919 the squadron returned to South Carlton where it disbanded on 31 December 1919.
No 57 Squadron reformed on 20 October 1931 at Netheravon in the light bomber role, equipped with Harts, until May 1936 when Hinds were received. In March 1938 biplanes gave way to the monoplane Blenheim I and it was these that the unit took to France in 1939 as part of the Air Component of the B.E.F. It was now employed in the strategic reconnaissance role, but with the German invasion of May 1940, it also began offensive operations against the advancing enemy troops. However, after only eight days, the squadron was forced to withdraw to the UK from where it continued its duties until after the Dunkirk evacuation in June. Following this, 57 moved to Scotland from where it carrying anti-shipping patrols, but in November 1940 it returned south to Wyton, where it began converting to Wellingtons.
Following work up the squadron returned to operations, albeit at night, in January 1941 and remained as part of Bomber Command's Main Force until the end of war. In September 1942 the squadron re-equipped with Lancasters and in August 1945 some Lincolns were taken on strength for trials but on 25 November the squadron disbanded. No 57 resurfaced the following day when the Lincoln Flight of No 103 Squadron at Elsham Wold was re-numbered. In May 1951, the squadron received Washingtons as a stop-gap until jet powered bombers in the form of Canberras entered service, 57 receiving theirs in May 1953, these being operated for just over four years, the unit disbanding on 9 December 1957. During this period from 1 February 1949 to 14 March 1955, No 57 was linked to No 104 Squadron.
The squadron's next incarnation began on 1 January 1959 when it was reformed at Honington as part of the V-Bomber force. Equipped with Victor B Mk 1s and B Mk 1As, it operated in the pure bomber role until June 1966. Following the withdrawal of the Valiant tanker force due to metal fatigue in their main spars, it was decided to transfer the Victor to this role and No 57 Squadron moved to Marham in December 1965 in readiness for these duties. Four years after taking a leading role in the Falkland s War, the squadron was disbanded on 30 June 1986. The number was re-activated on 1 July 1992, when No 242 OCU at Lyneham was given the title No 57 (Reserve) Squadron. It was now responsible for the training of crews for the Hercules fleet, but in March 2002 the unit was disbanded again. The number was more recently allocated to Cambridge University Air Squadron/No 5 Air Experience Flight/University of London Air Squadron, all located at RAF Wyton.
Motto: Corpus non animum muto (I change my body not my spirit)
Squadron Codes used: -
No 57 Squadron Association: - Honorary
Secretary: Gordon Lodge
Formed at Cramlington on 8 June 1916 from a nucleus provided by No 36 Squadron, it was used in the advanced training role until December 1917. In the month it moved to Dover and began receiving FE2bs for operations in France, to where it moved in January 1918. It began night bombing operations on 2 February 1918 continuing until September when it began to receive Handley Page O/400s. Following the end of the war, most of the squadron flew out to Egypt, whilst some crews collected Vimy's and flew these out later. However, on 1 February 1920 the squadron was disbanded by being re-numbered No 70 Squadron.
A new No 58 formed at Worthy Down on 1 April 1924 consisting of a single flight of Vimys. A second flight was added on 1 January 1925, by which time Virginias had begun to arrive, having replaced the Vimys by March. Various marks of Virginia were operated for the next twelve years. However, in February 1937, the squadron started to receive a few Ansons in order to covert crews to monoplanes and in October new equipment began to arrive in the form of Whitleys, which had completed replaced the biplane Virginias by the end of December.
Following early teething problems with the early Whitleys, the squadron borrowed some Heyfords before receiving the more reliable Whitley Mk III in May 1939. The lack of target opportunities in the early days of the war led to the squadron being loaned to Coastal Command in October 1939 but returned to Bomber Command in February 1940 and re-equipment with the Whitley V. These were used against German targets during the invasion of Norway after which the squadron joined the night offensive, operating from Linton-on-Ouse.
However on 8 April 1942 the squadron found itself back under Coastal Command control operating from St Eval, from where it began anti-submarine patrols on the 19th of the month. A move north to Hebrides came in August and a return south to Holmsley South in December, where the squadron re-equipped with Halifax aircraft. Anti-submarine patrols recommenced in February 1943 and continued until October 1944, although by then the unit was based at Stornoway in the Hebrides. Attacks against enemy shipping along the Norwegian coast and in the Skaggerak began and were maintained until the end of the war, following which the squadron disbanded on 25 May 1945.
No 58 reformed at Benson on 1 October 1946 in the photo-reconnaissance role. Initially operating Mosquitoes and Ansons, it undertook survey as well normal PR activities. Lincolns were used during 1951 and after March 1952, the squadron was solely equipped with Mosquitoes. In March 1953 the squadron moved to Wyton, where the Mosquitoes were replaced by Canberras. PR Mk 3s were replaced by PR Mk 7s in 1955 and used until the squadron disbanded on 1 September 1970, although some PR Mk 9s were operated between 1960 and 1963. It re-appeared in the Order of Battle on 1 August 1973 when No 45 Squadron at Wittering was re-numbered. It was equipped with Hunters, being tasked with training Jaguar pilots in the ground attack role, but this ended on 4 June 1976, when the squadron disbanded for the final time.
Motto: Alis nocturnis (On the wings of the night)
Squadron Codes used: -
Formed at Narborough in Norfolk on 1 August 1916, it was destined to be a Corps Reconnaissance unit equipped with RE8s. Following training the squadron moved to St Omer in France in February 1917. The squadron remained in France at various locations for the remainder of the war and in joined the Army of Occupation in November 1918, where it stayed until disbanding at Bickendorf on 4 August 1919.
It reformed in the Army Co-operation role at Old Sarum on 28 June 1937 equipped with Hectors, a variant of the Hart equipped with a Napier Dagger engine, specialising in night reconnaissance. The squadron re-equipped with Blenheims in May 1939 and began to operate in the strategic reconnaissance role. It moved to France in October 1939 and flew reconnaissance missions over France and Belgium until German advanced forced it to move back to England from where it continued to carry out its duties. Following the French collapse and fears of invasion, the squadron also undertook bombing missions against invasion barges and associated targets.
Formation of the PRU, meant that its reconnaissance role was no longer relevant and it took on night attacks against ports and airfields, being redesignated a General Reconnaissance unit on 1 April 1941. It now began anti-shipping strikes but in July the squadron received Hudsons for this purpose and the last Blenheim left in September. Between December 1941 and March 1942, the squadron was non-operational as its crews were utilised to fly Hudsons out to the Far East, after which it resumed its attacks along the Dutch coast.
In August 1942 Liberators arrived but by December these had been replaced by Fortress IIAs, however in March 1943 Liberators returned and these were flown for the remainder of the war, initially from Thorney Island but in May the squadron moved to Aldergrove in northern Ireland. Transferring to Ballykelly in September 1943 the squadron remained there until sent back to Waterbeach in September 1945 to join Transport Command. trooping flights to India were undertaken until the squadron was disbanded on 15 June 1946.
The squadron's next incarnation was once again in the transport role when it reformed at Abingdon on 1 December 1947 equipped with Yorks. Operating throughout the Berlin Airlift the squadron disbanded at Bassingbourn on 31 October 1950. So far its final period of life began on 1 September 1956 when No 102 Squadron at Gutersloh was re-numbered No 59. It was now equipped with the Canberra in the Interdictor role, initially B Mk 2s, but from April 1957 it began to receive the dedicated Interdictor version, the B(I) Mk 8. The squadron moved to Geilenkirchen in November 1957 where it remained until re-numbered No 3 Squadron on 4 January 1961.
Motto: Ab uno disce omnes (From one learn all)
Squadron Codes used: -
One of the foremost fighter squadron on the Western Front by the end of the war, this squadron was formed at Gosport on 30 April 1916, departing for France the following month. Equipped with Moranes, which were soon found to be obsolete, it re-equipped with Nieuport 17s in August. These were used by the squadron until July 1917 when they were replaced by SE5s. Amongst the pilots who served with the squadron and later became 'aces', were 'Billy' Bishop (final score 72) and Albert Ball (44), both of whom also received the VC. The squadron returned to Narborough in February 1919 and then Bircham Newton in December, disbanding there on 22 January 1922.
The squadron was reformed on 1 April 1920, when no 97 Squadron at Lahore was re-numbered. It was now equipped with DH10s which it operated in support of ground units along the North-West Frontier of India. DH9As replaced the twin-engined DH10s in April 1923 and these in their turn were replaced by Wapitis in July 1930. Modern equipment arrived in June 1939 when the first Blenheim I arrived, the unit being fully equipped two months later. Coastal patrols became the order of the day from various locations around India, until February 1941 when the squadron moved to Burma. It partly became a fighter squadron again in July, when it received some Buffaloes, but these were transferred to No 67 Squadron in October.
When the Japanese invaded Malaya and Burma, the bulk of the squadron was based in Singapore, and carried out operations against enemy shipping and airfields. At the same time the rest of the squadron returned to India to re-equip with the Blenheim IV, which were used against Japanese targets in Burma until May 1943. Fighters returned to the squadron in August 1943 when the squadron moved to Southern India to re-equip with Hurricanes, which were then used for ground attack and escort duties, flying in support of the 14th Army until May 1945 when it was withdrawn again to re-equip. Its new equipment was the Thunderbolt, but by the time it had completed working up, the war had ended and so it moved to Malaya in September and Java in October.
In December 1946 the squadron returned to Singapore and began converting to Spitfire FR Mk 18s. These were used during the early stages of Operation Firedog, but in December 1950, new equipment arrived in the form of Vampires and then in April 1955, Venoms. In October 1959 the squadron adopted an all-weather fighter role when it received Meteor NF Mk 14s, which in their turn were replaced by Javelins in July 1961 and these were operated until the squadron disbanded at Tengah on 30 April 1968.
Less than a year later on 3 February 1969, the RAF Germany Communications Squadron was redesignated No 60 Squadron at Wildenrath. It was now equipped with Pembroke C Mk 1s and Heron C Mk 4s, with Andover CC Mk 2s arriving in 1971, although these were withdrawn in 1975 and as the Herons had gone in 1972, this left the squadron only operating Pembrokes. Andovers, both C Mk 1s and CC Mk 2s, returned in 1987 and following the retirement of the Pembroke in May 1990, become the units sole types until disbanding on 1 April 1992, its aircraft being absorbed into No 32 Squadron.
A month later on 1 June 1992, the squadron reformed at Benson and Support Helicopter unit equipped with the Wessex HC Mk 2. With the retirement of the Wessex, the squadron disbanded on 31 March 1997. However, on 1 May 1997 the RAF Element of the tri-service Defence Helicopter Flying School at Shawbury was given the designation No 60 Squadron and continued to operate in the advanced training role equipped with the Griffin HT Mk 1.
Motto: Per ardua ad arthera tendo (I strive through difficulties to the sky)
Squadron Codes used: -
*Honours in Black are those the squadron has a been granted the right to emblazon on the Squadron Standard, but does not do so.
Honours in Red are those actually emblazoned on the Squadron Standard
Honours in Blue are those the squadron has not been granted the right to emblazon on the Squadron Standard
All Squadron badges on this page are courtesy of Steve Clements
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Sqns 61 - 65
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