Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation
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Formed as a night bomber squadron at Farnborough on 12 July 1917, it moved to the Western Front at the end that month. It was equipped with FE2s, and these remained its main equipment throughout the war, using them against a variety of enemy targets in France and Belgium. It returned to Filton in March 1919 as a cadre and disbanded on 31 December of the same year.
The squadron reformed on 21 March 1928 at Bircham Newton, equipped with DH9As, but in the following March it began to re-equip with Sidestrands, the only squadron to operate the type. In January 1935, the Sidestrand's successor, the Overstrand, began to arrive and in July 1936 was fully equipped with the type.
Having been the only RAF's twin-engined light bomber squadron for eight years, this changed in 1938, when the Blenheim began to enter service, 101 began receiving theirs in June, the process being completed by August. It was 4 July 1940 before the squadron carried out its first operation, having been involved in training up to that point. Unlike many Blenheim units, the squadron converted to Wellingtons in April 1941 becoming part of Bomber Command's Main Force in June. It took part in raids against Germany and Italy as well as taking part in the three 'Thousand Bomber' raids of May/June 1942.
The squadron converted to Lancasters in October 1942 and for the next year continued to operate as a normal bomber unit, but in October 1943, its aircraft were equipped with 'Airborne Cigar' (ABC) equipment, which was used to jam German radio frequencies. To carry out this function each squadron aircraft needed an extra, German speaking, crew member, whose task was to scan the German frequencies and jam those in use. However, the signals emitted by this equipment also made the aircraft easy to home onto and No 101 suffered heavy losses as a result. During the D-Day landings the aircraft its aircraft were used to monitor and jam German night fighter operations in the invasion area. Unlike other Radio Counter-Measures (RCM) units, the squadron remained part of No 1 Group and to fly amongst the main bomber stream and was not transferred to No 100 Group.
The squadron was retained in the post-war RAF making its home at Binbrook and in August 1946, its Lancasters were replaced by Lincolns. In May 1951, the squadron became the first unit in the RAF to operate the jet powered Canberra and did so until disbanding on 1 February 1957. Fortunately the squadron was not disbanded for long as on 15 October the same year, it reformed at Finningley as a Vulcan unit. It moved to Waddington in June 1961 where it remained until disbanding again on 4 August 1982. However, just prior to disbandment the squadron was able to prove the Vulcan in action when on 1 May 1982 Flight Lieutenant Martin Withers of the squadron carried out the first 'Black Buck' mission dropping 21 1,000lb bombs on the airport at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. No 101s latest incarnation began on 1 May 1984, when it was reformed at Brize Norton to operate VC10 tanker aircraft, which it continues to the present day. In October 2005, the squadron absorbed the aircraft and crews of No 10 Squadron, when it was disbanded on the 14th of the month. The last VC10 left the squadron on 13 September 2013 and the unit became the second unit to operate the Voyager.
Motto: Mens agitat molem (Mind over matter)
Squadron Codes used: -
Book on the loss of Lancaster LL779
Formed in August 1917 at Hingham in the night bomber role equipped with FE 2b's and d's, it moved to France in September . Operating against a variety of targets behind enemy lines until the Armistice. It returned to Britain in March 1919 and disbanded at Lympne on 3 July 1919.
The squadron was reformed from 'B' Flight on No 7 Squadron at Worthy Down on 1 October 1935 but it was the following March before it was able to operate as an independent squadron. Equipped with Heyfords, the squadron moved north to its new base at Finningley in Yorkshire in September 1936.
Moves followed to Honington (July 1937) and Driffield (Jul 1938), where in October 1938 it began to receive Whitleys. These were taken on operations, albeit leaflet dropping, on the first night of world War 2. A move to Leeming in August 1940 was short-lived as in September the squadron was attached to Coastal Command and began convoy patrols from Prestwick.
The squadron returned to Bomber Command in October 1940 when it moved into Linton-on-Ouse. A move to Topcliffe in November 1940 saw the squadron settled for a year until it moved to nearby Dalton, where it began to receive Halifaxes in December 1941 with the last Whitley operation being flown on 31 January 1942. A brief return to Topcliffe in June 1942 was followed by a move to Pocklington on 7 August of that year.
Conversion continued at Pocklington with the first operation taking place on 14 April 1942. Mk II's were replaced by Mk III's in May 1944 and it continued to operate the type until the end of the war. By the end of the war the squadron had dropped 14,118 tons of bombs as well as laying 1,865 mines. Together with other units of No 4 Group, the squadron was transferred to Transport Command on 8 May 1945 and in July, Halifax VI's were received but in September a move to Bassingbourn found these being replaced by Liberators. It now undertook trooping duties to India but not for long as on 28 February 1946 the squadron was disbanded at Upwood.
From 1 February 1949 until 19 Oct 1954, the squadron number was linked to that of No 49 Squadron, but on 20 October 1954, No 102 was reformed in its own right. It was now a Canberra light bomber unit within No 2 Tactical Air Force based at Gutersloh. However, its re-incarnation was short-lived as it disbanded on 20 August 1956 by being re-numbered No 59 Squadron. The squadron's final incarnation began on 1 August 1959 when it became a Thor equipped IRBM unit based at Full Sutton, not far from it's wartime base of Pocklington.
Motto: Tentate et perficite (Attempt and Achieve)
Squadron Codes used: -
Formed at Beaulieu as a day bomber unit on 1 September 1917, it was equipped with DH9 and moved to France in May 1918. For the rest of the war it carried out raids against various enemy targets behind the front lines, eventually returning to Shotwick in March 1919 as a cadre and disbanding on 1 October 1919.
It reformed on 10 August 1936 as a light bomber unit at Andover, equipped with Hinds. Moving north to Usworth in February 1938, the squadron received Battles in July and returned south to Abingdon in August. On the outbreak of war, it joined the Advanced Air Striking Force in France, flying reconnaissance missions until May 1940 when it undertook attacks against bridges and the advancing German columns. On 21 May, it took over No 218's aircraft but by the time it returned to Britain in mid June, it only had about eight aircraft left. It continued to operate against the build up of invasion barges in the channel ports at night until October when it re-equipped with Wellingtons.
Operations with Wellingtons began in December 1940 from Newton, but in July 1941, the squadron moved to Elsham Wolds, where it remained until the end of the war. In July 1942 the squadron re-equipped with Halifax IIs, but these were only used for three months and Lancasters arrived in November. It continued to fly as part of Bomber Command's Main Force for the remainder of the war, disbanding on 26 November 1945 by being renumbered No 57 Squadron. One of its aircraft, Lancaster III - ED888 - PM-M2, completed 140 operations between 4 May 1943 and December 1944, although only 75 of these were with No 103 Squadron, the other 65 being with No 576 Squadron, this was a Bomber Command record.
From 1 February 1949 until 30 November 1954, the squadron number was linked to that of No 50 Squadron but on the 30th, the squadron was reformed at Gutersloh as a Canberra unit within No 551 Wing, but disbanded on 1 August 1956. Three years later to the day, No 284 Squadron in Cyprus was renumbered 103 and until disbanding into No's 1563 and 1564 Flights on 31 July 1963, it provided helicopter support, Sycamores, to the security forces on the island. The following day, 1 August, it reformed from 'B' Flight of No 110 Squadron at Seletar. It was again a helicopter unit, but now equipped with Whirlwind HAR Mk 10s, which it used to support ground forces in both Malaya and Borneo as well as carry out search and rescue missions as required. In November 1972, the Whirlwinds were replaced by Wessex HC Mk 2s but on 31 July 1075 the squadron disbanded.
Motto: Nili me tangere (Touch me not)
Squadron Codes used: -
No 103 Squadron website by David Fell: - http://www.elshamwolds.50g.com/1031.html
Formed at Wyton as a light bomber unit on 4 September 1917 equipped with DH9s, it soon moved to Andover from where it transferred to France in May 1918. As part of the Independent Force, the squadron was involved in attacks against industrial targets in the Saar region of Germany. Just before the Armistice, the squadron was in the process of converting to the DH10, but the end of the war put pay to this and in February 1919, it returned to Turnhouse and disbanded at Crail on 31 June 1919.
The squadron reformed at Abingdon on 7 January 1936 when 'C' Flight of No 40 Squadron was raised to squadron status, although it was attached to No 40 until July. Equipped with Hinds, it moved to Hucknell in August 1936 and Bassingbourn in May 1938, where it re-equipped with Blenheim Is. However, the outbreak of war did not see the squadron becoming operational, instead it was designated a Group Pool squadron and was involved in training crews for the other squadrons in the group. This came to an end on 8 April 1940, when it was absorbed into No 13 Operational Training Unit.
When the squadron reformed next, it was in the night bomber role at Driffield on 1 April 1941. Equipped with Wellingtons, it began operations in May and continued these a part of No 4 Group until February 1942. On October 1941 a detachment was sent to Malta for attacks against targets in North Africa and Italy, moving to Egypt in January 1942, where it was reunited with its ground echelon. the detachment was then informed that it was being renumbered as No 158 Squadron but on the 31th this was rescinded and the Driffield based component was renumbered 158, with the Middle East element retaining the number 104.
The squadron then continued with its night assault against targets in the Western Desert until the end of the North African campaign, after which the squadron occupied airfields in Tunisia from where it attacked targets in Sicily and Italy. In December 1943 the squadron was able to move onto the Italian mainland from where it concentrated its attacks on targets in Northern Italy and the Balkans until the end of the war. It eventually received replacements fore its aging Wellingtons in February 1945, when Liberators arrived and these were retained until November, when having moved back to Egypt the previous month, it received Lancasters, remaining as part of the post-war RAF in the region. However, on 1 April 1947 the squadron disbanded at Shallufa.
Following disbandment, the squadron number was revived on 1 February 1949 when it was linked to No 157 Squadron but this ended on 14 March 1955 and the following day it was reformed as a Canberra equipped light bomber unit of No 551 Wing at Gutersloh, disbanding on 1 August 1956. Its final incarnation lasted from 22 July 1959 to 24 May 1963 as a Thor equipped Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile unit at Ludford Magna.
Motto: Strike hard
Squadron Codes used: -
Formed at Andover as a day bomber unit on 14 September 1917, it was redesignated as a Corps Reconnaissance unit in April 1918. Equipped with RE8s it was sent to Ireland, instead of France as originally planned, to provide support to local security units. Bristol Fighter replaced the RE8s in December 1918 and the squadron remained in Ireland until disbanding on 1 February 1920.
The squadron reformed from 'B' Flight of No 18 Squadron at Upper Heyford on 12 April 1937 as a light bomber unit equipped Audaxes, which it took to Harwell at the end of that month. New equipment arrived in the form of Fairey Battles in August 1937 and these were taken to France as part of the Advanced Air Striking Force in September 1939. following the German invasion of May 1940, the squadron threw itself into attacks against the advancing columns, but by June it was forced to evacuate to Britain.
Here it re-equipped with Blenheims and joined No 2 Group and for the next year carried out low-level daylight raids against enemy shipping, ports and airfields. On one such mission on 4 July 1941, nine aircraft from 105 and six from 107 carried out a raid against docks and factories in Bremen. Wing Commander Hughie Edwards, the OC of No 105 Squadron attacked under extremely fierce enemy fire flying through the balloon barrage and strafing targets after he had released his bombs. His aircraft was hit several times and his gunner had his knee shattered but he managed to escape the fire and fly his Blenheim back to England. For this operation, he was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Later that month the squadron provided the No 2 Group detachment to Malta, returning to Horsham St Faith in September, where in November it began to receive new equipment. It had been selected to introduce the De Havilland Mosquito into RAF service as a bomber. The squadron was involved in training with its new equipment, until May 1942, when it carried out its first operation with this remarkable aircraft. The squadron soon developed the low-level precision attacks, for the which the Mosquito will be forever remembered. However, in June 1943, the squadron's aircraft were equipped with a new device, 'Oboe' and was transferred to No 8 (Pathfinder Force) Group. It was now tasked with the precision marking at night of targets for Bomber Command's Main Force, a role it retained until the end of the war. The squadron disbanded on 1 February 1946.
From 1 February 1949 until 1February 1957, the squadron number was linked to No 109 Squadron, but it would be 21 February 1962 before the squadron reformed again. Initially bases at Benson, it was equipped with Argosies in the transport role, which it took to Aden in June of that year, where it provided support to security forces in the region. With the run-down of forces in Aden, the squadron moved to Bahrain in August 1967, disbanding there on 20 January 1968.
Motto: Fortis in proeliis (Valiant in battles)
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 106 - 110
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