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No 41 - 45 Squadron Histories

No 41 Squadron

Click here to go to badgesOriginally formed in June 1916, this unit was almost immediately re-numbered No 27 (Reserve) Squadron and it was not until 14 July the No 41 actually came into existence at Gosport.  It moved across to the Western Front  in October equipped with FE8s, retaining them until July 1917 when DH5s were received.  SE5As arrived in November 1917 and it flew theses on fighter patrols, ground attack and escort missions for the remainder of the war.  The squadron returned to Britain as a cadre in January 1919 and disbanded at Croydon on 31 December 1919.

It reformed on 1 April 1923 as a single flight fighter squadron equipped with Snipes at Northolt.  A second flight was added in April 1924, whilst at the same time the squadron re-equipped with Siskins and a third flight in July 1925.  Bulldogs replaced the Siskins in October 1931 and then in July 1934, the squadron converted to the two-seat fighter role when it received Demons.

In October 1935, during the Abyssinian Crisis the squadron moved to Aden until August 1936 when it returned to Britain and also reverted back to single seat fighters by re-equipped with Furies at Catterick.  Spitfires arrived in January 1939, with which it flew defensive patrols until joining No 11 Group in May 1940.  Throughout the Battle of Britain the squadron alternated between Hornchurch and Catterick, finally settling at the latter until Jul 1941 when it moved south.  Offensives sweeps over France now became the norm but in August 1942 the squadron moved to Longtown and then Llanbedr to carry out patrols over the Irish Sea.

In February 1943 the squadron became the first in the RAF to operate a Griffon powered Spitfire when it received the first Mk XIIs.  These were used to combat the latest spate of low level attacks by bomb carrying FW190s and Bf109s as well as the usual shipping patrols and bomber escorts.  From April to June 1944 it operated against targets in northern France and from June was involved in 'Operation Crossbow' defending the South-East against V1 flying bombs.  Re-equipping with the Spitfire XIV in September the squadron moved to the continent in October as part of No 125 Wing.  It flew armed reconnaissance missions as part of 2nd TAF for the remainder of the war and was disbanded at Wunstorf by being re-numbered No 26 Squadron on 1 April 1946.

The same day No 122 Squadron at Dalcross was re-numbered No 41.  Moving to Wittering, the squadron was equipped with Spitfire F21s, but in August 1947 it became the 12 Group Instrument Training Unit and re-equipped with Oxfords and Harvards.  Reverting to an operational role in June 1948, it re-equipped with Hornets and remained at Church Fenton until re-equipping with Meteors in January 1951 and moving to Biggin Hill in March.  Meteors remained its main equipment until  August 1955 when Hunters arrived and from 11 February 1949 until 15 April 1955, the squadron had been linked with No 253 Squadron.  The squadron disbanded on 31 January 1958.

The following day No 141 was re-numbered 41 and was now a Javelin all-weather fighter unit at Coltishall, moving to Wattisham in July, where it remained until 6 December 1963 when the squadron disbanded again.  A new 41 Squadron appeared on 1 September 1965, this time equipped with Bloodhound surface-to-air missiles at West Raynham and lasted until 18 September 1970.  The squadron's current incarnation began on 1 April 1972 when it was reformed at Coningsby as a Phantom FGR Mk 2 equipped fighter-reconnaissance unit.  However, the Phantom was only seen as a temporary measure in this role and on 1 October 1976, No 41 (Designate) Squadron equipped with the new Sepecat Jaguar GR Mk 1 began forming, taking over the numberplate of 41 on 1 April 1977, the Phantom unit have disbanded the previous day.  The squadron continued to operate in the low level tactical reconnaissance role from its base at Coltishall, until 3 April 2006, when its numberplate and standard were handed over to the Fast Jet and Weapons OEU at RAF Coningsby.  In early 2010 the squadron was redesignated as a Test and Evaluation Squadron and took over duties previously carried out by the Fast Jet Testing Squadron at Boscombe Down.  In April 2013 it took over responsibility for the Typhoon from No 17 Squadron, which was tasked with testing and evaluating the Joint Strike Fighter, Lightning II, at Edwards Air Force Base in the USA.


Standards Battle Honours*
Award of Standard originally announced on 15 Jan 1952, effective from 1 Apr 1951 but presented:-

lst - 14 July 1957

AM Sir Theodore McEvoy.

2nd - 5 December 1985

ACM Sir Peter Harding.

3rd - 23 September 2011

AM Sir Christopher Harper

Western Front, 1916-1918: Somme, 1916: Arras: Cambrai, 1917: Somme, 1918: Lys: Amiens: Dunkirk: Battle of Britain, 1940: Home Defence, 1940-1944: Fortress Europe, 1940-1944: Dieppe: France & Germany, 1944-1945: Arnhem: Walcheren: Gulf, 1991:

Squadron Codes used: -

PN Jan 1939 - Sep 1939
EB Sep 1939 - Feb 1951
G Used on Jaguars

[Aircraft & Markings | Personnel, aircraft and locations | Commanding Officers]

Steve Brew's Website:  41 (F) Squadron RAF at War and Peace, April 1916-March 1946

Also available by Steve Brew: - “Blood, Sweat and Courage” (41 Sqn, Sep 39-Jul 42) | “Blood, Sweat and Valour” (41 Sqn, Aug 42-May 45) |


No 42 Squadron

Click here to go to badgesFormed at Filton on 1 April 1916 as a Corps reconnaissance unit equipped with BE2s, it moved to France in August.  It replaced its BEs with RE8s in April 1917 and except for three months, November 1917 to March 1918 when it moved to Italy, operated on artillery spotting and other corps activities over the Western Front for the remainder of the war.  The squadron returned to Netheravon in February 1919 where it disbanded on 26 June.

The squadron reformed in the torpedo bombing role on 14 December 1936 from 'B' Flight, No 22 Squadron at Donibristle.  Equipped with the Vildebeest, which was obsolete by the beginning of WW2, it was April 1940 before replacements in the form of Beauforts arrived.  Anti-shipping and minelaying operations began in June 1940 and continued until June 1942 when the squadron was transferred to the Far East.  However, the situation in the Middle East resulted in them being held in the area and attached to No 47 Squadron, so it was December before the squadron arrived in Ceylon.

In February 1943 the squadron changed role when it re-equipped with Blenheims which it used over Burma.  The squadron was taken off operations again in August and further re-equipment brought yet another change of role, this time to that of ground attack with Hurricanes.  Hurricane missions began in December 1943 and continued up until May 1945 and the squadron disbanded on the 30th of the following month.  However, the next day No 146 Squadron equipped with Thunderbolts was re-numbered 42 and operations continued until a further disbandment on 30 December 1945.

No 42 rejoined Coastal Command and reverted to the strike role on 1 October 1946 when No 254 Squadron at Thorney Island was re-numbered.  It now operated Beaufighters and continued to do so until 15 October 1947, when it disbanded yet again.  From 11 Feb 1949 until  27 June 1952 the squadron number was linked to No 141 and the following day, 28 June 1952, the squadron was revived as a maritime reconnaissance unit at St Eval equipped with Shackleton MR Mk 1s.  The squadron moved to St Mawgan in October 1958, having received Shackleton MR Mk 2 in 1954.  It successively re-equipped with MR Mk 3s in December 1965, Nimrod MR Mk 1s in April 1971 and finally Nimrod MR Mk 2s in June 1983, the last MR Mk 1 leaving in July.  On 1 October 1992, the squadron disbanded but the numberplate was immediately transferred to the Nimrod OCU at Kinloss as No 42 (Reserve) Squadron, which had previously been No 38 (Reserve) Squadron.  In April 2010 the Nimrod MR Mk 2 was retired from service and the unit began preparing to train the instructors and develop courses prior to the introduction of the new MRA Mk 4, however the Strategic Defence and Security Review of 2011 decided to scrap these aircraft and the squadron disbanded in April 2011.

Standards Battle Honours*
Award of Standard originally announced on 10 Oct 1961, effective from 1 Apr 1961 but presented:-

14 July 1966

HM Queen Elizabeth II

Western Front, 1916-1918: Italian Front & Adriatic, 1917-1918: Somme, 1916: Arras, 1917: Ypres, 1917: Lys: Channel & North Sea, 1939-1942: Biscay, 1940: Baltic, 1941: Fortress Europe, 1941: Pacific, 1943-1945: Eastern Waters, 1943: Arakan, 1943-1944: Manipur, 1944: Burma, 1944-1945:

South Atlantic. 1982: Gulf, 1991:

Squadron Codes used: -

QD Allocated Apr 1939 - Sep 1939, but probably not used
AW Sep 1939 - Jun 1942, 1943 - Dec 1945
QM Oct 1946 - Oct 1947
A Jun 1952 - 1956
42 1956 - 1968

[Aircraft & Markings | Personnel, aircraft and locations | Commanding Officers]


No 43 (China-British) Squadron

Click here to go to badges'The Fighting Cocks' were formed on 15 April 1916 at Stirling equipped with various types, which it used for training until December 1916 when Sopwith 1½ Strutters arrived. These were taken to the Western Front the following month, where it operated as an Army squadron carrying out fighter reconnaissance duties.  In September 1917, Camels arrived and ground attack replaced the reconnaissance duties and the squadron continued in this vein until the end of the war.   Snipe began to be received in August 1918 and conversion was completed in October but the Armistice prevented these playing a major part in the conflict, instead they were taken to Germany for occupation duties until August 1919 when the squadron moved to Spittlegate where it disbanded on 31 December 1919.

The squadron reformed on 1 July 1923 at Henlow, again it was a fighter squadron and initially it was equipped with its previous mount the Snipe.  However, Gamecocks were received in March 1926 and conversion was complete by May.  It was this aircraft which led the squadron to adopt the 'fighting cock' as its emblem resulting in its famous 'nickname'.  The squadron moved to Tangmere in December 1926 where Siskins replaced the Gamecocks in June 1928.  These in their turn were replaced by Furies in May 1931 and hurricanes in Nov 1938.

A move north in late 1939 lasted until May 1940 when the squadron returned to Tangmere and later Northolt, where it took part in the early part of the Battle of Britain.  A move to Usworth in September and them Drem in December allowed the squadron to re-equip and act in a training role as well as carry out defensive duties.  In June 1942 it returned to Tangmere and offensive operations over France, but the centre of operations was shifting and in September the squadron prepared to move to the Middle East.

It arrived in Gibraltar in November and was soon operating from bases in Algeria, where in February 1943 it converted to Spitfires.  From June it covered the landings in Sicily from its new base on Malta after which it moved to newly captured airfields on Sicily itself.  Its next move was to Italy in September providing fighter patrols for the advancing armies.  For six weeks from July 1944 it was based in Corsica to cover the Allied landings in Southern France, 'Operation Dragoon', after which it returned to Italy, where it remained for the remainder of WW2.  Occupation duties in Austria and Italy lasted until the squadron disbanded on 16 May 1947 at Treviso.

A new 43 Squadron appeared on 1 February 1949 when No 266 Squadron was renumbered.  It once again found itself at its 'traditional' home of Tangmere, but this was short-lived as the squadron was moved north to Leuchars in Scotland in November 1950.  Initially equipped with Meteors, Hunters arrived in August 1954.  After nearly eleven years at Leuchars the squadron moved to Cyprus in June 1961 and Aden in March 1963, where it disbanded on 14 October 1967.  During the period 13 Mar 1951 to 31 May 1956, the squadron was linked to No 17 in order to keep that squadron's number active.

However, it was not long before 43 returned and a new squadron was formed at Leuchars on 1 September 1969.  It was still in the fighter role but was now equipped with the Phantom FG Mk 1, which it continued to operate until Jul 1989.  It also used some FGR Mk 2s from May 1988 to November 1988.  In July 1989 the squadron's last Phantom was retired and the squadron began training on the Tornado F Mk 3, its first aircraft being received in September when the squadron became operational again.  It continued to fly these in the air defence role from its base at Leuchars until June 2009 when it was disbanded once again. 

Standards Battle Honours*
Award of Standard originally announced on 15 Jan 1952, effective from 1 Apr 1951 but presented:-

lst - 4 June 1957

HM Queen Elizabeth II.

2nd - 26 May 1988

HM Queen Elizabeth II.

Western Front, 1917-1918: Arras: Ypres, 1917: Cambrai, 1917: Somme, 1918: Lys: Amiens: Dunkirk: Battle of Britain, 1940: Home Defence, 1940-1942: Fortress Europe, 1942: Dieppe: North Africa, 1942-1943: Sicily, 1943: Salerno: Italy, 1943-1945: Anzio & Nettuno: Gustav Line: France & Germany, 1944

Gulf, 1991:  Iraq 2003:

Squadron Codes used: -

NQ Nov 1938 - Sep 1939
FT Sep 1939 - May 1947
SW Feb 1949 - Apr 1951
A Carried on Phantoms
G Carried on Tornados

[Aircraft & Markings | Personnel, aircraft and locations | Commanding Officers]


No 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron

Click here to go to badgesFormed as a Home Defence Unit at Hainault Farm on 24 July 1917, its initial equipment was Sopwith 1½ Strutters but these were soon replace by Camels.  One of its CO's at this time was Major A T Harris (later MRAF Sir Arthur Harris).  The Camels were used for night patrols which was not the easiest of activities in a Camel and in January 1918 Captain G H Hackwill and 2nd Lieutenant C C Banks destroyed a Gotha, thereby making history with the first ever night victory in air combat.  However, this also remained the squadron's only victory and it eventually disbanded on 31 December 1919.

The squadron reformed as a day bomber unit with Hinds on 8 March 1937 at Wyton.  Blenheims arrived in December and these in turn were replaced with Hampdens and Ansons in February 1939.  Its first task was to act as the 5 Group conversion unit, converting pilots from single to twin engined aircraft for the other squadrons in the Group.

The squadron reverted to operational status on 1 June 1939 and following the outbreak of war by which time it was commanded by Wg Cdr J N Boothman, carried out sweeps over the North Sea and leaflet dropping raids.  It started bombing raids in April 1940 but by the end of 1941 it was declared non-operational and tasked with working up a new type - the Lancaster.  Operations began in March and on 17 April a daring low level daylight was attempted on the M.A.N. engine works in Augsburg.  This resulted in the award of the Victoria Cross to the leader of the raid, Sqn Ldr J Nettleton, a flight commander on No 44.  The squadron continued to operate in Bomber Command's Main Force until the end of the war.

After the war the squadron was retained and gradually re-equipped with Lincolns, although the last Lancaster did not leave until May 1947.  In January 1951 the squadron exchanged these for Washingtons, the British version of the Boeing B29. and these were in turn replaced by Canberras in Apr 1953.  During the Suez Crisis, the squadron operated from Cyprus but on 16 July 1957 it disbanded.  Between 1 February 1949 and 14 July 1957 it was linked with No 55 Squadron. The squadron reformed on 10 August 1960 as a Vulcan equipped part of the V-Force.  The original B Mk 1s were taken over from No 83 Squadron and retained until August 1962.  Vulcan B Mk 1As arrived in January 1961 and B Mk 2s arrived in September 1966, the B Mk 1As remained until September 1967 after which it only operated the B Mk 2.  These remained in service at Waddington until 21 December 1982 when the squadron disbanded for the last time.

Standards Battle Honours*
Award of Standard originally announced on 26 Nov 1963 , effective from 1 Apr 1963 but presented:-


Home Defence, 1917-18: Channel & North Sea, 1939-45: Invasion Ports, 1940: German Ports, Baltic, 1940-45: 1940 - 45: France & Low Countries, 1940: Biscay Ports, 1940-44: Ruhr, 1940-43 & 1945: Berlin 1940-44: Atlantic, 1942: Normandy, 1944: Rhine: Fortress Europe, 1940-44: France & Germany, 1944-45: Walcheren:

Squadron Codes used: -

JW Oct 1938 - Sep 1939
KM Sep 1939 - Jan 1951

[Aircraft & Markings | Personnel, aircraft and locations | Commanding Officers]


No 45 Squadron

Click here to go to badgesFormed at Gosport on 1 March 1916 as a fighter-reconnaissance squadron equipped with Sopwith 1½ Strutters moving to the Western Front in October.  It re-equipped with Camel in July 1917 and moved to Italy in November, where it remained until September 1918.  On its return to France, in September 1918, it joined the Independent Force.  It was intended to re-equip the squadron with specially modified Snipe for long range escort work, but these never materialised and it continued to operate Camels on normal fighter duties until the end of the war.  Like many other units it returned to Britain as a cadre in February 1919 and disbanded on 31 December.

The squadron reformed in Egypt on 1 April 1921 as a transport unit equipped with DH9s and then Vimys, which it used to begin pioneering air routes throughout the Middle East, these being replaced by Vernons in March 1922.  At the same time the squadron moved to Iraq, where it established the Baghdad-Cairo air mail service and provided in-theatre transport support.  During this time one of its COs was Sqn Ldr A T Harris (later MRAF Sir Arthur Harris) who modified the Vernons so that they could be used as bombers for air policing duties; his two Flight Commanders being Flt Lts R H M S Saundby (later AM Sir Robert) and R A Cochrane (later ACM Sir Ralph).  The squadron was reduced to a single flight on 1 November 1926 and on 17 January 1927 the squadron was reduced to a cadre which was transferred to Egypt where it was parented by No 47 Sqn.

No 45 regained its independence, at Heliopolis on 25 April 1927 with DH9As,  its area of operations covering Egypt and Palestine, its function being to provide a regional reserve which implied a high degree of mobility, its aircraft being seen as far afield as South Africa, Nigeria, Iraq and India, sometimes in full squadron strength, and occasionally being deployed to Palestine when trouble flared.  Fairey IIIFs arrived in September 1929 and these were replaced by Gordons in December 1935.  'B' Flight was permanently detached to Nairobi in Kenya from September 1935 to December 1936, when it became No 223 Squadron.  Meanwhile, 45 received its first Wellesleys in November 1937 and Blenheims in June 1939.  It began operations on 11 June 1940, the day after the Italian declaration of war, and subsequently operated over the Western Desert, Abyssinia, Palestine and Iraq.

However, in February 1942 the squadron found itself on the move again, this time to Burma.  Having arrived during the British withdrawal from the country it re-assembled in India and soon began bombing attacks on Japanese lines of communications in a hopeless attempt to stem the Japanese advance.   In December 1942, the squadron re-equipped with American built Vengence dive bombers and after working up on these began operations with the new aircraft in June 1943.  Further re-equipment started in February 1944 when Mosquitos arrived but problems with the glue used in their construction meant the squadron was not ready for operations until September.  In May 1945 the squadron returned to Madras in India, in preparation for the proposed invasion of Malaya but flew no more operations during the war.

Post-war (a war in which it had been one of very few units to engage German, Italian, Vichy French and Japanese forces) the squadron stayed in the area, moving to Ceylon in October1945, in the maritime strike role, having received some Beaufighters in December 1946.  By the end of the year the squadron had been redesignated as a light bomber unit.  In August 1948 a detachment was sent to Malaya to operate against Communist terrorists (Operation FIREDOG) and in May 1949 the rest of the squadron moved to Kuala Lumper.  Brigands began to replace the Beaufighters in September 1949 and at the end of the year the squadron moved to Tengah, where the conversion process was completed.  Hornets started arriving in January 1952 and in 1955 it returned to Malaya, this time to Butterworth where, between 31 March and 14 October, the squadron’s number plate was linked with that of No 33 Sqn. Unfortunately, the Hornets were grounded in May and the squadron had to make do with a mixed collection of Vampires and Meteors for several months before being remounted on Venoms at the end of the year. In late 1957 the Venoms were phased out and the squadron returned to Tengah where it was joined by a new air echelon which had been working up in the UK on Canberras B.2s; its primary function now was to provide an element of the regional Commonwealth Strategic Reserve

Re-equipped with Canberra B.15s in 1962, the squadron promptly became involved in the Brunei Revolution which developed into the Confrontation with Indonesia resulting in varying states of tension until the situation was resolved in 1966. The UK’s withdrawal from East of Suez meant the end of No 45 Sqn’s half-century of overseas service and it disbanded on 18 February 1970.

The squadron was reformed at West Raynham on 1 August 1972, equipped with Hunters nominally in the ground attack role, moving to Wittering in September 1972.  In reality, its function was to provide newly trained fast-jet pilots with a period of consolidation flying in an operational environment before they progressed to more demanding front line types.  The squadron disbanded on 26 July 1976 when its role was assumed by the Tactical Weapons Unit.  No 45 Squadron has had two subsequent periods of existence in the shadow/reserve role.  The first was from 1 January 1984 until 31 March 1992 when the number was allocated to the Tornado Weapons Conversion Unit (TWCU) at Honington and the most recent and current from 1 July 1992 when the number was allocated to the Multi-Engined Training Squadron (METS) at No 6 FTS, Finningley.  No 45/METS moved to Cranwell on 1 October 1995, from where it operated its Jetstreams until March 2004, when they were retired; its new equipment being Beechcraft King Air 200s leased from and serviced by a civil contractor.  In early 2018 the last of the King Airs was retired and were replaced by five Embrear Phenoms.

Thanks to Wg Cdr C G Jefford, for the latest amendments to this squadron history - 24 July 2004

Standards Battle Honours*
Award of Standard originally announced on 7 Sep 1943, effective from 1 Apr 1943 but presented:-

1st - 9 February 1955

AM Sir Francis J Fressanges.

2nd - 4 October 1994

ACM Sir Andrew Wilson

Western Front, 1916-1917: Somme, 1916: Ypres, 1917: Italian Front & Adriatic, 1917-1918: Piave: Independent Force & Germany, 1918: Egypt & Libya, 1940--1942: East Africa, 1940: Syria,1941: Burma, 1942: Arakan, 1943-1944: Burma, 1944-1945:

Kurdistan, 1922-1924: Iraq, 1923-1925:

Squadron Codes used: -

DD Apr 1939 - Sep 1939
OB Sep 1939 - May 1955
A - Z Carried on Jetstreams

[Aircraft & Markings | Personnel, aircraft and locations | Commanding Officers]

*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

Squadron badge image on this page is courtesy of Steve Clements

© Crown Copyright is reproduced with the permission of the Directorate of Intellectual Property Rights

This page was last updated on 29/10/18

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