Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation

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No 116 - 120 Squadron Histories

No 116 Squadron

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Originally formed at Andover on 31 March 1918 as a night bombing unit, it moved to Bicester the following day.   Initial training was carried out on FE2b's pending equipment with Handley Page O/400's, but the Armistice arrived before the aircraft and the squadron disbanded on 20 Nov 1918.

On 17 February 1941, No 1 Anti-Aircraft Calibration Flight at Hatfield was raised to squadron status as No 116.  Equipped with Lysanders, its role was to calibrate the various Anti-Aircraft predictors and radars scattered around the UK.  In November Hurricanes arrived to supplement the Lysanders by simulating dive bombing and low level attacks.  The squadron operated its aircraft in a number of detachments whilst its headquarters moved from Hatfield to Hendon, Heston, Croydon, North Weald, Gatwick, Redhill and finally Hornchurch.  The Lysanders were eventually replaced by Oxfords and some Ansons and Tiger Moths were introduced to calibrate AA radars.  The squadron disbanded at Hornchurch on 26 May 1945.

A new No 116 Squadron formed on 1 August 1952 when the Calibration Squadron of the Central Signals Establishment was re-numbered.  It flew a mix of Ansons, Varsities and Lincolns (only to 1954) until it disbanded once again on 21August 1958 by being re-numbered No 115 Squadron.



Squadron Codes used: -  

ZD Allocated Apr 1939 - Sep 1939
II Feb 1941 - May 1945

[Aircraft & Markings | Commanding Officers]

No 117 Squadron


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Formed at Beaulieu as a day bomber unit on 1 January 1918, it began to train on DH4s but on 4 July formation was suspended and the squadron disbanded.  It began to form again in September at Norwich, but its personnel were posted away in October.  The next day a third attempt began at Wyton and by the end of November equipment had arrived in the form of DH9s.   The survived the post-war demobilisation and in May 1919, it moved to Ireland for internal security operations, finally disbanding on 31 January 1920, when it was merged with No 141 Squadron to form No 100 Squadron.

 The squadron reformed on 30 April 1941 at Khartoum as a Communications unit, for use along the Takoradi - Khartoum leg of the 'Takoradi Route', then being used for the delivery of reinforcement aircraft for the Middle East..   The squadron was also used to carry out re-supply missions to desert bases.  In November 1941, the bulk of the squadron moved to Egypt, leaving the communications types in the Sudan.  Freight services were now being operated to airfields in the Western Desert and from August 1942 it was using Dakotas for similar duties to Malta.  In November the squadron at last standardised on a single type, which in this case was the Hudson.

In June 1943 the squadron converted to Dakotas and began operating services around the Mediterranean, which lasted until October when it moved to India.  Operations began there in January 1944 after the unit had undergone parachute training.  Amongst its responsibilities, it flew Chindits into action behind the Japanese lines and then re-supplied them during March and April 1944.  Following a rest in November, the squadron returned to supply dropping in December and continued this up to the end of the war, disbanding on 17 December 1945.


Squadron Codes used: -  

EX Allocated Apr 1939 - Sep 1939
LD Jul 1942 - Sep 1943 (Carried on Hudsons)

[Aircraft & Markings | Commanding Officers]

No 118 Squadron


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Formed at Catterick on 1 January 1918, it was intended as a heavy bomber unit equipped with Handley Page O/400s, but after moving to Bicester in June it disbanded on 7 September.  It formation was re-scheduled for December as a Vimy bomber unit, but the Armistice brought these plans to an end.

The squadron reformed as a fighter unit at Filton on 20 February 1941, equipped with Spitfire IIs.  Operations began in March and in April it made three moved until ending up at Ibsley, but in August it moved again to Tangmere.  Until January 1945 the squadron moved around the UK carrying out defensive duties, offensive sweeps and escort duties as location and circumstances demanded, when it converted to Mustangs.  Long range escort missions began on 1 February 1945 and continued until the end of the war, the squadron disbanding on 10 March 1946.

The squadron underwent two further incarnations, the first beginning on 15 May 1951, when it reformed as a fighter-bomber unit at Fassberg, equipped with Vampire FB Mk 5s.  These were replaced in November 1953 by Venom FB Mk 1s and then in May 1955, the squadron moved to Jever, where it joined No 121 Wing.  At the same time it converted from Venoms to Hunter F Mk 4s and also reverted to the day fighter role, until disbanding on 22 August 1957.  The last incarnation lasted from 12 May 1960 until 31 August 1962, when it was reformed from the Sycamore Flight of No 228 Squadron at Aldergrove.


Squadron Codes used: -

RE Allocated Apr 1939 - Sep 1939
NK Feb 1941 - Mar 1946
A Apr 1951  - Mar 1955

[Aircraft & Markings | Commanding Officers]

No 119 Squadron

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Formed on 1 March 1918 at Andover as a day bomber unit, it failed to become operational before the Armistice and disbanded at Wyton on 6 December 1918.

On 21 September 1940, three Short S26 'G' Class flying boats of BOAC were taken over by the RAF and fitted with turrets and bomb racks, placed at Bowmere and designated 'G' Flight.  The flight also operated three 'C' Class flying boats, but these were withdrawn and transferred to transport duties in October.   119 squadron reformed at on 13 March 1941, when 'G' Flight was raised to squadron status.  However, in August the squadron moved to Pembroke Dock, and when the last boats were retired in October the squadron became non-operational.  The squadron moved to Lough Erne in Northern Ireland on 14 April 1942 and received Catalinas, moving to Pembroke Dock in September. Here the squadron re-equipped once again, this time with Sunderlands, which it continued to operate until disbanding on 17 April 1943.

The squadron reformed on 19 July 1944 from the Albacore Flight of No 415 Squadron at Manston.  Controlled by No 155 Wing, the squadron carried out night attacks against E and R-boats and in October 1944, it moved to Belgium, where it was nearer to its quarry.  Ironically the Albacores were replaced in January 1945 by the type it had been designed to replace, the Swordfish and these continued in use until the end of the war, the squadron disbanding on 25 May 1945 at Bircham Newton.


Squadron Codes used: -  

OM Allocated Apr 1939 - Sep 1939
NH Jul 1944 - May 1945

[Aircraft & Markings | Commanding Officers]

No 120 Squadron


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Formed at Lympne on 1 January 1918 it was destined as a day bomber unit with the Independent Force to be equipped with DH9As, although it used DH9s for training until October 1918.  The Armistice brought to an end any plans for the deployment of the squadron to France and instead it moved to Hawkinge in May 1919, from where it carried out a mail service to and from France until August and was disbanded on 21 October 1919.

The squadron reformed at Nutt's Corner in Northern Ireland on 2 June 1941 as the first RAF unit to operate the Liberator in the maritime reconnaissance role.  In April 1943 the squadron re-located to Iceland from where it was able to cover a much greater area of the North Atlantic, thereby effectively closing the 'Atlantic Gap'.  By the time the squadron returned to Ballykelly, it had sunk 19 U-boats.  The squadron disbanded on 4 June 1945.

The squadron re-entered the order of battle on 1October 1946, when No 160 Squadron at Leuchars was renumbered.  Initially equipped with Lancasters, these were replaced by Shackletons in April 1951 and from 15 February 1949 until 23 September 1951 had No 220 Squadron linked to it.  The squadron has continued to operate in the maritime reconnaissance role to the present day, moving to Kinloss in December 1949, Aldergrove in April 1952 and back to its present base of Kinloss in April 1959.  It operated Shackletons until February 1971, when it became fully equipped with the Nimrod MR Mk 1, which had begun to arrive in October 1970.  The Nimrod MR Mk 2 began to replace the Mk 1s in April 1981 and was completed in February 1982, remaining in service until April 2010 when the type was retired from RAF service pending the arrival of the new MRA Mk 4, however the Strategic Defence Review of 2011 decided to scrap these aircraft and the squadron disbanded.  It reformed as the RAF's first P-8A Poseidon unit on 1 April 2018, at NAS Jacksonville, Florida operating with the USN, eventually receiving its first Poseidon MRA Mk 1 on 31 October 2019 before returning to the UK in February 2020.  Destined to operate from RAF Lossiemouth, it initially operated from Kinloss Barracks pending completion of runway improvements at Lossiemouth.



Standards Battle Honours*

Award of Standard originally announced on 15 Jan 1952, effective from 1 Apr 1951 as a mark of His Majesty's appreciation of its outstanding achievements in operations and presented:-

1st - 14 August 1961

HM Queen Elizabeth II.

2nd - 26 May 1988

HRH The Duke of Edinburgh

3rd - xx xxx 2021

AM G Mayhew

Atlantic, 1941-1945: Biscay, 1941-1944: Arctic, 1942-1944: Channel & North Atlantic, 1941-1944:

South Atlantic, 1982: Gulf, 1991:  Iraq 2003: Iraq 2003-2011:

Squadron Codes used: -  

MX Allocated Apr 1939 - Sep 1939
OH Jun 1941 - Dec 1941, Jul 1944 - Jun 1945
BS Oct 1946 - Mar 1951(Codes taken over from No 160 Sqn)
A Mar 1951 - Apr 1956
120 Apr 1956 - Feb 1971?

[Aircraft & Markings | 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 08/05/24

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