Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation
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The springbok in the squadron badge commemorates the fact that the squadron was originally formed for service in East Africa being manned by personnel who had previously in the South African Flying Unit. It formed on 8 October 1915 at Netheravon leaving in December for Africa. Arriving at the end of January 1916 in Mombasa, it was equipped with BE2s and Farmans. It provided support to Imperial Forces engaged against the German East African colonies throughout 1916 and 1917, but by early 1918, the need for the squadron had diminished and it returned to the UK, arriving at Blandford Camp on 8 July 1918 and being disbanded the same day.
Plans to reform the squadron on 14 November were cancelled due to the Armistice and it was 11 October 1927 before No 26 re-surfaced. It was initially composed of one flight of Atlases at Catterick, with a second being added in September 1928. Operating in the Army Co-operation role, Audaxes replaced the Atlas in 1933 with Hectors arriving in 1937 and Lysanders in February 1939. In October 1939, the squadron joined the Air Component in France, but to prevent them suffering the same fate as other squadrons in France, it was evacuated to Lympne from where it continued to operate over France whenever possible. In June it began coastal patrols and continued to train with the Army.
The Lysanders where supplemented by Tomahawks in February 1941 these being used for tactical reconnaissance, however, their performance in the ground attack role was lacking and Mustangs began arriving in January 1942 with all three types being operated until March when the Mustangs had completed replaced the Tomahawks and by May 1942 the squadron was equipped solely with Mustangs.
In July 1943 the squadron moved north to Yorkshire and to Scotland in March 1944, where it trained to spot for the guns of the Royal Navy during to D-Day landings. For this role it re-equipped with Spitfire Vs and at the same time it operated a detachment in Northern Ireland. Following the landing in Normandy, it reverted to Mustangs in January 1945, carrying out tactical reconnaissance missions over Holland as well as continuing its naval artillery co-operation with the French Navy. In August 1945, the squadron moved to Germany and remained there until disbanding at Lubeck on 1 April 1946.
No 26 reformed on the same day when No 41 Squadron at Wunstorf was re-numbered. It now operated Spitfires and Tempests, although the Spitfires had all left by January 1947, from when it retained the Tempests until April 1949 when Vampire FB Mk 5s arrived. By November 1953 the squadron was operating Vampire FB Mk 9s but that month it converted to the Sabres, which it retained until June 1955 when Hunter F Mk 4's arrived and these were remained its standard equipment until it disbanded at Oldenburg on 10 September 1957. Just less than a year later the squadron reformed with Hunters at Ahlhorn in June 1958, moving to Gutersloh in September, where it disbanded again on 30 December 1960.
Two further periods of existence began on 1 June 1962 when No 26 reformed at Odiham with Belvedere helicopters. These were taken to Aden in 1963 to support operations in the Radfan until November 1965 when the squadron moved to Singapore, where on 30 November it was merged with No 66 Squadron. At the time of writing, No 26s final period of service lasted from 3 February 1969 until 1 April 1976, when part of the Northern Communications Squadron at Wyton was given the numberplate. In this role the squadron operated Basset CC Mk 1 aircraft on communications duties for Training Command.
Squadron Codes used: -
As the squadron badge depicts, the unit's initial equipment when formed at Hounslow Heath on 5 November 1915, was the Martinsyde G100 "Elephant". Originally intended as a fighter squadron, the Elephant was found unsuitable and the squadron converted to the bombing and reconnaissance roles. In September 1917 the more capable DH 4 began to arrive having fully supplanted the Elephants by November. The DH4s were operated until the end of war, although DH9s began to arrive in May 1918 and these were retained until March 1919, when the squadron returned to Britain to be disbanded on 22 January 1920.
Two months later on 1 April 1920, No 27 was reformed by the re-numbering of No 99 Squadron in India. From then until October 1939 the squadron operated along the North-West Frontier, replacing its DH9As with Wapitis in 1930. In October 1939, it added Harts and Tiger Moths to its inventory and now acted a training unit. However, a year later it returned to operations when all three types were replaced by Blenheim Ifs. It was sent to Malaya in February 1941, but suffered terrible losses during the Japanese advance. The survivors retired to Sumatra and by February 1942, the squadron ceased to exist.
A new No 27 Squadron was formed In India on 19 September 1942, equipped with Beaufighters, which it used to great effect against the Japanese in Burma. They began to receive Mosquitos in April 1943 for trials but continued to use Beaufighters on operations. Completing the Mosquito trials in June 1943, the squadron did not receive Mosquitos for operational use until December and then only 'A' flight was so equipped. Problems with Mosquitos 'delaminating' in tropical conditions caused their withdrawal in March 1944 and at the same time Beaufighter Xs replaced the VIs. During this period the squadron was commanded by Wg Cdr J B Nicholson VC, who had won the only VC awarded to a fighter pilot during WW2. The squadron formed a strike wing with No 47 Squadron but the lack of coastal targets forced it to revert to ground attack in November 1944 which it continued until April 1945 when it took on the role of air-jungle rescue. The squadron disbanded at Mingladon on 1 February 1946.
In its next incarnation, the squadron took on the transport role being reformed at Oakington on 24 November 1947. Equipped with Dakotas, it took part in the Berlin airlift before being disbanded again on 10 November 1950. From 15 June 1953 to 31 December 1956, it operated as a Canberra unit, being based at Scampton and later Waddington, although shortly before disbanding it took part in the Suez operations from Cyprus. There then followed two periods as a Vulcan unit, the first of these began 1 April 1961 at Scampton, where it was part of the first Blue-Steel Wing, until 29 March 1972. The second period as a Vulcan operator started over a year later on 1 November 1973, this time in the Strategic Reconnaissance role and more particularly in the maritime field, until withdrawal of the Vulcan brought about its disbandment on 31 March 1982.
On 1 May 1983 No 27 (Designate) Squadron began training at Marham becoming fully operational on 12 August 1983 equipped with the Tornado GR Mk 1. It remained operational in this role for just over ten years being disbanded on 1 October 1993, but on the same day the numberplate was transferred to No 240 OCU at Odiham. As No 27 (Reserve) Squadron, it is now responsible for the training of Puma and Chinook crews.
Squadron Codes used: -
Initially forming as a training squadron at Gosport on 7 November 1915, it was September 1917 before the squadron became operational in the fighter role. Equipped with Camels, it was due to be sent to France, when it was diverted to Italy where it took part in the Battle of Caporetto. It remained in the theatre for the rest of the war and eventually returned to Britain in February 1919, disbanding at Eastleigh on 20 Jan 1920.
Just over two months later however, No 114 Squadron at Ambala in India was re-numbered 28. It took over No 114's Bristol F2bs, flying these until Wapitis arrived in 1931, these in turn being replaced by Audaxes in June 1936. Lysanders arrived in September 1941 and these where used against the Japanese in Burma from December . Despite heavy opposition the Lysanders continued to be used for both bombing and army co-operation British force withdrew from Burma. Re-grouping at Lahore the squadron retained Lysanders and carried out various exercises with Army until Hurricanes arrived in December 1942.
It now undertook tactical reconnaissance missions, returning to the skies over Burma from January 1943, a role it maintained until the end of the war. Spitfires arrived in July 1945 and the following November it moved to Malaya, but with the Chinese Civil war raging it was posted to Hong Kong in May 1949, where it would remain on and off for almost another 50 years. Spitfires gave way to Vampires in February 1951, Venoms in February 1956, Hunters in May 1962 before the squadron disbanded at Kai Tak 2 January 1967. However, it was not long before No 28 returned to the colony, for on 1 April 1968 a detachment of No 103 Squadron was given 28's numberplate.
It remained in Hong Kong, initially at Kai Tak and from 1978 at Sek Kong until 3 June 1997 when it was disbanded owing to the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong to China. However, in June 2001, the squadron was revived, still in the support helicopter role, but now equipped with the Merlin HC Mk 1, the first RAF squadron to be equipped with the type. It was also the first time the squadron had been based in Britain since 1920. Since re-equipping, the squadron has operated in Bosnia during 2003/2004 and in Iraq from March 2005. However, its Merlins were transferred to No 845 Sqn, Fleet Air Arm on 9 July 2015 and it began converting to the operational conversion role for the Chinook and Puma fleet, becoming operational in this new role in October 2015.
Squadron Codes used: -
Formed on the same day as No 28, 7 November 1915 and at the same place, Gosport, although unlike its contemporary, it was soon on its way to France, arriving in March 1916. It was designated a fighter squadron from the outset, being equipped with DH2s which it continued to use despite their gradual obsolescence until March 1917, when Nieuport Scouts arrived. Another year later, April 1918 saw their replacement by SE5As, which remained in use when the squadron moved to Germany at the end of war. In August 1919 the squadron returned to the UK and disbanded at Spittlegate on 31 December 1919.
Reforming in what had been and would remain its traditional role on 1 April 1923, it was equipped with Snipes and was based at Duxford. It remained at Duxford for five years having re-equipped with Grebes and Siskins until moving to North Weald where it stayed until 1937, re-equipping with Bulldogs in 1932. However, between October 1935 and September 1936, the squadron's Demons (which had arrived in March 1935) were detached to Egypt during the Abyssinian Crisis.
A year after returning from Egypt, the squadron converted to Blenheim, initially in the day fighter role, but the squadron moved onto night defence and carried out trials with some of the earliest Airborne Interception (AI) radar sets. Beaufighters began to replace the Blenheims in November 1940, the process being complete by February 1941. It continued to be primarily concerned with the night defence of Great Britain, which from May 1943 it conducted with Mosquitos, until May 1944 when it began to carry out night intruder operations until converting to Mosquito XXXs in February 1945. It had only just completed conversion and work up on the new model when the war ended, however, it retained the type and with them joined the post-war air force in the night fighter role.
The squadron's first jets appeared in August 1951, when Meteor NF Mk 11s were received. It also gradually moved north, first to Acklington in 1957, it was here that the squadron's Javelins began to arrive in November 1957 and from February 1958 some Meteor NF Mk 12s were used, probably to assist in the conversion process. Following conversion the squadron continued its migration north, when in July 1958 it moved to Leuchars. In February 1963, the squadron was sent to Cyprus from where in December 1965 it was detached to Zambia during the Rhodesia crisis following UDI.
The squadron returned to the UK in May 1967, this time to Wattisham, where it immediately re-equipped with the Lightning F Mk 3. Having been a fighter unit continuously since 1923, the squadron experienced only its second disbandment on 31 December 1974. However, the following day a new No 29 Squadron came into being at Coningsby, this time equipped with Phantom FGR Mk 2s. This unit had actually begun training as No 29 (Designate) Squadron on 1 October 1974. Phantoms were operated until 1987, with the squadron providing a detachment in the Falkland Islands, until that was redesignated No 23 Squadron in 1983. In 1987, No 29 replaced its Phantoms with the Tornado F Mk 3, still at Coningsby but on 31 October 1998, the squadron disbanded but was revived as the Eurofighter Typhoon Operational Conversion Unit at Coningsby when it formed in October 2003.
Squadron Codes used: -
Formed as unit destined for service in Egypt in October 1914 at Farnborough, it was not allocated the number 30 until 24 March 1915. Initially composed of a single flight at Ismailia, a second flight was added at Basra in April, formally becoming part of No 30 in August 1915. Both flights moved to Iraq at the beginning of 1916 and in April carried out one of the earliest air supply mission when it air-dropped food and other supplies to the garrison at Kut-el-Amara which was being besieged by the Turks.
It continued to operate BE2s until the end of the war on bombing and reconnaissance missions but also received a multitude of other types including SPADs, DH4s and RE8s On 9 April 1919 the squadron was reduced to cadre, but before being disbanded, the RAF was given responsibility for 'policing' Iraq and as a result on 1 February 1920, the squadron was brought back up to strength and made a permanent part of the new command. It was initially equipped with the RE8 but in January 1921 these were replaced by DH9A, which it operated until 1929.
Wapitis arrived in April 1929 and had fully supplanted the DH9As by September. Hardy's were received in 1935 and Blenheim Is and Ifs in January 1938. In August 1939, the squadron moved back to Egypt and following Italy's entry into the war, it carried out escort missions in the Western Desert and fighter defence of Alexandria. In November 1940, it was set to Greece where it operated its Blenheims in both the bomber and fighter roles, but in March 1941, the squadron was redesignated a fighter unit. On returning to Egypt after the fall of Greece the squadron was re-equipped with Hurricanes. From then until December it was employed on night defence of Alexandria and then moved on to operations in the Western Desert.
However, condition in the Far East were deteriorating rapidly and in February 1942 the squadron was embarked on HMS Indomitable, from whose decks it flew to Ceylon arriving on 6 March 1942, just in time to assist in combating a Japanese attack against the island. Retained in Ceylon on air defence duties , the squadron saw little action due to the lack of further attacks on the island, so in February 1944 it moved to the Burma front flying escort and ground attack missions. In May 1944, the squadron was withdrawn from the front in order to re-equip with the Thunderbolt, which it took back into action in October continuing until May 1945. The squadron did not resume operations owing to the Japanese surrender, but it was retained in India. Its Thunderbolts were repalced by Tempest F Mk 2s in March 1946 but the following December (1st) it disbanded.
Less then a year later on 24 November 1947, the squadron reformed at Oakington in the transport role and remains so to the present day. Initially equipped with Dakotas, Valettas arrived in 1950 and Beverleys in 1957, it moved to Abingdon in 1950, Benson in 1952 and Dishforth in 1953. In November 1959, the squadron returned overseas, first to Eastleigh in Kenya and then Bahrain in September 1964. It was in Bahrain that the squadron disbanded on 6 September 1967. However, the following year, on 10 June, the squadron reformed once again in the transport role, equipped with the Hercules. As all the Hercules fleet is centrally pooled and aircraft are issued to squadron crews as required, it now operates all four varieties of the type from its base at Lyneham. On 1 July 2011, together with the rest of the Hercules fleet the squadron moved to a new base at RAF Brize Norton.
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
Squadron badge image on this page is courtesy of Steve Clements
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This page was last updated on 09/02/17 using FrontPage 2003©
Sqns 31 - 35
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