Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation
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In August 1917 a detachment of No 7 (Naval) Squadron was sent to Redcar to operate four Handley Page 0/100 bombers in the anti-submarine role. Beginning operations in September the unit was moved to Manston in October, where on the 5th of the month, it was redesignated as 'A' Squadron. As such it was intended for strategic bombing operations in France. At the end of October the unit moved to Ochey, where it joined the 41st Wing, which later became the Independent Bombing Force. On 8 January 1918, 'A' Squadron was once again redesignated, this time as No 16 Squadron RNAS. On 24/25 March 1918, an aircraft of the unit carried out an 8½ hour operation against Cologne. When the RAF was formed on 1 April 1918, all RNAS numbered squadrons had 200 added to their designation and No 16 RNAS therefore became No 216 Squadron RAF. The squadron operated until the end of the war dropping four of the eleven 1,650 lb bombs expended in the war and remained in France after the war, carrying out air mail duties.
However, instead of being disbanded the squadron was transferred to Egypt in May 1919 and equipped with O/400s it settled at Kantara, from where it transported mail and passengers throughout the Middle East. DH10s replaced the Handley Page machines in 1921, but a year later these had been superseded by Vimys. The next equipment change came in January 1926, when Victorias replaced the Vimys and these where used to continue mail flights along the Cairo-Baghdad route as well as route-proving and survey work throughout North and West Africa. Many of the route sit surveyed later became established commercial routes in the 1930's. From 1931 the squadron was redesignated as a 'Bomber-Transport' unit and in 1935 Valentias supplemented the Victorias.
From the end of 1939 Bristol Bombays arrived but it was 1941 before the Valentias where completely replaced and when the Italians declared war in June 1940, 216 fitted bomb racks to its Bombays and carried out bombing missions against targets in Libya. As 1941 wore on the squadron became more and more focussed on transport duties, evacuating troops from Greece and Crete and it begin training in the airborne support role, dropping its first parachute troops in November. In July 1942 it received Hudsons and was now definitely a pure transport unit, carrying supplies throughout the Western Desert and supporting units operating behind enemy lines, although the Bombays soldiered on until May 1943. 1943 saw the squadron settle down to routine missions including VIP flights and in March, Dakotas began to arrive and by May the squadron was solely equipped with this type. With the Dakotas the squadron began scheduled flights although some paratroop and re-supply missions were carried out.
In April 1944, the squadron sent a large detachment to Burma, where it carried out re-supply drops and casualty evacuations from the area. By the end of the war, the squadron was acting much in the role of an airline with scheduled services throughout Africa, the Middle East, India, the Mediterranean, Southern Europe and even back to the UK. After the war the squadron remained as part of the Middle East Transport Wing, replacing its Dakotas with Valettas in February 1951. The squadron eventually returned to the UK in 1955, the first time it had been stationed there for 38 years.
Whilst still operating in the transport role, it was to introduce the De Havilland Comet into RAF service. Equipped with ten Comet C Mk 2s, the squadron operated scheduled services around the world, carried VIPs, conducted casevac operations and conducted a number of special operation including transporting the Queen on numerous occasions. In February 1962, five Comet C Mk 4s were added to the squadron's complement a when the Mk 2s were retired in April 1967, the Mk 4s continued the service. However, with the reduction in number of the overseas bases, the squadron was disbanded on 27 June 1975, the first time since its formation in 1917.
The squadron was briefly reformed in an offensive role on 1 July 1979, equipped with Buccaneer S Mk 2s, however, structural problems with the Buccaneer resulted in a number of aircraft being scrapped and the need to reduce the number of squadrons. This led to No 216 handing its aircraft to No 12 Squadron and disbanding on 4 August 1980. However, on 1 November 1984, the squadron was reformed to introduce and operate the Lockheed Tristar in the Transport and Tanker role, which it continued to do until the last Tristar was retired in March 2014.
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
On 14 January 1918, a DH4 unit of the RNAS based at Dunkerque was redesignated No 17 (Naval) Squadron. When the RAF was formed less than four months later , the squadron was re-numbered No 217 Squadron. It continued to operate DH4s in the daylight bombing role against targets in Belgium until the end of the war. Returning to Driffield in March 1919 the squadron disbanded there on 18 October the same year.
The squadron reformed on 15 March 1937 at Boscombe Down in the General Reconnaissance role. It was equipped with the Avro Anson, the RAF's first monoplane with retractable undercarriage. It moved between Tangmere , Warmwell and Bicester until October 1939 when it arrived at its war station, St Eval, from where it carried anti-submarine patrols over the Western Approaches.
The Ansons began to be replaced by Beauforts in May 1940 but conversion was slow due to problems with the Taurus engines, as a result it was September before operations began and the end of the year before the Ansons were retired. Anti-shipping operations were now the order of the day and these continued from St Eval until February 1942, when the squadron moved to Scotland. However, few operations were carried out from Skitten and later Leuchars as the squadron was earmarked for service in Ceylon with the ground echelon leaving on 7 May and the aircraft flying out on 7 June 1942.
On arrival in Malta, the squadron were retained for attacks against enemy shipping in the Mediterranean. When the ground crews arrived in August, they had no aircraft and it was October before Hudsons arrived for the squadron to began anti-submarine patrols. New Beauforts arrived in April 1943 to supplement the Hudsons until June when the Hudsons left and the squadron reverted to the anti-shipping strike role. In July 1944, Beaufighters replaced the Beauforts, but the lack of suitable targets meant that the squadron operated in a defensive role until May 1945. With the invasion of Malaya in the planning stage, the squadron was due to move to the Cocos Islands in preparation, but the dropping of the atomic bombs negated this action and it remained in Ceylon, where it disbanded on 30 September 1945.
From 15 February 1949 the squadron number was kept active by being linked to No 210 Squadron but this ceased on 13 January 1952. This was due to the squadron reforming the following day at its old base of St Eval, in the maritime reconnaissance role, equipped with two Neptune MR Mk 1s for trials purposes. The squadron moved to Kinloss on 7 April 1952, where it received the rest of its aircraft, operating there until disbanding on 31 March 1957. The squadron's final incarnation lasted from 1 February 1958 until 13 November 1959, when it was reformed from No 1360 Flight at St Mawgan, equipped with Westland Whirlwind HAR Mk 2 helicopters. The squadron was to act in the support role for Operation Grapple, the hydrogen bomb trials being carried out in the Pacific from Christmas Island. With the end of the trials, the squadron disbanded.
Squadron Codes used: -
Formed at Dover on 24 April 1918, equipped with DH9s, it moved to Petite Synthe on 23 May, where it joined ex RNAS units operating in the daylight bombing role against targets in the Lille area and Belgium. On 7 February 1919, it returned to Hucknell, where it disbanded on 24 June 1919.
The squadron reformed from 'A' Flight of No 57 Squadron on 16 March 1936 at Upper Heyford and was equipped with Hawker Hinds. These were replaced by Fairey Battles in January 1938 and in September these were taken to France as part of the Advanced Air Striking Force. Along with other Battle units, the squadron suffered heavy casualties in the fighting of May 1940 and by June its personnel had to be evacuated back to the UK due to lack of aircraft.
Back in the UK, the squadron re-equipped with Blenheims, joining No 2 Group and began attacks against coastal shipping and invasion barges in the Channel ports. However, its days as a light bomber unit were numbered and in November it converted to Wellingtons at Marham and transferred to No 3 Group. The squadron conducted it first night raid on 22 December and these continued with Wellingtons until February 1942, when the squadron re-equipped with Stirlings. In July the unit re-located to Downham Market, where it stayed until March 1944, when it moved to Woolfax Lodge. In August it moved again to Methwold, where it converted to Lancasters, but in December it moved to Chedburgh, where it remained until it disbanded on 10 August 1945, but before disbanding, it transferred to the transport role.
After the war the squadron was twice linked to No 115 Squadron, the first time being from 1 February 1949 to 1 March 1950, and again from 13 June 1950 until 1 June 1957. The unit was re-incarnated again on 1 December 1959 at Harrington equipped with Thor IRBM but disbanded there on 23 August 1963.
Squadron Codes used: -
No 218 Squadron Association: - Mrs Margery Griffiths. tel 01359 259293; e-mail: email@example.com
Following the formation of the RAF on 1 April 1918 a number of RNAS units around the country were given numeric designations as independent flights. Gradually most of these flights began to be grouped in Squadron which were numbered in the 200 series. At Westgate, Nos 406 and 442 (Seaplanes) Flights and at Manston, Nos 470 (Fighter) and 555 and 556 (Light Bomber) Flights were amalgamated into No 219 Squadron on 22 July 1918. The unit was tasked the defence of the Thames Estuary, which it conducted until the end of war, but it was actually 7 February 1920 before the unit was disbanded.
The squadron was reformed at Catterick on 4 October 1939 as a twin engined fighter unit, equipped with Blenheims. Initially intended for coastal protection duties the squadron became operational in February 1940 and was soon involved in night defence duties. In October 1940 the squadron moved to Redhill, converted to Beaufighters and joined in the night defence of London and the South-East, moving to Tangmere in December, where it remained until June 1942. A return north ended in May 1943 when the squadron was transferred to the Middle East, where it operated in detachments providing night defence of Algerian and Tunisian ports. It also operated aircraft from Sicily for a while but in January 1944 it returned to the UK.
On it arrival at Woodvale in February 1944, it re-equipped with Mosquito XVIIs and began intruder missions over enemy occupied territory. When the 2nd Tactical Air Force was formed, 219 became part of it and remained so until the end of war. Mosquito XXXs began to arrive in July 1944 and had completely replaced the earlier model by December. The unit moved onto the continent in October and remained there until 14 August 1945, when it returned to Acklington. One further move took place on 1 May 1946 to Wittering, where the squadron disbanded on 1 September the same year.
The squadron's next incarnation began on 1 March 1951 when it was reformed at Kabrit in Egypt in the night fighter role, equipped with Mosquito NF Mk 36s. These were replaced with Meteor NF Mk 13s in April 1953, although some NF Mk 11's arrived in October 1952 as an interim measure, and the squadron continued to provide night defence of the Canal Zone until 1 September 1954 when the unit was disbanded again. Just over a year later the squadron was reformed for the final time on 5 September 1955 at Driffield, still in the night fighter role but now equipped with Venom NF Mk 2s. The squadron finally disbanded on 31 July 1957.
A book ("From Dusk to Dawn") detailing the history of No 219 is available from the Squadron Association - see the link below
Squadron Codes used: -
No 219 squadron Association: - Secretary: Bill Kelly, 01255 674312: e- mail: kellysATbkmkuk.orangehome.co.uk (replace AT with @)
No 220 Squadron began life as 'C' Squadron, No 2 Wing RNAS at Imbros, but it did not adopt the number 220 until 14 September 1918, its constituent flights had been numbered 475, 476 and 477 on 1 April. Equipped with DH4s and 9s for the reconnaissance role and Camels for the fighter role it operated as part of No 62 Wing RAF in the Aegean area. The squadron moved to Mudros as a cadre in February 1919 and disbanded there on 1 May 1919.
When the squadron reformed on 17 August 1936 it was in the General reconnaissance role equipped with Ansons at Bircham Newton, although four days later it transferred to Thornaby. The outbreak of war saw the squadron carrying out patrols over the North Sea, converting to Hudsons between September and November 1939, which were used to extend operations over Norwegian and Dutch waters, for which a detachment was sent to St Eval in November 1940.
In April 1941 the squadron as a whole moved to Wick in Scotland, a detachment having been there since March. Here it continued to operate on anti shipping duties over Norwegian waters and on 1 February 1942, a detachment of No 90 Squadron, in the Middle East, equipped with Fortress Is was reallocated to No 220 Squadron and continued to operate in the area until 9 March 1943. In early 1942 the main element of the squadron began to convert to the Fortress IIA in Northern Ireland (Nutts Corner) from where it continued to operate over the North Atlantic until March 1943 when it moved to Benbecula, having previously re-located to Ballykelly (June 1942) and Aldergrove (February 1943).
In October 1943 the squadron moved to Lagens in the Azores, converting to Liberator VIs in December 1944, the last Fortress operation being carried out on 18 December 1944, a transit reconnaissance to the UK. Liberator VIIIs were also used from July 1945 having returned to the UK in June. The need for anti submarine patrols was no longer required so the squadron was transferred to Transport Command using its Liberators on trooping flights to and from India until disbanding on 25 May 1946 at Waterbeach.
The squadron number was briefly linked to that of No 120 Squadron from 15 February 1949 until the squadron was reformed its own right on 23 September 1951 at Kinloss. The squadron was once again in the Maritime Reconnaissance role equipped with the Shackleton M R Mk 1. In November 1951 the squadron moved south to St Eval where it received Shackleton MR Mk 2s in April 1953 and MR Mk 3s in September 1957. All three variants were operated until March 1958 when the Mk 1s were retired leaving the squadron to operate the other two until it was disbanded by being re-numbered No 201 Squadron on 1 October 1958.
The squadron's final incarnation to date began on 22 July 1959 when the Thor IRBM unit at North Pickenham was given the number 220, which it maintained until 10 July 1963 when it disbanded for the last time.
Squadron Codes used: -
Squadron badge image on this page is courtesy of Steve Clements
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This page was last updated on 10/02/17 using FrontPage 2003©
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