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A Record of the RFC and RAF Squadrons

Listed below are biographical summaries of the RFC and RAF squadrons in which the British airmen, featured in the various cemeteries, served.


1 Squadron

No. 1 Squadron's origins go back to 1878 when its predecessor, No. 1 Balloon Company, was formed at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich as part of the Balloon Section. On 1 April 1911 the Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers was created. The battalion initially consisted of two companies, with No. 1 Company, Air Battalion taking responsibility for lighter than air flying. The first Officer Commanding was Captain E. M. Maitland.

Balloonatics. Royal Flying Corps. Ypres Salient. Flanders
IWM Q 73750 Balloon ready for a flight at Farnborough Naval Wing, RFC.

On 13 May 1912, with the establishment of the Royal Flying Corps, No. 1 Company of the Air Battalion was redesignated No. 1 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. No. 1 Squadron was one of the original three Royal Flying Corps squadrons. Maitland continued as the new squadron's Commanding Officer and he was promoted to major several days after the establishment of the squadron. It retained the airships Beta and Gamma, adding Delta and Eta, as well as kites and a few spherical balloons. However, in October 1913 a sudden decision was made to transfer all the airships to the Naval Wing of the RFC (which became the Royal Naval Air Service by Admiralty dictat, not Cabinet decision, on 1 July 1914). While retaining kites 1 Squadron was reorganised as an 'aircraft park' for the British Expeditionary Force. On 1 May 1914, Major Charles Longcroft was appointed as the new squadron commander. Apart from a few weeks as a supernumerary in August and September 1914, Longcroft continued as the squadron commander until January 1915.


The squadron was reformed as an aircraft squadron in August 1914, and equipped with a mixture of Avro 504s and Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.8s, crossed over to France on 7 March 1915, under the command of Major Geoffrey Salmond, later Chief of the Air Staff. It operated mainly in the reconnaissance role, with a few single seat fighters for escort purposes. The squadron was soon thrown into action, taking part in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915, and moved to Bailleul at the end of the month, remaining there until March 1918, operating from an airfield next to the town's Asylum. In April–May 1915, the squadron flew reconnaissance missions during the Second Battle of Ypres. On 19 August, Salmond was replaced as commander of the squadron by Major Philip Joubert de la Ferté, later an Air Chief Marshal. By October 1915, the squadron had re-equipped with a mixture of various Morane-Saulnier types, with Morane Parasols (Types L and LA in the Corps Reconnaissance role and Morane-Saulnier N single-seat fighters. The squadron supplemented its Parasols with more modern Morane-Saulnier P parasols and Morane-Saulnier BB biplanes in 1916, although the last LA remained with the squadron until 1917. The squadron became a dedicated fighter squadron on 1 January 1917, flying Nieuport 17s and Nieuport 27.

IWM Q 12067 Three pilots of No. 1 Squadron, RFC, studying maps by an S.E.5a at Clairmarais aerodrome, 3 July 1918
IWM Q 12067 Three pilots of No. 1 Squadron, RFC, studying maps by an S.E.5a at Clairmarais aerodrome, 3 July 1918

The obsolete Nieuports were replaced by more modern S.E.5as in January 1918. On incorporation into the RAF on 1 April 1918 the squadron kept its numeral; No 1 Squadron of the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) was displaced to become No. 201 Squadron RAF.

No. 1 Squadron had among its ranks no fewer than 31 flying aces.


No.4 Squadron royal flying Corps. RFC. Ypres Salient. Flanders
No.4 Squadron Royal Flying Corps

4 Squadron

Was formed at Farnborough in 1912 as part of the Royal Flying Corps. Operating a miscellaneous mixture of aircraft including early Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2s and Breguet biplanes, it quickly moved to Netheravon where it remained until the outbreak of the First World War. The more useful aircraft in its inventory were sent to France under the command of Major G. H. Rayleigh on 16 August 1914, to carry out reconnaissance in support of the British Expeditionary Force. On 19 August Lieutenant G. W. Mapplebeck flew the squadron's first mission over France, a reconnaissance flight searching for German cavalry in the vicinity of Gembloux, Belgium. Other aircraft remained in England to carry out anti-Zeppelin patrols.


The contingent in France was reinforced on 20 September by the personnel who had remained behind in England, forming C Flight, equipped with Maurice Farman "Shorthorns". It concentrated on the reconnaissance role, standardising on the B.E.2 in 1916. In the Battle of the Somme, 4 Squadron flew contact patrols keeping track of the position of advancing troops at low level, in addition to more regular reconnaissance and artillery spotting missions. It re-equipped with the Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8 in June 1917, in time to take part in the Battle of Messines and the Battle of Passchendaele.

Sergeant William Robinson Clark. First British black pilot. Jamaica.
Sergeant William Robinson Clark. First black British pilot.

During this period William Robinson Clarke, the first black pilot to fly for Britain, flew for the squadron. On the outbreak of war Clarke, aged 19, travelled to England from Jamaica at his own expense. He joined the Royal Flying Corps on 26 July 1915 as an Air Mechanic and then as a driver for an observation balloon company. In December 1916 he began pilot training, gaining his wings on 26 April 1917. Promoted to Pilot Sergeant, he was posted to No. 4 Squadron RFC at Abeele on 27 May 1917, flying R.E.8’s. On the morning of 28 July 1917 during a reconnaissance mission near Ypres, Clarke and his observer, Second Lieutenant F. P. Blencowe, were attacked by German scout aircraft. Clarke was seriously wounded and lost consciousness, and Blencowe made a forced landing near Godewaersvelde.


No.4 Squadron remained equipped with the R.E.8 until the Armistice with Germany on 11 November 1918 ended the fighting. The squadron returned to the United Kingdom in February 1919 as a cadre


6 Squadron

The squadron was formed on 31 January 1914, at Farnborough as No. 6 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. Its first squadron commander was Major John Becke. The squadron had an initial aircraft inventory of two Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2s and two Farmans, with the squadron also initially incorporating a flight operating man-lifting kite. The squadron, equipped with a mixture of B.E.2s, Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.8s and Farmans crossed the English Channel in October 1914 to support IV Corps in its attempt to prevent the Germans from capturing Antwerp. In November, the squadron joined the newly formed 2nd Wing of the RFC, with the role of supporting the Second and Third Corps.

Captain Lanoe Walker. Royal Flying Corps. RFC. Ypres Salient. Flanders
Captain Lanoe Hawker. RFC

On 25 July 1915, Captain Lanoe Hawker attacked three German aircraft in succession. The first aerial victory for Hawker that day occurred after he emptied a complete drum of bullets from his aircraft's single Lewis machine gun into a German aircraft which went spinning down. The second victory saw a German aircraft driven to the ground damaged, and the third saw a German aircraft – an Albatros C.I of FFA 3 – burst into flames and crash. For this feat he was awarded the Victoria Cross.


7 Squadron

Was formed at Farnborough Airfield on 1 May 1914 as the last squadron of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) to be formed before the First World War, but has been disbanded and reformed several times since, the first being after only three months of existence, the latter as early as 28 September 1914. The squadron spent most of the First World War in observation and interception roles and was responsible for the first ever interception of an enemy aircraft over Britain.

The Squadron deployed to France in April 1915, flying Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.5s for reconnaissance and Vickers Gunbuses as escort fighters.

Captain John Aidan Liddell VC. Photographed in the trenches with the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders
Captain John Aidan Liddell VC. Photographed in the trenches with the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders

Captain John Aidan Liddell of 7 Squadron won the Victoria Cross for his actions on 31 July 1915, when he continued his reconnaissance mission over Belgium after the aircraft was hit by ground fire, the aircraft being badly damaged and Liddell suffering a broken thigh. Although he successfully recovered the R.E.5 to Allied lines, saving his observer, he died of his wounds a month later. He obtained his pilot's certificate in May 1914 and, following the outbreak of war, the now-Captain Liddell embarked with 2nd Battalion Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders on 28 August for service in France. He spent 43 consecutive days in the trenches in command of the machine gun section and was awarded the Military Cross at Le Maisnil, France, before training as a pilot and joining No. 7 Squadron.


The squadron re-equipped with B.E.2s in 1916, which it used for both bombing and reconnaissance during the Battle of the Somme that year. The B.E.2s were replaced by R.E.8s in July 1917, continuing in the reconnaissance role for the rest of the war, operating in Ypres during the Battle of Passchendaele in the summer and autumn of 1917 and in support of Belgium forces in the closing months of the war. It disbanded at the end of 1919.


9 Squadron

Was formed on 8 December 1914 at St-Omer in France, the first outside of the UK, from a detachment of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) HQ Wireless Flight. Known as No. 9 (Wireless) Squadron, it was tasked with developing the use of radio for reconnaissance missions through artillery spotting. This lasted until 22 March 1915 when the squadron was disbanded and had its equipment dispersed amongst Nos. II, V, 6 and 16 Squadron.

IWM Q 53915 The interior of a Royal Flying Corps telegraphists' school at Farnborough, November 1915
IWM Q 53915 The interior of a Royal Flying Corps telegraphists' school at Farnborough, November 1915

The squadron reformed at Brooklands on 1 April 1915 under the command of Major Hugh Dowding (later commander of RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain) as a radio-training squadron, flying the Farman MF.7, Blériot XI and Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2s. The Bats moved to Dover on 23 July, re-equipping with the Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.8a, Avro 504 and a single Martinsyde S.1, before returning to St-Omer on 12 December as an army co-operation squadron. Moving to Bertangles on 24 December, No. 9 Squadron commenced bombing missions on 17 January 1916 with the B.E.2c. It flew reconnaissance and artillery spotting missions during the Battle of the Somme in 1916, assisting XIII Corps on the first day. It later operated during the Second Battle of Arras in 1917.


It re-equipped with Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8s in May 1917, using them for artillery spotting and contact patrols during the Battle of Passchendaele, during which it suffered 57 casualties, and carrying out short range tactical bombing operations in response to the German spring offensive in March 1918. While it started to receive Bristol Fighters in July 1918, it did not completely discard its R.E.8s until after the end of the war. No. 9 Squadron returned to the UK in August 1919, arriving at Castle Bromwich where it remained until disbanding on 31 December 1919.


10 Squadron

No. 10 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps was formed from a nucleus provided by No. 1 Reserve Aircraft Squadron on 1 January 1915 at Farnborough Airfield, Hampshire. It initially acted as a training squadron until 27 July 1915 when it relocated to St-Omer on Western Front in France. The Squadron's first major engagement was providing spotting for the Indian Corps during the Battle of Loos in September 1915 with the Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2. The squadron also participated in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. In April 1917, the Squadron carried out spotting and bombing duties during the Second Battle of Arras. The squadron re-equipped with the Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8 in September 1917.


In June 1918, No. 10 Squadron began to receive the Bristol F.2b. The squadron participated in the Second Battle of the Somme between August and September 1918. It then briefly spent time in Germany as part of the army of occupation after the armistice. On 8 February 1919, the squadron was reduced to a cadre and returned to the UK. It was disbanded on 31 December 1919.


15 Squadron

No. 15 Squadron was first formed at Farnborough Airfield on 1 March 1915 as a Royal Flying Corps training unit, commanded by Major Philip Joubert de la Ferté. It was mainly equipped with Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2c, supplemented with a few Bristol Scouts, and moved to France on 22 December 1915, undertaking a reconnaissance role in support of the Army. It operated in support of IV Corps during the Battle of the Somme in summer 1916, suffering heavy losses from both ground fire and German fighter aircraft. It was praised by Douglas Haig for its work in support of the Fifth Army in the Ancre salient in January 1917.


It was again heavily committed to action in support of the offensive at Arras in spring 1917. It re-equipped with the Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8 in June 1917, retaining the "Harry Tate" (a rhyming-slang term for the aircraft) until the end of the First World War. The squadron was based at La Gorgue in northern France from 7 July until 18 August 1917.


For the great tank attack at the Battle of Cambrai November 1917 the Squadron was specially tasked with checking the camouflaging of the troops, guns and dumps assembled before the attack. The squadron moved back to the United Kingdom in February 1919, and was disbanded at Fowlmere on 31 December that year.


19 Squadron

The Squadron was formed on 1 September 1915, from members of No. 5 Squadron, at Castle Bromwich training on a variety of aircraft before being deployed to France in July 1916 flying Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.12 and re-equipping with the more suitable French-built SPAD S.VIIs. From November 1917, the squadron started to receive Sopwith Dolphins to replace its Spads, it being fully equipped with the Dolphin during January 1918, flying its first operational patrol with the new fighter on 3 February. By the end of the war, No. 19 Squadron had had 22 flying aces among its ranks, including Albert Desbrisay Carter, John Leacroft, Arthur Bradfield Fairclough, Oliver Bryson, Gordon Budd Irving, Frederick Sowrey, future Air Commodore Patrick Huskinson, Cecil Gardner, Roger Amedee Del'Haye, future Air Chief Marshal James Hardman, Finlay McQuistan, Alexander Pentland, John Candy, Cecil Thompson, and John Aldridge.


Commanding officers during this time included H.D. Harvey-Kelly who was the first RFC pilot to land in France in the First World War. At least one of the No. 19 Squadron airmen, a Canadian, George Robert Long, was captured on 6 October 1917 in the Lille area and spent the rest of the war in a number of prisoner of war camps, including Holzminden prisoner-of-war camp. It was his very first flight, in a Spad VII, B3508. The squadron was flying out of Bailleul (Asylum Ground) at the time. He was shot down by Gefreiter J. Funk, flying with Jasta 30. He had first been a member of the C.E.F. in the infantry and was wounded a number of times. He wasn't repatriated until 14 December 1918, to return home to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada


20 Squadron

The squadron was formed on 1 September 1915 at Netheravon, Wiltshire, as part of the Royal Flying Corps. In 1915, the German, and French and British air services had increasingly fought each other in the air for control of the skies to conduct reconnaissance. Combined with an expansion of the British Army, this prompted an expansion of the Royal Flying Corps in the second half of 1915, during which 20 Squadron was formed from a nucleus of Number 7 Reserve Aeroplane Squadron under the command of Captain C W Wilson MC.


The squadron flew to France on 16 January 1916 landing first at St Omer and moving the following week to Clairmarais. It was equipped with the FE2B two-seat fighter-reconnaissance aircraft, which were replaced in June 1916 by the FE2D model, with an improved engine and armament. No. 20 Squadron was part of the Royal Flying Corps’ 2nd Brigade, working with the British 2nd Army, whose area of operations was around Ypres. The squadron's tasks included offensive patrols, photography, reconnaissance, and bombing by day and night.


Of the squadron's 628 claimed combat victories, over 460 were confirmed by appearance in RFC Official Communiques. One of the combat victories that was most notable was that accredited to Second Lieutenant Woodbridge on 6 July 1917, who was the first British airman to wound Manfred von Richthofen when a 20 Squadron patrol was attacked by Richtofen Jagdgeschwader 1.

IWM Manfred von Richtofen
IWM Manfred von Richtofen

The skill and courage exhibited by members of 20 Squadron throughout the war was reflected in 71 gallantry awards. In addition to 34 Military Crosses, 19 Distinguished Flying Crosses, five Military Medals and other decorations, a Victoria Cross was posthumously awarded to Acting Flight Sergeant Thomas Mottershead, who died as a result of injuries sustained in combat on 7 January 1917.


The squadron continued to operate from the St Omer area in support of the British Army around Ypres for most of the war, at airfields such as Boisdinghem and St Marie Cappel. On 21 September 1917, it completed its re-equipment with the replacement for the FE2D, the Bristol Fighter, which was to equip the squadron for the next 15 years. The squadron conducted daily detached operations from Bruay, near Bethune during the major German offensive in March 1918, and moved further south to several airfields east of Amiens as allied armies moved forward during the 100 Days Offensive.


The squadron transferred from the Royal Flying Corps to the newly formed Royal Air Force in April 1918. After the Armistice, 20 Squadron moved to Ossogne, east of Namur in Belgium, where it stayed until May 1919


21 Squadron

Royal Flying Corps was formed at Netheravon on 23 July 1915, equipped with the Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.7. After six months of training, the squadron was sent to the France in January 1916. The main role for its R.E.7s was reconnaissance, while it also operated small numbers of Bristol Scout Ds and a single Martinsyde G.100 as escort fighters. Although the R.E.7 was badly underpowered, 21 Squadron used its R.E.7s as bombers during the Battle of the Somme, being the first Squadron to drop 336 lb (152 kg) bombs.

IWM Q 12017 Air mechanics affixing bombs under the lower plane of an Armstrong-Whitworth F.K.8. Poperinghe aerodrome, 12 April 1918
IWM Q 12017 Air mechanics affixing bombs under the lower plane of an Armstrong-Whitworth F.K.8. Poperinghe aerodrome, 12 April 1918

It discarded its R.E.7s in August 1916, replacing them by single seat Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.12s. These were used as bombers, and despite being almost useless at the role, as fighters. In February 1917, the Squadron re-equipped again, receiving the R.E.8, and gave a good account of itself in the Corps Reconnaissance role. On one day, 7 June 1917, at the beginning of the Battle of Messines, its artillery spotting was responsible for putting 72 German batteries out of action. This led General Trenchard, the commander of the Royal Flying Corps in France, to describe No. 21 as "the best artillery squadron in France".


In April 1918, 21 Squadron were based at St Inglevert. After the end of the war the squadron handed over its aircraft to 13 Squadron and was disbanded on 1 October 1919.


22 Squadron

The squadron was formed at Fort Grange, Gosport on 1 September 1915 from a nucleus of men and equipment split off from No. 13 Squadron. The squadron trained on a variety of aircraft types, including the Royal Aircraft Factory BE.2c, the Maurice Farman Shorthorn, the Bleriot XI, and the Curtiss JN-3. It received its intended operational type, the Royal Aircraft Factory FE.2b in February 1916, passing 14 BE.2s tXI,33 Squadron.


The squadron moved to France on 1 April 1916, and soon settled down to carrying out reconnaissance missions over the front lines. It flew fighter patrols during the Battle of the Somme in July 1916, in addition to its normal reconnaissance and photography duties in support of the army. One notable casualty during the Somme was Auberon Herbert, 9th Baron Lucas, the former Liberal politician and cabinet minister, who was wounded when attacked by German fighter aircraft on 3 November 1916, and died of his wounds the same day.


From July 1917, the squadron started to replace its FE.2s with faster and more capable Bristol F.2 Fighters also known as the 'Brisfit', receiving its full complement of 18 aircraft by 24 August. This was in time to allow the squadron to take part in the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge in September 1917.The squadron was heavily deployed during the German spring offensive of 1918 and was forced to change bases due to the German advance, and later, as the Allies drove the Germans out of France in the Hundred Days Offensive, changed bases to keep up with the Allied advances.


The squadron moved to Spich, near Cologne in Germany as part of the British Army of Occupation in March 1919, leaving for home at the end of August that year. After a period as a cadre unit (without aircraft) at RAF Ford, the squadron formally disbanded on 31 December 1919


23 Squadron

Was formed at Fort Grange, Gosport on 1 September 1915, commanded by Louis Strange and equipped with a mixture of types. A detachment of Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2C's were deployed to Sutton's Farm to act as night fighters to oppose raids by German Zeppelins, but no successful interceptions resulted. The squadron moved to France on 16 March 1916 flying FE2b two-seat pusher fighters. The squadron used the FE2b on close-escort duties and to fly standing patrols to engage hostile aircraft wherever they could be found, helping to establish air superiority in the build-up to the Battle of the Somme.


By the end of the year the "Fee" was obsolete, and the Squadron started to receive Spad S.VII single-seat fighters in February 1917, with its last F.E.2s in April 1917. 23 Squadron flew its SPADs both on offensive fighter patrols over the front and low-level strafing attacks against German troops. In December 1917 it replaced its SPAD S.VII with the more powerful and heavier armed Spad S.XIII. The squadron converted to Sopwith Dolphins in April 1918 until it disbanded just after the war on 31 December 1919. It numbered 19 aces among its ranks.

Captain James McCudden. Royal Flying Corps. 29 Squadron. DH.2 pusher. Ypres Salient.
Captain James McCudden. Royal Flying Corps. 29 Squadron

29 Squadron

This unit was first raised as a reserve squadron, initially equipped with the Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2c, in November 1915. In early 1916 No. 29 became the fourth squadron to receive the Airco DH.2 "pusher" fighter and arrived in France on 25 March 1916[2] – helping to end the Fokker Scourge and establish Allied air superiority in time for the Battle of the Somme. By late 1916 the DH.2 was outclassed by new German fighters, but No. 29 kept its pushers until March 1917, when it was re-equipped with Nieuport 17s. These were replaced with later Nieuport types, such as the Nieuport 24bis, as these became available. Due to a shortage of the Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5a the squadron retained its Nieuports until April 1918. At this time the squadron finally received the S.E.5a, which it retained for the rest of the war. The award of a Victoria Cross – the highest award for valour "in the face of the enemy" in the British Empire – to Captain James McCudden of 29 Squadron was gazetted on 2 April 1918, for McCudden's "conspicuous bravery, exceptional perseverance and a high devotion to duty", between August 1917 and March 1918. October 1918 was a bitter month for the squadron; an American volunteer, Lieutenant Joseph Patrick Murphy was the first to fall on 8 October and become a prisoner of war. British Ace Claude Melnot Wilson was next to fall, on 14 October and Guy Wareing was shot down on the 27 October.


After a short period with the army of occupation in Germany, the Squadron returned to the UK in August 1919 and was disbanded on 31 December 1919. The squadron ended the war having claimed 385 victories and the 26 aces.


41 Squadron

The Squadron was originally formed at Fort Rowner, RAF Gosport, in mid-April 1916, with a nucleus of men from 28 Squadron RFC. However, on 22 May 1916, the squadron was disbanded again when it was re-numbered '27 Reserve Squadron RFC'.


41 Squadron was re-formed on 14 July 1916[3] with a nucleus of men from 27 Reserve Squadron and equipped with the Vickers F.B.5 'GunBus' and Airco D.H.2 'Scout'. These were replaced in early September 1916 with the Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.8, and it was these aircraft which the squadron took on their deployment to France on 15 October 1916. Eighteen aircraft departed Gosport for the 225 miles flight to St. Omer, but only twelve actually made it, the others landing elsewhere with technical problems. The twelve pilots spent a week at St. Omer before moving to Abeele, where the ground crews reached them by road, and the remaining six pilots by rail, minus their aircraft.


The F.E.8 was already obsolete as a pure fighter, and No. 41 used theirs mainly for ground attack. On 24 January 1917, the squadron claimed its first victories. These fell to Sergeant Pilot Cecil Tooms, who himself was killed in action only four hours later. While equipped with F.E.8s, the squadron participated in the Battle of Arras (April–May 1917) and the Battle of Messines (June 1917). By this time, the unit had become the last 'pusher' fighter squadron in the RFC. In July 1917, No. 41 were re-equipped with DH 5 fighters, which proved disappointing; in October 1917, the squadron finally received S.E.5a fighters, with which they were equipped for the duration of the war.


The squadron provided distinguished service in the Battle of Cambrai (November 1917), and subsequently in the German spring offensive (March 1918), and the Battle of Amiens (August 1918). 41 Squadron claimed its final victory of the war two days prior to the Armistice. In the aftermath, the unit was reduced to a cadre of just 16 men on 7 February 1919, and returned to the United Kingdom. Their new base was Tangmere, but they were moved to Croydon, Surrey, in early October, and formally disbanded on 31 December 1919.


During the war, some seventeen aces served with No. 41 Squadron, including; William Gordon Claxton, Frederick McCall, William Ernest Shields, Eric John Stephens, Frank Soden, Russell Winnicott, Geoffrey Hilton Bowman, Roy W. Chappell, Alfred Hemming, Frank Harold Taylor, Malcolm MacLeod, Loudoun MacLean, future Air Vice-Marshal Meredith Thomas, and William Gillespie. The unit had a remarkable number of Canadian aces in it; ten out of the seventeen. The squadron's pilots and ground crews were awarded four DSOs, six MCs, nine DFCs, two MMs, and four Mentions in Dispatches, for their World War I service with the unit. The pilots were credited with destroying 111 aircraft and 14 balloons, sending down 112 aircraft out of control, and driving down 25 aircraft and five balloons. Thirty-nine men were killed or died on active service, 48 were wounded or injured, and 20 pilots became Prisoners of War, including Australian Captain Norman Bruce Hair.

IWM Q 26583 British pilots of No. 45 Squadron RFC talking to Italian airmen at an aerodrome. Ypres Salient. Flanders
IWM Q 26583 British pilots of No. 45 Squadron RFC talking to Italian airmen at an aerodrome.

45 Squadron

Formed at Gosport on 1 March 1916 as Number 45 Squadron, the unit was first equipped with Sopwith 1½ Strutters which it was to fly in the Scout role. Deployed to France in October of that year, the Squadron found itself suffering heavy losses due to the quality of its aircraft. This did not change until it transitioned to the Sopwith Camel in July 1917. Transferred to the Austro-Italian front at the end of 1917, 45 Squadron there engaged in ground attack and offensive patrols until September 1918 when it returned to France and joined the Independent Force. During the course of the war, some thirty flying aces had served in the squadron's ranks.


46 Squadron

The Squadron was formed at Wyton aerodrome on 19 April 1916, from a nucleus trained in No. 2 Reserve Squadron; it moved to France in October of that year equipped with Nieuport two-seater aircraft. The squadron undertook artillery co-operation, photography, and reconnaissance operations until May 1917, when it took on a more offensive role after rearming with the Sopwith Pup. It was based at the aerodrome at La Gorgue from 12 May to 6 July 1917.


The change from a corps to a fighter squadron came at a moment when Allied air superiority was being seriously challenged by Germany, in particular through the introduction of the "circuses" formed and led by Manfred von Richthofen. Operating under the 11th Army Wing, the squadron was intensively engaged and had many combats with the enemy. In July 1917, No. 46 Squadron returned to Sutton's Farm (later Hornchurch) in Essex, for the defence of London, which had been heavily raided by Gotha bombers a short time before; no enemy aircraft penetrated its patrol area. The squadron returned to France at the end of August.


In addition to offensive patrol work, the unit undertook extensive ground strafing and did close support work in the attack on Messines Ridges. In November 1917, the squadron was equipped with Sopwith Camels, and gave valuable assistance to the infantry in the Battle of Cambrai attack. During the last year of the war, the squadron bombed lines of communication and ammunition dumps in the enemy's rear areas. Intensive low-level ground attack work was carried out after the German spring offensive, in March 1918; 46 Squadron suffered high casualties as a result.


In June 1918, the squadron became part of No. 80 Wing RAF, at Serny, Pas-de-Calais.[5] From 26 June, it was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Louis Strange. The wing specialised in large scale attacks on enemy airfields. In October and November, the squadron was heavily involved in attacks during the German Great Retreat, during the weeks before the signing of the Armistice. Towards the end of January 1919, the squadron was reduced to a cadre, and in February it was returned to England early; it was disbanded on 31 December. The Squadron claimed 184 air victories, creating 16 aces.


48 Squadron

Was formed at Netheravon, Wiltshire, on 15 April 1916. The squadron was posted to France in March 1917 and became the first fighter squadron to be equipped with the Bristol Fighter. One of the squadron's commanders was Keith Park, then a Major, who later led No. 11 Group of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain as an Air Vice Marshal. The squadron became part of the Royal Air Force when the Royal Flying Corps merged with the Royal Naval Air Service in 1918. It moved by sea to India during May/June 1919, being based at Quetta. On 1 April 1920 the squadron was disbanded by renumbering it to No. 5 Squadron. The squadron had 32 aces serve in it during the First World War.


53 Squadron

No. 53 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps was formed at Catterick on 15 May 1916. Originally intended to be a training squadron, it was sent to France to operate reconnaissance in December that year. The squadron was equipped with the B.E.2e and swapped for the R.E.8 in April 1917. It returned to the UK in March 1919 to Old Sarum where it was disbanded on 25 October 1919.

Sopwith Camel Pup. 54 Squadron. Ypres Salient. Flanders
Sopwith Camel Pup.

54 Squadron

No. 54 Squadron was formed at Castle Bromwich on 5 May 1916. Like many others formed at the same time, was tasked with Home Defence duties flying BE2Cs and Avro 504s. Four months later, however, it re-equipped with Sopwith Pups, being the first Royal Flying Corps Squadron to operate the Pup. It moved to France as a day fighter squadron in December 1916. It was initially used as for bomber escort, claiming its first kill, an Albatros D.III, in April 1917, but specialised in attacking enemy observation balloons during the Battle of Arras.


The Pup soon became outclassed in air combat, however, and No. 54 concentrated on ground attack missions until it could re-equip with Sopwith Camels in December 1917, allowing to return to fighter duties, providing protection for Army co-operation squadrons. The German spring offensive saw a return to low level attack missions, carrying out both ground attack and fighter missions until the end of the War. In February 1919, the Squadron returned to RAF Yatesbury, reduced to cadre status, and was disbanded on 25 October 1919


57 Squadron

Royal Flying Corps was formed on 8 June 1916 at Copmanthorpe, Yorkshire when it was split off from No.33 Squadron, taking on its parent unit's part-time training role to allow No. 33 Squadron to concentrate on its main duties as a night fighter unit. No.57 Squadron continued in its training role, equipped with a mixture of Avro 504s and Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2s, until October that year, when it began to prepare for its planned role as a fighter-reconnaissance squadron, receiving Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2d two-seat pusher biplanes in November.


On 16 December 1916, the squadron arrived at St. André-aux-Bois in France, moving to Fienvillers on 22 January 1917. By April 1917 the F.E.2d was obsolete, and the squadron suffered heavy losses supporting the British offensive at Arras. The squadron re-equipped with more modern Airco DH4s in May 1917, changing role to long-range bomber-reconnaissance.


Third Ypres - After training on the new type, the squadron commenced operations near Ypres in June of that year, moving to Droglandt on 12 June and Boisdinghem on 27 June. The squadron joined the 27th Wing, part of the V Brigade Royal Flying Corps, to support the British Army at the Ypres Offensive. The squadron's activities included bombing railway junctions and German airfields during the Battle of Langemarck in August 1917 and reconnaissance duties during the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge in September.


The squadron was deployed against the German spring offensive of 1918, attacking railway targets, taking part in both low- and high-level attacks to try to stem the German advance. From August 1918, the squadron carried out operations in support of the series of Allied offensives against the Germans that became known as the Hundred Days Offensive.


It was one of the few bomber units to produce flying aces, having five on strength. William Edward Green scored nine wins, and Forde Leathley eight, E. Grahame Joy seven with the squadron, and Arthur Thomas Drinkwater scored six, all in Airco DH4s. In total, the squadron claimed 166 German aircraft during the war, dropping 285 tons of bombs and taking 22,030 photos.


Following the Armistice in November 1918 the squadron was assigned to mail carrying duties before returning to the UK in August 1919. It was based at RAF South Carlton from 4 August 1919 as a cadre before being disbanded on 31 December 1919.


65 Squadron

The squadron was first formed at Wyton on 1 August 1916 as a squadron of the Royal Flying Corps with a core provided from the training station at Norwich. It served as a training unit as part of the Norwich based No. 7 Training Wing until equipping with Sopwith Camels and transferring to France as an operational fighter squadron in October 1917. By the end of the First World War, it had claimed about 200 victories. Thirteen aces had served with it, including : John Inglis Gilmour, Joseph White, Maurice Newnham, Thomas Williams, William Harry Bland, Alfred Leitch, Jack Armand Cunningham, Godfrey Brembridge, and George M. Cox. Arthur G. Jones-Williams, who would go on to long-range flight record attempts in 1929, also served in the squadron.


70 Squadron

The Squadron was formed on 22 April 1916 at Farnborough and was equipped with Sopwith 11/2 Strutter being re-equipped in 1917 with Sopwith Camels, a single seater biplane fighter aircraft. This was a highly successful squadron with 287 victories and had nineteen aces.

Airco DH.9 Royal Flying Corps. Ypres Salient. Flanders
Airco DH.9 Royal Flying Corps

98 Squadron

The Squadron was formed on 30 August 1917 at RFCS Harlaxton, Lincolnshire, but soon moved to Old Sarum, Wiltshire. As a day-bombing unit equipped with the Airco DH.9, it moved to Northern France in April 1918, immediately seeing action during the Battle of the Lys, and then during the Second Battle of the Marne and the Battle of Amiens. From 1 November 1918 the squadron was employed chiefly with reconnaissance work.

The Squadron claimed 40 enemy aircraft destroyed, 35 'driven out of control', and 4 'driven down'. Thirteen aircraft of the Squadron were shot down over enemy territory, and another 13 declared missing; ten crashed or crash-landed in Allied territory and about 31 were damaged or destroyed in accidents. Nineteen men were killed in action, 22 were reported missing, 14 were wounded, 13 injured in crashes, 16 taken prisoner and five accidentally killed.


108 Squadron

The unit was formed at Stonehenge or the nearby Lake Down Aerodrome in November 1917, and was equipped with Airco DH.9 bombers. In July 1918, the squadron went to Capelle, Dunkirk, equipped with DH.9s for day-bombing operations against targets in north-west Belgium. In October 1918, it moved to Bisseghem, Belgium, and remained based there until the Armistice. During its service overseas the squadron made 59 successful bombing raids, 40 reconnaissance flights, and two photographic flights; dropped approximately 70 tons of bombs, and shot down nine enemy aircraft (a further 20 were reported shot down, but were not confirmed)


213 Squadron

Formed originally from the Seaplane Defence Flight (SDF), which was itself founded in June 1917 at Dunkirk, it was reorganized as No. 13 Squadron RNAS on 15 January 1918. As the SDF, it operated Sopwith Pups. When the Royal Naval Air Service merged with the Royal Flying Corps to form the Royal Air Force, it was renumbered as 213 Squadron. In this incarnation, it flew Sopwith Baby floatplanes and transitioned to Sopwith Camels. It was during this time that the squadron derived its Hornet insignia and motto for the squadron badge, after overhearing a Belgian General refer to the squadron's defence of his trenches, "Like angry hornets attacking the enemy aircraft". The Hornet became affectionately known as "Crabro," Latin for hornet. The squadron's official motto became, "Irritatus Lacessit Crabro" (The Hornet Attacks When Roused). In March 1919 the squadron went back to the UK where it disbanded on 31 December 1919. The squadron had 14 flying aces serve with it.


214 Squadron

Was formed from No. 14 Squadron Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS), itself formerly No. 7A Squadron RNAS only taking on the new number on 9 December 1917. With the creation of the RAF from the Royal Flying Corps and the RNAS on 1 April 1918 it received the number 214. It was later given the fuller title No 214 (Federated Malay States) Squadron.

IWM Q 12107 A Clayton tractor towing a Handley Page O 400 bomber of No. 207 Squadron at Ligescourt Aerodrome, 29 August 1918.
IWM Q 12107 A Clayton tractor towing a Handley Page O 400 bomber of No. 207 Squadron at Ligescourt Aerodrome, 29 August 1918.

No. 214 Squadron started with the Handley Page Type O/100 bomber but soon got the more powerful O/400 in the middle of 1918 with which it continued to fly against German strategic targets. From 29 June to 23 October 1918, 214 Squadron was based at RAF Saint Inglevert.

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