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No. 103 Squadron RAF

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

No. 103 Squadron RAF
103 Squadron Crest.png
Active 1 Sep 1917 - 1 Oct 1919
10 Aug 1936 - 26 Nov 1945
30 Nov 1954 - 1 Aug 1956
1 Aug 1959 - 31 Jul 1963
1 Aug 1963 - 31 Jul 1975[1]
Country United Kingdom United Kingdom
Air Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Royal Air Force
Nickname(s) "Swindon's 'own' Squadron" (unofficial)[2]
Motto(s) Latin: Noli me tangere[2][3]
(Translation: "Touch me not" or more modern: "Don't touch me")
Battle honours Western Front, 1918*
Hindenburg Line*
France & Low Countries, 1939-40*
Invasion Ports, 1940*
Fortress Europe, 1940-44*
Biscay Ports, 1941-43
Berlin, 1941-44*
German Ports, 1941-45
Baltic, 1941-45
Ruhr, 1941-45*
France & Germany, 1944-45*
The honours marked with an asterix(*) are those emblazoned on the squadron standard.
Squadron Badge heraldry A swan, wings elevated and addorsed[3]
A swan was chosen because this bird is very strong on the wing and also well able to defend itself[2]
Squadron Codes GV (Apr 1939 - Sep 1939)[4][5]
PM (Sep 1939 - Nov 1945)[6][7]

No. 103 Squadron was a Royal Air Force bomber squadron during World War I, World War II and the Cold War, switching to helicopters in the late 1950s until it was disbanded for the last time in 1975.

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Formation in World War I

A scoreboard listing the claims for aircraft destroyed by No. 80 Wing between July and November 1918.
A scoreboard listing the claims for aircraft destroyed by No. 80 Wing between July and November 1918.

No. 103 Squadron was formed during the Great War as No. 103 Squadron, RFC[2] at RAF Beaulieu, Hampshire on 1 September 1917,[1] equipped with Airco DH.9 aircraft.[8]

In May 1918 the Squadron was transferred to France and flew reconnaissance and day bombing operations on the Western Front. That June, following the foundation of the Royal Air Force, the squadron became part of No. 80 Wing RAF. The Squadron was disbanded on 1 October 1919 at RAF Shotwick, Flintshire.[1][3]


The Squadron was reformed on 10 August 1936 at RAF Andover, Hampshire as No. 103 (Bomber) Squadron, a light bomber Squadron flying biplane Hawker Hind bombers.[8] The Squadron was then posted to RAF Usworth in County Durham. In July 1938[1] 103 Squadron was re-equipped with the more advanced Fairey Battle monoplane bomber.

World War II

103 Squadron Sycamore over Cyprus, 1961
103 Squadron Sycamore over Cyprus, 1961

At the outbreak of the Second World War the Squadron was deployed to France as part of the RAF Advanced Air Striking Force. On 10 May 1940 the Luftwaffe and the German Army invaded France, Belgium and the Netherlands. The Squadron was heavily committed during the Battle of France, sustaining many losses. In mid June 1940 the Squadron withdrew from France for RAF Abingdon in England. 103 Squadron was then transferred to RAF Newton near Nottingham and reverted to the control of No. 1 Group RAF, Bomber Command. In October 1940 it was re-equipped with Vickers Wellington bombers. Operations were carried out with this type on targets on mainland Europe. The Squadron moved into the new airfield at RAF Elsham Wolds in July 1941. In July 1942[1] the Wellingtons were replaced by Handley Page Halifax bombers. These were in turn replaced in late October 1942 by Avro Lancaster bombers, which 103 Squadron flew on many operations to Germany and occupied Europe for the rest of the war. During the Second World War 103 Squadron flew over 6000 operational sorties, at a high cost in both men and machines. At the conclusion of the Second World War, on 26 November 1945, the Squadron was disbanded by renumbering it to 57 Squadron.[1][2][3]

Lost Avro in Lavannes, 1943/3/10.
Lost Avro in Lavannes, 1943/3/10.

On Jetbombers in RAF Germany

103 Squadron was subsequently reformed at RAF Gütersloh, West Germany on 30 November 1954 and was part of the 2nd Tactical Air Force. During this short period the unit flew the English Electric Canberra bomber. The Squadron was however again disbanded on 1 August 1956.[1][3]

On helicopters in Cyprus

103 Squadron reformed at RAF Nicosia, Cyprus on 1 August 1959 after renumbering of 284 Squadron.[3] From then onwards it became a support unit with Bristol Sycamore HR.14 helicopters operating in search and rescue, casualty evacuation and internal security roles. 103 Squadron was disbanded on 31 July 1963 by breaking the squadron up into Nos. 1563 (at Nicosia) and 1564 (at El Adem) flights.[3][9]

In the Far East

103 Squadron itself was reformed in the Far East at RAF Seletar, Singapore on 1 August 1963 by renumbering 110 Squadron.[3] At that time it was equipped with Westland Whirlwind HAR.10 helicopters. In 1969 the Squadron was posted to RAF Changi and subsequently moved to RAF Tengah in 1971. In November 1972 the Westland Whirlwind was replaced with the more modern and capable Westland Wessex helicopter, but three years later 103 Squadron was disbanded for the last time, on 1 August 1975 at RAF Tengah.[3][9]

Aircraft operated

Aircraft operated by No. 103 Squadron RAF[1][3][10]
From To Aircraft Version
December 1917 March 1919 Airco DH.9
August 1936 Late 1938 Hawker Hind
Late 1938 October 1940 Fairey Battle Mk.I
October 1940 July 1942 Vickers Wellington Mk.Ic
July 1942 October 1942 Handley Page Halifax Mk.II
October 1942 November 1945 Avro Lancaster Mks.I & III
November 1954 August 1956 English Electric Canberra B.2
August 1959 July 1963 Bristol Sycamore HR.14
August 1963 November 1972 Westland Whirlwind HAR.10
November 1972 August 1975 Westland Wessex HC.2

Squadron bases

Memorial dedicated at former RAF Elsham Wolds to those lost on operations from no. 103 Squadron and 576 Squadron RAF
Memorial dedicated at former RAF Elsham Wolds to those lost on operations from no. 103 Squadron and 576 Squadron RAF
Bases and airfields used by No. 103 Squadron RAF[1][3]
From To Base Remarks
1 September 1917 8 September 1917 RFCS Beaulieu, Hampshire Formed here as RFC unit
8 September 1917 12 May 1918 RFCS Old Sarum, Wiltshire
12 May 1918 21 October 1918 Serny, France
21 October 1918 26 October 1918 Floringhem, France
26 October 1918 25 January 1919 Rochin, France
25 January 1919 26 March 1919 Maisoncelle, France
26 March 1919 1 October 1919 RAF Shotwick, Flintshire 1st Disbandment
10 August 1936 26 February 1937 RAF Andover, Hampshire
26 February 1937 2 September 1938 RAF Usworth, County Durham
2 September 1938 1 April 1939 RAF Abingdon, Oxfordshire
1 April 1939 2 September 1939 RAF Benson, Oxfordshire
2 September 1939 28 November 1939 Challerange, France
28 November 1939 15 February 1940 Plivot, France
15 February 1940 16 May 1940 Bétheniville, France
16 May 1940 4 June 1940 Rhèges/Saint-Lucien Ferme
4 June 1940 14 June 1940 Ouzouer-le-Doyen, France
14 June 1940 15 June 1940 Sougé, France
15 June 1940 16 June 1940 RAF Abingdon, Oxfordshire Air echelon only
16 June 1940 3 July 1940 RAF Honington, Suffolk
3 July 1940 11 July 1941 RAF Newton, Nottingham
11 July 1941 26 November 1945 RAF Elsham Wolds, Lincolnshire 2nd Disbandment
30 November 1954 1 August 1956 RAF Gütersloh, West Germany 3rd Disbandment
1 August 1959 31 July 1963 RAF Nicosia, Cyprus 4th Disbandment
1 August 1963 28 March 1969 RAF Seletar, Singapore
28 March 1969 15 September 1971 RAF Changi, Singapore
15 September 1971 31 July 1975 RAF Tengah, Singapore 5th Disbandment


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Jefford 2001, p. 57.
  2. ^ a b c d e Moyes 1976, p. 142.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Halley 1988, p. 177.
  4. ^ Bowyer and Rawlings 1979, p. 13.
  5. ^ Flintham and Thomas 2003, p. 50.
  6. ^ Bowyer and Rawlings 1979, p. 82.
  7. ^ Flintham and Thomas 2003, p. 97.
  8. ^ a b "No. 103 Squadron". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  9. ^ a b Rawlings 1982, p. 98.
  10. ^ Moyes 1976, pp. 142-143.
  • Bowyer, Michael J.F. and John D.R. Rawlings. Squadron Codes, 1937-56. Cambridge, UK: Patrick Stephens Ltd., 1979. ISBN 0-85059-364-6.
  • Charlwood, Don. No Moon Tonight. London: Goodall Publications Ltd., 1984. ISBN 0-907579-06-X.
  • Finn, Sid. Black Swan: A History of 103 Squadron RAF. Newton Publishers, 1989. ISBN 1-872308-00-7.
  • Flintham, Vic and Andrew Thomas. Combat Codes: A full explanation and listing of British, Commonwealth and Allied air force unit codes since 1938. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing Ltd., 2003. ISBN 1-84037-281-8.
  • Halley, James J. The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth 1918-1988. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1988. ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
  • Jefford, Wing Commander C.G., MBE, BA, RAF(Retd.). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 1988 (second edition 2001). ISBN 1-85310-053-6.
  • Moyes, Philip J.R. Bomber Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald and Jane's (Publishers) Ltd., 2nd edition 1976. ISBN 0-354-01027-1.
  • Public Record Office AIR 27 103 Squadron files.
  • Rawlings, John D.R. Coastal, Support and Special Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Jane's Publishing Company Ltd., 1982. ISBN 0-7106-0187-5.

External links

This page was last edited on 17 July 2018, at 02:22
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