No. 1 Squadron

Aircraft: Hurricane Mk.I
Motto: In omnibus princeps – ‘Foremost in everything’.
Badge: The numeral ‘1’ winged. The badge is an adaptation of No. 1’s first unofficial badge which comprised a figure ‘1’ on the national marking within a laurel wreath between two wings.


  • Tangmere – 23 June 1940
  • Northolt – 1 August 1940
  • Wittering – 9 September 1940


No. 1 Squadron was one of the first four squadrons of the Royal Flying Corps when it was formed on 13 May 1912 and took over the operation of its balloons, airships and kites from No. 1 Airship Company, Air Battalion, Royal Engineers. When airships became the responsibility of the Naval Wing on 1 January 1914, the squadron continued to operate at Farnborough until it was redesignated the Airship Detachment, RFC on 1 May 1914. On the same day, a cadre for a new No. 1 Squadron was formed at Brooklands but the outbreak of war in August resulted in its aircraft being taken over by the active squadrons destined to accompany the British Expeditionary Force to France.

Resuming training with whatever aircraft were to hand, the squadron completed training in February 1915 and early in March moved to France as a reconnaissance unit, beginning operations on 10 March. A few single-seat scouts were received during 1915 and the first practicable single-seat fighters, Nieuport 17s arrived in March 1916 and were flown in small numbers. In January 1917, No. 1 completely equipped with Nieuports and became a fighter squadron, converting to SE5As in January 1918. For the remainder of the war, it was engaged in fighter patrols and ground attack duties over the Western Front. In February 1919, it was reduced to a cadre and in March returned to the UK where it was disbanded on 20 January 1920.

On 21 January 1920, No. 1 Squadron was reformed at Risalpur on the North West Frontier of India. Initially it was designated B Squadron with Snipes but in May 1921 was moved to Iraq to join the RAF force policing the desert areas where it remained until disbanded on 1 November 1926. On 1 February 1927, it reformed at Tangmere with Siskins as part of the fighter defence of the UK and February 1932 re-equipped with Furies which it flew until they were replaced by Hurricanes in October 1938. On the outbreak of World War Two, No. 1 moved to France as one of the two fighter squadrons with the Advanced Air Striking Force. The German offensive in May 1940 soon forced the squadron to withdraw westwards and after covering the evacuation of British forces from the Biscay ports it returned to the UK to re-equip. After taking part in the first half of the Battle of Britain, No. 1 was withdrawn to Wittering where it remained until December.

A Hawker Hurricane Mk I in 1 Squadron markings

No. 3 Squadron

Aircraft: Hurricane Mk.I
Motto:Tertius primus erit – ‘The third shall be first’.
Badge: On a monolith a cockatrice. The original, unofficial badge was five monoliths having been introduced in reference to the unit’s connection with Stonehenge. In the official badge it was decided to use only one monlith in reference to Stonehenge and to place thereon a cockatrice, representing a very early form of flying creature.


  • Wick – 23 May 1940
  • Castletown – 2 September 1940
  • Turnhouse – 14 September 1940
  • Dyce – 9 October 1940
  • Castletown – 12 October 1940


No. 3 Squadron, RFC, was formed at Larkhill on 13 May 1912 from No. 2 (Aeroplane) Comapany. It deployed to France as part of the BEF in August 1914 on spotting duties. Late in 1917, Camels were received and the Squadron became a fighter/scout unit. After the Armistice in 1918, the Squadron disbanded and through the 1920s spent many short-lived periods at a variety of locations before arriving at Upavon in 1924 with Sopwith Snipes. During their ten-year stay, the Squadron flew Woodcocks, Gamecocks and Bulldogs and also deployed to Sudan during the Abyssinian crisis in 1935.

Upon its return, No. 3 Sqn introduced the Gladiator into RAF service and received Hurricanes at Biggin Hill in March 1938. During July the squadron reverted to Gladiators while Kenley was extended to cope with the monoplane fighters. A move to Biggin Hill in May 1939 coincided with the return of Hurricanes and after the outbreak of World War Two these were flown on defensive patrols over southern England. When the German army attacked through the Low countries in May 1940, No. 3 was sent to reinforce the fighter squadrons covering the BEF in France but after ten days had to retire to British bases as the enemy occupied many of the RAF’s airfields in northern France.

The squadron was sent to northern Scotland to re-equip and train new pilots, having lost the equivalent of its flying establishment in France. B Flight was detached on 21 July 1940 to form No. 232 Squadron and No. 3 remained in the area for the defence of Scapa Flow until April 1941.

A Hawker Hurricane Mk I in 3 Squadron markings

No. 17 Squadron

Aircraft: Hurricane Mk.I
Motto: Excellere contende – ‘Strive to excel’
Badge: A gauntlet. The badge symbolises armed strength and also commemorates the type of aircraft the squadron was flying when the badge was awarded.


  • Debden – 19 June 1940
  • Tangmere – 19 August 1940
  • Debden – 2 September 1940
  • Martlesham Heath – 8 October 1940


No. 17 Squadron was formed at Gosport on 1 February 1915 and after a period of training embarked for Egypt in November. On 24 December, it began to make reconnaissance flights over the Turkish lines in Sinai, also flying in support of troops engaged with Turkish army units in the Western Desert. Detachments were also to be found in Arabia until July 1916, when the Squadron was sent to Salonika as a mixed unit of twelve BE2cs for reconnaissance and a scout component of two DH2s and three Bristol Scouts. At first it was the only RFC unit in Macedonia but was later joined by others in April 1918, handed over its fighters to a newly-formed No. 150 Squadron. For the rest of the war, it was engaged in tactical reconnaissance and artillery spotting on the Bulgarian border. In December 1918, the squadron re-equipped with twelve DH9s and six Camels, sending A Flight to Batum to support the White Russian forces and B and C Flights to Constantinople in January 1919. On 14 November 1919, No. 17 was disbanded.

Reforming at Hawkinge on 1 April 1924, with Snipes No. 17 formed part of the fighter defence of the UK until the outbreak of World War Two. Successively equipped Woodcocks, Siskins, Bulldogs and Gauntlets, the squadron remained in the UK during the Abyssinian crisis but lost most of its Bulldogs as reinforcements for squadrons moving to the Middle East and had to fly Harts for a period. In June 1939, Hurricanes were received and flew defensive patrols until the German attack on France in May 1940. Fighter sweeps were then flown over Holland Belgium and French airfields were used to cover the retreat of allied troops. In June the squadron moved to Brittany as the remnants of BEF and RAF units in France were evacuated, retiring to the Channel Islands two days before returning to the UK. No. 17 flew over southern England throughout the Battle of Britain, being moved to northern Scotland in April 1941.

A Hawker Hurricane Mk I in 17 Squadron markings

No. 19 Squadron

Aircraft: Spitfire Mk.I
Motto: Possunt quia posse videntur – ‘They can because they think they can’ Badge: Between wings elevated and conjoined in base, a dolphin, head downwards. The dolphin signifies the fact that it was the first squadron to fly the Sopwith Dolphin, the wings showing that it was a flying unit.


  • Fowlmere – 25 January 1940
  • Duxford – 3 July 1940
  • Fowlmere – 24 July 1940
  • Duxford – 30 October 1940


No. 19 Squadron was formed at Castle Bromwich on 1 September 1915, from a nucleus supplied by No. 5 Reserve Squadron and for the rest of the year it trained on various types of aircraft. In December RE7s were received for operational use but the move to France was postponed and when it took place in July 1916, the squadron was equipped with BE12s. Unsuitable as this type was as a fighter, No. 19 carried out patrols over the Western Front for the rest of the year before replacing it with Spads. These were used for fighter and ground attack missions until replaced by Dolphins in January 1918, which were flown until the Armistice. In February 1919, the squadron returned to the UK as a cadre and disbanded on 31 December 1919.

On 1 April 1923, No. 19 reformed at Duxford, the home of the No. 2 Flying Training School, as a single flight of Snipes for the training single-seat fighter pilots and was brought up to full strength on 1 June. At the end of June, No. 2 FTS moved and No. 19 became an independent fighter squadron re-equipping with Grebes in December. After flying Siskins, Bulldogs and Gauntlets in turn, the squadron became the first to receive Spitfires in August 1938. It remained on defensive duties at Duxford for the opening months of World War Two but at the end of May 1940, took part in covering the evacuation of the BEF from Dunkirk and was active throughout the Battle of Britain. For a short period during the battle it was equipped with Spitfires armed with 20 mm cannon but these were beset by stoppages and were withdrawn after a short time.

A Supermarine Spitfire Mk I in 19 Squadron markings

No. 23 Squadron

Aircraft: Blenheim Mk.IF
Motto: Semper agressus – ‘Always on the attack’
Badge: An eagle preying on a falcon. An eagle preying on a small bird was the squadron’s own original unofficial badge; this was turned into its present badge to signify the most powerful of air-fighters.


  • Collyweston – 31 May 1940
  • Ford – 12 September 1940
  • Middle Wallop (D) – 12 September to 25 September 1940


No. 23 Squadron was formed at Gosport on 1 September 1915 and during training supplied aircraft to defend London against air attack. In March 1916, the squadron moved top France with FE2b fighters and flew patrols and reconnaissance missions over the Western Front until re-equipped with Spads in February 1917. Ground attack missions began to be flown against enemy troops and transport behind the front line, which were continued after conversion to Dolphins in March 1918. After the end of the war, the squadron returned to the UK in March 1919 and was disbanded on 31 December 1919.

No. 23 reformed at Henlow in 1 July 1925 as a fighter squadron equipped with Snipes, replacing these with Gamecocks in April 1926. Bulldogs were received in April 1931 and in October a flight of Hart Fighters was added for two-seat fighter trials. These were successful and in April 1933, the squadron was fully equipped with these aircraft, Now named Demons. In September 1935, many squadrons were moved to the Middle East during the Abyssinian crisis and No. 23 lost most of its aircraft as reinforcements during the nest six months before it began to brought up to strength again. In December 1938 conversion to Blenheims took place and these were given a night fighter role when war broke out. After defensive duties during the early stages of the German attacks, No. 23 began intruder missions over enemy airfields in December 1940.

A Bristol Blenheim Mk IF in 23 Squadron markings

No. 25 Squadron

Aircraft: Blenheim Mk.IF; Beaufighter Mk.IF
Motto: Feriens tego – ‘Striking I defend’
Badge: On a gauntlet a hawk rising affrontee. The badge incorporates a previous badge used unofficially by the squadron, the hawk being associated with the squadron’s period at Hawkinge.


  • Martlesham Heath 19 June 1940
  • North Weald 1 September 1940
  • Debden 8 October 1940


No. 25 Squadron was formed on 25 September 1915 at Montrose from a nucleus supplied by No. 6 Reserve Squadron and after a period of training moved to France in February 1916 equipped with FE2bs. It was engaged in fighter and reconnaissance missions over the Western Front before the increasing obsolescence of the FEs resulted in re-equipment with DH4 day bombers in June 1917. These were flown in attacks on enemy bases behind the lines and on reconnaissance missions for the rest of the war. The squadron was scheduled to convert to DH9As when the war ended but retained DH4s until the end of 1919, when it moved to Scopwick as a cadre and disbanded on 31 January 1920.

No. 25 began to reform at Hawkinge on 1 February 1920 and this was completed on 26 April. Equipped with Snipes, the squadron was one of the few fighter units existing at this time. At the end of September 1922, No. 25 was sent to Turkey for a period, returning in October 1923. In October 1924, the squadron converted to Grebes which were replaced by Siskins in May 1929. Furies were received in February 1932 and were flown until No. 25 became a two-seat fighter squadron with the arrival of Demons in October 1937. A reversion to single-seaters came in June 1938 but Blenheims began to arrive in December 1938 and on the outbreak of World War Two were used for night patrols. Later the Squadron re-equipped with the Beaufighter and continued in the night-fighter role.

A Bristol Blenheim Mk IF in 25 Squadron markings
A Bristol Beaufighter Mk IF in 25 Squadron markings