No. 401 Squadron

Aircraft: Hurricane Mk.I
Motto: Mors celerrima hostibus – ‘Very swift death for the enemy’
Badge: A Rocky Mountain sheep’s head, caboshed. The Canadian mountain sheep is known for its qualities of great stamina and fighting power.


  • Middle Wallop – 21 June 1940
  • Croydon – July 1940
  • Northolt – Mid-August 1940
  • Prestwick – 11 October 1940


No. 401 Squadron began its existence as No. 1 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force, a permanent peacetime unit which, augmented by personnel from No. 115 Squadron, arrived at its first base in the UK, Middle Wallop, on 21 June 1940. It had brought its own Hurricanes from Canada and as these were not fully up to UK standard the squadron was non-operational until mid-August when it moved to Northolt. On its second patrol on 26 August 1940 it met with 25-30 Dorniers and was credited with three destroyed and three damaged in the fight. However three of the Squadron’s aircraft were shot down and one pilot killed. Activity became hectic at the end of the month and into September with a fairly high loss rate in aircraft as the squadron battled against the German formations over South London. By 11 October the depleted squadron had moved to Scotland and its only operational activity was coastal patrol work in the Clyde approaches.

A Hawker Hurricane Mk I in 401 Squadron markings

No. 501 Squadron

Aircraft: Hurricane Mk.I
Motto: Nil time – ‘Fear nothing’
Badge: A boar’s head couped. The boar’s head is taken from the Arms of Gloucester; the animal is also noted for its courage.


  • Croydon – 21 June 1940
  • Middle Wallop – 4 July 1940
  • Gravesend – 25 July 1940
  • Kenley – 10 September 1940


No. 501 Squadron was formed at Filton on 14 June 1929 as a Special Reserve unit and began to receive DH9As for day bomber duties in March 1930. These were replaced by Wapitis in 1930 and, early in 1933, Wallaces came into service. Re-equipped with Harts in July 1936, the squadron had been transferred to the Auxiliary Air Force in May 1936, changing its name to embrace a larger area of recruitment. Hinds were received in March 1938 and at the end of the year No. 501 was redesignated a fighter squadron, receiving Hurricanes in March 1939. On the outbreak of World War Two, the squadron flew defensive patrols until the German attack on France in May 1940, when it moved across the Channel to provide fighter cover for the AASF, retiring to Brittany and returning to the UK when France surrendered. No. 501 was based in southern England throughout the Battle of Britain.

A Hawker Hurricane Mk I in 501 Squadron markings

No. 504 Squadron

Aircraft: Hurricane Mk.I
Motto: Vindicat in ventis – ‘It avenges in the wind’
Badge: An oak tree fronted and eradicated. The ‘Major Oak Tree’ is drawn from the armorial bearings of Nottingtham County but in addition it was considered an appropriate badge for a Hurricane squadron.


  • Castletown – 21 June 1940
  • Catterick – 1 September 1940
  • Hendon – 5 September 1940
  • Filton – 26 September 1940


No. 504 Squadron was a Special Reserve unit formed at Hucknall on 26 March 1928 as a day bomber squadron equipped with Horsleys. In February 1935 it re-equipped with Wallaces, which were replaced by Hinds in May 1937, the squadron having been transferred to the Auxiliary Air Force on 18 May 1936. On 31 October 1938 No. 504 became a fighter squadron and received Hurricanes in March 1939. A few days before the outbreak of war, the squadron moved to Digby to fly defensive patrols and in October joined the Debden Sector, using Martlesham Heath as a forward base and alternating between the two airfields at approximately weekly intervals until the Germans invaded France in May 1940. No. 504 moved to France for a short period to cover the BEF and at the end of May was sent to the north of Scotland to provide fighter defence for Scapa Flow. In September, it came south again to take part in the latter half of the Battle of Britain.

504 Squadron Hurricane Mk 1
A Hawker Hurricane Mk I in 504 Squadron markings

No. 600 Squadron

Aircraft: Blenheim Mk IF
Motto: Praeter sescentos – ‘More than six hundred’
Badge: In front of an increscent, a sword in bend. The crescent moon represents the squadron’s night-fighter activities whilst the sword commemorates the connection with the City of London.


  • Manston – 20 June 1940
  • Hornchurch – 22 August 1940
  • Redhill – 12 September 1940
  • Catterick – 12 October 1940


No. 600 Squadron was formed at Northolt on 14 October 1925 as a unit of the Auxiliary Air Force. Equipped with DH9As and Avro 504Ns, it was a day bomber squadron until 1934, having received Wapitis in August 1929. These were replaced by Harts in January 1935 pending the arrival of Demon fighters, No. 600 having been designated a fighter squadron in July 1934. In April 1937 conversion to Demons was complete and January 1939 they were replaced by Blenheims. On the outbreak of war day and night patrols were flown, experiments with airborne radar beginning in December 1939. When the Germans invaded Holland, the squadron flew patrols over the Low Countries but in view of the inadequacy of Blenheims for daylight operations, No. 600 was allocated to night defence only a few days later and in September 1940 the first Beaufighter was received.

A Bristol Blenheim Mk IF in 600 Squadron markings

No. 601 Squadron

Aircraft: Hurricane Mk.I
Badge: A winged sword. The winged sword commemorates the squadron’s position as the County of London squadron.


  • Tangmere – 17 June 1940
  • Debden – 19 August 1940
  • Tangmere – 2 September 1940
  • Exeter – 7 September 1940


No. 601 Squadron was formed at Northolt in 14 October 1925 as a light bomber unit of the Auxiliary Air Force. A nucleus of permanent staff was posted to the squadron and on 4 December the first Auxiliary personnel were enlisted. Flying did not begin until May 1926 and it was the following year before the Avro 504Ks were supplemented by DH9A light bombers. In January 1927 the squadron moved to Hendon which was its base up to the outbreak of war, apart from a few days during the Munich crisis in September 1938. In November 1929 Wapitis began to arrive and a year later had replaced all the DH9As. These were in turn replaced by Harts by June 1933 and on 1 July 1934 the squadron was redesignated a fighter unit. The Harts were retained until replaced by Demons in August 1937. In November 1938, No. 601 converted to Gauntlet single-seat fighters, but in January 1939 began to receive Blenheims. It was with these the fighter patrols began when World War Two broke out in September 1939 but in March 1940 the squadron had converted to Hurricanes. During the German invasion of France, a detachment operated from French soil for a week, followed by defensive duties during the Battle of Britain while based in southern England.

A Hawker Hurricane Mk I in 601 Squadron markings