No. 54 Squadron

Aircraft: Spitfire Mk.I
Motto: Audax omnia perpeti – ‘Boldness endures everything’
Badge: A lion rampant semee de Lys. The badge combines features of the Arms of France and Flanders, scene of No 54’s battles in World War One.


  • Rochford – 25 June 1940
  • Hornchurch – 24 July 1940
  • Catterick – 28 July 1940
  • Hornchurch – 8 August 1940
  • Catterick – 3 September 1940


No. 54 Squadron was formed on 16 May 1916 at Castle Bromwich and moved to France as a fighter squadron in December with Pups. A year later, these were replaced by Camels which, in addition to normal fighter and escort missions were engaged on low-level attacks on troops and transport behind the enemy lines until the end of the war. In January 1919, the squadron handed over its aircraft to No. 151 Squadron and returned to the UK in February, where it remained a cadre unit until disbanded on 25 October 1919.

On 15 January 1930, No. 54 was reformed at Hornchurch as a fighter squadron, flying Siskin two-seaters until the arrival of its Bulldogs between April and October. In September 1936, Gauntlets were received and in May 1937, Gladiators. Spitfires began to arrive in March 1939 and on the outbreak of World War Two were flown on defensive duties from Hornchurch. During the evacuation from Dunkirk in May 1940, the squadron flew patrols over the Belgian coast to intercept German raids on the port and beaches. After being heavily engaged in the first half of the Battle of Britain, No. 54 was moved to Yorkshire early in September.

A Supermarine Spitfire Mk I in 54 Squadron markings

No. 56 Squadron

Aircraft: Hurricane Mk.I
Motto: Quid si coelum ruat – ‘What if heaven falls’
Badge: A Phoenix. The theme underlying the Phoenix as the badge is that of the squadron always reappearing intact, whatever it undergoes.


  • North Weald – 4 June 1940
  • Boscombe Down – 1 September 1940


No. 56 Squadron was formed on 9 June 1916 at Gosport from a nucleus supplied by No. 28 Squadron and moved early in July to London Colney where it trained with a variety of aircraft until March 1917, when it received SE5s for the first squadron to do so. Early in April, it moved to France where it flew patrols over the Western Front for the rest of the war, apart from two weeks at the end of June 1917 when it returned to the UK for defensive duties after enemy air attacks. During the final German offensive and subsequent withdrawal, No. 56 took part in ground attack missions against enemy troops and transport and in February 1919 returned to the UK where it disbanded on 22 January 1920.

On 1 February 1920, No. 80 Squadron at Aboukir was renumbered 56 Squadron and Snipes were flown until 23 September 1922, when the squadron disbanded. A detachment of No. 56 attached to No. 208 Squadron at Constantinople continued to use the number until August 1923 despite the fact that No. 56 had been reformed at Hawkinge on 1 November 1922 as a fighter squadron, also with Snipes. In September 1924, Grebes were received, being replaced in September 1927 by Siskins. Bulldogs arrived in October 1932 and were succeeded by Gauntlets in May 1936 and Gladiators in July 1937. The Hurricanes with which the squadron entered the Second World War arrived in May 1938 and were used for defensive patrols until required to give fighter cover for the beaches at Dunkirk in May 1940. Flights operated for short periods from French airfields during the Battle of France. No. 56 was based in southern England throughout the Battle of Britain.

A Hawker Hurricane Mk I in 56 Squadron markings

No. 64 Squadron

Aircraft: Spitfire Mk.I
Motto: Tenax propositi – ‘Firm of purpose’
Badge: A scarabee. The scarabee is an Egyptian hieroglyphic and represents the squadron’s association with Egypt.


  • Kenley – 16 May 1940
  • Leconfield – 19 August 1940
  • Biggin Hill – 13 October 1940
  • Coltishall – 15 October 1940
  • Boscombe Down – 1 September 1940


No. 64 squadron was formed at Sedgeford on 1 August 1916 as a training unit with FE.2bs and Farmans but in June 1917 received fighter types in preparation for operations in France. In October 1917, the sqaudron moved to the Western Front for fighter patrol and ground attack duties for the rest of the war. In February 1919, it returned to the UK and disbanded on 31 December 1919.

On 1 March 1936, No. 64 reformed at Heliopolis, although for political reasons it was announced as having formed at henlow. Its Demons had already been sent out to Egypt where they formed D Flights in 6 and 208 squadrons which were transferred during March to 64 squadron. With the Abyssinian crisis still on, the squadron’s duties were to carry out attacks on enemy airfields and act as cover for bombers being refuelled at advance landing grounds. In August 1936, the squadron embarked for the UK to form part of the fighter defences of London. In February 1938, Demons with turrets were received and by the end of the year these had been replaced by Blenheim fighters at Church Fenton. On the outbreak of war, the squadron was engaged in patrols off the East Coast and in December 1939 provided fighter defence for the Home Fleet from Evanton for a month. In April 1940, conversion to Spitfires took place in time for the squadron to help cover the evacuation from Dunkirk and later to take part in the Battle of Britain.

A Supermarine Spitfire Mk I in 64 Squadron markings

No. 65 Squadron

Aircraft: Spitfire Mk.I
Motto: Vi et armis – ‘By force of arms’
Badge: In front of fifteen swords in pile, the hilts in base, a lion passant. The number of swords refers to a memorable combat in which a similar number of enemy arircraft were destroyed.


  • Hornchurch – 5 June 1940
  • Turnhouse – 28 August 1940


No. 65 Squadron was formed at Wyton on 1 August 1916 from a nucleus flight supplied by Norwich training station and used a variety of types for training until it left for France with Camels in October 1917. It began flying defensive patrols over the Western Front and in February 1918 began ground attack missions with light bombs on enemy troops and battlefield positions. In August 1918, it moved to the Belgian coastal sector and provided escorts for day bombers attacking enemy bases. During the lst weeks of the war it covered the Allied advance into Belgium and returned to the UK in February 1919, disbanding on 25 October 1919.

On 1 August 1934, No. 65 reformed at Hornchurch with Demons but in September 1935 it began losing its personnel to drafts being sent to the Middle East during the Abyssinian crisis and was reduced to a cadre, being brought up to strength from July 1936, at the same time as Gauntlets were received to replace the remaining Demons. In June 1937, it re-equipped with Gladiators, converting to Spitfires in March 1939. In June 1940, offensive patrols began to be flown over France and the Low Countries to cover the evacuation from Dunkirk, the squadron being moved to Lincolnshire to refit at the end of May. It returned south a week later and took part in the Battle of Britain until the end of August, when it moved to Scotland.

A Supermarine Spitfire Mk I in 65 Squadron markings

No. 66 Squadron.

Aircraft: Spitfire Mk.I
Motto: Cavete praemonui – ‘Beware, I have warned’
Badge: A rattlesnake – typifying aggressive spirit and striking power.


  • Coltishall – 29 May 1940
  • Kenley – 3 September 1940
  • Gravesend – 11 September 1940
  • West Malling – 30 October 1940


No. 66 Squadron was formed at Filton on 30 June 1916 and moved to France in March 1917 as a fighter unit. Equipped with Pups, it flew patrols over the Western Front until October 1917 when it re-equipped with Camels and moved during the following month to northern Italy. Until the end of the war, it was engaged on the north-eastern front against the Austrians and In March 1919 returned to the UK as a cadre, where it disbanded on 25 October 1919.

On 20 July 1936, No. 66 reformed at Duxford from C Flight of No. 29 Squadron. In November 1938 it replaced its Gauntlets with Spitfires which were flown on defensive duties after the outbreak of World War Two. In May 1940, the squadron flew covering patrols over Dunkirk and remained in the south-east throughout the Battle of Britain.

A Supermarine Spitfire Mk I in 66 Squadron markings

No. 72 Squadron

Aircraft: Spitfire Mk.I
Motto: Swift
Badge: A swift volant – symbolic of speed.


  • Acklington – 6 June 1940
  • Biggin Hill – 31 August 1940
  • Croydon – 1 September 1940
  • Biggin Hill – 14 September 1940
  • Coltishall – 13 October 1940
  • Matlask – 30 October 1940


No. 72 Squadron was formed on 2 July 1917 from a nucleus supplied by the Central Flying School. In December it left for Mesopotamia, split into several parties which assembled at Basra on 2 March 1918. Equipped with a variety of single-seat fighters, the squadron was divided into detached flights and allotted to different army formations for fighter protection and tactical reconnaissance duties. Soon after the end of the war, No. 72 re-assembled at Baghdad where it was reduced to a cadre on 13 February 1919 on leaving for England, where it was formally disbanded on 22 September 1919.

On 22 February 1937, No. 72 reformed at Tangmere from a flight of No. 1 Squadron as a fighter squadron with Gladiators. In April 1939, conversion to Spitfires took place and these were engaged in defensive duties until June 1940, when the squadron moved south to help cover the Dunkirk beaches for a few days. In August, it moved to the Biggin Hill sector during the Battle of Britain before returning north in November.

A Supermarine Spitfire Mk I in 72 Squadron markings