Western Front 1915-1918*, Somme 1916*, Arras, Cambrai 1917*, Some 1918, Hindenburg Line*, France and Low Countries 1939-1940, Meuse Bridges*, Dunkirk, Invasion Ports 1940, Fortress Europe 1941-1944, Ruhr 1941-1945*, Berlin 1941-1945*, Biscay Ports 1941-1945, France and Germany 1944-1945, Normandy 1944*, Gulf 1991*.
(Honours marked with an asterisk, may be emblazoned on the Squadron Standard)
The History of XV Squadron:
Formed as a training unit at Farnborough on 1 March 1915, No. 15 Squadron crossed to France in December of that year equipped with BE2Cs for corps-reconnaissance duties. One unusual task the unit undertook was the dropping of ammunition by parachute to troops on the front line during 1918. After the War, the squadron succumbed to the inevitable disbandment. The Squadron reformed at Martlesham Heath in March 1924, but it was little more than in name, as their aircraft were part of the A&AEE trial fleet. This arrangement continued until 1934 when the squadron was reformed at Abingdon with Hawker Harts. It was shortly after this, that on the insistence of its Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader TW Elmhirst DFC, that the Squadron became known as XV Squadron.
During 1938, the Squadron was one of the first to receive Battles, and it was with these that XV Squadron flew to France in September 1939. In early 1940, the Squadron returned to the UK and re-equipped with Blenheims flown in the ground attack role. By the turn of the year, these had been traded in for Wellingtons, and shortly after that XV Squadron became one of the first Stirling heavy-bomber units. One famous aircraft flown by XV Squadron was named ‘MacRobert’s Reply’, an aircraft donated by Lady MacRobert in memory of her three sons killed in RAF service. Lancasters arrived during 1943, and the Squadron remained part of No. 1 Group’s main force for the remainder of the war.
Other heavy bombers were flown in the shape of Lincolns and Washingtons, but in 1953, XV Squadron moved into the jet age with Canberras. During the Suez crisis, the Squadron dropped more bombs than any other Canberra unit, but was disbanded in 1957. In September 1958, the Squadron reformed at Cottesmore as the second Victor squadron, but six years later was again disbanded.
On 01 October 1970, the Sqn was reformed at Honington, before moving to Laarbruch in January 1971. After the Gulf War, three Tornado Squadrons at Laarbruch were disbanded, XV Squadron being one of these, at the end of 1991. On 1 April 1992, the XV (Reserve) numberplate was given to the Tornado Weapons Conversion Unit at Honington. XV(R) Squadron remained at Honington training Tornado aircrew until November 1993, when it moved to Lossiemouth, it’s present home.
History of 90 Squadron:
No. 90 Squadron, RFC, was formed at Shawbury, Shropshire, on 8th October 1917. It was eventually equipped with Sopwith Dolphin single-seat fighters for use in France, but was not sent overseas, and on 3rd August 1918, was disbanded. Eleven days later it was re-formed as a Home Defence unit. It was equipped with Sopwith Camels and Avro 504s and remained in existence until June 1919, when it became a casualty of post-war disarmament.
The squadron was re-formed as a bomber unit in March 1937, and equipped with Hawker Hinds. It was given Bristol Blenheim Mk. Is during the summer of 1937 and was selected to conduct Service development trials of these aircraft and also staged many flying demonstrations. In the spring of 1939 the “short-nosed” Blenheim Is were replaced by “long-nosed” Mk. IV’s.
Soon after the outbreak of war No. 90 ceased to be a first-line unit and assumed the role of a Group pool squadron or, in other words, became a training squadron. In April 1940, it was absorbed into. No.17 OTU but in May 1941, it re-formed, having been selected as the RAF squadron to receive the first Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft from America. Its role was now high-altitude day bombing and it flew its first operational mission with Fortresses on 8th July 1941, when Wilhelmshaven was attacked from 30,000 feet. It continued to operate its Fortresses over Europe – albeit with little success – until September 1941, and, later, had a detachment operating in the Middle East.
The squadron was again disbanded in February 1942, but re-formed in November 1942, as a heavy-bomber squadron equipped with Stirlings, and subsequently made a significant contribution to the Battle of the Ruhr, the devastation of Hamburg and the famous raid on Peenemunde. It also did a great deal of minelaying. In May/June 1944, No. 90 exchanged its Stirlings for Lancasters and with these continued to play a prominent part in Bomber Command’s offensive until late April 1945.
Between 8/9th January 1943 (when it began operations with Stirlings) and 22nd April 1945, members of No. 90 Squadron earned 6 DSOs 123 DFCs, one bar to a DFC, 1 CGM, 1 AFC and 33 DFMs.
In May 1947, No. 90 began to re-equip with Lincolns and these were flown until disbandment on 1 September 1950. The Squadron was reformed at Marham on 4 October 1950, to fly Washingtons, the first arriving in December. In November 1953, replacement Canberras began to arrive and the last Washington left in March 1954. On 1 May 1956 the Squadron was again disbanded but reformed at Honington on 1 January 1957, receiving Valiants in March. In April 1962 the Squadron became operational as a flight-refuelling Squadron but after the grounding of the Valiant force No. 90 disbanded on 16 April 1965.
No. 149 Squadron, RFC, was formed at Yapton, Sussex, on 3rd March 1918, as a night-bomber unit and three months later went to France equipped with FE2b’s. Engaged in bombing enemy communications, airfields, etc., as well as on reconnaissance duties on the Second Army Front, it dropped more than 80 tons of bombs and made 161 reconnaissances.
Two interesting details worthy of mention concern the squadron’s equipment. All the FEs were fitted with a “flame reducer” designed by an officer of the squadron – Captain CES RusseIl. This successfully damped all exhaust flame, an important requirement for night-flying aircraft. All aircraft were fitted with special racks, designed by one of the squadron’s mechanics which could carry either Michelin flares or bombs without modification. The FEs were thus instantly adaptable for either bombing or reconnaissance. Of the squadron’s original 18 FEs which flew to France in June 1918, seven were still in service on Armistice Day.
After the Armistice No. 149 was the only FE squadron chosen to accompany the Army of Occupation into Germany. It returned to the United Kingdom in March 1919, and was disbanded at Tallaght, Co. Dublin, the following August.
The squadron was re-formed in 1937 at Mildenhall – again as a night-bomber unit – and now equipped with Heyford aircraft. Wellingtons were received early in 1939 and on 4th September that year No. 149 shared with No. 9 Squadron the distinction of making the RAF’s second bombing raid of World War 2; the targets were German warships at Brunsbüttel.
The squadron played a prominent part in the early offensive against Germany, Italy and enemy-occupied territory and, after having re-equipped with Stirlings, took part in the first 1,000-bomber raids. In 1943 it made a significant contribution to the Battle of the Ruhr, and also took part in the Battle of Hamburg and the famous raid against the German V-weapons experimental station at Peenemunde. Between February and July 1944 – and in addition to dropping high explosives on the enemy – the squadron helped supply the French Maquis with supplies, arms and ammunition by parachute.
Towards the end of 1944 the Stirlings were replaced by Lancasters and with these the squadron continued its offensive until late April 1945. It then dropped food to the starving people of Holland and later, after the German surrender, ferried many ex-POWs back to England from the Continent.
During December 1943 the squadron was responsible for introducing a new technique of high-level mining. Among the many decorations won by its members was a Victoria Cross awarded posthumously to Flight Sergeant RH Middleton, RAAF, for his part in a raid on Turin on the night of 28/29th November 1942.
The Squadron remained in service after the war and converted to Lincolns in October 1949 which were flown until the Squadron disbanded on 1 March 1950. No. 149 was reformed again on 14 August 1950 at Marham and received Washingtons in November, being the first to equip with the type. In April 1953 it re-equipped with Canberras which it took to Germany in August 1954 before the Squadron disbanded on 31 August 1956.
History of 218 Squadron:
No. 218 Squadron was formed at Dover, Kent, on 24th April 1918, and about a month later went to France as a day-bomber squadron equipped with DH9 aircraft. It joined the 5th Group, working under the Dover-Dunkirk Naval Command, and during five months of operations made 117 raids on enemy targets in Belgium and France, dropped 94 tons of bombs and claimed the destruction of 38 enemy aircraft in air combat, Disbanded in 1919, the squadron was re-formed in 1936 and became one of the comparatively few bomber squadrons to serve continuously through the war against Nazi Germany.
No. 218 Squadron flew to France on 2nd September 1939, and made valuable reconnaissance flights and leaflet raids in Battle aircraft in the early days of the war. In June 1940, after having hindered the German advance into France by bombing the enemy’s lines of communications and troop concentrations (and having suffered heavy casualties in the process) it was evacuated to England to be re-equipped with Bristol Blenheim medium-range bombers. Five months later, when it was equipped with Wellington long-range aircraft, it became a heavy-bomber squadron. Its targets were of the widest variety – from industrial centres, railways, Noball (V-weapon) sites and gun batteries, to the Channel ports, oil and petrol installations, and concentrations of troops and armour. The squadron was re-equipped with Stirling four-engined bombers (the first of the real “heavies”) beginning in December 1941 – three months after His Excellency the Governor of the Gold Coast and the peoples of the Gold Coast territories officially adopted the squadron – and the Stirlings were, in turn, replaced by Lancasters in the summer of 1944.
Immediately before the German capitulation in May 1945, when the heavy bombers’ offensive ceased, the Gold Coast squadron dropped food supplies to the starving Dutch people, and subsequently its aircraft were busily employed ferrying liberated POWs to England from the Continent.
No. 218 Squadron’s awards include a Victoria Cross (awarded posthumously to Flight Sergeant AL Aaron for his “most conspicuous bravery” during a raid on 12/13th August 1943, 4 DSOs, 2 bars to the DSO, 109 DFCs, 2 CGMs, 1 MM, 46 DFMs and 1 BEM.
History of 622 Squadron:
No 622 Squadron was formed on 10 August 1943 at Mildenhall from C Flight of No.15 Squadron. Equipped with Stirlings, it began operations on the same night as forming, converting to Lancasters in December. It formed part of the main force of Bomber Command and took part in attacks on German industry until the end of the war. After a short period of trooping to Italy, the squadron disbanded on 15 August 1945.
On 15 December 1950, No.622 reformed at Blackbushe as the sole transport unit of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. Equipped with Valettas, it had a nucleus of regular personnel, the balance being supplied mainly by airline personnel from local airlines who, in an emergency, would man requisitioned Vikings. Its service career was short and the squadron disbanded on 30 September 1953.