Condensed No 1 (Fighter) Squadron - Timeline history

Detailed below are some of the many fascinating events that have happened over the past 100 years of Number 1 Squadron. Read on and discover the links with the Red Baron, Hermann Goering, Shirley Bassey, Max Bygraves, Diana Princess of Wales, Hollywood, Winston Churchill and the Great Escape.


1878 - The Squadron can trace its history back to 1878 and the establishment of the Royal Engineers Balloon Equipment Store at Chatham.

1907 - First British Army airship flies.

1911 - The air balloon battalion of the Royal Engineers was formed and the balloon school at Farnborough became No 1 Company. In November a subcommittee of the Committee for Imperial Defence recommended the set up of the British aeronautical service to be known as “The Flying Corps”.

1912 - The Royal Flying Corps was constituted on 13th May by royal warrant and on the same day the air battalion was absorbed by the new organisation, the cavalry term squadron was adopted for the basic unit and thus No 1 Company became No 1 Squadron.

1914 - Number 1 Squadron was re-organised as an aeroplane squadron after handing over its airships to the Royal Navy at the end of 1913.

Diary Photograph

1915 - Following the outbreak of war in 1914 the squadron received orders to proceed to France and was equipped with Avro 504s, BE8s and Moranes.

1915 - Aerial combat initially took place with rifles, pistols and grenades.

1916 - Vernon Castle arrived on the squadron, such was his life and character the last film Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers starred in together was the story of Vernon and his wife

1917 - Lieutenant Hazell attacked Hermann Goering, then a German pilot in an aerial dogfight.

1917 - Lieutenant Williams was shot down and killed by Manfred von Richthofen “The Red Baron”.

1917 - J H C Nixon was wounded in the head in a dog fight, the blood from his wound trailed all down the side of the silver aircraft fuselage, all of the squadrons Nieuport Scouts were painted with a narrow red band round the fuselage as a result.

Diary Photograph

1918 - C S Fullard a pilot was on the full front cover of Tattler magazine with the headline “A boy who has strafed forty-two Boches planes”.

1918 - Sergeant Harry Fusao O`Hara arrived on the squadron, the first Japanese pilot to have served with the British flying service.

1918 - April 1st saw the merging of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service to create the RFC/RAF.

1918 - WW1 finishes, the cost was high to the Squadron with 52 killed in action, 8 killed in flying accidents, 36 taken as prisoners of war and 33 wounded in action, but they had claimed a total of 310 enemy planes and were probably the most successful fighter squadron in the RAF during the Great War.

1926 - Squadron Leader C N Lowe - one of the great English rugby players - took command of the Squadron.

Diary Photograph

1939 - A Squadron Hurricane claims its first victory since 1918 and the first German aircraft is shot down by the RAF in France during WW2.

1940 - The first enemy engagement on 19th July for the squadron in the Battle of Britain.

1941 - Squadron assigned to help with the defence of London during the Blitz.

1941 - Romas Marcinkus, a Lithuanian pilot joined the squadron (Romas was later one of the 50 men shot by the Gestapo following the ‘Great Escape’).

1942 - One of the German Capital ships, the Scharnhorst and its supporting fleet attacked by the squadron.

Diary Photograph

1942 - The squadron re-equipped with the Typhoon, the pilots found too little space for maps so Squadron Leader R C Wilkinson “Wilkie” bought a mouse trap and mounted it in the cockpit of his aircraft. After buying a dozen more for the whole squadron Wilkie submitted a bill to the Air Ministry who sent him a cheque.

1942 - Obtained the 4th and 5th ever combat victories for the Typhoon against German aircraft.

1942 - Wing Commander Mac MacLachlan visited his old squadron, he had been in Hollywood and bought photos to prove it, including one with Betty Grable.

1942 - A member of the squadrons entertainment squad the Erkadians, Max Bygraves kept everyone amused at the pub telling stories and yarns, everyone enjoyed his company and he went on to win a Fighter Squadron talent contest.

1942 - The squadron was awarded the 'Kings standard' for 25 years of continuous service.

Diary Photograph

1944 - Now flying Spitfires the squadron participated in D-Day.

1944 - The Spitfire IXs used by the squadron were improved by Rolls-Royce senior technical staff to increase top speed from 350 to 400 mph to catch and shoot down V1 doodlebugs which could fly at 320 to 400 mph (eventually the Squadron destroyed or helped to destroy exactly 50 of them).

1944 - Escorted Lancasters, protecting them on their bombing raids.

1944 - Protected the airborne troops including the Parachute Regiment during Operation Market Garden during the attacks on the bridges at Arnhem and the Rhine, Wing Commander Powell said that the support for Arnhem was so important that they would all have to go despite terrible weather, even if it meant everyone baling out if they could not get back.

1945 - Asked to escort and protect a number of VIPs to the continent including the Prime Minister Winston Churchill, it was thought that he had asked for 1 Squadron to protect him as it had done so on a trip to France in 1940.

1945 – On 15th September, 15 Spitfires of No 1 Squadron flew in the historic First Battle of Britain flypast led by Group Captain Douglas Bader, flying over London and St Pauls Cathedral.

Diary Photograph

1946 - The Squadron was selected to lead the 1946 Battle of Britain flypast at the head of 33 aircraft, a couple of days later came the news they were converting to Britain’s first Jet fighter, the Meteor.

1952 - The Squadron was presented with its Standard, granted by King George VI 10 years earlier. As Number 1 Squadron was the first of 30 squadrons awaiting the presentation it was only fitting that the RAF’s premier Squadron received its standard first.

1953 - The squadron in their Meteors participate in the Queen’s Coronation fly past.

1962 - The BBC film the squadron as part of the flypast to celebrate 50 years of British Military aviation.

1964 - The squadron hear of one of their old Spitfires (LA225) used during 1945 rotting away in RAF Cardington, they quickly rescued it for the squadrons historical artefacts (now temporarily with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight).

1966 - When the 61,000 super oil tanker Torrey Canyon had run aground off Lands End, the Squadron in their Hunters were ordered to fire rockets to open up the tanks and drop napalm on the wreck to destroy the oil.

1968 - Was the 50th Anniversary of the RAF, the government decided no flypast was to take place because of various political issues, 1 Squadron was now 57 years old, and to celebrate, Flight Lieutenant Alan Pollock flew his Hunter through Tower Bridge in London, the first jet ever to do this.

1969 - The squadron was the first in the world to receive the Harrier Jump Jet, the second time it had gone vertical since the airships, (with which the squadron was equipped in 1912).

1970 - Flight Lieutenant Neal Wharton (who later flew with the Red Arrows display team) crashed but ejected safely, this was to be the first RAF Harrier to be lost, the ejection sequence started at about 100 feet from the ground with the aircraft descending at 6,000 feet per minute. Impact occurred 1.1 seconds later, he landed in a field and a farmer’s wife came out and asked him if he “wanted a cup of tea?”

1971 - HRH Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh visited Wittering to see the Harrier in action.

1971 - Four aircraft of No 1 Squadron conducted trials on HMS Ark Royal. Following the end of the trials some Squadron staff left behind went over the side of the ship and painted in large letters on the ships side FLY RAF, FLY VSTOL (Vertical Short Take Off and Landing). The Captain later asked for a Harrier to take a photo as a memento.

1972 - 2 Harriers flew transatlantic to the Toronto Air Show which took 8 hour 24 minutes, the display was viewed by 300,000 people including the Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. They were also given special permission to fly over Niagara Falls and were photographed by the Daily Telegraph.

1972 – Flight Lieutenant Jim Downey ejected using a Martin Baker ejector seat (Martin Baker ejectee number 3305), he was to become the first double Harrier ejectee (Martin Baker ejectee number 3828) in 1974.

1974 - Shirley Bassey visited No 1 Squadron to film her Christmas special.

1982 - The squadron was deployed to the aircraft carrier Hermes at the outset of the Falkland’s conflict.

1982 - 21st May, British Marines and Paratroopers landed on the beaches at San Carlos on the Falklands, 1 Squadron attack an Argentine Puma, Chinook and a Huey helicopter. Later Flt Lt Jeff Glover was shot down in his Harrier by Argentine special forces with a Blowpipe surface to air missile to become the only POW of the conflict. British Command put an embargo on shooting down helicopters for 36 hours to make sure he wasn’t shot down as a prisoner in transit.

1982 - 27th May, the Squadron supported the Parachute Regiment at Goose Green, when Harrier pilot Squ Ldr Bob Iveson was shot down (he managed to get picked up by one of the British Gazelle helicopters).

1982 - 11th June, 1 Squadron supported the SAS who were being stopped opposite Port Stanley.

1982 - 13th June, final assault on Port Stanley including 1 Squadron, the day after on the 14th June the cease fire was announced at Port Stanley, hostilities were over.

1985 - Diana Princess of Wales visited on 28th September on an inaugural visit to RAF Wittering in her new role as Honorary Air Commodore.

1989 - The Number 1 Squadron Harriers celebrate 20 years in service - Diana Princess of Wales visit for a second time.

1990 - 50th anniversary of the Battle of Britain took place, in a flyover Buckingham Palace - 16 Harriers took part with 168 aircraft in total the largest since the Queen’s Coronation.

1991 - The first woman ever to eject in RAF history Cadet Kate Saunders was in a Harrier flown by Squadron Leader Ashley Stevenson (who later became the first pilot to eject twice from a Harrier) after a bird strike travelling at 429 knots.

1993 - Operation Warden over Iraq.

1999 - Kosovo.

2004 - Afghanistan.

2010 - 15th December, end of, and the final Harrier flight.

2011 - 28th January, formal disbandment of the Squadron

2012 - 15th September Squadron officially reformed with the Typhoon FGR4 and the latest to use this incredible cutting edge aircraft.

Number 1 (Fighter) Squadron is the 4th front line Typhoon Squadron (with 2 additional Operational Conversion Units) and is based at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland.

The role of the Squadron is air defence, including Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) providing a 24 hour, 365 day capability to intercept and identify intruders into UK airspace. The aircraft also has a secondary precision ground attack capability.

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