No 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron

Motto: Gin ye daur (If you dare)

No. 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron is a squadron of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, based in Edinburgh, Scotland. The primary role of 603 Squadron, since reforming on 1 October 1999, has been as a Survive to Operate squadron, as well as providing Force Protection.

History

Formation and early years
No. 603 Squadron was formed on 14 October 1925 at RAF Turnhouse as a day bomber unit of the Auxiliary Air Force. Originally equipped with DH.9As and using Avro 504Ks for flying training, the squadron re-equipped with Wapitis in March 1930, these being replaced by Harts in February 1934. On 24 October 1938, No. 603 was redesignated a fighter unit and flew Hinds until the arrival of Gladiators at the end of March 1939.

In World War II
In August 1939, New Zealand-born Fg Off Brian Carbury was attached to No. 603 Squadron as training officer, to bring the squadron up to standard on Spitfires. As war approached the squadron was put on a full time footing, and within two weeks of the outbreak of World War II, Carbury was permanently attached and the squadron began to receive Spitfires, passing on its Gladiators to other squadrons during October.

A memorial to 603 squadron at RAF Turnhouse
Scotland was far away from any 'easy' targets in the south of England, but nonetheless was in range for Nazi Germany's long range bombers and reconnaissance sorties by the Luftwaffe. The squadron was operational with Spitfires in time to intercept the first German air raid on the British Isles on 16 October, when it shot down a Junkers Ju-88 bomber into the North Sea east of Dalkeith - the first enemy aircraft to be shot down over Great Britain since 1918, and the first in the Second World War. It remained on defensive duties in Scotland until 27 August 1940, when it moved on rotation to Southern England, based at RAF Hornchurch where it became operational from 27 August 1940 for the remaining months of the Battle of Britain. Two days after the squadron became operational in southern England, Carbury claimed the first of his 15 1/2 victories, becoming the fifth highest scoring fighter ace of the Battle of Britain - he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and DFC Bar as a result of service with No. 603 during the battle. Plt Off Richard Hillary was shot down on 3 September in combat with Bf 109's of Jagdgeschwader 26 off Margate at 10:04hrs - rescued by the Margate lifeboat, he was severely burned and spent the next three years in hospital. Returning to Scotland at the end of December, Carbury damaged a Ju 88 on Christmas Day over St Abb's Head, before he left the squadron from January 1941 for full time duties as a training officer at the Central Flying School. In May 1941, the squadron moved south again to take part in sweeps over France (termed 'Rhubarb's'), until the end of the year. After a further spell in Scotland, No.603 left in April 1942 for the Middle East where its ground echelon arrived early in June. The squadron's aircraft were embarked on the US carrier USS Wasp and flown off to Malta on 20 April to reinforce the fighter defences of the beleaguered island. After nearly four months defending Malta, the remaining pilots and aircraft were absorbed by 229 Squadron on 3 August 1942.

On Beaufighters
At the end of June 1942, No. 603's ground echelon had moved to Cyprus, where it spent six months as a servicing unit before returning to Egypt. In February 1943, Bristol Beaufighters and crews arrived to begin convoy patrols and escort missions along the North African coast and in August sweeps over German held islands in the Aegean and off Greece began. Attacks on enemy shipping continued until the lack of targets enabled the squadron to be returned to the UK in December 1944.
Spitfires again
On 10 January 1945, No. 603 reassembled at RAF Coltishall and by curious coincidence, took over the Spitfires of No. 229 Squadron RAF and some of its personnel, the same squadron which had absorbed No. 603 at Ta' Qali in 1942. Fighter-bomber sweeps began in February over the Netherlands and continued until April, when the squadron returned to its home base at Turnhouse for the last days of the war. On 15 August 1945, the squadron was disbanded.

Post war
No. 603 reformed as a unit of the Auxiliary Air Force on 10 May 1946 and began recruiting personnel to man a Spitfire squadron during June at RAF Turnhouse. Receiving its first Spitfire in October, it flew this type until conversion to De Havilland Vampire FB.5s in May 1951. By July it was completely equipped and the type was flown until disbandment on 10 March 1957.

Present role
The new 603 Squadron was formed from No. 2 (City of Edinburgh) Maritime Headquarter Unit (MHU) in October 1999. It was used to provide the basis for the new No. 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron RAF in 2006. To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the formation of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in 2007, for the next 2 seasons the Flight's Supermarine Spitfire IIa, P7350, which fought in 603 Sqn during the Battle of Britain will carry the 603 Squadron letters XT-L, those of Gerald 'Stapme' Stapleton's personal aircraft.

Aircraft operated by no. 603 Squadron RAF

From To Aircraft Version
October 1925
March 1930
Airco DH.9
DH.9A
October 1925
March 1930
Avro 504
504.K (used for flying training
March 1930
March 1934
Westland Wapiti
Mk.I
February 1934
February 1938
Hawker Hart
 
February 1938
March 1939
Hawker Hind
 
October 1938
August 1939
Gloster Gladiator
Mk.II
August 1939
November 1940
Supermarine Spitfire
Mk.I
October 1940
May 1941
Supermarine Spitfire
Mk.IIa
May 1941
December 1941
Supermarine Spitfire
Mk.Va
August 1941
March 1942
Supermarine Spitfire
Mk.Vb
April 1942
August 1942
Supermarine Spitfire
Mk.Vc
February 1943
November 1943
Bristol Beaufighter
Mks.Ic and If
February 1943
October 1943
Bristol Beaufighter
Mk.VIc
August 1943
October 1943
Bristol Beaufighter
Mk.XI
October 1943
December 1944
Bristol Beaufighter
Mk.TFX
January 1945
August 1945
Supermarine Spitfire
LF.16e
1945
1945
Taylorcraft Auster
Mk.I (Communications flight)
June 1946
1953
North American Harvard
T.2B
October 1946
June 1948
Supermarine Spitfire
LF.16e
February 1948
July 1951
Supermarine Spitfire
F.22
1951
November 1955
De Havilland Vampire
FB.3
May 1951
March 1957
De Havilland Vampire
FB.5
May 1951
March 1957
Gloster Meteor
T.7 (used for flying training)
1956
March 1957
De Havilland Vampire
T.11 (used for flying training)
June 1956
January 1957
De Havilland Vampire
FB.9 (2 aircraft, WL518 and WG841)

Commanding officers

Officers commanding no. 603 Squadron RAF

From To Name
1 August 1925
14 April 1931
Sqn Ldr J.A. McKelvie, AFC
14 April 1931
1 April 1934
Sqn Ldr H. Murray-Philipson, MP
1 April 1934
1 April 1938
Sqn Ldr Lord G.N. Douglas-Hamilton, AFC
1 April 1938
4 June 1940
Sqn Ldr E.H. Stevens
4 June 1940
1 April 1941
Sqn Ldr G.L. Denholm, DFC
1 April 1941
25 July 1941
Sqn Ldr F.M. Smith
25 July 1941
17 October 1941
Sqn Ldr M.J. Loudon
17 October 1941
18 December 1941
Sqn Ldr R.G. Forshaw
18 December 1941
20 July 1942
Sqn Ldr Lord D. Douglas-Hamilton
20 July 1942
3 August 1942
Sqn Ldr W.A. Douglas
10 April 1942
4 June 1942
Sqn Ldr P. Illingworth (Officer commanding Ground Party)
3 August 1942
28 January 1943
Sqn Ldr F.W. Marshall
28 January 1943
1 December 1943
Wg Cdr H.A. Charter
1 December 1943
15 June 1944
Wg Cdr J.R.H. Lewis, DFC
15 June 1944
2 August 1944
Wg Cdr J.T.D. Revell
2 August 1944
23 September 1944
Sqn Ldr C.D. Paine (acting)
23 September 1944
26 December 1944
Wg Cdr C.N. Foxley-Norris
10 January 1945
26 January 1945
Sqn Ldr E.H.M. Patterson, DFC
26 January 1945
1 April 1945
Sqn Ldr T.C. Rigler, DFC, DFM
1 April 1945
15 August 1945
Sqn Ldr H.R.P. Pertwee, DFC
11 June 1946
23 September 1949
Sqn Ldr G.K. Gilroy, DSO, DFC
23 September 1949
1 December 1950
Sqn Ldr J.W.E. Holmes, DFC, AFC
1 December 1950
22 March 1953
Sqn Ldr P.J. Anson, DFC
23 March 1953
25 August 1953
Sqn Ldr R.R.L.R. Davies, DFC
25 August 1953
9 May 1956
Sqn Ldr R. Schofield
9 May 1956
10 March 1957
Sqn Ldr M.E. Hobson, AFC
1 October 1999
2006
Wg Cdr A.J. Beaton
2006
Present
Sqn Ldr D Morrison

Notable personnel

PO Flt Lt Brian Carbury DFC*, who claimed 15 1/2 victories with No. 603, making him the fourth highest scoring ace of the Battle of Britain
Richard Hillary, Spitfire pilot who was shot down on 3 September 1940, was badly burned, and wrote a book The Last Enemy.
B. G. 'Stapme' Stapleton who shot down Franz von Werra, the only German PoW to escape and return to the Third Reich.


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This webpage was updated Dec 26, 2013


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