RAF No 16 Squadron emblem

RAF No. 16 Squadron

Motto: Operta Aperta (Hidden things are revealed)

Formed at St Omer in France on 10 February 1915 from detached flights taken from No's 2, 5 and 6 Squadrons. As with many squadrons at this time it operated a variety of types until fully equipped with BE2s a year later. No 16 was a Corps reconnaissance unit carrying the standard range of operations. RE8s replaced the BEs in May 1917, which it retained until returning to Britain as a cadre in February 1919, disbanding at Fowlmere on 31 December 1919. During WW1 it was commanded by a number of officers who would achieve Air rank in the future, including Hugh Dowding and 'Peter' Portal.

less than five years later the squadron was reformed at Old Sarum on 1 April 1924. It still operated in the Army Co-operation role equipped with the Bristol F2b until January 1931 when Atlases replaced them. Audaxes arrived in December 1933 and in June 1934 the squadron achieved independent status, having been classed part of the School of Army Co-operation up to that time. In June 1938 the squadron became the first to operate a new type in the RAF that type being the Lysander.

The squadron remained in Britain until April 1940 when it moved over to France, but within days it had become obvious that the Lysander was not able to operate in the modern war environment and the squadron was evacuated to Lympne. However, it continued to use the Lysander for coastal patrols along the East Anglian coast and later the coasts of Devon and Cornwall. Training with Army units also continued but it was obvious from the experience in France that before undertaking active operations again, the squadron would need new equipment.

The Lysanders replacement eventually arrived in April 1942 when Mustangs were received, although the Lysanders did not disappear overnight, some remaining in use until May 1943. The Mustangs were used on shipping reconnaissance and low level interceptions of German fighter-bombers along the south coast. Spitfires replaced the Mustangs in September 1943 which it used for photographic reconnaissance in preparation of Operation Overlord. A year later the squadron was transferred to 2 TAF in the same role, which it continued until the end of war. From June 1945 the squadron operated a high speed mail service between Britain and Germany, but in September its three flights were re-allocated to No's 2, 26 and 268 Squadrons, the ground staff returned to Dunsford in the UK.

At this point some confusion exists because on 19 September No 487 Squadron was informed that it was now No 16 and so was No 268 Squadron. As a result 487 was re-numbered 268 and the re-numbering of 268 at Celle remained in place. The squadron continued to operate Spitfire XIXs, XIVs and XVIs until 1 April 1946 when the unit at Celle was disbanded. However, on the same day No 56 Squadron equipped with Tempest F5s at Fassburg was re-numbered No 16. In August 1946 the F5s gave way to F2s, these in turn being replaced by Vampire FB5s in December 1948 and Venom FB1s in January 1954, these were operated for three and a half years until the squadron was disbanded on 1 June 1957. Between 1946 and 1 August 1948, the squadron moved 20 times, until on the 21st move it arrived at Gutersloh, where it remained until November 1950, when it moved again to Celle, where it disbanded.

Less than a year later the squadron was reformed, this time at Laarbruch, being equipped with the Canberra B(I) Mk 8, continuing to operate this type until June 1972 when the squadron once again disbanded. On 1 Oct 1973 No 16 (Designate) Squadron began training in the Strike role equipped with Buccaneer S Mk 2s, officially taking over the numberplate on 8 January 1973. Buccaneers were operated for the next eleven years continuing to operate from Laarbruch until disbanding on 29 Feb 1984. However, a new No 16 (Designate) Squadron had begun training at Laarbruch on 1 January 1984 and the day after the Buccaneer unit disbanded a new Tornado equipped 16 Squadron entered service. No 16 remained at Laarbruch with the Tornado GR Mk 1 until the run down of RAF Germany began and it became one of the earliest casualties being disbanded on 11 September 1991.

The number was revived yet again just over a month later when No 226 OCU at Lossiemouth was allocated the identity as No 16 (Reserve) Squadron. It currently operates in the role of Jaguar Conversion Unit, having moved south to Coltishall on 21 July 2000.

Standards Battle Honours*

Award of Standard originally announced on 15 Jan 1952, effective from 1 Apr 1951 but presented:-
lst - 6 April 1956 HRH Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent.
2nd - 12 July 1985 AVM D Parry-Evans

Western Front, 1915-1918: Neuve Chappelle: Loos: Somme, 1916: Arras: Ypres, 1917: France & Low Countries, 1940: Dunkirk: Fortress Europe, 1943-1944: France & Germany, 1944: Normandy, 1944: Arnhem: Ruhr, 1944-1945: Gulf, 1991:

Squadron Codes used: KJ Nov 1938 - May 1939; EE May 1939 - Sep 1939; UG Sep 1939 - May 1942; EG Apr 1946 - 1954; L 1954 - 1955; F Carried on Tornados; A - Z Sep 1991 - Current

Web Reference: http://www.rafweb.org/Sqn001-5.htm

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This webpage was updated 30th June 2023