RAF No 18 Squadron emblem

RAF No 501 (County of Gloucester) Squadron

Motto: Nil Time (Fear nothing)

Formed as a Special Reserve squadron at Filton on 14 June 1929, it was composed of a mixture of regular and reserve personnel, initially operating under the name 'City of Bristol' but this was changed to 'County of Gloucester' on 1 May 1930. Operating in the day bomber role it was initially equipped with DH9As, replacing these with Wapitis in 1930 and Wallaces in 1933. On 1 May 1936 the squadron was transferred to the Auxiliary Air Force and in July it received Harts, these in turn being replaced by Hinds in March 1938.

In December 1938, the squadron began converting to the fighter role, receiving its first Hurricanes in March 1939. It provided fighter cover for the AASF in France from May 1940, where it acquired an enviable reputation. It served throughout the Battle of Britain and in early 1941 began offensive sweeps over the continent. Converting to Spitfires in April 1941, the squadron moved to Northern Ireland in October 1942.

Returning to the south of England in April 1943, it converted to Tempests just in time to take part in operations again V1 flying bombs. It remained based in the south of England for the remainder of the war disbanding at Hunsdon on 20 April 1945.

With the reactivation of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, 501 was reformed on 10 May 1946 at Filton as a day fighter squadron, its initial equipment of Spitfire LF 16s arriving in November. Vampires began to arrive in November 1948 with the last Spitfires having left by January 1949. FB 5s replaced F 1s from March 1951 and it operated these until, along with all the flying units of the RAuxAF, it was disbanded on 10 March 1957. Some FB 9s were received in February 1955 but these had been retired before disbandment. It was re-formed as a RAuxAF in the Operations Support role at Brize Norton in 2001 absorbing No 2624 Squadron RAuxAF Regiment.

Squadron Codes used: -

ZH Apr 1939 - Sep 1939
SD Sep 1939 -Apr 1945, 1949 - 1951
RAB May 1946 - 1949

RAF No. 501 Squadron

No. 501 Squadron was the fourteenth of the twenty-one flying units in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, the volunteer reserve part of the British Royal Air Force. The squadron won seven battle honours, flying Hurricane, Spitfire and Tempest fighter aircraft during World War II, and was one of the most heavily engaged units in RAF Fighter Command. In particular, the Squadron saw extensive action during the Battle of France and Battle of Britain. At present the unit is not flying anymore and has a Force Protection role.


Formation and early years

The squadron was originally formed as a day-bomber unit named No 501 (City of Bristol) Squadron as part of the Special Reserve squadrons on 14 June 1929, made up of volunteers and regulars, flying D.H.9As, which were later replaced with Westland Wapitis and later still with Westland Wallaces. In 1936 it became 'No 501 (County of Gloucester) Squadron', changing the name to embrace a larger area of recruitment. On 1 May 1936 it was transferred to the Auxiliary Air Force and in July of that year the squadron converted to Hawker Harts. In March 1938 these were exchanged for Hawker Hinds, but at the end of 1938 No. 501 squadron was transferred from RAF Bomber Command to RAF Fighter Command, and Hawker Hurricanes began to arrive in March 1939.

In World War II

When war was declared in September 1939, 501 Squadron was based at RAF Filton, near Bristol. On 10 May 1940, the Squadron became part of the Advanced Air Striking Force (AASF) and moved to France where it saw extensive action, stationed at airfields as Bétheniville, Anglure, Le Mans and Dinard. After the retreat from France through Saint Helier, Jersey, its battle-hardened pilots were re-organised at RAF Croydon and then moved on to RAF Middle Wallop and later RAF Gravesend (now Gravesend Airport). It subsequently served at RAF Kenley, south London, until 17 December 1940. At Kenley, the squadron was commanded by S/Ldr. Harry Hogan and still was equipped with Hawker Hurricanes. Supermarine Spitfires arrived in April 1941. Between November 1943 and October 1944 the squadron formed part of Air Defence of Great Britain and by that time flew Tempest Mk.Vs on 'Anti-Diver' patrols. The squadron was disbanded at RAF Hunsdon the end of the war on 20 April 1945. During World War II the pilots of no. 501 squadron had flown 11.140 operational sorties, in which they shot down 201 enemy aircraft and at least 84 V-1 flying bombs.

Notable squadron members

The squadron included several notable pilots of WWII, including Sergeant Pilot Antoni (Toni) Glowacki VM, CV and 3 bars, DFC, DFM, who shot down five German aircraft on 24 August 1940 to become the first of only two pilots to achieve 'Ace-in-a-day' status during the Battle of Britain. Among others who achieved fighter ace status were Ken Mackenzie, 'Ginger' Lacey, Stanisław Skalski, Robert Dafforn and Kenneth Lee. Lacey was one of the highest scoring pilots in the Battle of Britain.

Into the jet age

The squadron was reformed on 10 May 1946 as an Auxiliary Air Force fighter squadron at RAF Filton. In February 1957, Flt Lt John Crossley flew Vampire FB.9 jet WR260 beneath the Clifton Suspension Bridge, before a fatal crash into Leigh Woods. This was the last recorded -and only jet aircraft- flight under that bridge. The Squadron was disbanded in March 1957, along with all the other Auxiliary units.

Present role

In June 2001 No. 501 squadron was reformed in the Force Protection role as 501 (Operational Support) Squadron in 2001 at RAF Brize Norton. 501 Squadrons Gunners provide a reserve of trained manpower for 1 Squadron RAF Regiment, No 4 Force Protection Wing. In 2003, its personnel deployed as part of Operation Telic, the liberation of Iraq. The squadron continues to deploy personnel on Force Protection duties in this region. In 2006 the first 501 Squadron Gunners deployed with 2 Squadron RAF Regiment to Afghanistan, carrying out force protection duties of Kandahar airfield and surrounding areas. This has been continued with members of both Regiment and FP roles mobilising with 1 Squadron RAF Regiment tour of the region (8 August to 9 March). Between November 2006 and April 2007 501 Squadron Gunners also deployed with the Queens Colour Squadron, 63 Squadron RAF Regiment to Basra Iraq.

Aircraft operated

From To Aircraft Version Remark
August 1929 March 1930* Avro 504 N Used for training
March 1930 November 1930 Airco DH.9A    
September 1930 March 1933* Westland Wapiti Mk.IIa  
January 1933 July 1936 Westland Wallace Mk.I  
March 1936 July 1936 Westland Wallace Mk.II  
June 1935 March 1937 De Havilland Tiger Moth Mk.I Used for training
January 1936 October 1939 Avro Tutor Mk.I Used for training
July 1936 March 1938* Hawker Hart Mk.I One example used for training till May 1939
March 1938 March 1939* Hawker Hind Mk.I One example used for training till February 1941
March 1939 December 1939 Fairey Battle   Used for training
March 1939 May 1941 Hawker Hurricane Mks.I, II and X  
August 1940 January 1943 Miles Magister   Used for training
April 1941 June 1941 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I  
May 1941 September 1941 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IIa One example (P8799) soldiered on till July 1943
September 1941 January 1942 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Va R7334, nicknamed "Perfect"
September 1941 July 1944 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb  
1942 November 1942 Miles Master   Used for training
May 1942 October 1942 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vc  
November 1943 July 1944 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IX  
July 1944 April 1945 Hawker Tempest Mk.V  
August 1946 November 1953 Harvard T.2b Used for training
October 1946 May 1949 Supermarine Spitfire LF.16e  
November 1948 June 1951 de Havilland Vampire F.1  
September 1949 February 1957 Gloster Meteor T.7 Used for training
March 1951 March 1957 de Havilland Vampire FB.5  
February 1955 February 1957 de Havilland Vampire FB.9  
September 1955 February 1957 Gloster Meteor F.8 Used for training

*=Remained in service after replacement as main equipment Squadron bases

Bases and airfields used by no. 501 Squadron RAF

From To Base - Remark
14 June 1929 28 November 1939 RAF Filton, Gloucestershire
28 November 1939 10 May 1940 RAF Tangmere, West Sussex
10 May 1940 16 May 1940 Bétheniville, France
16 May 1940 2 June 1940 Anglure, France
2 June 1940 11 June 1940 Le Mans, France
11 June 1940 17 June 1940 Dinard, France
17 June 1940 21 June 1940 RAF Saint Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands
21 June 1940 4 July 1940 RAF Croydon, Surrey
4 July 1940 25 July 1940 RAF Middle Wallop, Hampshire
25 July 1940 10 September 1940 RAF Gravesend, Kent
10 September 1940 17 December 1940 RAF Kenley, Surrey
17 December 1940 9 April 1941 RAF Filton, Gloucestershire
9 April 1941 25 June 1941 RAF Colerne, Wiltshire
25 June 1941 5 August 1941 RAF Chilbolton, Hampshire
5 August 1941 3 July 1942 RAF Ibsley, Hampshire
3 July 1942 24 August 1942 RAF Tangmere, West Sussex
24 August 1942 8 October 1942 RAF Middle Wallop, Hampshire
8 October 1942 10 October 1942 RAF Hawkinge, Kent
10 October 1942 19 October 1942 RAF Middle Wallop, Hampshire
19 October 1942 30 April 1943 RAF Ballyhalbert, County Down, Northern Ireland
det. at RAF Eglinton, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland
30 April 1943 17 May 1943 RAF Westhampnett, West Sussex
17 May 1943 5 June 1943 RAF Martlesham Heath, Suffolk
5 June 1943 12 June 1943 RAF Woodvale, Merseyside
12 June 1943 21 June 1943 RAF Westhampnett, West Sussex
21 June 1943 21 January 1944 RAF Hawkinge, Kent
21 January 1944 4 February 1944 RAF Southend, Essex
4 February 1944 30 April 1944 RAF Hawkinge, Kent
30 April 1944 2 July 1944 RAF Friston, Suffolk
2 July 1944 2 August 1944 RAF Westhampnett, West Sussex
2 August 1944 22 September 1944 RAF Manston, Kent
22 September 1944 3 March 1945 RAF Bradwell Bay, Essex
3 March 1945 20 April 1945 RAF Hunsdon, Essex
10 May 1946 5 September 1951 RAF Filton, Gloucestershire
5 September 1951 8 October 1951 RAF Tangmere, West Sussex
8 October 1951 10 March 1957 RAF Filton, Gloucestershire

Commanding officers - Officers commanding no. 501 Squadron RAF

From To Name
July 1929 August 1929 Flt/Lt. L.P. Winters
August 1929 January 1932 S/Ldr. R.S. Sugden, AFC
January 1932 January 1934 S/Ldr. W. Eliot, DFC
January 1934 June 1936 S/Ldr. H.G. White
June 1936 June 1936 Flt/Lt. H.M. Pearson
June 1936 December 1936 Flt/Lt. E.S. Finch
December 1936 March 1937 Flt/Lt. H.R.L. Hood
March 1937 July 1937 Flt/Lt. F.W. Stannard
July 1937 June 1940 S/Ldr. M.V.M. Clube
June 1940 November 1940 S/Ldr. H.A.V. Hogan
November 1940 June 1941 S/Ldr. E. Holden, DFC
June 1941 August 1941 S/Ldr. A.H. Boyd, DFC
August 1941 June 1942 S/Ldr. C.F. Currant, DFC
June 1942 September 1942 S/Ldr. J.W. Villa, DFC & Bar
September 1942 May 1943 S/Ldr. A.J. Robinson
May 1943 October 1943 S/Ldr. E. Barthold
October 1943 August 1944 S/Ldr. M.G. Barnett, RNZAF
August 1944 November 1944 S/Ldr. J. Berry, DFC
November 1944 April 1945 S/Ldr. A. Parker-Rees, DFC
August 1946 December 1946 Flt/Lt. R.F.W. Cleaver, DSO, DFC (acting)
December 1946 September 1949 S/Ldr. T. James
September 1949 September 1950 S/Ldr. A.C. Henderson, DFC
September 1950 October 1952 S/Ldr. P.J. Simpson, DSO, DFC
October 1952 May 1955 S/Ldr. G.B. Mercer
May 1955 March 1957 S/Ldr. M.C. Collings


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This webpage was updated 30th June 2023