RAF No 18 Squadron emblem

RAF No 54 Squadron

Motto: Audax Omnia Perpett (Boldness to endure anything)

Active   5 May 1916 - Garrison/HQ: RAF Waddington
Motto: 'Audax Omnia Perpeti - Boldness to endure anything'
Battle honours: Western Front 1916-1918, Arras, Ypres 1917, Cambrai 1917, Amiens, Home Defence 1940-1945, France and Low Countries 1940, Dunkirk, Battle of Britain 1940, Fortress Europe 1941, Eastern Waters Australia 1943-1945, Gulf 1991

No. 54 Squadron (sometimes written as No. LIV Squadron) is a squadron of the Royal Air Force. It is a reserve squadron based at RAF Waddington, England. On 1 September 2005 it took on the role of Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) Operational Conversion Unit, responsible for training all RAF crews assigned to the Sentry AEW1 and the Nimrod R1. The unit will also train crews of the Sentinel R1 when it comes into service.

Squadron History

World War I
Serny, France, November 1918. A score board recording the claims for enemy aircraft destroyed by No. 80 Wing RAF from July-November 1918. The squadrons listed are: No. 54 Squadron, No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps (AFC), No. 88 Squadron RAF No. 2 Squadron AFC, No. 92 Squadron RAF No. 103 Squadron RAF and No. 46 Squadron RAF. The other columns are headed 'In Flames', 'Crashed', 'O.O.C.' (Out of Control), 'Driven Down' and 'Balloons Destroyed'.'

No. 54 Squadron was formed at Castle Bromwich on 5 May 1916. Like many others formed at the same time, was tasked with Home Defence duties flying BE2Cs and Avro 504s. Four months later, however, it transferred to day fighter missions and moved to France escorting bombers and attacking observation balloons equipped with Sopwith Pup's. The final months of the War were spent flying Sopwith Camel's in ground attack as well as fighter sorties. In February 1919, the Squadron returned to RAF Yatesbury, reduced to cadre status and was disbanded on 25 October 1919.

The Squadron was reformed at RAF Hornchurch on 15 January 1930 as a fighter squadron equipped initially with Siskins. The squadron had a brief stay at RAF Upavon in 1931, prior to returning to RAF Hornchurch. The Siskins were subsequently replaced with Bulldogs, Gloster Gauntlets in September 1936 and Gladiators in April 1937, before the Squadron's first monoplane, the Supermarine Spitfire, arrived in March 1939.

World War II

The early days of World War II were spent patrolling the Kent coast, until, in May-June 1940, the unit provided air cover for the evacuation of Dunkirk. Following this, the Squadron was heavily engaged in the Battle of Britain, until it moved north to RAF Castletown, in November 1940 to regroup, prior to undertaking coastal patrols. In June 1942, the squadron was moved to RAF Wellingore, to prepare for moving to Australia

Locations in England

* 3 September 1939 - RAF Hornchurch, London Borough of Havering, East London
* September 1940 - RAF Catterick, Catterick, North Yorkshire
* February 1941 - RAF Hornchurch, London Borough of Havering, East London
* November 1941 - RAF Castletown, Castletown, Scotland
* June 1942 - RAF Wellingore, Lincolnshire

In mid-1942, the squadron left for Australia. In January, 1943, it joined No. 1 Wing (Spitfire Wing) of the Royal Australian Air Force, a Spitfire unit responsible for air defence duties against Japanese aircraft in the Darwin area, under Wing Commander Clive Caldwell. Initially, the wing as a whole suffered from the inexperience of its pilots and mechanical problems caused during the shipment of Spitfires. Although contact with the Japanese was generally brief, 54 Squadron pilots scored a number of kills. Following the end of the war, the squadron disbanded in Melbourne on October 31, 1945.

Locations in Australia:

* 13 August 1942: Ascot Vale, Melbourne, Victoria
* 24 August 1942: Richmond, Sydney, New South Wales
* 13 January 1943: Sydney, New South Wales
* 25 January 1943: Parap Airfield, Darwin, Northern Territory
* 9 May 1944: Potshot, Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia]
* 19 May 1944: Livingstone Airfield, Northern Territory
* 23 October 1945: Parap Airfield, Darwin, Northern Territory
* 30 October 1945: Melbourne, Victoria

Commanding Officers

* Sqn.Ldr. E. M Gibbs - 13 August 1942
* Sqn.Ldr. R.B Newton - 11 January 1944
* Sqn.Ldr J.B.H Nicholas - 1 July 1945
* F-Lt D.M Gossland - 30 October 1945

Post War

On 15 November 1946 No. 183 Squadron RAF a Hawker Tempest ground-attack unit based at RAF Chilbolton near Oxford, was renumbered No 54 Squadron and spent a year training pilots destined for overseas service before receiving Vampires and moving to RAF Odiham a year later.

In 1948, six Vampires from the Squadron made history when they completed the first crossing of the Atlantic by jet aircraft. Following a three year stint with Meteors, which arrived in April 1952, Hunters arrived in March 1955, and the Squadron took up ground-attack duties as part of No 38 Group, frequently deploying to trouble spots around the world as part of the Group's Offensive Strike Wing. The squadron relocated to RAF Stradishall in July 1959 and to RAF West Raynham in 1963.

The squadron was briefly disbanded on 1 September 1969, however was reformed the same day after being re-equipped with McDonnell-Douglas Phantoms at RAF Coningsby in 1969. SEPECAT Jaguars were delivered during 1974. Remarkably, the Squadron, role and aircraft have remained the same, albeit at a different base (Coltishall) and updated Jaguar aircraft. With the move to a more expeditionary footing, the squadron has seen a number of operational deployments in recent years including Northern Iraq and the Balkans.

With the decision taken to run the Jaguar fleet down in anticipation of the arrival of its replacement, the Typhoon, No 54 Squadron was disbanded at RAF Coltishall on 11 March 2005. The Squadron Standard is now housed in Norwich Cathedral.

Reformed as 54 (Reserve) Squadron at RAF Waddington on 1 September 2005 it re-roled as the Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) Conversion Unit, responsible for training all mission crews for the Sentry AEW1 and the Nimrod R1. The unit will also train crews of the Sentinel R1 when it comes into service.

Aerial display

No 54 Squadron was the first jet RAF formation team to trail smoke with a team of five De Havilland Vampires.

In 1955, No 54 Squadron flew a formation of four Hawker Hunter aircraft. The following year the Squadron team adopted the name The Black Knights - the pilots wore black flying suits.

Battle Honours

* Western Front, 1916-1918
* Arras: Ypres, 1917
* Cambrai, 1917
* Amiens: Home Defence, 1940-1945
* France & Low Countries, 1940
* Dunkirk: Battle of Britain, 1940
* Fortress Europe, 1941
* Eastern Waters, 1943-1945
* Gulf, 1991

Squadron Codes

* DL - April 1939 - September 1939, April 1944 - October 1945
* KL - September 1939 - June 1942
* HF - November 1945 - April 1948 (Codes taken over from No 183 Sqn)
* GA - GZ (Carried on Jaguars)
Web Reference:

No.54 Squadron spent the entire Second World War flying the Supermarine Spitfire. During 1940 it helped to protect the Dunkirk evacuations and took part in the Battle of Britain, before in the summer of 1942 it moved to Australia, arriving after the worst of the Japanese raids were over.

No.54 Squadron was reformed as a fighter squadron in 1930, flying a series of biplanes until in March 1939 it received its first Spitfires. The Spitfire squadrons were considered too precious to send to France, and so No.54 spent the first few months of the war flying defensive patrols.

It's serious combat debut came during the evacuation from Dunkirk, when a significant proportion of the RAF's Spitfire squadrons were used to prevent German bombers from reaching the beaches. The squadron then played a major part in the first half of the Battle of Britain, eventually having to be moved north to Yorkshire in September to recover. The squadron returned to the south coast in February 1941, and until November took part in the costly fighter sweeps over northern France.

In June 1942, after a six month break in Scotland, No.54 Squadron departed for Australia, as part of a Spitfire wing sent to protect the north coast against Japanese raids. Although the squadron was in place by August, its aircraft were constantly diverted to the Middle East, and No.54 didn't return to combat until January 1943. By this time the threat of Japanese attack was receding, and the raids stopped in July, but the squadron remained in Australia to the end of the war.


March 1939-February 1941: Supermarine Spitfire I
February-May 1941: Supermarine Spitfire IIA
May-August 1941: Supermarine Spitfire VA
August 1941: Supermarine Spitfire IIA
June-November 1941: Supermarine Spitfire VB
November 1941-March 1942: Supermarine Spitfire IIB
March-May 1942: Supermarine Spitfire VB
September 1942-May 1944: Supermarine Spitfire VC
March 1944-September 1945: Supermarine Spitfire VIII


June 1931-May 1940: Hornchurch
October 1939-March 1940: Detachments to Rochford
May-June 1940: Catterick
June 1940: Hornchurch
June-July 1940: Rochford
July 1940: Hornchurch
July-August 1940: Catterick
August-September 1940: Hornchurch
September 1940-February 1941: Catterick
February-March 1941: Hornchurch
March-May 1941: Southend
May-June 1941: Hornchurch
June 1941: Debden
June-August 1941: Hornchurch
August 1941: Martlesham Heath
August-November 1941: Hornchurch
November 1941-June 1942: Castletown
June 1942: Wellingore

August 1942-January 1943: Richmond (Australia)
January 1943-June 1944: Darwin
June-October 1944: Livingstone
October 1944-September 1945: Darwin
September-October 1945: Melbourne

Squadron Codes: KL, DL

1939-1942: Fighter Command
1942-1945: Fighter Wing, Australia

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This webpage was updated 30th June 2023