RAF No 18 Squadron emblem

RAF 56 (Punjab) Squadron

Motto: Quid Si Coelum Ruat ( What if heaven falls?)

No 56 Squadron BadgeFormed at Gosport on 9 June 1916 from a nucleus provided by No 28 Squadron. Moving to London Colney in July, it operated a variety of types until March 1917, when it became the first squadron to be equipped with the SE5, which it took to France in April. It operated over the Western Front until the end of the war, except for six weeks in June and July 1917 when it returned to the UK for defensive duties, and became one of the foremost fighter squadrons of the RFC/RAF. It was commanded by or counted in its ranks some of the leading British 'aces' of WW1 including Albert Ball and James McCudden. The squadron returned to the UK in February 1919, disbanding at Shotwick (Digby) on 22 January 1920.

The squadron soon reformed and on 1 February 1920 No 80 Squadron at Aboukir was re-numbered. It flew Snipes in Egypt until 23 September 1922 when it disbanded once again, however, its detachment with No 208 Squadron in Turkey continued to use the number despite a new 56 Squadron having already formed on 1 November 1922 at Hawkinge. Still operating Snipes, these were replaced by Grebes in September 1924 and in their turn by Siskins in September 1927. Bulldogs replaced the Siskins in October 1932 and Gauntlets arrived in May 1936 and their final biplane fighter, the Gladiator in July 1937.

The first monoplane Hurricane arrived in May 1938 and it was with this aircraft that the squadron entered the war, operating over the Dunkirk beaches and throughout the Battle of Britain until September 1941. In that month the squadron became the first to operate a new type, the Hawker Typhoon, but the early models proved to be troublesome and it was May 1942, before they became operational on this type. It soon became obvious that the Typhoon was not suited to normal fighter operations and soon began acting in the ground attack role, carrying bombs from November 1943 and rockets from February 1944. However, in April the squadron converted to Spitfire IXs, flying escort and reconnaissance sorties until June when it converted to yet another type, this time the Tempest V. Initially engaged on anti-V1 operations, the squadron joined 2 TAF in September and continued to fly armed reconnaissance sorties until the end of the war, being disbanded when it was re-numbered No 16 Squadron on 31 March 1946.

No 56 reformed the next day at Bentwaters, when No 124 Squadron was renumbered. It was now flying Meteor F Mk 3s, which were replaced by Mk 4s in August 1948 and Mk 8s in December 1950. From 11 February 1949 to 31 December 1951, the squadron was linked to No 87 Squadron. The squadron became the first to introduce another new type in February 1954, when the Swift F Mk 1 arrived, followed by some F Mk 2s in August,. however, the Swift failed to meet its expectations as an interceptor fighter and they were replaced by Hunters in May 1955, which the squadron operated until January 1961. In that month the first Lightnings for the squadron arrived and these remained its main equipment until June 1976. F Mk 1As were operated until 1965, when the F Mk 3 arrived, the final model to be used being the F Mk 6 from September 1971. In 1967, the squadron re-located to Akrotiri in Cyprus, where it formed the fighter element of Near East Air Force, the squadron returning to the Wattisham on 21 January 1975.

In March 1976 No 56 (Designate) Squadron began forming at Coningsby on the Phantom FGR Mk 2. When this unit had worked up on the new type it moved to Wattisham, where on 29 June 1976 it replaced the Lightning unit. It continued to operate from Wattisham as part of the UK Air Defence Region until 1 July 1992 when it disbanded. On the same day the Tornado F Mk 3 OCU at Coningsby adopted the numberplate as No 56 (Reserve) Squadron, moving to Leuchars in April 2003 where it remained until disbanding on 22 April 2008. The same day the numberplate was transferred to the Intelligence Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) Operational Evaluation Unit (OEU) at RAF Waddington. In its new role it became responsible for the operational testing and evaluation of the Sentry AEW Mk 1, Sentinel R Mk 1 and all versions of the Nimrod as well as associated ground based equipment.

Standards Battle Honours*

Award of Standard originally announced on 7 Sep 1943, effective from 1 Apr 1943 but presented:-
1st - 27 April 1956 HRH Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent
2nd - 23 October 1986 ACM Sir John Rogers.

Western Front, 1917-1918:
Arras: Ypres, 1917:
Cambrai, 1917:
Somme, 1918: Amiens:
Hindenburg Line: France & Low Countries, 1940:
Dunkirk: Battle of Britain, 1940:
Fortress Europe, 1942-1944:
Dieppe: France & Germany, 1944-1945:
Normandy, 1944:
Home Defence, 1942-1945: Arnhem:

Squadron Codes used: -
LR Sep 1939
US Sep 1939 - Apr 1946
ON Apr 1946 - 1947 (Codes taken over from No 124 Sqn)
US 1947 - Dec 1950
B Carried on Phantoms
A Carried on Tornados

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This webpage was updated 30th June 2023