RAF No 18 Squadron emblem

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.


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 30th June 2023