RAF No 72 (Basutoland) Squadron

Motto: Swift

Formed from a nucleus provided by the CFS, it formed on 2 July 1917 and following training, it was spilt into a number of parties, which were then transported to Mesopotamia. The squadron came back together at Basrah on 2 March 1918, but its varied equipment was again spilt into detachments, which were attached to numerous Army formations to provide fighter cover and reconnaissance facilities. The squadron finally re-assembled at Baghdad with the end of war and on 13 February 1919 it was reduced to cadre for return to the UK, disbanding on 22 September 1919.

The squadron reformed on 22 February 1937 at Tangmere from a nucleus provided by No 1 Squadron. Again it was as a fighter unit, its initial equipment being Gladiators and on 1 June 1937 it moved north to Church Fenton. Spitfires arrived in April 1939, but the squadron remained in the north until June 1940, when it moved to Gravesend to assist in covering the evacuation from Dunkirk. It operated throughout the Battle of Britain as part of the Biggin Hill sector moving to Coltishall and then Leuchars in November. It rejoined the Biggin hill sector in July 1941, where it undertook offensive sweeps over Northern France, remaining there until August 1942, when it was withdraw for service overseas.

From September it was at Ouston until moving to Gibraltar in November, from where it supported the Allied landing in North Africa. The squadron operated in the fighter and bomber escort roles in support of Allied forces in Tunisia until moving to Malta in June 1943, where it began operations over Sicily. Following the landings on the island the squadron transferred there, from where it could support the invasion of Italy, to where it moved in September.

No 72 was one of the units allocated to cover 'Operation Dragoon', the Allied invasion of Southern France and in July 1944 it transferred to Corsica for this purpose. The squadron remained in France for six weeks after which it returned to Italy, where it conducted fighter patrols and ground attack operations until the end of the war. The squadron remained in the area as part of the occupation forces in both Italy and Austria until disbanding on 30 December 1946.

The squadron was reformed on 1 February 1947, when No 130 Squadron at Odiham was renumbered. Equipped with Vampires, it was again tasked with day fighter duties and these remained its task when it converted to Meteor F Mk 8s in July 1952. However, a role change occurred in February 1956, when it converted to Meteor NF Mk 12 and 14s and the night fighter role. In April 1959, it began converting to the all-weather fighter role, when it received Javelin FAW Mk 4s and in June FAW Mk 5s, by which time the Meteors had been retired. Both types continued to be operated until the squadron disbanded on 30 June 1961 at Leconfield, to where it had moved on conversion to the Javelin.

A major role change for the squadron took place on 15 November 1961, when it reformed, at Odiham once again, as a Support Helicopter unit equipped with the Belvedere HC Mk 1. In August 1964, the Belvederes were replaced by Wessex HC Mk 2s and a detachment of these was operated from Manston in the ASR role for a while. The squadron moved to Benson in April 1981, but the following November it was transferred to Aldergrove in Northern Ireland to provide support force the forces operating in the province. In January 1997 the squadron began to receive Puma HC Mk 1s and both types were operated until the squadron disbanded in 2002. However in July that year it was decided to allocate the number to one of the flying training squadrons of No 1 Flying Training School at Linton-on-Ouse.

Standards Battle Honours* 30 June 1966 AM Sir Ronald Lees.

Mesopotamia, 1918: Channel & North Sea, 1939-1942: Dunkirk: Battle of Britain 1940: Fortress Europe, 1941-1942: North Africa, 1942-1943: Mediterranean, 1942-1943: Sicily, 1943: Italy, 1943-1945: Salerno: Anzio & Nettuno:

Squadron Codes used: -
RN Oct 1938 - Apr 1939, Sep 1939 - Dec 1946
SD Apr 1939 - Sep 1939
FG Jan 1947 - Apr 1951
A Carried on Wessex
E Carried on Chinooks

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This webpage was updated 30th June 2023