RAF No 18 Squadron emblem

RAF No 81 Squadron

Motto: Non solum nobis (Not for us alone)

Formed as a training unit at Gosport on 7 January 1917, it disbanded on 4 July 1918. It reformed at Wyton two weeks after the Armistice (25 November 1918) in the fighter role being composed of Canadian personnel, with the alternative designation, No 1 Squadron, Canadian Air Force. However, it disbanded on1 February 1920.

Reformed from the Communication Squadron at Mountjoie in France on 1 December 1939, it flew Tiger Moths until the German invasion necessitated its withdrawal back to Britain, where it disbanded on 15 June 1940. Just over a year later, it reformed at Leconfield on 29 July 1941 in the fighter role, equipped with Hurricanes. In September it moved to North Russia, flying its aircraft from HMS Argus, here it flew operations as well as training Russian pilots to operate the Hurricanes, which were then left with the Russians when the squadron returned to Turnhouse in November.

In January 1942 it re-equipped with Spitfires, which it used operationally for the first time on 1 February 1942. It operated in the North of England and Scotland until May when it joined No 11 Group at Hornchurch, taking part in offensive operations until October. It now became part of the air assets involved in the invasion of North Africa (Operation Torch), when it moved to Gibraltar. From here it moved into its new home at Maison Blanche on 8 November. It them provided support for the 1st Army until the campaign in North Africa ended.

In June 1943 a move to Malta allowed it to support the Allied invasion of Sicily and in September it transferred to the Italian mainland but in November it was transferred to India. Its aircraft arrived at Alipore in early December 1943 and the squadron began ground support operations in January 1944, maintaining these until August 1944 when the squadron moved to Ceylon, where it disbanded on 20 June 1945. The same day No 123 Squadron, which was re-equipping with Thunderbolts at Bobbili, was re-numbered No 81. However, the war ended before the squadron could become operational on its new aircraft, but it was sent to Java in October in the tactical reconnaissance and convoy protection role, finally disbanding on 30 June 1946.

No 81 Squadron reformed on 1 September 1946 at Seletar in Singapore when No 684 Squadron was re-numbered. It was now operating in the Photo-Reconnaissance role equipped with Mosquitoes and later some Spitfires. It remained in the Far East, being heavily involved in Operation Firedog from 1947. The squadron holds the distinction of carrying out the last operational flights of both the Spitfire (1 April 1954) and the Mosquito (15 December 1955). From December 1953 it began to operate Meteor PR Mk 10s and in 1956 some Pembroke C (PR) Mk 1s were received and in 1958 Canberras began to arrive, but it was three years before these fully supplanted the Meteors. No 81 Squadron finally disbanded as the Far East Air Force was being run down on 16 January 1970.

Standards Battle Honours*

Award of Standard originally announced on 30 Jun 1964, effective from 1 Apr 1964 but presented:- France & Low Countries, 1939-40: Russia, 1941: Fortress Europe, 1942: Home Defence, 1942: Channel & North Sea, 1942:Dieppe: North Africa, 1942-43: Mediterranean, 1943: Sicily, 1943: Salerno: Italy, 1943: Burma 1944: Arakan, 1944: North Burma, 1944: Manipur, 1944

Squadron Codes used: -

WK Allocated Apr 1939 - Sep 1939
Russian Characters These were carried whilst the squadron was serving in the USSR, Jul - Nov 1941
FL Dec 1941 - Jun 1946

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This webpage was updated 30th June 2023