RAF No 18 Squadron emblem

RAF No 85 Squadron hurries

RAF No 85 Squadron

Motto: Nocto Diuque Venamur (We hunt by day and night)

Formed as a fighter squadron at Upavon on 1 August 1917, the squadron was equipped with SE5As, which it took to France in May 1918. In March 1918, the squadron received Maj W A Bishop VC as it's CO, who in turn was replaced by Maj 'Mick' Mannock VC, making it one of the few squadrons to be commanded by two VC holders. It operated for the remainder of the war on fighter and ground attacks sweeps until returning to Britain in February 1919 and disbanding on 3 July the same year.

The squadron reformed at Debden on 1 June 1938 from 'A' Flight of No 311 Squadron. Following two temporary CO's, it's first 'full time' CO was Sqn Ldr D F W Atcherley, one of the famous twins. Initially equipped with Gladiators, these were replaced in September 1938 by Hurricanes. It was thus equipped when it moved to France as part of the Air Component of the BEF in September 1939. Following the German attack on France, the squadron was involved in supporting the ground forces until it only possessed four serviceable aircraft, when it returned to Britain to re-equip.

Re-equipped the squadron rejoined the fray in June and undertook operations during the first half of the Battle of Britain, but in September it moved to Church Fenton for a rest and in October to Kirton-in-Lindsey where it began night operations. These operations continued on its return south but success was hampered by a lack of radar, so Defiants were received in January 1941. However, these proved to be short-lived as Havocs arrived the following month. The squadron continued in the night fighter role, with Mosquitos from August 1942, until March 1943 when it began intruder operations over enemy territory. On 1 May 1944 the squadron became part of No 100 Group and whilst continuing the intruder role, it also took on the bomber support role, accompanying the Main Force on its deep penetrations mission into Germany.

With the end of the war, the squadron was retained as part of the UK based night fighter defences, continuing to use the Mosquito NF Mk 36 at West Malling until 1951 when the jet powered Meteor NF Mk 11 arrived. These, in their turn were replaced by NF Mk 12s and 14s, with both types being flown until disbandment on 31 October 1958 at Church Fenton, where the squadron had moved in September 1957. During this period, 11 February 1949 - 28 February 1952, No 85 was linked to No 145 Squadron, a process designed to keep famous squadron numbers active.

The squadron reformed less than month later on 30 November when No 89 Squadron was re-numbered. The unit was now based at Stradishall and was equipped with the Gloster Javelin. Initially equipped with the FAW Mk 2 and 6, these were superseded by the FAW Mk 8 in May 1960, by which time the squadron was at West Malling and these remained its sole equipment until 31 March 1963 when the squadron was disbanded again at West Raynham, to where it had moved in September 1960. The following day, however, the number was revived by renaming the Target Facilities Squadron at West Raynham.

The squadron was now equipped with a mixture of Meteor F Mk 8s, until 1970, and various models of Canberra and these were used to provide target facilities for both ground and air based customers. The squadron was eventually disbanded by being absorbed by No 100 Squadron on 19 December 1975. Meanwhile the same day, the number plate was passed to a Bloodhound unit with its HQ at West Raynham and operational flights at North Coates ('B') and Bawdsey ('C') as well as West Raynham ('A') itself. On 1 October 1989, 85 absorbed No 25 Squadron and added Flights at Barkston Heath ('D'), Wattisham ('E') and Wyton ('F'). On 1 December 1990, the Flights at North Coates, Bawdsey, Barkston Heath and Wyton were disbanded, the remaining Flights and Squadron HQ finally following on 1 July 1991. In around 2008 the number was allocated to the Yorkshire Universities Air Squadron and No 9 Air Experience Flight at RAF Church Fenton, but disbanded in late 2011.


Award of Standard originally announced on 17 Jul 1962, effective from 1 Apr 1962 but presented:- 4 June 1965 AM Sir Douglas Morris

Battle Honours:

Battle Honours: Western Front, 1917-1918: France & Low Countries, 1939-1940: Battle of Britain, 1940: Home Defence, 1940-1944: Fortress Europe, 1943: Normandy, 1944: France & Germany, 1944-1945:

Squadron Codes used: -

NO Allocated Sep 1938 - Sep 1939
VY Sep 1939 - Apr 1951

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This webpage was updated 30th June 2023