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No. 3 Squadron RAF

No 3 Squadron
3 Squadron badge
Active 13 May 1912 (RFC)
Role Air Defence and Early Warning
Garrison/HQ RAF Coningsby
Motto Latin: Tertius primus erit
("The third shall be the first")
Equipment Typhoon F2, FGR4, T3
Battle honours Western Front 1914–1918, Mons, Somme 1918, Low Countries 1940, Battle of Britain 1940, Normandy 1944, Arnhem, France and Germany 1944–1945, Iraq 2003
Squadron Badge heraldry On a monolith, a cockatrice
Squadron Roundel

No 3 (F) Squadron of the Royal Air Force operates the Typhoon F2, FGR4 and T3 from RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire.

No 3 (F) Squadron, which celebrated its 100th anniversary (as one of the three founder squadrons of the Royal Flying Corps) over the weekend of 11–13 May 2012, is unique in the RAF for having two official badges.

The main badge is the cockatrice on a monolith ('chicken on a brick'). Then there is the ground crew (Aircraft Engineers) badge having three vertical monoliths and two 'capping' monoliths ('The Wickets'), representing the association of Larkhill with Stonehenge.

The reasons for this distinction are hotly debated.


  • History 1
    • Foundation and First World War 1.1
    • Inter War 1.2
    • Second World War 1.3
    • Post War 1.4
  • Aircraft operated 2
  • Commanders 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
    • Notes 5.1
    • Bibliography 5.2
  • External links 6


Foundation and First World War

No 3 Squadron (Royal Flying Corps) was formed at Larkhill on 13 May 1912 by the renaming of No. 2 (Aeroplane)Company of the Air Battalion Royal Engineers, under the command of Major HRM Brooke-Popham. Being already equipped with aeroplanes and manned by pilots and air mechanics, No. 2 (Aeroplane)Company was thus the first British, Empire or Commonwealth independent military unit to operate heavier-than-air flying machines, hence the 3 Squadron motto Tertius primus erit, meaning "The third shall be the first". On 5 July 1912, two members of the squadron, Captain Eustace Loraine and Staff Sergeant Wilson were killed in an aircraft crash making them the first RFC fatalities.[1] In 1913, No 3 Squadron deployed to Halton in Buckinghamshire to support the land manoeuvres of the Household Division. A temporary airfield was set up on what later became RAF Halton's Maitland Parade Square. During the exercise, No 3 Squadron flew a number of reconnaissance sorties and staged the first confrontation between an airship and an aeroplane.[2]

Sent to France on the outbreak of the Great War First World War, the squadron initially operated in the reconnaissance role using a variety of aircraft types. The English ace James McCudden served as a mechanic and later observer with 3 Squadron from June 1913 to January 1916 before leaving to become a pilot. Cecil Lewis, author of Sagittarius Rising flew Morane Parasols with No 3 Squadron during the Somme offensive in the summer of 1916. Later in October 1917, with the introduction of Sopwith Camels, a fighter/scout role was taken on, with 59 enemy aircraft being claimed by the end of the war. The squadron disbanded in October 1919.[3][4]

There were nine Will Hubbard, Adrian Franklyn, Hazel LeRoy Wallace, Lloyd Hamilton, David Hughes, Neil Smuts,[5] and William H Maxted[6]

Inter War

It reformed in India in 1920 as a fighter squadron equipped with Sopwith Snipes, being disbanded again in October 1921. It was immediately reformed at RAF Leuchars, Scotland, as a naval observation squadron equipped with the Airco DH.9A, receiving the Westland Walrus and Avro Bison before being disbanded to form two independent flights in April 1923.[3][4]

It reformed as a fighter squadron with Snipes in April 1924, operating a succession of different types, based in the UK, including the Gloster Gladiator.[7] The only highlight of these years was the 1935 deployment to the Sudan during the Italian invasion of Abyssinia.[4]

Second World War

A 3 Sqn Hurricane IIC, in 1942.

At the start of the Second World War No 3 Squadron was posted as part of Fighter Command to RAF Station Biggin Hill equipped with the Hawker Hurricane. It briefly deployed to France in support of the British Expeditionary Force following the German attack on the West in 1940, being forced to withdraw after 10 days, having claimed 60 German aircraft for the loss of 21 of its own. <06/41 to 08/41 No 3 Sqn moved from Martlesham Heath to RAF Stapleford Tawney operating 4 canon Hurricane 11s in 'Rhubarb' attacks on defended ground targets and shipping in northern France & Belgium. (Source Sqn logs National Record Office>. On 21 July 1940 "B" flight was detached to form the nucleus of the newly formed No. 232 Squadron. Once back up to strength, No. 3 Squadron was used as air defence for the Royal Naval base at Scapa Flow, remaining in Scotland until April 1941, based at RAF Station Wick in Northern Scotland.

The squadron then co-operated with "Turbinlite" searchlight equipped Douglas Havocs in the night fighter role.[4]

In February 1943 it re-equipped with the Hawker Typhoon for fighter-bomber and anti-shipping strikes. It re-equipped in March 1944 with the new Hawker Tempest fighter, operating over the Normandy beach-head and against German V1 flying bombs, claiming 288 V-1s shot down.[4]

It then deployed across the Channel, flying as part of the 2 TAF fighting through the low countries and into Germany. Amongst its pilots was F/L Pierre Clostermann, who flew with 3 Squadron from March 1945 until the end of the war in Europe.[3][4]

Post War

The squadron moved onto jets with the De Havilland Vampire during 1948, in Germany, where it had remained after moving there in the latter stages of the war. Sabres and Hunters replaced the Vampires during the 1950s, followed by Gloster Javelins and then a conversion onto Canberra bombers. Most of its time with Canberras was spent at RAF Geilenkirchen moving to RAF Laarbruch in January 1968.

3 Squadron's association with the Harrier began in the early 1970s with the Harrier GR1 at RAF Wildenrath where it reformed from Canberras to Harriers and they joined 4 & 20 Squadron equipped with Harrier GR1's who were already operational at RAF Wildenrath. The squadron received the later GR3 and GR5 model Harriers successively at RAF Gütersloh, finally receiving the GR7 and relocating to RAF Laarbruch in the 1992. In 1999, with the drawdown of the RAF in Germany, the squadron moved back to the UK along with its sister squadron No IV (AC) Squadron RAF. The two squadrons operated at RAF Cottesmore, being joined by the other Harrier operator, No. 1 Squadron RAF, in 2001. 3 Squadron moved to RAF Coningsby in 2006.

As part of Joint Force Harrier, 3 Squadron operated alongside the Fleet Air Arm Sea Harriers, and was capable of deployment from the Royal Navy aircraft carriers. Operations included Operation Allied Force over Kosovo in 1999, Operation Palliser over Sierra Leone in 2000 and Operation Telic over Iraq in 2003. In August 2004, it was announced that 6 Harriers would be deployed to Afghanistan in support of NATO forces.

Its Harrier GR7s were passed to the Fleet Air Arm to be used by the recommissioned No. 800 Naval Air Squadron when 3 Squadron re-equipped with the Eurofighter Typhoon. It became the first operational front line RAF Typhoon squadron on 31 March 2006 and was declared operational in 2007.

In March 2011 3 Squadron deployed to Southern Italy to take part in Operation Ellamy over Libya following UN Security Council Resolution 1973.

In May 2012 four aircraft were deployed to RAF Northolt in an air defence role covering the duration of the Olympic Games, the first time RAF fighters had been stationed at the base since the Second World War.

Aircraft operated

3 Squadron Typhoon F2


Date appointed Name
13 May 1912 Major H R M Brooke-Popham
12 Aug 1914 Major J M Salmond DSO
Apr 1915 Major D S Lewis DSO
1 Nov 1915 Major E R Ludlow-Hewitt MC
Jan 1916 Major H D Harvey-Kelly DSO
Sep 1916 Major D E Stodart
May 1917 Major E D Horsfall
Jun 1917 Major J A De Courcy
Sep 1917 Major R Raymond-Barker
Apr 1918 Major R St Clair-McClintock MC
Dec 1920 Sqn Ldr G G A Williams
Jun 1922 Sqn Ldr D G Donald
Feb 1923 Sqn Ldr C C Miles
Apr 1924 Sqn Ldr J C Russel DSO
Apr 1926 Sqn Ldr J M Robb DFC
Sep 1927 Sqn Ldr E D Johnson AFC
Aug 1930 Sqn Ldr C A Stevens MC
Mar 1934 Sqn Ldr G Martyn
Mar 1936 Sqn Ldr H L P Lester
Aug 1938 Sqn Ldr H H Chapman
Nov 1939 Sqn Ldr P Gifford DFC
May 1940 Sqn Ldr W M Churchill DSO DFC*
Jun 1940 Sqn Ldr S F Godden
Sep 1940 Sqn Ldr G F Chater DFC
Nov 1940 Sqn Ldr A W Cole
Jan 1941 Sqn Ldr R E Barnett MBE
Jan 1941 Sqn Ldr E P P Gibbs
Apr 1941 Sqn Ldr R F Aitken
Apr 1942 Sqn Ldr A E Berry DFC
Aug 1942 Sqn Ldr L F De Soomer
Aug 1943 Sqn Ldr S R Thomas DFC AFC
Sep 1943 Sqn Ldr R Hawkins MC DFC
Oct 1943 Sqn Ldr A C Dredge DFC AFC
Aug 1944 Sqn Ldr K A Wigglesworth DFC
Sep 1944 Sqn Ldr H N Sweetman DFC
Jan 1945 Sqn Ldr K F Thiele DSO DFC**
Feb 1945 Sqn Ldr R B Cole DFC*
May 1947 Sqn Ldr C H Macfie DFC
Nov 1949 Sqn Ldr D R Griffiths DFC
Jun 1952 Sqn Ldr W J S Sutherland
Dec 1953 Sqn Ldr D C H Simmons CBE AFC
Dec 1954 Sqn Ldr T H Hutchinson
15 Jun 1957 Sqn Disbanded
Jan 1959 Wg Cdr D W B Farrar DFC AFC
May 1960 Wg Cdr A F Peers DFC
Jan 1961 Wg Cdr D G Walker AFC
Jan 1961 Wg Cdr D F C Ross DFC
Jul 1963 Wg Cdr J L Field CBE
Jul 1965 Wg Cdr L E H Scotchmer OBE
May 1967 Wg Cdr R Hollingworth
Dec 1969 Wg Cdr M R T Chandler

See also



  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Finn, C. J. et al. (2004). Air Publication 3003 – A Brief History of the Royal Air Force. p. 331. HMSO.
  3. ^ a b c Lewis 1959, p.13.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Ashworth 1989, p.30.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Gustavsson, Håkan. "Gloster Gladiator in 3 RAF Squadron service". Biplane Fighter Aces from the Second World War. Retrieved 17 April 2013. 


  • Ashworth, Chris. Encyclopedia of Modern Royal Air Force Squadrons. Wellingborough, UK: Patrick Stevens Limited, 1989. ISBN 1-85260-013-6.
  • Halley, James J. The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth, 1918–1988. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1988. ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
  • Jefford, Wing Commander C.G., MBE, BA, RAF (Retd). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury: Airlife Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
  • Lewis, Peter. Squadron Histories: R.F.C, R.N.A.S and R.A.F., 1912–59. London: Putnam, 1959.
  • Long, Jack T.C. Three's Company: An Illustrated History Of No. 3 (Fighter) Squadron RAF. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2005. ISBN 1-84415-158-1.
  • Moyes, Philip J.R. Bomber Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald and Jane's (Publishers) Ltd., 1964 (new edition 1976). ISBN 0-354-01027-1.
  • Rawlings, John D.R. Coastal, Support and Special Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Jane's Publishing Company Ltd., 1982. ISBN 0-7106-0187-5.
  • Rawlings, John D.R. Fighter Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald and Jane's (Publishers) Ltd., 1969 (new edition 1976, reprinted 1978). ISBN 0-354-01028-X.

External links

  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
  • No. 3 Squadron at RAF website
  • 3 Sqn Association
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