No. 74 Squadron RAF

No. 74 Squadron RAF
No. 74 Squadron RAF
Active 1 July 1917 - 3 July 1919
3 September 1935 - 31 August 1971
19 October 1984 - 1 October 1992
5 October 1992 - 22 September 2000
Role Fighter
Garrison/HQ Inactive
Nickname Trinidad[1]
Motto I fear no man
Battle honours Western Front, 1918: France and Low Countries, 1940: Dunkirk, Battle of Britain 1940, Fortress Europe 1940-1941 and 1944, Home Defence 1940-1941, Mediterranean 1943, Walcheren, Normandy, 1944, France and Germany, 1944-1945, Rhine
Squadron Badge A tiger's face
approved by HM King George VI in February 1937. Developed from an unofficial emblem used during the First World War.
Squadron Codes JH (Feb 1939 - Sep 1939)
ZP (Sep 1939 - Apr 1942)
4D (Apr 1944 - Apr 1951)

No. 74 Squadron RAF, also known as a "Tiger Squadron" from its tiger head motif, is a squadron of the Royal Air Force. It operated fighter aircraft from 1917 to the 1990s.



First World War


The squadron was first formed at London Colney on 1 July 1917. No. 74 Squadron was a training unit flying Avro 504Ks.

Its first operational fighters were S.E.5As in March 1918. The squadron served in France from April until February 1919, when it returned to Britain where it was disbanded on 3 July 1919.

During its wartime service, it was credited with 140 enemy planes destroyed and 85 driven down out of control, for 225 victories. Seventeen aces had served in the squadron, including Victoria Cross winner Major Edward Mannock, Ira "Taffy" Jones, Benjamin Roxburgh-Smith, future Air Commodore Keith Caldwell, Andrew Kiddie, Frederick Gordon, Sydney Carlin, Frederick Hunt, Clive Glynn, George Hicks, Wilfred Ernest Young, Henry Dolan, Harris Clements, George W. G. Gauld, and Frederick Luff.[2]

Interwar years

During the Abyssian crisis of 1935 the squadron was reformed in September to operate out of Malta with Hawker Demon two-seater fighters. In July the following year, the Squadron, with its Demons, was shipped back to England. It re-equipped with Gloster Gauntlets in April 1937 at Hornchurch, and formed part of the newly created Fighter Command. The Gauntlets were exchanged for the Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I in Feb 1939.

World War II

Supermarine Spitfire

On 6 September 1939, after an early morning air raid alert, a flight of No. 56 Squadron Hawker Hurricanes took off from North Weald. These were followed by two reserve Hurricanes. The two reserves were identified as enemy aircraft and Spitfires from Hornchurch, among them 74 Squadron, were ordered to attack them. Both were shot down. One pilot, P/O Montague Hulton-Harrop was killed; the other pilot, Frank Rose, survived. The pilot who fired the fatal shot was 74 Squadron's John Freeborn. The exact story of what happened in this incident, which came to be known as the "Battle of Barking Creek" may never be known. Even the origin of the name is obscure, as it did not take place above Barking Creek, but near Ipswich, in Suffolk. This was the first RAF operational death of the war. At the subsequent courts martial, the courts accepted that the entire incident was an unfortunate error.[3]

The Squadron, as part of No 12 Group, first saw combat during the evacuation from Dunkirk. These battles extracted a heavy toll on both pilots and aircraft. Thereafter they served successfully through the Battle of Britain. Mark Is were replaced with Mark IIa Spitfires in September 1940 at RAF Coltishall. The squadron moved back south to RAF Biggin Hill in October for the end of the Battle of Britain. The Squadron went to the north of England in July 1941 to regroup, from there moving around to stations in Wales and Northern Ireland until it was sent, without aircraft, to the Middle East in April 1942. Shortly after moving to the Middle East in April 1942. In June they arrived in Egypt. The squadron was moved to Palestine to operate as a maintenance unit for USAAF B-24 Liberators. The squadron received Hurricane IIBs in December 1942 and served in Iran until May 1943, moving back to Egypt for shipping patrols and conversion to the Spitfire Mk.Vb and Mk. Vc in September 1943. In late October 1943 the squadron got Mk.IX Spitfires, which were swapped for Mk. XVIs in March. No 74 returned home just in time to take part in the D-Day landings in June 1944, using its aircraft as fighter-bombers supporting the Allied liberation of France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Post war

74 Squadron Gloster Meteor F.8 in 1955 wearing "Tiger Stripes"

Scarcely three days later the Squadron was sent back to England to equip with jets - initially the Gloster Meteor F.4. Based at RAF Horsham St Faith, the squadron kept Meteors until 1957, latterly equipped with the improved Meteor F.8, when they were issued with a more modern fighter type, the Hawker Hunter.

In June 1959 the squadron moved to RAF Coltishall for re-equipment with the English Electric Lightning F.1 in mid 1960. In 1964 they moved to RAF Leuchars to get F.Mk.3 then F.Mk.6 Lightnings in 1966. The Squadron moved to RAF Tengah in Singapore, where it operated alongside 20 Squadron which flew Hunters, and 81 Squadron which flew Canberra PR-9s. The Squadron flew its EE Lightning F6s to RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus to hand them over to 56 Squadron and disbandment on 31 August 1971.[4]

The squadron was reformed at RAF Wattisham in October 1984, with ex-US Navy/Marine F-4Js (designated as the F-4J(UK) in RAF service) that were purchased by the RAF as a stop gap measure to replace those of 23 Sqn that had been sent to the Falklands after the war. 74 Sqn gave up their F-4J Phantoms and received surplus Phantom FGR.2s in January 1991, disbanding in October 1992 when RAF Wattisham began its transition to the Army Air Corps. On 5 October 1992, 74 (R) Squadron stood up with the British Aerospace Hawk as part of No 4 Flying Training School at RAF Valley in the weapon instruction role. At the 1993 Tiger Meet, 74 Sqn won the coveted 'Silver Tiger' trophy while competing against Mirages and F-16's, as Flt Lt Will Jonas said "Not bad for a training unit eh?!"

With the rationalisation of 4 FTS to just two squadrons, 74(R) Sqn was disbanded on 22 September 2000.

In 2008, No.74 would have celebrated its 90th anniversary, however No. 74 (F) Squadron still lives on through the 74 (F) Tiger Squadron Association, which brings together former tigers from all generations for a yearly reunion dinner. Pending raising the necessary funds, plans are in place to create a museum dedicated to the Squadron's history at their former base of Horsham St Faith, now Norwich Airport.

Famous pilots

Famous pilots associated with the squadron:

74 Squadron Aircraft

See also

  • List of RAF squadrons



  1. ^ Halley 1988, p. 142.
  2. ^ Retrieved 18 February 2010.
  3. ^ The Most Dangerous Enemy: A history of the Battle of Britain, Stephen Bungay, Aurum Press 2001. p. 67
  4. ^ Halley 1988, p. 143.
  5. ^ John Colin Mungo Park at Retrieved June 2011


  • Cossey, Bob. Tigers: The Story of 74 Squadron, RAF. London: Arms & Armour Press, 1992. ISBN 1-85409-143-3.
  • 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, 1998 (second edition 2001). ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
  • Jones, Wing Commander Ira "Taffy". Tiger Squadron: The Story of 74 Squadron R.A.F., in Two World Wars. London: W.H. Allen, 1954 (republished by Award books in 1966, White Lion Publishers Ltd. in 1972 and by Time Life Education in 1994).
  • Oughton, Frederick and Vernon Smyth. Ace With One Eye. The Life and Combats of Major Edward Mannock VC, DSO (2 bars), MC (1 bar), Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force. London: Frederick Muller Ltd., 1963.
  • 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.
  • Tidy, Douglas. I Fear No Man: The History of No.74 Squadron Royal Air Force. London: Macdonald & Co. (Publishers) Ltd., 1972, & revised edition 1998.
  • Tidy, Douglas. I Fear No Man: The History of No.74 Squadron Royal Air Force 1917-1997. J&KHP Publishers., 1998. ISBN 1-900511-03-7

External links

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