No. 4 Squadron RAF

No. 4 Squadron RAF
No. IV(R) Squadron
4 Squadron badge
Active September 1912 (RFC)
Branch Royal Air Force
Role Harrier Operational Conversion Unit
Part of RAF Air Command
Garrison/HQ RAF Wittering
Motto In futurum videre (Latin: "To see into the future")
Battle honours Western Front 1914-1918, Mons, Ypres 1917 Somme 1918, France and Low Countries 1939-1940, France and Germany 1944-1945, Normandy 1944, Arnhem, Operation Provide Comfort April, 1993-1996, Iraq 2003
"A sun in splendour divided per bend by a flash of lightning"

No.4 (Reserve) Squadron, (previously known as No. 4 Squadron, sometimes written as No. IV Squadron) of the Royal Air Force operated the Harrier GR7, GR9 and T10 from RAF Wittering until January 2011.[1]



Formation and First World War

No. 4 Squadron formed at Farnborough in 1912 as part of the Royal Flying Corps. Operating a miscellaneous mixture of aircraft including early Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2s and Breguet biplanes, it quickly moved to Netheravon where it remained until the outbreak of the First World War. The more useful aircraft in its inventory were sent to France under the command of Major G H Rayleigh on 16 August 1914, to carry out reconnaissance in support of the British Expeditionary Force. On 19 August Lieutenant G. W. Mapplebeck flew the squadron's first mission over France, a reconnaissance flight searching for German cavalry in the vicinity of Gembloux, Belgium. Other aircraft remained in England to carry out anti-Zeppelin patrols.[2][3][4]

It was reinforced on 20 September by the personnel who had remained behind in England, forming C Flight, equipped with Maurice Farman "Shorthorns". It concentrated on the reconnaissance role, standardising on the Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2 in 1916. In the Battle of the Somme, 4 Squadron flew contact patrols keeping track of the position of advancing troops at low level, in addition to more regular reconnaissance and artillery spotting missions. It re-equipped with the Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8 in June 1917, in time to take part in the Battle of Messines and the Battle of Passchendaele. It remained equipped with the R.E.8 until the Armistice with Germany on 11 December 1918 ended the fighting.[5] It returned to the United Kingdom in February 1919, disbanding in September that year.[2]

Between the wars

No 4 Squadron reformed on 30 April 1920 at Farnborough, equipped with Bristol F.2 Fighters. Part of the squadron moved to Aldergrove near Belfast in November 1920 as a result of the Irish War of Independence, moving to Baldonnel Aerodrome near Dublin in May 1921, before rejoining the rest of the squadron at Farnborough in January 1922.[2][4][6] Not for the last time, 4 Squadron deployed on Royal Navy aircraft carriers when they sailed to Turkey on HMS Ark Royal and Argus during the Chanak crisis in August 1922, returning to Farnborough in September 1923. When the 1926 General Strike broke out, No. 4 Squadron's aircraft were used to patrol railway lines to deter feared sabotage.[4][7]

It replaced its elderly Bristol Fighters with new Armstrong Whitworth Atlas aircraft, which were purpose designed for the squadron's Army co-operation role, in October 1929, while these in turn were replaced by Hawker Audaxes in December 1931.[4][8][9] In February 1937 it moved from Farnborough to RAF Odiham, soon re-equipping with the Hawker Hector, a more powerful derivative of the Audax. In January 1939, it discarded its Hector biplanes in favour of the new monoplane Westland Lysander.[10]

Second World War

Shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the squadron moved to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force. Following Germany's invasion of France and the Low Countries on 10 May 1940, 4 Squadron was frequently forced to change bases by the approach of the advancing German armies, being withdrawn to the UK on 24 May.[6] Losses had been heavy, with 18 aircrew killed, while 60% of the groundcrew were lost.[4] It continued in the coastal patrol and air-sea rescue role while training for its main army co-operation role after returning to the UK.[8]

In 1942 the Squadron changed its mission from the traditional Army Co-operation role, where it would operate fairly low-performance aircraft from airstrips close to the front-line, to that of fighter-reconnaissance, receiving the more modern Curtiss Tomahawk and North American Mustang, soon settling on the Mustang, flying low-level attack and reconnaissance flights against targets on the continent. In August 1943, it joined 2 Tactical Air Force in support of the planned invasion of Europe, changing to the pure reconnaissance mission in January, and replacing its Mustangs with Mosquito PR XVI and Spitfire PR XIs. It discarded its Mosquitoes in June, moving to France in August, and briefly supplementing its Spitfires with a few Hawker Typhoons for low-level reconnaissance. It retained its Spitfires at VE Day, moving to Celle in Germany to carry out survey operations in support of the British Army of Occupation until it was disbanded on 31 August 1945.[2][4][11]

Post War Operations

The squadron reformed the next day by renumbering 605 Squadron, a light bomber squadron equipped with Mosquitoes based at Volkel in the Netherlands. It re-equipped with de Havilland Vampire fighter-bombers in July 1950, replacing them with North American Sabres in October 1953. The Sabres were discarded in favour of the Hawker Hunter in July 1955, retaining these until it disbanded at RAF Jever on 31 December 1960.[4][10]

Again, the Squadron was not allowed to remain dormant for long, as it reformed on 1 January 1961 by renumbering No. 79 Squadron RAF, flying Hunter FR 10s in the low-level reconnaissance role. It re-equipped with the Hawker-Siddeley Harrier in 1970, first flying them from RAF Wildenrath in West Germany. It moved on to RAF Gütersloh in 1977.[4][10]

The squadron has operated the Harrier ever since, receiving numerous upgrades and new versions over the years. In April 1999, the squadron left Germany to move to RAF Cottesmore.[4]

On 31 March 2010, No. 4 Squadron disbanded and reformed as No. 4 (Reserve) Squadron at RAF Wittering, taking over from No. 20 (R) Squadron as the Harrier Operational Conversion Unit.[12] As a result of the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the squadron disbanded in January 2011.[1]

Aircraft operated


The squadron is presently based at RAF Wittering with the GR.9 version of the Harrier. The squadron is manned by 80% RAF personnel and 20% Royal Navy personnel as 800 NAS and 801 NAS formed into a single squadron and the extra manpower were moved to IV and 1(F) squadron of Joint Force Harrier.

Commanding officers

Date appointed Name
September 1912 Major G H Raleigh
20 January 1915 Major H R P Reynolds
29 January 1915 Major C A H Longcroft
21 July 1915 Major F F Waldron
29 September 1915 Major G E Todd
17 February 1916 Major V A Barrington-Kennett
13 March 1916 Major T W J Carthew
20 September 1916 Major L Jenkins
2 December 1917 Major R E Saul
6 January 1919 Major H B Prior

See also



  1. ^ a b Air of Authority: Squadron Histories 1-5
  2. ^ a b c d Ashworth 1989, p. 32.
  3. ^ Yoxall 1950, pp. 255–256.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "4 Squadron". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  5. ^ Yoxall 1950, pp. 256–258.
  6. ^ a b Yoxall 1950, p. 258.
  7. ^ Yoxall 1950, pp. 258–259.
  8. ^ a b Yoxall 1950, p. 259.
  9. ^ Halley 1980, p. 22.
  10. ^ a b c Halley 1980, pp. 22–23.
  11. ^ Yoxall 1950, pp. 261–262.
  12. ^ "IV into 20 goes once". Air International. 2010-04-01. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  13. ^ Halley 1980, p. 23.
  14. ^ Bruce 1982, p. 147.
  15. ^ Bruce 1982, p.610.
  16. ^ Bruce 1982, p. 288.


  • Ashworth, Chris. Encyclopedia of Modern Royal Air Force Squadrons. Wellingborough, UK: Patrick Stevens Limited, 1989. ISBN 1-85260-013-6.
  • Bruce, J.M. The Aeroplanes of the Royal Flying Corps (Military Wing). London:Putnam, 1982. ISBN 0 370 30084 x.
  • Halley, James J. The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force. Tonbridge, UK: Air Britain (Historians), 1980. ISBN 0 85130 083 9.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Yoxall, John. "No. 4 Squadron RAF:The History of One of Our Most Famous Units". Flight, 23 February 1953, pp. 255–262.

External links

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