No. 20 Squadron RAF

No. 20 Squadron RAF
No.20 (R) Squadron
No. 20 Squadron RAF.jpg
Squadron crest: an eagle on a sword, in front of the rising sun
Active 1915
Role Operational Conversion Unit
Motto Facta non verba
Latin: "Deeds not Words"
Equipment Harrier GR9 and T12
Battle honours Western Front 1916-1918, Somme 1916, Arras, Ypres 1917, Somme 1918, Lys, Hindenburg Line, Mahsud 1919-1920, Waziristan 1919-1925, Mohmand 1927, North West Frontier 1930-1931, Mohmand 1933, North West Frontier 1935-1939, North Burma 1943-1944, Arakan 1943-1944, Manipur 1944, Burma 1944-1945, Gulf 1991.

No. 20 (R) Squadron of the Royal Air Force was until March 2010, the OCU (Operational Conversion Unit) for the BAE Harrier GR9, and T12, operating from RAF Wittering. A reserve squadron, it could be called upon for combat duties if necessary.[1]



Formed on 1 September 1915, as a unit of the Royal Flying Corps, the squadron has flown many types - FE2ds, Bristol Fighters, Westland Wapitis, Hawker Audaxes, Westland Lysanders, Hurricanes, Spitfires, Tempests, Vampires, Sabres, Hunters (Singapore), Tornado GR1s (Germany) and SEPECAT Jaguars. In 1992, No. 233 Harrier OCU at RAF Wittering adopted the squadron crest and became 20 (Reserve) Squadron on 1 September 1992.

In the First World War 20 Squadron RFC & RAF was arguably the highest scoring and possibly most decorated British fighter squadron on the Western Front with 613 combat victories, a posthumous Victoria Cross won by Thomas Mottershead, four Distinguished Conduct Medals, and over sixty Military Crosses and Military Medals awarded to its members. Its ranks included over two score flying aces.

The squadron transferred from the former Royal Flying Corps to the newly formed Royal Air Force in April, 1918.

Post World War I, 20 Sqn was transferred to the North-West Frontier Province for policing duties, equipped with Bristol Fighters, Wapitis and Audaxes.

A 20 Sqn. sergeant at Monywa, Burma, 1945.

At the outbreak of World War II, the squadron was still equipped with Audaxes, which were replaced with Lysanders in December 1941, re-equipping with Hurricanes in March 1943. During the Second World War the squadron's Hawker Hurricane IIDs and IVs saw action against the Japanese.

After the war, the squadron re-equipped with Spitfires in September 1945, and Tempest FBIIs in May 1946, retaining these until it disbanded on 1 August 1947, whilst based in India.

20 Squadron reformed at Llanbedr on 11 February 1947 as an Anti-aircraft Co-operation (AAC) squadron, moving to Valley on 19 July 1949, equipped with many miscellaneous aircraft. The squadron disbanded at Valley on 16 September 1951.

In June 1952 the squadron reformed at RAF Jever, Germany, operating the de Havilland Vampire. These were replaced in 1953 by Canadair Sabres which were themselves replaced with Hawker Hunters. The squadron was disbanded in 1960, only to be reformed again at RAF Tengah, Singapore, again operating Hunters. Following the withdrawal of the RAF from the Far East the squadron disbanded in 1970.

20 Squadron reformed again in late 1970 at RAF Wildenrath, Germany, operating the Hawker Siddeley Harrier.

In 1977 at RAF Bruggen the squadron re-equipped with twelve SEPECAT Jaguar strike aircraft, various weapons for the squadron's conventional strike role of support for ground forces in repelling a Soviet attack in Europe, and eight WE.177 tactical nuclear bombs for use if a conflict escalated to the nuclear phase. The apparent mismatch between eight nuclear bombs and twelve aircraft was because RAF staff planners expected up to one third attrition in the conventional phase, with sufficient aircraft held back in reserve to deliver the full stock of nuclear weapons to targets beyond the forward edge of the battlefield, deep into the enemy's rear areas. The squadron was assigned to SACEUR for operational and targeting purposes, although political control over release of the British-owned WE.177 weapons was retained by the British government in London.[2]

The squadron re-equipped again with twelve Tornado GR1 aircraft at RAF Laarbruch in 1984, while its stock of WE.177 weapons increased to eighteen because of the Tornado's greater capacity. The squadron's war-role and assignment to SACEUR remained unchanged.[3][4]

In May 1992 the Options for Change defence review called for the disbanding of 20 Squadron as a front line unit, and it disbanded on 31 July 1992. On 1 September 1992 the squadron numberplate was assigned to the Harrier Operational Conversion Unit as No. 20 (Reserve) Squadron.

With the formation of Joint Force Harrier and the decision to withdraw the FAA's Sea Harriers, the personnel of the RAF's No. 1 and 4 Squadrons, and the RN's 800 Naval Air Squadron and 801 Naval Air Squadron, later known as Naval Strike Wing, were absorbed with 20(R) Squadron into a joint RAF/RN unit, manned 50/50 by each service.

On 9 February 2009, a 20(R) Squadron Harrier T12, ZH656, crashed at RAF Akrotiri while on training operations there. Both crew ejected safely and were treated in hospital for minor injuries.[5]

As a result of 2009 defence cuts, 20 Squadron disbanded on 31 March 2010, with its tasks taken over by the retitled 4 (Reserve) Squadron.[6]

Notable airmen

See also


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