No. 6 Squadron RAF

No. 6 Squadron RAF
No. 6 Squadron RAF
6 Squadron badge
Active 31 January 1914
Role Quick Reaction Alert
Garrison/HQ RAF Leuchars
Equipment Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4
An eagle, wings elevated, preying on a serpent

No. 6 Squadron of the Royal Air Force operates the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 at RAF Leuchars.[1] It was previously equipped with the Jaguar GR.3 in the close air support (CAS) and tactical reconnaissance roles, and was based at RAF Coltishall, Norfolk until April 2006, moving to RAF Coningsby until disbanding in May 2007. The squadron officially reformed as a Typhoon squadron on 6 September 2010.[2]



World War I

No. 6 Squadron's motto Oculi Exercitus ("The Eyes of the Army") and the badge depicting an eagle attacking a serpent were gained as a result of fighter defence of army units during World War I.

The squadron was formed on 31 January 1914, at Farnborough as No 6 Sqn, Royal Flying Corps. Its first squadron commander was Major J H W Becke.[3]

The bird depicted on the squadron badge is a falcon, with the snake serving two purposes, one the then (World War I) obvious anti-Central Powers symbolism, the second to circumvent the rules about squadron badges featuring a squadron's number. The cunningly coiled snake (rumoured to have been cooked up by 6 Sqn members Louis Strange and Lanoe Hawker) neatly sidestepped the regulations.

The squadron were pioneers in military aviation, being blessed with the presence of Strange and Hawker - the former an "ideas man" - almost a mad professor - the latter a skilled engineer. Their dual talents led to some ingenious mountings for machine guns, the use of which famously won Hawker the first air combat Victoria Cross, and nearly cost Strange his life, when he reached up to change the drum on a Lewis gun he had mounted on the top plane of his Martinsyde (long before the Foster Mount became de rigueur) and the machine flipped on its back, threw Strange from the cockpit and went into a flat spin from 10,000 ft (3,000 m). Strange, hanging for dear life to the drum of the Lewis gun, managed to get back into the cockpit and right the aircraft within 500 ft (150 m) of the ground. He returned to base, and quietly disappeared, sleeping for the best part of 24 hours, telling no-one of the incident. Unfortunately for Strange, the German machine he had been firing at witnessed the whole incident, and assumed that their brave attacker had perished. As was the custom, they dropped a wreath and with it a letter describing the manner of Strange's death, and a bashful Strange found his escapade written into aviation history. Needless to say, his next invention was a pilot's safety harness!

Strange went on to be decorated for bravery in combat in both world wars, and help to initiate, develop and organise the UK's sole parachute training facility at RAF Ringway near Manchester in 1940, and then the catapult Hurricane system (CAM ship). Hawker died in 1916, after an epic one-to-one battle with Baron von Richthofen.

Other members of 6 Sqn RFC included several men who went on to find fame in World War II, including Hugh "Stuffy" Dowding.

Inter-war Years

Following the Armistice the squadron transferred to Iraq, arriving in July 1919. Operating in the Army Co-operation role in Northern Iraq, it was equipped with Bristol Fighters, the squadron remained there for ten years before moving to Egypt in 1929. At the same time it re-equipped with Fairey Gordons and assumed the bomber role, Hawker Harts replacing these in 1935. Following problems in Palestine, the squadron relocated there in 1938 reverting to the Army Co-operation role with Hawker Hardys, adding Gloster Gauntlets and Westland Lysanders later.

World War II

During the early part of World War II, the squadron operated in the army co-operation role with Westland Lysanders from Palestine, but detached aircraft to the Western Desert until 1941 when Hawker Hurricanes were on strength. Co-operation with ground units was vital during sorties around this time and during one mission Flight Lieutenant McFall, carrying out a Lysander reconnaissance, located the enemy unit and then landed beside Allied gun batteries in order to direct the fire.

Further action in the desert on anti-tank duties continued from 1942 until the end of the North African campaign. Flying the tank-busting, 40 mm cannon-firing Hawker Hurricane Mk. IID the squadron excelled over the desert destroying many axis armoured targets. This is where they earned the nickname "The Flying Tin Openers". In 1944, the squadron moved to Italy and flew the remainder of the war over the Balkans, equipped with rocket-firing Hurricane Mk. IVs.

Post World War II/Cold War

The squadron remained in the Middle East until 1969. During this period the squadron went from being equipped with Hurricanes (and for a brief period four Spitfires due to a lack of available Hurricanes) to Hawker Tempest Mk. VIs and subsequently De Havilland Vampire FB.5s. During the early 1950s the squadron developed a close relationship with Jordan and King Abdullah, through this period it continued to operate Vampires and a twin seat Gloster Meteor T.7.

A 6 Sqn Jaguar GR3 over northern Iraq in 2000.

In 1956, after a brief period back in Iraq the squadron moved the De Havilland Venoms it then operated back to RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus and attacked Egyptian airfields from here during the Suez Crisis. In 1957 the squadron again re-equipped, this time with English Electric Canberras which it continued to operate from Akrotiri until 1969. Having been located outside of the UK for 50 years the squadron returned in 1969 and was the first to receive the Phantom FGR2 at RAF Coningsby the same year, before re-equipping with the Jaguar GR1 and T2 at RAF Lossiemouth in 1974. The squadron then moved to RAF Coltishall, being declared operational in the tactical nuclear role with twelve aircraft and eight WE.177 nuclear bombs until 1994,[4][5] when the squadron's nuclear role was terminated and the weapons withdrawn.

Post-Cold War

The squadron continued at RAF Coltishall in its non-nuclear role until Coltishall closed on 1 April 2006, and the squadron moved to RAF Coningsby. The squadron's aircraft were deployed to the Gulf as part of Operation Granby (Gulf War), for which it received battle honours, and later as part of the Northern No-Fly-Zone. The squadron deployed to Italy for operations over Bosnia from 1993.

The Squadron was the last to fly the SEPECAT Jaguar, and was disbanded on 31 May 2007. The Jaguar's intended replacement in RAF service was the Eurofighter Typhoon. The RAF announced that No. 6 Squadron was to be the fourth operational front line squadron equipped with the Typhoon and the first with Tranche 2 aircraft, initially scheduled to reform in 2008 at RAF Leuchars in Fife. However this was delayed until 2010, with the squadron reforming at RAF Leuchars on 6 September 2010, when a closed standing-up ceremony was performed to mark the squadron's reforming, including the arrival of the new Typhoon aircraft in 6 Squadron colours from RAF Coningsby.[1] It has taken over the role of Quick Reaction Alert for the north of the United Kingdom from No. 111 Squadron RAF, the RAF's last Panavia Tornado F3 squadron, in March 2011.[1][6]

Aircraft operated

Commanding officers

List of commanding officers[7][8]
From To Name
February 1914 March 1915 Major J H W Becke[3]
March 1915 December 1915 Major G S Shephard[9]
December 1915 September 1916 Major R P Mills, MC, AFC[10]
September 1916 June 1917 Major A S Barratt, MC[11]
June 1917 July 1918 Major A W H James, MC
July 1918 February 1920 Major G C Pirie, MC[12]
February 1920 May 1920 S/Ldr W Sowrey[13]
May 1920 April 1922 S/Ldr E A B Rice
April 1922 January 1924 S/Ldr E R Manning, DSO, MC
January 1924 November 1925 S/Ldr D S K Crosbie, OBE
November 1925 November 1926 S/Ldr D F Stevenson, DSO, MC[14]
November 1926 January 1928 S/Ldr C N Lowe, MC, DFC
January 1928 February 1930 S/Ldr C H Keith
February 1930 February 1931 S/Ldr C R Cox, AFC
February 1934 January 1937 S/Ldr H M Massey, DSO, MC[15]
February 1940 September 1940 S/Ldr W N McKechnie, EGM
September 1940 April 1941 S/Ldr E R Weld
April 1941 February 1942 S/Ldr P Legge
February 1942 January 1943 W/Cdr R C Porteous, DSO
January 1943 May 1943 S/Ldr D Weston-Burt, DSO
May 1943 May 1944 W/Cdr A E Morrison-Bell, DFC
May 1944 August 1944 S/Ldr J H Brown, DSO, DFC
August 1944 November 1944 S/Ldr R H Langdon-Davies, DFC
November 1944 July 1946 S/Ldr R Slade-Betts, DFC
August 1946 December 1946 S/Ldr C E Mould
December 1946 November 1947 S/Ldr C K Gray, DFC
November 1947 July 1950 S/Ldr D Crowley-Milling, DSO, DFC Bar
July 1950 November 1952 S/Ldr P A Kennedy, DSO, DFC, AFC
November 1952 October 1954 S/Ldr E J Roberts
October 1954 November 1956 S/Ldr P C Ellis, DFC
November 1956 July 1957 S/Ldr G P Elliott
May 1969 August 1970 W/Cdr D Harcourt-Smith
August 1970 December 1972 W/Cdr J E Nevill
December 1972 June 1974 W/Cdr B W Lavender
June 1974 Jul 1975 W/Cdr R J Quarterman
Jul 1975 Dec 1977 Wg Cdr N R Hayward
Dec 1977 Mar 1980 Wg Cdr G B Robertson
Mar 1980 Aug 1982 Wg Cdr M N Evans
Aug 1982 Dec 1984 Wg Cdr D W Bramley
Dec 1984 Jun 1987 Wg Cdr N A Buckland
Jun 1987 Dec 1989 Wg Cdr I Reilly
Dec 1989 Feb 1992 Wg Cdr (later Gp Capt) J Connolly, AFC
Feb 1992 Jul 1994 Wg Cdr A D Sweetman
Jul 1994 Dec 1996 Wg Cdr I A Milne
Dec 1996 Jul 1999 Wg Cdr M J Roche
Jul 1999 Jul 2002 Wg Cdr R W Judson
Jul 2002 Jul 2004 Wg Cdr M J Sears, MBE
Jul 2004 Apr 2006 Wg Cdr W A Cruickshank
Apr 2006 May 2007 Wg Cdr J M Sullivan




  • 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.

External links

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