No. 29 Squadron RAF

No. 29 Squadron RAF
No. 29 Squadron RAF
29 Squadron badge
Official Squadron Badge of No. 29 Squadron RAF
Active 7 November 1915 - 1919
1923 - 1974
1975 - 1998
2003 - present
Country United Kingdom United Kingdom
Branch Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Royal Air Force
Role Operational Conversion Unit (air defense)
Base RAF Coningsby
Motto Latin: Impiger et Acer
("Energetic and keen")
Colors RAF 29 Sqn.svg
Equipment Eurofighter Typhoon
Battle honours Western Front, 1916-1918*; Somme, 1916*; Arras; Ypres, 1917*; Somme, 1918*; Lys; Channel & North Sea, 1939-1940*; Battle of Britain, 1940*; Home Defence, 1940-1945*; Fortress Europe, 1943-1945: Normandy, 1944: France & Germany, 1944-1945* Arnhem.
Honours marked with an asterisk* are emblazoned on the Squadron Standard
Squadron Badge An eagle in flight preying on a buzzard
The squadron badge symbolises air combat[1]
Squadron Codes YB (Dec 1938 - Sep 1939)
RO (Sep 1939 - Apr 1951)
B (Carried on Tornados)

No. 29 Squadron of the Royal Air Force was first raised in 1915, and is one of the world's oldest fighter squadrons. The second British squadron to receive the Eurofighter Typhoon, it is currently the Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) for the RAF's newest fighter.



Service in World War I

This unit was first raised as a reserve squadron, initially equipped with the Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2c, in November 1915. In early 1916 however No. 29 became the fourth squadron to receive the Airco DH.2 "pusher" fighter, and was posted to France in March 1916 - helping to end the Fokker Scourge and establish Allied air superiority in time for the Battle of the Somme.

By late 1916 the DH.2 was outclassed by new German fighters, but No. 29 kept its pushers until March 1917, when it was re-equipped with Nieuport 17s. These were replaced with later Nieuport types, such as the Nieuport 24bis, as these became available. Due to a shortage of the Royal Aircraft Factory SE.5a the squadron retained its Nieuports until April 1918, becoming possibly the last operational unit to operate “vee strut” Nieuport fighters. At this time the squadron finally received the S.E.5a, which it retained for the rest of the war.

The award of a Victoria Cross — the highest award for valour "in the face of the enemy" in the British Empire — to Captain James McCudden of 29 Sqn was gazetted on 2 April, 1918, for McCudden's "conspicuous bravery, exceptional perseverance and a high devotion to duty", between August 1917 and March 1918. By the time of his death a few months later, McCudden had 57 official victories in air combat.

October 1918 was a bitter month for the squadron; four of its more notable members died within a fortnight. Claude Melnot Wilson was the first to fall, on 14 October.[2][3][4] Roderic MacLean collided with Lieutenant Henry Coyle Rath on the 26th, with MacLean dying that day and Rath lingering until the next.[5][6] Even as Rath was succumbing to his injuries, Guy Wareing was shot down on the 27th.[7]

After a short period with the army of occupation in Germany, the Squadron returned to the UK in August 1919 and was disbanded on 31 December 1919.

The squadron ended the war having claimed 385 victories. Apart from those already mentioned, the 26 aces who served with the squadron included:

  • Edgar O. Amm
  • Norman Brearley (12 victories) an Australian who later became a pioneering airline proprietor
  • Sydney Brown
  • Edgar G. Davies
  • Francis James Davies
  • Thomas Sinclair Harrison
  • D'Arcy Fowlis Hilton
  • Ernest Charles Hoy
  • Arthur G. Jones-Williams
  • Camille Lagesse
  • William Molesworth
  • James Dennis Payne
  • Arthur Reed
  • Charles G. Ross
  • Reginald H. Rusby
  • Alfred Shepherd
  • Christoffel Venter, a South African and future Major General of the South African Air Force
  • Walter Bertram Wood

"Inter-war" years (1923-1939)

The squadron was reformed on 1 April 1923, initially equipped with Sopwith Snipes. These were replaced with Gloster Grebes in January 1925, In turn, these were replaced by the Armstrong Whitworth Siskin III A in March 1928 and Bristol Bulldogs in June 1932.

In March 1935, nearly twenty years after it was first raised as a single seat fighter squadron, the squadron received two seater Hawker Demons, which it operated until 1938. This included service in Egypt from October 1935 to 1936, during the Abyssinian crisis. The squadron also operated a few old Fairey Gordons for night patrols in Egypt.

As part of the Royal Air Force’s modernisation and expansion in the late 1930s, No. 29 received Bristol Blenheim F.1 heavy fighters in December 1938.

Second World War

A Beaufighter Mk IF (B-RO) of No. 29 Squadron.

No 29 began the Second World War with its Blenheims, which at the period operated as day fighters – especially on convoy protection patrols. From June 1940 it became a night fighter squadron, receiving some of the first Beaufighters in November, though it was February 1941 before the squadron was fully equipped with the new fighter. Various marks of the de Havilland Mosquito were flown by the squadron from May 1943 culminating in the Mosquito NF30. From the middle of 1944 most of the squadron’s missions took it over the continent.

1945 to 1998

During the immediate post-war years the squadron remained a night/all weather fighter unit. The Mosquitoes continued to serve until replaced by Gloster Meteor NF11s in August 1951. In November 1957 these were superseded by Gloster Javelins.

29 Squadron Typhoon F2
29 Squadron Typhoon "three ship" waiting to take on fuel

In January 1957 the squadron moved north, first to Northumberland and then in July 1958 to Scotland, conversion to Javelins taking having taken place in November 1957. In February 1963 No 29 moved to Cyprus and in December 1965 went to Zambia for nine months on detachment during the Rhodesian crisis.

From 1967 the squadron operated the English Electric Lightning F3 at RAF Wattisham until 1974 when they equipped with the F-4 Phantom and moved to RAF Coningsby. A detachment was provided for the defence of the Falklands in August 1982, after the Falklands War, and following repairs to the airfield at Stanley. In 1987, 29 Squadron was one of the first units to receive the Tornado F3; deploying to Saudi Arabia after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 and participating in Operation Desert Storm. No. 29 flew the Tornado until disbanding in 1998, as part of the Strategic Defence Review.

The current squadron

The squadron was reformed in 2003, this time as the Typhoon operational conversion unit (OCU). This is its current role.

Squadron markings and the "Misspelled Roman numeral" tradition

Since the late 1920s, the squadron marking has been three (red) Xs (XXX). Since this closely resembles the Roman numeral for "29" (XXIX) there is a "traditional" belief among current squadron personnel that this originated as a "misspelling" of the Roman numeral.

A line-up of 29 Squadron Siskins, in the late 1920s.

Although various versions of the tradition are put forward, the most common explanation is that a mis-understood instruction to ground crew to paint "2 X's in front of the roundel and IX behind it" meaning "X,X,(roundel), and 'IX' or 'one-X')" resulted in "XX(roundel)'one times' X".

In fact, the marking was always applied as "XXX(roundel)XXX" (as illustrated at the head of this article) - or as "XXX(roundel)" on smaller types, such as Siskins - unfortunately, neither lends much support to the "tradition".

It seems probable that the original adoption of "XXX" for the 1930s squadron marking was nothing to do with Roman numerals, but was a reference to the brewers mark for "extra strong", frequently applied to kegs of beer, and that it is only a coincidence that this resembles the numeral for "29" (XXIX).[8] It should be noted that the use of Roman numerals for numbering RAF units is a relatively modern development - in any case it was certainly not the practice in the RAF in the 1920s. Nor, so far as it is known, has 29 squadron ever been officially referred to as "XXX squadron" - or as "XXIX squadron" for that matter.

Summary of aircraft operated

List of Commanding Officers

Rank Name Date Assumed Command Notes
Major Dawes, L 7 Nov 1915
Major Conran, E L 25 May 1916 MC
Major Gratton-Bellew, W A 5 Sep 1916 MC
Major Champion de Crespigny, H V 22 Mar 1917 MC
Major Chapman, C M B 21 Jul 1917 MC
Major Champion de Crespigny, H V 04 Oct 1917 MC
Major Dixon, C H 20 Nov 1917 MC
Major White, H G 1 Apr 1923
Sqn Ldr Twistleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, The Hon L J E[9] 12 Aug 1923 [10][11]
Sqn Ldr Neville, R H G 12 Aug 1924 MC
Sqn Ldr Taylor, M L 10 Aug 1927 AFC
Sqn Ldr Scott P E 06 Dec 1929
Sqn Ldr Routh, E J D 09 Jun 1930
Sqn Ldr O'Neill, H D 14 Apr 1931
Sqn Ldr Butler, J H 18 Aug 1933
Sqn Ldr Chapman, C 20 Aug 1934 DSC
Sqn Ldr Mackay, E P 10 Dec 1935
Sqn Ldr Fleming, D M 14 Apr 1936
Sqn Ldr Lynch, J B 19 Aug 1937
Sqn Ldr Jonas, R C 17 Dec 1937
Sqn Ldr Robinson, M W S 02 Dec 1938
Sqn Ldr Gomez, P S 13 Feb 1939
Sqn Ldr Bitmead, E R 08 Jul 1940
Sqn Ldr Widdows, S C 16 Jul 1940 DFC
Wg Cdr Colbeck-Welch, E L 13 Jun 1941 DFC
Wg Cdr Cleland, R 10 Jul 1942
Wg Cdr Wight-Boycott, C M 10 Sep 1942 DSO
Wg Cdr Miller, C M 20 Jan 1943
Wg Cdr Mack, R E X 12 Jun 1943 DFC
Sqn Ldr Arbon, P W 23 Feb 1944
Wg Cdr Powell-Shedden, G F 29 Apr 1944 DSO DFC
Wg Cdr Allan, J W 18 Dec 1944 DSO DFC
Wg Cdr Wood, T C 31 Dec 1945 DFC
Sqn Ldr Hawkins, D 1 Nov 1946 DFC
Sqn Ldr Young, M J B 10 Mar 1949 DFC
Sqn Ldr Shaw, M 7 Jul 1949 DSO
Sqn Ldr Bodien, H E 15 Aug 1951 DSO DFC
Sqn Ldr Horsley, B P T 30 Jun 1952 AFC
Sqn Ldr Sismore, E B 11 May 1953 DSO DFC
Wg Cdr Aiken, J A C 2 Jan 1956
Wg Cdr Harbison, W 2 Jan 1958 AFC
Wg Cdr Gordon-Cumming, A R 15 Jul 1959
Wg Cdr Gardiner, R E 3 Jul 1961 DFC
Wg Cdr Jeffery, E G P 18 Apr 1962
Wg Cdr Burge, K 1 Jan 1965
Wg Cdr Neil, R 23 Nov 1966
Sqn Ldr Boyer, L A 10 May 1967
Wg Cdr Phipps, L W 18 Sep 1967 AFC
Wg Cdr Carrol, B 20 Jan 1969
Wg Cdr Carter, P 31 Jul 1971
Wg Cdr Hawtin, J D C 7 Jul 1973
Wg Cdr Lavender, B W 31 Dec 1974 AFC
Wg Cdr Oakden, D I 4 Jul 1975
Wg Cdr Elworthy, T C 23 May 1977
Wg Cdr Macfadyen, I D 1 Feb 1980
Wg Cdr Smith, G C 17 Dec 1982 AFC
Wg Cdr Macfadyen, I D 1 Jun 1983
Wg Cdr Alcock, A J H 2 Aug 1983 MBE
Wg Cdr Sudborough, N J 13 Nov 1985
Wg Cdr Doble, L A 01 Apr 1987
Wg Cdr Trotter, R W D 10 Nov 1989
Wg Cdr Hodgson, P 24 Jul 1992
Wg Cdr Routledge, M J 20 Jan 1995
Wg Cdr Randle, N 18 Jul 1997|
Wg Cdr Hitchcock, J J 1 Dec 2003
Sqn Ldr Hargreaves, I J 5 Nov 2004
Wg Cdr Mackay, A J 1 Apr 2005
Wg Cdr Gregory, A J 6 Jun 2007
Wg Cdr Stringer, J J 7 Sep 2007
Wg Cdr Seymour, A J Nov 2009

See also




  • Halley, James J. Famous Fighter Squadrons of the RAF: Volume 1. Windsor, Berkshire, UK: Hylton Lacey Publishers Ltd., 1971. ISBN 0-85064-100-4.
  • 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, C.G. RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 1988 (second edition 2001). ISBN 1-85310-053-6.
  • Rawlings, John. Fighter Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald and Jane's Publishers Ltd., 1969 (second edition 1976). ISBN 0-354-01028-X.
  • Robertson, Bruce. Aircraft Camouflage and Markings, 1907-1954. Letchworth, Harleyford Publications, 1957.

External links

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