No. 85 Squadron RAF

No. 85 Squadron RAF
No. 85 Squadron RAF
Active 1 August 1917 - 3 July 1919
1 June 1938 - 31 October 1958
30 November 1958 - 31 March 1963
1 April 1963 - 19 December 1975
19 December 1975 - 1 July 1991
2008 - 2011
Country United Kingdom United Kingdom
Branch Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Royal Air Force
Nickname Flying Foxes
Motto Latin: Nocto Diuque Venamur
("We hunt by day and night")
Post-1950 aircraft insignia RAF 85 Sqn.svg
Battle honours Western Front, 1917-1918; France & Low Countries, 1939-1940; Battle of Britain, 1940; Home Defence, 1940-1944; Fortress Europe, 1943; Normandy, 1944; France & Germany, 1944-1945.
William Avery "Billy" Bishop
Edward "Mick" Mannock
Peter Townsend
John Cunningham
Squadron Badge On an ogress a hexagon voided[1]
The hexagon was no. 85's World War I identity insignia and the ogress signifies the night[2]
Squadron Codes NO (Sep 1938 - Sep 1939)
VY (Sep 1939 - Apr 1951)

No. 85 Squadron is a squadron of the Royal Air Force. It most recently served as No. 85 (Reserve) Squadron based at RAF Church Fenton.



In World War I

No. 85 Squadron was formed at Upavon on 1 August 1917; the station was home to the Royal Flying Corps Central Flying School. Shortly afterwards, the squadron moved to Mousehold Heath near Norwich under the command of Major R A Archer. During November 1917 the squadron transferred to Hounslow Heath Aerodrome, and in March 1918 Major William Avery Bishop VC, DSO, MC, took command and carried out his orders to prepare and train for front line duties in France. On 1 April 1918 No. 85 Squadron was transferred into the new Royal Air Force. Following this period of training the squadron deployed to France during May 1918. Equipped with the Sopwith Dolphin and later the Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5A, it flew fighter patrols and ground attack sorties over the Western Front until the Armistice was signed.

On 21 June 1918, there was a change of command and training methods following the arrival of the new CO, Major Edward "Mick" Mannock DSO, MC. Rather than fight as individuals, the squadron was taught to act as a unit during combat. During a patrol on 26 July 1918, accompanying Lt DC Inglis over the front line, Major Mannock failed to return, depriving 85 Squadron of its leader. On 18 July 1919, Major Mannock was awarded a posthumous VC. No. 85 Squadron amassed 99 victories during its short involvement in the conflict. Besides Bishop and Mannock, the squadron had other notable aces, such as Malcolm C. McGregor, Arthur Randall, John Warner, Alec Reid, Spencer B. Horn, Walter H. Longton,[3] and Lawrence Callahan.[4]

It returned to the UK in February 1919. The squadron disbanded on 3 July 1919.

In World War II

On June 1, 1938, the squadron was reformed from the renumbered elements of "A" Flight No. 87 Squadron RAF and placed under the command of Flight Lieutenant D E Turner. The squadron was based at RAF Debden in Essex, and commenced training using the Gloster Gladiator (the RAF's last biplane fighter). On 4 September the first Hawker Hurricanes began arriving in numbers.

The war clouds began to darken the horizon once again, and another trip to France was beckoning for the young men and their Hurricane fighters. No. 85 Squadron received the signal ordering its immediate mobilisation on 23 August 1939, the aircraft making up both "A" and "B" Flights were kept at a state of constant readiness, by 1 September the squadron had completed its preparation for the impending move to France. On the outbreak of the Second World War, the squadron moved its 16 Hurricanes to Boos as part of the Air Component of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) 60th Fighter Wing. Their primary role was to give support to the Fairey Battle and Bristol Blenheim units deployed around Rheims, and to provide vital air defence cover for their bases. Initial sorties however involved patrols over the English Channel, and a move to Merville was instigated in late September. By 1 November 1939, another move saw the squadron based at Lille Seclin, however to maintain its patrols over the Channel sections were detached to Le Touquet and Saint-Inglevert. During one such patrol over the Boulogne area, the squadron scored its first victory of World War II when Flight Lieutenant R.H.A. Lee attacked a Heinkel He 111 which crashed into the Channel, exploding on impact.

December 1939 saw a Royal visit from his Majesty the King accompanied by the Duke of Gloucester and Viscount Lord Gort. The onset of winter proved to be an additional challenge as bitterly cold weather prevented flying, caused damage to aircraft and took its toll on the health of the airmen who were living in fairly primitive conditions. When the German invasion (Blitzkrieg) commenced in May 1940, 85 Squadron found itself locked in a bitter contest with the Luftwaffe, and with attacks on its aerodromes commonplace there was no respite from operations. In an eleven day period the squadron had accounted for a confirmed total of 90 enemy aircraft; there were many more claims that could not be substantiated. The final sorties saw the squadron giving fighter cover to the Allied armies until its bases were finally overrun and the three remaining aircraft retired to the UK. During the intense battles over France, the squadron lost seventeen pilots; two killed, six wounded and nine missing, this figure included their new CO, Squadron Leader Peacock but had once again had acquitted itself well in the face of many adversities.

The squadron re-equipped and resumed full operations early in June 1940. After taking part in the first half of the Battle of Britain over southern England, the squadron moved to Yorkshire in September, and in October following a change in role commenced night fighter patrols. For the remainder of the Second World War, No. 85 Squadron continued its nocturnal pursuit of intercepting enemy raiders, it had a brief period providing Bomber Support as part of No. 100 Group RAF and even took part in the famous anti-diver patrols intercepting V1 flying bombs.

Entering the jet age

Bloodhound SAM at the RAF Museum, Hendon, London, formerly of No.85 Squadron

Following the end of war in Europe, 85 Squadron remained active as a night-fighter unit, and flying operations continued into the jet age with new aircraft types such as the Gloster Meteor, Gloster Javelin and English Electric Canberra. In its final reformation on 19 December 1975, No. 85 Squadron was a Bristol Bloodhound Mark II surface to air missile unit; operating from several key bases in the United Kingdom and headquartered at RAF West Raynham in Norfolk. The squadron continued to play a significant part in Air Defence operations as part of 11 Group RAF Strike Command until the 1990s. The collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the end of the Cold War period heralded wide sweeping changes in the United Kingdom's Air Defence needs. 85 Squadron was disbanded on 10 July 1991 and the Standard bearing the squadron's battle honours was interred and is in the safe keeping of Ely Cathedral.

2007 marked the 90th Anniversary of No. 85 Squadron, its Association met in June to celebrate the rich history gained throughout the many years of service to the Nation and the Crown.

No. 85 Squadron reformed as 85 (Reserve) Squadron in 2008, based at RAF Church Fenton, teaching Elementary Flying Training in the Grob Tutor. In August 2011, the squadron was disbanded due to the reductions in the RAF and Fleet Air Arm following the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review.[5]

Commanding officers

According to Rawlings[6]
From To Name
Aug 1917 Mar 1918 Maj. R.A. Archer
Mar 1918 Jun 1918 Maj. W.A. Bishop, VC, DSO & Bar, MC, DFC
Jun 1918 Aug 1918 Maj. E. Mannock, VC, DSO and two Bars, MC & Bar
Aug 1918 Jan 1919 Maj. C.M. Crowe
Jan 1919 Feb 1919 Maj. J.O. Leach
Jun 1938 Aug 1938 F/Lt. D.E. Turner
Aug 1938 Nov 1938 F/Lt. A.C.P. Carver
Nov 1938 Jan 1940 S/Ldr. D.F.W. Atcherley
Jan 1940 May 1940 S/Ldr. J.O.W. Oliver, DSO, DFC, CB
May 1940 May 1940 S/Ldr. M. Peacock
May 1940 Jun 1941 S/Ldr. P. Townsend, CVO, DSO, DFC and Bar
Jun 1941 Oct 1941 W/Cdr. A.T.D. Saunders
Nov 1941 May 1942 W/Cdr. R.K. Hamblin
May 1942 Jan 1943 W/Cdr. G.L. Raphael, DFC
Jan 1943 Mar 1944 W/Cdr. J. Cunningham, DSO, DFC
Mar 1944 Oct 1944 W/Cdr. C.M. Miller, DFC
Oct 1944 Jan 1945 W/Cdr. F.S. Gonsalves, DFC
Jan 1945 1948 W/Cdr. W.K. Davison
1948 S/Ldr. Gardner
Oct 1958 W/Cdr. L.G. Martin
Nov 1958 Mar 1960 W/Cdr. G.A. Martin, DFC, AFC
Mar 1960 Dec 1961 W/Cdr. S.J. Perkins, AFC
Dec 1961 W/Cdr. D.A.P. Saunders-Davies
2008 2011 Sqn Ldr A. Paul

See also


  1. ^ Halley 1988, p. 156.
  2. ^ Rawlings 1978, p. 204.
  3. ^ Retrieved 20 February 2010.
  4. ^ American Aces of World War I. p. 52. 
  5. ^ "RAF Church Fenton says farewell to 85 Squadron". 1 September 2011. Retrieved 3 September 2011. 
  6. ^ Rawlings 1978, pp. 209-210.


  • Franks, Norman, et al. American Aces of World War I. Osprey Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1841763756, 9781841763750.
  • 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, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
  • 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.
  • Robinson, Anthony. RAF Fighter Squadrons in the Battle of Britain. London: Arms and Armour Press Ltd., 1987 (Reprinted in 1999 by Brockhampton Press, ISBN 1-86019-907-0.)

External links

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