No. 60 Squadron RAF

No. 60 Squadron RAF

No. 60 (Reserve) Squadron of the Royal Air Force was formed in 1916 at Gosport. It is currently part of the Defence Helicopter Flying School based at RAF Shawbury in Shropshire.

The Squadron crest is a markhor's head and was approved by King George VI in December 1937. Chosen to commemorate many years of service in North-West India, the markhor being a mountain goat frequenting the Khyber Pass. The horns of a markhor were presented to the Squadron in 1964.[1]

The Squadron motto is Per ardua ad aethera tendo - 'I strive through difficulties to the sky'.


World War I service

Formed at Gosport on 30 April 1916, barely a month had passed before the unit and its Morane Scouts were despatched to France. After suffering heavy losses during the Battle of the Somme, the Squadron re-equipped with Nieuport Scouts and soon acquired a first-class reputation for itself. On 2 June 1917, Captain WA "Billy" Bishop received the Victoria Cross for his solo attack on a German aerodrome destroying three enemy aircraft in the air and several 'probables' on the ground before returning unhurt in a badly damaged aircraft. A month later, S.E.5 fighters arrived and these remained with the Squadron until it was disbanded on 22 January 1920.[2]

The squadron claimed 320 aerial victories. Twenty-six flying aces served in the squadron during the war; notable among them were Victoria Cross winner Albert Ball, Frank O. Soden, Harold A. Hamersley, James Belgrave, Alfred William Saunders, Alexander Beck, William J. A. Duncan, Robert L. Chidlaw-Roberts, John Doyle, future Air Commodore Keith Caldwell, Gordon Duncan, Herbert Hegarty, Alan Duncan Bell-Irving, John Griffith, Spencer B. Horn, William Molesworth, Sydney Pope, William M. Fry, Alan Scott, and Robert Kenneth Whitney.[3]

The interwar years

Reformed at Lahore in India on 1 April 1920, the Squadron, now equipped with de Havilland bombers, began an association with the Middle and Far East that was to last for 48 years. Between the wars, the unit found itself involved in many conflicts along the North West Frontier, flying Airco DH.9A and Westland Wapiti general-purpose aircraft until Bristol Blenheims arrived six months before the start of World War II.[4]

World War II

Blenheims of No. 60 Squadron flying at low level for a mast-head attack on a Japanese coaster off Akyab, Burma on 11 October 1942

After moving to Burma in February 1941, the Squadron suffered heavily at the hands of the advancing Japanese forces and was eventually declared non-operational and moved to India a year later. During 1943, No 60 Squadron converted to Hawker Hurricane fighter-bombers, attacking targets in Burma until May 1945 when American-built Thunderbolt fighters arrived.[5]

Post World War II

Shortly after the Japanese surrender, the Squadron moved to Java and was soon in action against Indonesian rebels. A year later, No 60 transferred to Singapore prior to converting to Supermarine Spitfire F18s and these were employed in attacks against Communist guerrillas in Malaya until the arrival of Vampires in late 1950 and then Venoms in 1955.[6]

By the time Meteor night-fighters arrived in October 1959, the unit had returned to RAF Tengah in Singapore. A change followed in July 1961 when Javelin fighters arrived and these remained until April 1968 when the Squadron was disbanded. On 3 February 1969, the Royal Air Force Communications Squadron based at RAF Wildenrath in Germany was retitled No 60 Squadron and the unit found itself flying ancient Pembroke transports until more modern Andovers arrived in 1987. As with many other Germany-based units, the end of the cold war saw many moves. No 60 disbanded at Wildenrath on 1 April 1992 but reformed two months on 1 June 1992 at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire with Westland Wessex helicopters. This proved a short-lived stay and the Squadron was disbanded on 31 March 1997 and the numberplate passed on to the RAF element of the Defence Helicopter Flying School at RAF Shawbury on 1 May 1997.[7]


Further reading

See also

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