No. 120 Squadron RAF
|No. 120 Squadron RAF|
Official Squadron crest of No. 120 Squadron RAF
|Active||1 Jan 1918 (RFC) – 21 Oct 1919
2 Jun 1941 – 4 Jun 1945
1 Oct 1946 – 31st March 2010
|Branch||Royal Air Force|
|Battle honours||Atlantic, 1941–1945*;
Channel and North Atlantic, 1941–1944*;
South Atlantic, 1982;
Honours marked with an asterisk* are those emblazoned on the Squadron Standard
|Squadron Badge heraldry||Standing on a demi-terrestrial globe, a falcon close
The falcon, an Icelandic falcon, commemorates the Squadron's stay there and also indicates the squadron's predatory instinct
|Squadron Codes||OH (Jun 1941 – Dec 1941, Jul 1944 – Jun 1945)
BS (Oct 1946 – Mar 1951)
(Codes taken over from No 160 Sqn)
A (Mar 1951 – Apr 1956)
120 (Apr 1956 – Feb 1971?)
Formation in World War I
No. 120 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps was formed at Cramlington on 1 January 1918, as a day bomber unit and was planned to be equipped with Airco DH.9. The First World War ended before it became operational, as the DH.9s were not delivered until October 1918, so 120 Squadron spent late 1918 and 1919 flying communication and mail flights in Western Europe until it was disbanded late in 1919.
World War II
Reformed as part of Coastal Command in Northern Ireland in 1941 at RAF Nutts Corner, the unit was equipped with the Consolidated Liberator, flying against the U-Boat threat in the war in the North Atlantic. The squadron received the first Mark I Liberators in June and began flying nine of them in September from bases in Aldergrove, Northern Ireland and Reykjavik, Iceland. The number of Liberators in September 1942 had increased to six Mark I, two Mark II, and three Mark III. 120 Squadron remained the only Coastal Command squadron flying VLR (Very Long Range) Liberators in February 1943 with five Mark I and twelve Mark III.
The squadron was very successful in this role, sinking 14 U-Boats outright, with shares in three more and eight damaged by the end of the war and its disbandment on 4 June 1945 at RAF Ballykelly. This was the highest kill total in Coastal Command, achieved whilst flying from Northern Ireland, Iceland, and in support of Operation Overlord – the Allied invasion of France in 1944.
- 12 October 1942 – U-597 sunk by depth charges from Liberator H
- 15 October 1942 – (U-661 credited to Liberator H but postwar analysis indicates an attack on U-615 caused no damage)
- 5 November 1942 – U-89 damaged near convoy SC 107 (but initially believed to have sunk U-132)
- 8 December 1942 – (U-254 credited but postwar evidence indicates sank in collision with U-221 near convoy HX 217)
- 10 December 1942 – U-611 sunk near convoy HX 217 by depth charges from Liberator B
- 8 February 1943 – U-135 damaged near convoy SC 118
- 15 February 1943 – U-225 sunk by Liberator S near convoy SC 119 (but initially believed to be U-529)
- 21 February 1943 – U-623 sunk near convoy ON 166 by Liberator T
- 5 April 1943 – U-635 sunk near convoy HX 231 by depth charges from Liberator N
- 5 April 1943 – U-594 damaged near convoy HX 231
- 23 April 1943 – U-189 sunk by Liberator V
- 19 May 1943 – (U-954 credited to Liberator T but postwar assessment indicates an attack on U-731 caused no damage)
- 20 May 1943 – U-258 sunk near convoy SC 130 by depth charges from Liberator P
- 28 May 1943 – U-304 sunk by depth charges from Liberator E
- 25 June 1943 – U-200 sunk by Liberator H (but initially believed to be U-194)
- 20 September 1943 – (U-338 credited to Liberator F but postwar analysis indicates an attack on U-386 caused no damage)
- 4 October 1943 – U-389 sunk by depth charges from Liberator X (but initially believed to be U-279)
- 8 October 1943 – U-643 sunk near convoy SC 143 in cooperation with No. 86 Squadron RAF
- 16 October 1943 – U-470 sunk near convoys ONS 20/ON 206 by Liberator Z in cooperation with No. 59 Squadron RAF
- 17 October 1943 – U-540 sunk near convoys ONS 20/ON 206 by depth charges from Liberator H in cooperation with No. 59 Squadron RAF
- 6 March 1944 – U-737 damaged by depth charges
- 9 June 1944 – U-740 credited but postwar assessment indicates damaged but not sunk
- 29 April 1945 – U-1017 sunk by depth charges from Liberator Q
The squadron reformed again on 1 October 1946, by renumbering 160 Squadron at RAF Leuchars. It was equipped with Lancaster GR.3s though some Liberators remained on strength till June 1947. A detachment moved to Palestine in November 1947 where it carried out searches for illegal immigrant ships until February 1948, when it returned to Britain.
Cold War and beyond
The squadron re-equipped with Shackleton MR.1s in April 1951, and continued operating the MR.2 and MR.3 versions in the maritime patrol role until February 1971. It re-equipped with Hawker-Siddeley Nimrods in February 1971, gaining the updated Nimrod MR.2 in 1981. It flew operationally in the Falklands War in 1982 and the Gulf War in 1991. The squadron has been based at RAF Kinloss since 1 April 1959. On 31 March 2010, the Nimrod MR.2 was withdrawn from service, and the squadron formally disbanded on 26 May 2011.
|October 1918||October 1919||Airco DH.9||DH.9A, DH.10|
|June 1941||February 1943||Consolidated Liberator||Mk.I|
|December 1941||December 1942||Consolidated Liberator||Mk.II|
|June 1942||January 1944||Consolidated Liberator||Mk.III|
|December 1943||January 1945||Consolidated Liberator||Mk.V|
|December 1944||June 1945||Consolidated Liberator||Mks.VI, VIII|
|October 1946||June 1947||Consolidated Liberator||GR.1|
|November 1946||April 1951||Avro Lancaster||GR.3|
|April 1951||October 1956||Avro Shackleton||MR.1|
|March 1953||November 1958||Avro Shackleton||MR.2|
|September 1958||February 1971||Avro Shackleton||MR.3|
|October 1970||February 1982||Hawker-Siddeley Nimrod||MR.1|
|April 1981||April 1982||Hawker-Siddeley Nimrod||MR.2|
|April 1982||30 March 2010||Hawker-Siddeley/BAe Nimrod||MR.2p|
- Halley 1988, p. 196.
- Rawlings 1982, p. 103.
- Hastings, David. "BAE System Nimrod: Squadron Service". Target Lock. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
- Ashworth 1989, p. ?
- Gannon 1998, p. ?
- RAF-120 Squadron
- "Squadron Disbandment Parade". www.raf.mod.uk. Royal Air Force. 27 May 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
- Jefford 2001, p. 60.
- White and Rennison 1998, Appendix 2-1.
- Ashworth, Chris. Encyclopedia of Modern Royal Air Force Squadrons. Patrick Stevens Ltd., 1989. ISBN 1-85260-013-6.
- Gannon, Michael. Black May. HarperCollins, 1998. ISBN 0-06-017819-1.
- 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. Coastal, Support and Special Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Jane's Publishing Company Ltd., 1982. ISBN 0-7106-0187-5.
- White, P.G. & Rennison, S.P. No. 120 squadron Royal Air Force, 1918–1998. 120 Squadron RAF, 1998.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to No. 120 Squadron RAF.|
- Squadron history on official RAF website
- Squadron history and more on RAFWeb's "Air of Authority"
- Aircraft and markings for no. 120 sqn on RAFWeb's "Air of Authority"