No. 1 Squadron RAAF
|No. 1 Squadron RAAF|
A No. 1 Squadron F/A-18F in 2010
|Branch||Royal Australian Air Force|
|Part of||No. 82 Wing, Air Combat Group|
|Garrison/HQ||RAAF Base Amberley|
|Nickname||"Fighting First" |
("We Seek and We Strike") 
|Engagements||World War I
World War II
|Notable commanders ||Richard Williams (1917–18)
Harry Cobby (1925–26)
Raymond Brownell (1926–28)
Frank Lukis (1930, 1932–34)
Frank Bladin (1934–35)
Alan Charlesworth (1936–39)
Allan Walters (1940–41)
Errol McCormack (1978–79)
|Attack||F/A-18F Super Hornet|
No. 1 Squadron is a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) squadron based at RAAF Base Amberley, Queensland. Controlled by No. 82 Wing, it is equipped with Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet multi-role fighters. The squadron was formed under the Australian Flying Corps in 1916 and saw action in the Sinai and Palestine Campaigns during World War I. It flew obsolete Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2s, B.E.12s, Martinsyde G.100s and G.102s, as well as Airco DH.6s, Bristol Scouts and Nieuport 17s, before re-equipping with the R.E.8 in October 1917 and finally the Bristol Fighter in December. Its commanding officer in 1917–18 was Major Richard Williams, later to become known as the "Father of the RAAF". Disbanded in 1919, No. 1 Squadron was re-formed on paper as part of the RAAF in 1922, before being re-established as an operational unit three years later.
During World War II, the squadron flew Lockheed Hudson bombers in the Malayan and Dutch East Indies campaigns before being reduced to cadre in 1942. It was re-formed with Bristol Beauforts the following year, and re-equipped with de Havilland Mosquitos in 1945 for further operations in the Dutch East Indies. Reduced to cadre once more after the war ended, No. 1 Squadron was re-established in 1948 as an Avro Lincoln heavy bomber unit. From 1950 to 1958 it was based in Singapore, flying missions during the Malayan Emergency. When it returned to Australia it re-equipped with English Electric Canberra jet bombers. It operated McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantoms from 1970 to 1973, as a stop-gap pending delivery of the General Dynamics F-111C. The F-111 remained in service for 37 years until replaced by the Super Hornet in 2010.
World War I
No. 1 Squadron was established as a unit of the Australian Flying Corps (AFC) at Point Cook, Victoria, in January 1916 under the command of Lieutenant Colonel E.H. Reynolds. With a complement of 28 officers, 195 airmen, no aircraft and little training, it sailed for Egypt in mid-March 1916, arriving at Suez a month later. There it came under the control of the 5th Wing of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). After training in England and Egypt, the unit was declared operational at its new headquarters in Heliopolis on 12 June, when it took over aircraft belonging to No. 17 Squadron RFC. Its three flights were, however, operating in isolation at different bases in the Sinai Desert, and the squadron did not reunite until December. Flying primitive and poorly armed B.E.2 two-seat biplanes, its primary roles during this period of the Sinai Campaign were reconnaissance—including aerial photography—and artillery spotting for the British Army. No. 1 Squadron pilots attached to No. 14 Squadron RFC took part in the Battle of Romani in July and August. In September and October, B and C Flights, led by Captains Oswald Watt and Richard Williams respectively, undertook bombing and reconnaissance missions in support of the Australian Light Horse in northern Sinai.
On 12 September 1916, while No. 1 Squadron was still headquartered at Heliopolis, the British began to refer to it as No. 67 (Australian) Squadron RFC; this practice continued until January 1918, when the unit officially became known as No. 1 Squadron AFC. The relationship between airmen and ground crew was less formal than in British units; squadron members recalled that "The CO is the only one who is ever called 'sir'" and that officers did not demand "saluting and standing to attention and all that rot". The unit received the first of several Martinsyde G.100 single-seat fighters to augment the B.E.2s on 16 October; although considered obsolete, the "Tinsyde" was substantially faster than the B.E.2, and armed with forward-firing machine guns. Shortly before the squadron took part in a bombing raid against Beersheba on 11 November, Lieutenant Lawrence Wackett managed to fix a machine gun to the top plane of one of the squadron's B.E.2s, using a mount he designed himself. Each flight was also assigned a Bristol Scout beginning in December, but it too was obsolete and under-powered, and the squadron ceased operating the type within three months. Other older models issued to the unit included the DH.6, Martinsyde G.102 and Nieuport 17. On 17 December, the squadron's flights were finally brought together at one base, Mustabig.
Early March 1917 saw the heaviest bombing campaign carried out by the squadron to date; short of its regular 20-pound ordnance, the pilots improvised by dropping 6-inch howitzer shells on Turkish forces along the Gaza–Beersheba line. During one such mission on 20 March, Lieutenant Frank McNamara earned the Victoria Cross for landing his Martinsyde in the desert under enemy fire to rescue a fellow pilot whose B.E.2 had been forced down. On 26 March, No. 1 Squadron took part in the First Battle of Gaza; it suffered its first combat death the next day, after one of its B.E.2s was attacked by a German Rumpler. The unit participated in the Second Battle of Gaza on 19 April; like its predecessor, the attack was a failure for the Allies. Williams, later to become known as the "Father of the RAAF", assumed command of the squadron in May. Two B.E.12s were delivered the same month; like the Martinsydes, they were armed with a forward-firing machine gun and employed as escorts for the B.E.2s. By June, new German Albatros scouts and mechanical issues caused by hot summer weather were rendering the B.E.2s largely ineffective, and Williams urgently requested newer aircraft for his squadron. It eventually acquired modern aircraft, first the R.E.8 in October and then the Bristol Fighter in December.
No. 1 Squadron joined the 40th (Army) Wing of the RFC's Palestine Brigade on 5 October 1917. On 22 and 24 November, the squadron bombed Bireh village during the Battle of Jerusalem. The first of its twenty-nine confirmed aerial victories, over an Albatros, occurred on 3 January 1918. By month's end, its complement of aircraft included five B.E.2s, five Martinsydes, two R.E.8s, and nine Bristol Fighters. The squadron supported the Capture of Jericho in February 1918. It carried out air raids and reconnoitred prior to the First Transjordan attack on Amman in March and prior to the Second Transjordan attack on Shunet Nimrin and Es Salt a month later; it also flew reconnaissance missions during the advance to and fighting near Es Salt and Jisr ed Damieh. By the end of March, it was equipped with eighteen Bristol Fighters, which had replaced all the other types. As well as undertaking offensive operations, the Bristol Fighters served in the photo-reconnaissance role. During the last week of April 1918, the squadron moved its base forward from Mejdel to a new aerodrome outside Ramleh. Williams relinquished command in June to take over 40th Wing.
Beginning in August 1918, members of No. 1 Squadron, including ace Lieutenant Ross Smith, were attached to Colonel T.E. Lawrence's Arab army, to protect it against German bombing. In September, the squadron began operating a Handley Page 0/100, the only Allied heavy bomber in the Middle East and the only twin-engined aircraft flown by the AFC. By October, during the final offensive of the Palestine Campaign, the Bristol Fighters of No. 1 Squadron had moved forward from Ramleh to Haifa and by the middle of the month were required to patrol and reconnoitre an exceptionally wide area of country, sometimes between 500 and 600 miles (800 and 970 km), flying over Rayak, Homs, Beirut, Tripoli, Hama, Aleppo, Killis and Alexandretta. They bombed the German aerodromes at Rayak, where 32 German machines had been either abandoned or burnt, on 2 October. On 9 October, five Bristol Fighters attacked, with bombs and machine-guns, troops boarding trains at Homs railway station. A similar attack took place on 16 October, when trains at Hama station were the target. On 19 October, the first German aircraft was seen in the air since fighting over Deraa on 16 and 17 September, just prior to the beginning of the Battle of Sharon. Two Australian aircraft forced a DFW two-seater to land, and destroyed it on the ground by firing a Very light into the aircraft after the German pilot and observer had moved to safety. In the wake of the 31 October armistice with Turkey, the squadron relocated to Ramleh in December, and then in February 1919 to Kantara. There its members were personally farewelled and congratulated by General Edmund Allenby for achieving "absolute supremacy of the air ... a factor of paramount importance" to the Allied campaign.
No. 1 Squadron returned to Australia on 5 March 1919, and was disbanded. In 1921, the RAAF was established as a separate branch of the Australia military, and on 1 January 1922, the squadron was re-formed on paper. Its planned strength, approved by the Air Board in December 1921, was three officers and five airmen, operating four Airco DH.9s. Funding problems for the fledgling Air Force resulted in the disbandment on 1 July of No. 1 Squadron and other units established at the same time, their aircraft and personnel instead forming a single squadron of six flights under the control of No. 1 Flying Training School (No. 1 FTS), Point Cook. No. 1 Squadron was reactivated as an operational unit of the RAAF active reserve, known as the Citizen Air Force (CAF), at Point Cook on 1 July 1925. Its commanding officer was Flight Lieutenant Harry Cobby.
Like No. 3 Squadron, formed the same day at Point Cook but transferred to RAAF Richmond, New South Wales, three weeks later, No. 1 Squadron was a multi-purpose or "composite" unit made up of three flights, each of which had a different role and comprised four aircraft: A Flight operated DH.9s for army cooperation; B Flight operated S.E.5 fighters; and C Flight operated DH.9A bombers. A third of the squadron's complement of 27 officers and 169 airmen was Permanent Air Force (PAF), and the rest CAF. No. 1 Squadron relocated from Point Cook to nearby RAAF Laverton on 1 January 1928. The RAAF retired its S.E.5s the same year, and in 1929 took delivery of Westland Wapiti general-purpose aircraft to replace its DH.9s and DH.9As. Through the inter-war years, No. 1 Squadron undertook various missions including civil aid, flood and bushfire relief, search and rescue, aerial surveys, and air show demonstrations. In October 1930, a DH.60 Moth attached to No. 1 Squadron conducted Australia's first crop-dusting operation, at the behest of the Victorian Forestry Commission.
RAAF squadrons began adopting specialised roles in the early 1930s, No. 1 Squadron becoming No. 1 Single-Engined Bomber Squadron. By November 1935 it was made up of two flights of newly delivered Hawker Demon fighter-bombers, and one of Wapitis. In December 1935 it was augmented by No. 1 FTS's Fighter Squadron and its six Bristol Bulldogs, which were redesignated fighter-bombers. Nos. 21 and 22 (Cadre) Squadrons were formed on 20 April 1936 at Laverton and Richmond, respectively, absorbing the CAF personnel of Nos. 1 and 3 Squadrons, which became PAF units. The same day, No. 1 Squadron was renamed No. 1 (Fighter Bomber) Squadron. This reorganisation temporarily denuded No. 1 Squadron of most of its aircraft, leaving only A Flight, with four Bulldogs and a Wapiti, in operation. The Wapiti was transferred to No. 1 FTS in July, and by the end of the month the squadron's complement of aircraft stood at four Bulldogs and one Moth.
No. 1 Squadron began receiving new Demons in November 1936. In January 1937, it relinquished its Bulldogs to No. 21 Squadron, which was to hold them until they could be transferred to the soon-to-be-formed No. 2 Squadron. By the end of February, No. 1 Squadron's strength was 12 Demons and one Moth, 11 officers and 108 airmen. The unit was redesignated No. 1 (Bomber) Squadron in August 1937. Towards the end of the year, it was plagued by several Demon accidents that led to a series of inquiries and an inspection of RAAF procedures in 1938 by Marshal of the RAF Sir Edward Ellington; the so-called Ellington Report and its criticism of air safety standards led to the removal of Air Vice-Marshal Richard Williams from his position as Chief of the Air Staff, which he had held since the formation of the Air Force. No. 1 Squadron received the RAAF's first three CAC Wirraways on 10 July 1939. As the likelihood of war increased, the squadron's role was altered to incorporate reconnaissance as well as bombing, resulting in the transfer out of all Demons and Wirraways and the transfer in from other units of nine Avro Ansons on 28–29 August 1939; at the end of the month its personnel comprised nine officers and 122 airmen.
World War II
Following the outbreak of World War II, No. 1 Squadron's Ansons were tasked with maritime patrol and convoy escort duties. In 1940, the squadron became the RAAF's inaugural Lockheed Hudson unit; it received its first Hudson on 30 March, and by the end of May had transferred out the last of its Ansons and was operating 11 of the new aircraft. Deployed to Malaya to conduct maritime reconnaissance, No. 1 Squadron arrived at Sembawang, Singapore, on 4 July 1940. It relocated to Kota Bharu, near the Malaya–Thailand border, in August 1941. Two days before the attack on Malaya, its Hudsons spotted the Japanese invasion fleet but given uncertainty about the ships' destination and instructions to avoid offensive operations until attacks were made against friendly territory, Air Chief Marshal Robert Brooke-Popham did not allow the convoy to be bombed. Shortly after midnight, local time, on the night of 7/8 December, the Japanese force started landing on the beaches at Kota Bharu, close to the airfield, and from about 02:00, No. 1 Squadron launched a series of assaults on the Japanese forces, becoming the first aircraft to make an attack in the Pacific War. The Hudsons sank a Japanese transport ship, the IJN Awazisan Maru, and damaged two more transports, the Ayatosan Maru and Sakura Maru, for the loss of two Hudsons, an hour before the attack on Pearl Harbor. By the end of the day, Japanese ground forces had advanced to the outskirts of the airfield, forcing the squadron's remaining airworthy aircraft to be evacuated to Kuantan, and from there back to Singapore.
By Christmas Eve 1941, No. 1 Squadron had five serviceable aircraft. Together with No. 8 Squadron RAAF, also equipped with Hudsons, it was tasked with maritime patrols to the east of Singapore. On 26 January 1942, two of the squadron's Hudsons spotted a Japanese convoy heading for Endau, on the east coast of Malaya. It was decided to attack the convoy with all possible strength, including four Hudsons from No. 1 Squadron and five from No. 8 Squadron, together with obsolete Vickers Vildebeest and Fairey Albacore biplanes of Nos. 36 and 100 Squadrons RAF, and with what little fighter escort could be found. The convoy was strongly defended by Japanese fighters, and while all nine Hudsons returned to Singapore, several were badly shot up. The rest of the strike force did not fare as well; 11 Vildebeests, two Albacores, two Hudsons (of No. 62 Squadron RAF) and three fighters were lost. By the end of the month, No. 1 Squadron had withdrawn to airfield P.2 on Sumatra, along with several other Commonwealth units including No. 8 Squadron. It continued to attack Japanese bases in Malaya and convoys in the Dutch East Indies, relocating to Semplak, Java, in mid-February. At Semplak it took over the Hudsons of No. 8 Squadron and No. 65 Squadron RAF, giving it a strength of 25 aircraft; it was also under threat for a time of being renumbered as an RAF squadron, but this never eventuated. Heavily outnumbered by Japanese air units, which raided Allied bases with impunity, the squadron suffered heavy losses and was ordered to withdraw its four remaining to Australia on 2 March 1942, disbanding soon after. Although 120 of the squadron's personnel were evacuated from Java, 160 men including the commanding officer, Wing Commander Davis, were unable to escape and were taken prisoner by the Japanese; less than half survived captivity.
No. 1 Squadron was re-formed with Bristol Beauforts on 1 December 1943 at Menangle, New South Wales. By March 1944 it had deployed to Gould, Northern Territory, where it was controlled by No. 79 Wing under North-Western Area Command. Its strength at the beginning of the month was some 350 officers and men, and 19 Beauforts. The squadron commenced reconnaissance operations on 20 March, and undertook its first bombing mission on 4 April against Lautem, East Timor. It attacked other targets in Timor during May, losing two aircraft. Having undertaken 82 sorties in July, the Beauforts concentrated on maritime reconnaissance from August, using air-to-surface radar during operations from Gould and Gove. After re-equipping with Mosquito fighter-bombers at Kingaroy, Queensland, in January 1945, the squadron deployed to Morotai in May and then Labuan Island in June–July. Now part of No. 86 (Attack) Wing, it flew only a few missions before the end of the war, losing one Mosquito. No. 1 Squadron returned to Australia in December 1945 and was disbanded at Narromine, New South Wales, on 7 August 1946.
No. 1 Squadron was re-formed as a heavy bomber unit on 23 February 1948, when No. 12 Squadron was re-designated. Operating Avro Lincolns, it was based at RAAF Station Amberley, Queensland, where it formed part of No. 82 (Bomber) Wing. From July 1950 to July 1958—for the first two-and-a-half years under the control of No. 90 (Composite) Wing—it was based in Singapore, flying missions against communist guerrillas during the Malayan Emergency. The Lincolns generally conducted area bombing missions, as well as strikes against pinpoint targets. They operated singly and in formations, sometimes in concert with RAF bombers, and often strafed targets with their machine guns and 20 mm cannon after dropping ordnance. The Lincolns were considered well suited to the campaign, owing to their range and ability to fly at low speeds to search for targets, as well as their firepower and heavy bomb load. Not having to contend with anti-aircraft fire, they flew mainly by day, but No. 1 Squadron also operated by night, the only Commonwealth unit to do so. Its original complement of six aircraft was increased to eight after the British Air Ministry requested in February 1951 that Australia augment its bomber force to partly offset the imminent withdrawal of the RAF's Lincolns to Bomber Command in Europe. One of the squadron's aircraft was written off that November after overshooting the landing strip at Tengah.
Although the original purpose of the bombing campaign in Malaya was to kill as many insurgents as possible, the impracticality of achieving this in operations over dense jungle resulted in a shift towards harassing and demoralising the communists, driving them out of their bases and into areas held by Commonwealth ground troops. Operation Kingly Pile, which involved two sorties by No. 1 Squadron and one by English Electric Canberra jet bombers of No. 12 Squadron RAF on 21 February 1956, was considered the most successful of the more than 4,000 missions conducted by the Lincolns, killing at least 14 communist troops. By the time it was withdrawn to Australia in July 1958, the squadron had dropped over 14,000 tonnes of bombs—85 per cent of the total delivered by Commonwealth forces during the Emergency. As of 2014, this marked the last time that the unit took part in combat operations.
No. 1 Squadron re-equipped with Canberra Mk.20s following its return to Australia. The RAAF's first jet bomber, the Canberra was subsonic but highly manoeuvrable. It had been acquired partly for its capacity to deliver nuclear weapons, an ordnance option the government seriously contemplated but never implemented. Initially its envisaged mission profile was medium-to-high-altitude area bombing, but by mid-1961 crews were training in low-level army cooperation tactics. As of January 1962, No. 1 Squadron's strength was eight aircraft and 53 personnel, including 18 officers. The squadron effectively ceased operational activity in 1968, to begin converting to the General Dynamics F-111C swing-wing bomber, which was expected to enter service soon afterwards. Between September 1970 and June 1973, while awaiting the delayed delivery of the F-111, it flew leased McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantoms. Although the Phantom had a multi-role capability, the RAAF employed it as a strike aircraft to maintain compatibility with the proposed F-111 mission profile. One of No. 1 Squadron's Phantoms was lost with its crew of two in June 1971, the only fatalities and hull loss of the 24 aircraft leased to the RAAF. Though not as sophisticated an aircraft as the F-111, the Phantom was a significant advance over the Canberra, and highly regarded by its Australian crews.
In June 1973, No. 82 Wing accepted its first F-111Cs, which it operated over the next 37 years through numerous upgrades, including the Pave Tack infra-red and laser-guided precision weapons targeting system, Harpoon anti-shipping missiles, and advanced digital avionics. No. 1 Squadron was assigned twelve of the initial 24 aircraft delivered. Its role within No. 82 Wing was as the lead strike force, while No. 6 Squadron was primarily tasked with crew conversion training. The latter unit was also responsible for reconnaissance missions using specially modified RF-111Cs from 1979 until 1996, when the RF-111Cs were transferred to No. 1 Squadron. This gave No. 1 Squadron five roles: land strike, maritime strike, close air support, long-range air defence, and reconnaissance. Between 1977 and 1993, the RAAF lost seven F-111Cs in crashes. Three of the accidents involved aircraft flown by No. 1 Squadron, in August 1979, January 1986 and September 1993, the last two killing both crew members.
Alan Stephens, in the official history of the post-war Air Force, described the F-111 as "the region's pre-eminent strike aircraft" and the RAAF's most important acquisition. The closest they came to being used in anger, however, was during the Australian-led INTERFET intervention into East Timor in September 1999. Both F-111 squadrons were deployed to RAAF Base Tindal, Northern Territory, to support the international forces, and remained there until December; six of No. 1 Squadron's aircraft and approximately 100 personnel were involved. From 20 September, when INTERFET began to arrive in East Timor, the F-111s were maintained at a high level of readiness to conduct reconnaissance flights or air strikes if the situation deteriorated. In the event, INTERFET did not encounter significant resistance, and F-111 operations were limited to reconnaissance by RF-111Cs from 5 November through 9 December.
In 2007, the Australian government decided to retire the F-111s by 2010, and acquire 24 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets as an interim replacement, pending the arrival of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning then being developed. The F-111 fleet was considered to be at risk due to fatigue, and too expensive to operate as each aircraft required 180 hours of maintenance for every hour of flying time. No. 1 Squadron ceased flying the F-111 in January 2009, in preparation for converting to the Super Hornet. It re-equipped between 26 March 2010 and 21 October 2011, making it the first Australian unit, and the first squadron outside the United States, to operate the Super Hornet. The squadron became operational with its new aircraft on 8 December 2011. In May 2013, the Federal government announced plans to purchase twelve EA-18G Growlers to supplement the Super Hornet fleet. No. 6 Squadron is expected to begin taking delivery of the Growlers in 2017, at which point its Super Hornets will be transferred to No. 1 Squadron.
- Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2/B.E.12 (1916–1918)
- Martinsyde G.100/G.102 (1916–1918)
- Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8 (1917–1918)
- Bristol F.2 Fighter (1917–1919)
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- Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5 (1925–1928)
- Westland Wapiti (1929–1936)
- Hawker Demon (1935–1939)
- Bristol Bulldog (1935–1937)
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- Lockheed Hudson (1940–1942)
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to No. 1 Squadron RAAF.|
- "No. 1 Squadron". RAAF Museum.