No. 41 Squadron RAF

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No. 41 Squadron RAF
41 Squadron badge
Official Squadron Badge of No. 41 Squadron RAF
Active 14 July 1916
Country United Kingdom United Kingdom
Branch Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Royal Air Force
Role Test and Evaluation Squadron
Base RAF Coningsby
Motto Seek and Destroy
post 1950 aircraft insignia RAF 41 Sqn.svg
Anniversaries 100th Anniversary in 2016
Equipment Tornado GR4 & Eurofighter Typhoon
Battle honours Western Front, 1916–1918*; Somme, 1916*; Arras; Cambrai, 1917*; Somme, 1918; Lys; Amiens*; Dunkirk, 1940;[1] Battle of Britain, 1940*; Home Defence, 1940–1944; Fortress Europe, 1940–1944*; Dieppe*; France & Germany, 1944–1945*; Arnhem; Walcheren; Gulf, 1991[2]
Honours marked with an asterisk (*) are emblazoned on the Squadron Standard
Commanders
Current
commander
Wg Cdr Steve Berry
Notable
commanders
AVM Raymond Collishaw CB DSO* OBE DSC DFC (Oct 1923 – Apr 1924)
Sqn Ldr Raymond Hesselyn MBE DFC DFM* (Mar – Apr 1951)
AM Sir Christopher Harper KBE (Oct 1994 – Dec 1996)
Insignia
Squadron Badge A red double-armed cross on white background. Adapted from the coat of arms of St Omer, which was the unit's first overseas base in 1916, with which the squadron has since maintained a link[3]
Squadron Identifiers No identifying marks – Jul 16 – Jul 17
One white vertical bar on each side of the roundel – Aug 17 – Mar 18
Red horizontal band across upper wing and fuselage – Apr 23 – Dec 38
PN – On Spitfires Jan 39 – Sep 39
EB – Sep 39 – Feb 51
F – On Jaguars
EB – On Harriers, Tornados & Typhoons, 2010–present

No. 41 (R) Squadron (also written as "No. XLI Squadron") of the Royal Air Force is currently the RAF's Test and Evaluation Squadron ("TES"), based at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire. Its official title is "41(R) TES". The Squadron celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2016, and is one of the oldest RAF squadrons in existence.

History[edit]

First World War, 1916–1919[edit]

No. 41 Squadron Royal Flying Corps was originally formed at Fort Rowner, RAF Gosport, in mid April 1916 with a nucleus of men from 28 Squadron RFC. However, on 22 May 1916, the Squadron was disbanded again when it was re-numbered "27 Reserve Squadron RFC".

41 Squadron was re-formed on 14 July 1916 with a nucleus of men from 27 Reserve Squadron, and equipped with the Vickers F.B.5 'Gun Bus' and Airco D.H.2 'Scout'. These were replaced in early September 1916 with the Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.8, and it was these aircraft which the Squadron took on their deployment to France on 15 October 1916. Eighteen aircraft departed Gosport for the 225-mile flight to St. Omer, but only 12 actually made it, the others landing elsewhere with technical problems. The 12 pilots spent a week at St. Omer before moving to Abeele, where the ground crews reached them by road, and the remaining six pilots by rail, minus their aircraft.

The F.E.8 was already obsolete as a pure fighter, and No. 41 used theirs mainly for ground attack. On 24 January 1917, the Squadron claimed its first victories. These fell to Sgt Plt Cecil Tooms, who himself was killed in action only four hours later.

The Squadron participated in the Battle of Arras (April–May 1917) and the Battle of Messines (June 1917), before being re-equipped with the DH 5 fighters in July 1917. By this time the unit had become the last "pusher" fighter squadron in the RFC. However, the DH.5 proved to be an inadequate fighter and was unpopular with the pilots, resulting in its replacement with the S.E.5a in October 1917.

The Squadron provided distinguished service in the Battle of Cambrai (November 1917), and subsequently in the German Spring Offensive (March 1918), and the Battle of Amiens (August 1918). 41 Squadron claimed its final victory of the War two days prior to the cessation of hostilities.

The unit was reduced to Cadre of just 16 men on 7 February 1919 and returned to the United Kingdom. Their new base was Tangmere, but they were moved to Croydon, Surrey, in early October and formally disbanded on 31 December 1919.

During the War, the Squadron had two mascots. The first was a bulldog named ‘Woomf’, named after the sound made by the explosion of anti-aircraft shells in the air. The second was a mongrel found rummaging around in the trenches, which was named ‘Olive Byng’.

During the war, some seventeen aces served with No.41, including William Gordon Claxton, Frederick McCall, William Ernest Shields, Eric John Stephens, Frank Soden, Russell Winnicott, Geoffrey Hilton Bowman, Roy W. Chappell, Alfred Hemming, Frank Harold Taylor, Malcolm MacLeod, Loudoun MacLean, future Air Vice-Marshal Meredith Thomas, and William Gillespie. The unit had a remarkable number of Canadian aces in it—ten out of the seventeen.[4]

The Squadron's pilots and ground crews were awarded four DSOs, six MCs, nine DFCs, two MMs and four Mentions in Dispatches for their World War I service with the unit. The pilots were credited with destroying 111 aircraft and 14 balloons, sending down 112 aircraft out of control, and driving down 25 aircraft and five balloons. Thirty-nine men were killed or died on active service, 48 were wounded or injured, and 20 pilots became Prisoners of War.

Between the Wars, 1923–1939[edit]

RAF Armstrong-Whitworth Siskin IIIa from No. 41 Squadron at Northolt being serviced with oxygen.

The Squadron reformed at RAF Northolt on 1 April 1923, equipped with the Sopwith Snipe. In 1924, it began receiving the first Armstrong Whitworth Siskin III biplanes.

41 Squadron was often visited by British and foreign government and military dignitaries during the inter-War years. One of the first is Japanese General Matsui Iwane who, after World War II, was held accountable and executed for the 1937 ‘Rape of Nanjing’, in which his armies murdered an estimated 300,000 Chinese civilians. British dignitaries included Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, the Chief of Air Services, MRAF Hugh Trenchard GCB DSO, the AOC in C ADGB, Air Marshal Sir Edward Ellington KCB CMG CBE, and the AOC Fighting Area, ADGB, Air Vice-Marshal Hugh Dowding, CB CMG.

On 27 July 1929, eleven aircraft from 41 Squadron flew to Calais to rendezvous with French aviation pioneer Louis Blériot and escort him back to Dover in a re-enactment of the first crossing of the English Channel 20 years earlier.[5] During 1929–1930, their Royal Highnesses, the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VIII), and Prince George (the future Duke of Kent) were taught to fly at Northolt by 41 and 24 Squadrons.

On 9 October 1930, Following the R101 Airship disaster in Beauvais, France, 41 Squadron pilots and ground crew formed a part of the Guard of Honour for the Lying-in-State of the 48 victims in the Palace of Westminster. Amongst the dead were the Secretary of State for Air, Brig. Gen. Lord Christopher Thomson PC CBE DSO, and the Director of Civil Aviation, AVM Sir Sefton Brancker KCB AFC. Thousands filed past to pay their last respects.[6]

During the 1930s, displays, sports, competitions, tactical exercises and flying practice were a part of regular activity. In Summer 1934, 41 Squadron even performed a flying display for South Bucks Mothers’ Union.

41 Squadron pilots and ground crew formed a part of the Guard of Honour for the Lying-in-State of the 48 victims in the Palace of Westminster on 9 October 1930.

On 1 July 1935, 41 Squadron escorted an Imperial Airways aircraft to Brussels, with their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York on board, where they attend functions for British Week at the International Exhibition.[7]

The Squadron was sent to the Aden Protectorate in October 1935, to help provide a presence in the region during the Abyssinian crisis of 1935–1936, and returned to the United Kingdom in August 1936.[8] They were now based at Catterick, Yorkshire, from September 1936,[9] where they remained until May 1940.

In April 1937, 41 Squadron's badge and motto, "Seek and Destroy", are unveiled for the first time and presented to the Squadron by the AOC in C, Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding KCB CMG. The badge takes the form of a red double-armed cross on a white background, adapted from the arms of the French town of St. Omer, the location of the Squadron’s first operational overseas posting, in October 1916.

On 30 December 1938, 41 Squadron was issued with the Supermarine Spitfire, becoming the third RAF squadron in history to receive them. By early February 1939, the Squadron has received a full complement of 20 Mark I Spitfires, which have cost the Government £129,130 for the lot.

Around 200 pilots served with 41 Squadron between 1 April 1923 and 2 September 1939. During this period, no Battle Honours were granted, nor any decorations awarded, but the era produced ten Air Commodores, nine Air Vice-Marshals, two Air Marshals and two Air Chief Marshals. During these same years, eleven men were killed and three injured in flying accidents, and three injured in airscrew accidents on the ground.

Second World War, 1939–1945[edit]

Fg Off John Mackenzie DFC RNZAF, Flt Lt Tony Lovell DFC, Sqn Ldr Don Finlay (OC 41 Squadron), Flt Lt Norman Ryder DFC, and Plt Off Roy Ford, RAF Hornchurch, late November 1940.

Following the declaration of War on 3 September 1939, 41 Squadron spent the first several months on monotonous routine patrols in the north of England. At the end of May 1940, the Squadron flew south to Hornchurch to participate in the evacuation of Dunkirk. Twelve days later, they returned to Catterick, claiming six enemy aircraft destroyed and one probable, but also left behind two pilots, the Squadron's first pilot killed in action and their first lost as a Prisoner of War.[1]

After resting for a few weeks, the Squadron headed south again on 26 July 1940, to participate in the first phase of the Battle of Britain. In its two-week tour, the Squadron claimed 10 enemy aircraft destroyed, 4 probable and 3 damaged, for the loss of one pilot killed and a second wounded.

Again, 41 Squadron returned north to Catterick for a few weeks rest, but returned to Hornchurch on 3 September 1940, where they remained until the end of February 1941. They were now in the thick of the Battle of Britain. The price was high, but so was the damage they inflicted on the Luftwaffe. On 5 September, the Squadron experienced one of its blackest days in its history. The Commanding Officer and OC, B Flight, were killed in action and three other pilots were shot down and two were wounded in action; one of these was hospitalised for six months.

On 31 October 1940, the Battle of Britain was considered officially over. 49 pilots flew with the Squadron between 10 July and 31 October 1940. Of these, 42 were British, 2 Canadian, 2 Irish and 2 New Zealanders. 10 were killed and 12 wounded in action (44% casualties). The Squadron claimed over 100 victories from July 1940 to the end of that year.

Sqn Ldr Donald O. Finlay, OC 41 Squadron, standing with Spitfire IIa, P7666, EB-Z, which was his personal mount. He claimed a destroyed Me109 on his first sortie on the day the aircraft was delivered, 23 November 1940.

On 23 February 1941, the Squadron returned to Catterick for a well-earned break. Only four pilots remained from the original 18 who landed in Hornchurch on 3 September 1940. However, in reality it is much worse: a total of 16 pilots had been killed, five wounded and hospitalised (who did not return) and 15 otherwise posted away, in effect a 200% turnover since the unit’s deployment to Hornchurch in early September. The Squadron also now has its third Commanding Officer since then, and its fourth within ten months.

Following five months rest in Catterick, during which the last Battle of Britain pilots depart and new recruits join from the BCATP, the Squadron headed south to Merston, Sussex, on 28 July 1941, to join the Tangmere Wing, where the Wing Commander Flying was Douglas Bader. There followed an intensive period of offensive activity over France.

On 11 February 1942, 41 Squadron took part in the attack on the German Kriegsmarine's Prinz Eugen, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau after they escaped from Brest and made a dash up the Channel to the safety of their home ports. During these actions, 41 Squadron claimed three enemy aircraft destroyed and one damaged, but lost one pilot who failed to return.

The Squadron also supported the ill-fated Canadian landings at Dieppe (Operation Jubilee) on 19 August 1942, completing three Squadron-strength missions over the beaches. The pilots return from the third without the Commanding Officer, who was hit by Flak and killed; he was the Squadron’s only casualty that day.

Tired, after a busy summer on the south coast fending off Me109s and FW190s fulfilling the Luftwaffe’s "hit and run" strategy, the Squadron was taken off operations until February 1943 and sent to Llanbedr, Wales, for an extended period of rest. This heralded the start of an intensive period of turnover in the unit’s ranks as men were rested and fresh pilots brought in.

In February 1943, the unit became the first of only two squadrons to receive the new Griffon-engined Supermarine Spitfire Mark XII. Having rested, re-equipped and trained on the new aircraft, the Squadron was sent back onto operations in April 1943, and claimed their first definitive victory in over ten months on 17 April. This was also the first by the RAF in the Mk. XII Spitfire.

41 Squadron Spitfire XIIs in an Air Ministry photograph dated 12 April 1944. Flight Commander Flt Lt Don Smith RAAF is flying the aircraft in the foreground.

From late June 1943, large scale bomber escorts to targets in France, Belgium and the Netherlands became a daily event and Ramrod escorts to formations of between 50 and 150 B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-26 Marauders became routine.

41 Squadron provided air support in the lead-up to, and throughout the D-Day landings. On D-Day itself, 6 June 1944, three pilots were hit by Flak over the bridgehead and one was killed. On 19 June, however, the Squadron was pulled off air support for the bridgehead in France and was deployed solely in the destruction of Germany’s newest weapon, the V-1 flying bomb.

On 28 August 1944, the Squadron claimed its last of 53 V1s destroyed during the War. Several pilots succeeded in bringing them down after expending all their ammunition, by flying alongside them and placing their own wingtips underneath that of the V1. The wind movement between both wingtips was sufficient to upset the V1’s gyroscope and send it to the ground.

The Squadron was re-equipped with the Spitfire XIV in September 1944 and during the ensuing three months participated in 'Big Ben' operations against V2 launch sites, in Operation Market Garden at Arnhem and Nijmegen, in operations in the Walcheren campaign, and in the Allied Oil Campaign over Germany.

The Squadron moved to the Continent in early December 1944, making its base at Diest in Belgium. Ground targets were the Squadron's chief prey as a member of 125 Wing, and the unit attacked anything moving on road, rail or canal in Germany. Operating so close to the ground, Flak also took its toll on pilots and aircraft. One pilot was killed, three wounded and two shot down and taken prisoner.

In April 1945, the Squadron moved forward with the advancing front and made its first base in Germany, just southwest of the town of Celle, 140 miles (225 km) due west of Berlin, and only a short distance southeast of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. During April and early May 1945, German resistance crumbled. 41 Squadron claimed 33 enemy aircraft destroyed, 2 probably destroyed and 3 damaged in the air and 21 damaged on the ground, in the 23 days preceding 3 May 1945 (the date of the Squadron’s final claim). Their own casualties for the same period were no pilots killed or wounded in action, and no aircraft lost to enemy action, although some did sustain combat damage.

Spitfire XII, MB882, EB-B, 12 April 1944. This aircraft was the personal mount of two consecutive Flight Commanders, Flt Lt Don Smith RAAF and Flt Lt Terry Spencer.

After the cessation of hostilities, the squadron was based a short time at Kastrup (Copenhagen) but then returned to Germany where it became a part of the Allied occupying forces, 'BAFO'. By the end of the War, 41 Squadron had claimed 200 aircraft destroyed, 61 probably destroyed, 109 damaged and 53 V-1's destroyed. On 31 March 1946, still based on the Continent, 41 Squadron was disbanded by re-numbering to 26 Squadron.

The Squadron had two mascots during the War: ‘Wimpy’, a Bull Terrier with the tip of one ear missing, at Catterick in 1939–40, and ‘Perkin’, a large black French Poodle, in 1943–44.

The Squadron’s 325 World War II pilots were men from Britain, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, the Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palestine, Poland, White Russia, Rhodesia, South Africa, Trinidad, Uruguay, the United States, and Zululand.

41 Squadron's pilots were awarded three DSOs, twelve DFCs, one DFM and one Mention in Dispatches for their World War II service with the unit. Sixty four were killed in action or died on active service, 58 were wounded in action or injured in accidents, three were shot down but evaded capture and returned to the United Kingdom, and 21 pilots were shot down and became Prisoners of War. The average age of a man who died in service with 41 Sqn during World War II was 23½.

Members worthy of note, 1916–1946[edit]

Sqn Ldr Raymond Collishaw DSO & Bar OBE DSC DFC, the third-highest-scoring Allied Pilot of World War I
  • Captain Valentine Baker MC AFC served with 41 Squadron from 1916 – June 1917, and was awarded the MC for his service with the unit. In 1934, he formed the Martin-Baker Aircraft Company with his friend James Martin, where they designed new aircraft and offered flying lessons. One of Baker’s more famous pupils was Amy Johnson. The company went on to manufacture and market four different propeller aircraft, but Baker himself was killed in a flying accident in 1942, whilst test-flying the third of these. It was his death, however, that caused his partner to rethink safety and develop the idea of a means of assisted escape for pilots. As a result, Martin-Baker still manufactures ejection seats today for both fixed and rotary wing military aircraft. Amongst the 80 types of aircraft to which their seats have been fitted are the Jaguar, which 41 Squadron flew from 1977–2006, and the Harrier, which the squadron flew from 2006–2010. MB ejection seats are also fitted to the squadron’s current Tornados. By late 2011, Martin-Baker ejection seats had saved 7,364 lives.
  • 29-year-old Canadian Sqn Ldr Raymond Collishaw took over command of the squadron, as its second peacetime Commanding Officer on 1 October 1923. Having claimed 60 WWI aerial victories, he is considered the third-highest-scoring Allied pilot of the entire War.
  • Flt Lt Thomas Weston Peel Long Chaloner, The Honourable Lord Gisborough, 2nd Baron Gisborough of Cleveland, Yorkshire, was a WWI pilot and ex-Prisoner of War who returned to RAF service during World War II. He served as 41 Squadron’s Intelligence Officer for over five years of the War, and reported the Squadron’s activity, victories and losses up the chain of command on a daily basis. He refused further promotion.
Flt Lt Eric S. Lock, June 1941
  • Plt Off Eric Lock, known as ‘Sawn Off Lockie’ for his short stature, flew with 41 Squadron throughout the Battle of Britain. Between mid-August and mid-November 1940, he claimed 21 aircraft destroyed, making him the highest-scoring pilot in 11 Group during the Batte of Britain and the equal second highest-scoring pilot in the RAF at the time. Seriously wounded in action on 17 November 1940, he returned to active service with 611 Squadron in June 1941, and immediately started adding to his already impressive list of victories. However, Lock failed to return from a low level attack at Calais on 3 August 1941 and remains missing today. In recognition of his achievements and status in Battle of Britain history, he is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial and in Bayston Hill, Shropshire, where a street is named after him. He remains today one of the RAF’s top ten Aces of World War II, credited with some 25 aircraft destroyed and 7 probable, most of which he achieved with 41 Squadron.
  • Sqn Ldr Donald O. Finlay, the Commanding Officer from September 1940 – August 1941, was a pre-War Olympic Hurdler, who won a Bronze Medal in Men’s 110m Hurdles at the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1932, and a Silver Medal in the same event at the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936. As such, he was the only man on the Squadron – and one of only few in the RAF – ever to have seen Adolf Hitler in the flesh. Finlay also represented Britain in two Empire Games and other international sporting events. He competed constantly throughout the 1930s, despite a simultaneous career with the RAF, but his professional sport was curtailed by the outbreak of WWII. Following the War, Finlay competed in the 1948 London Olympics, but he was past his prime and was not placed. However, he was chosen to read the Olympic Oath at the commencement of the Games.
  • South African Plt Off J. J. ‘Chris’ Le Roux flew with 41 Squadron for a short period in late 1940-early 1941. In July 1944, by now OC, 602 Squadron, Le Roux was credited with attacking and seriously injuring General Erwin Rommel in his staff car, on a road outside Sainte Foy de Montgomerie, in Normandy. Strafing the vehicle, the driver lost control, struck a tree and spun off the road. Rommel fractured his skull when he was thrown from the vehicle. In doing so, Le Roux single-handedly removed Germany's commanding general from the Normandy battlefield.
Dutch Acting Flt Lt Bram ‘Bob’ van der Stok was shot down with 41 Squadron on 12 April 1942, and became one of only three successful escapees in the March 1944 'Great Escape' from Stalag Luft III.
  • Dutch Flt Lt Bram van der Stok, flew with 41 Squadron from December 1941 and was a Flight Commander with the unit when he was shot down over France in April 1942. Taken into immediate captivity, he was sent to Stalag Luft III, in Sagan, later that month, after the usual interrogation. There he remained until March 1944 when he took part in the mass escape of airmen that we know today as "The Great Escape". All but three of the escapees were recaptured and fifty of them were executed on Hitler’s orders as retribution. However, of the three that successfully made their escapes, van der Stok was one. He made it back the United Kingdom via the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain and Gibraltar in early July 1944 and flew again. He ended the War as OC, 322 (Dutch) Squadron, subsequently returned to the Medical studies he broke off in 1939, and graduated as a doctor in 1951. He emigrated to the United States the following year and died in Hawaii in 1993.
  • Sgt Plt George F. Beurling, flew with 41 Squadron for a short period in April–May 1942. In time, he became Canada’s leading WWII Ace, credited with 31 victories, of which his first two were made with 41 Squadron.
  • Prince Emanuel Vladimirovitch Galitzine flew with 41 Squadron in 1943, and claimed a probably destroyed enemy aircraft with the unit in October. The great-great grandson of Catherine the Great, he fled Russia with his parents and siblings in the wake of the October Revolution, and settled in England, where he was educated. Galitzine joined the RAFVR on a Short Service Commission in late 1938, but left again to go to Finland in early 1940 and fight the Soviets attempting to conquer the country. Returning to London again in October 1940, after his mother was killed in the Blitz, Galitzine rejoined the RAFVR, although having to do so as an aircraftsman, but was eventually re-commissioned in September 1941. He saw operational service in several squadrons before joining 41 Squadron in May 1943. Following his tenure with the Squadron, he was rested as personal assistant to AVM Sir William Dickson, subsequently Chief of Air Staff but then commanding 83 Group, which was preparing for the Normandy invasion. When Dickson was posted to Italy, Galitzine accompanied him, adding Italian to his already impressive list of languages. Following the War, Galitzine worked in the civil aviation industry, but maintained links with Russia and, in 1998, attended the reburial and funeral service of the murdered Tsar's family at St Petersburg. He died in December 2002.
Aharon Remez, who served as an NCO pilot with 41 Squadron in 1945, became the first Commander of the Israeli Air Force in 1948
  • Fg Off Peter Gibbs was a generally unassuming character who served with 41 Squadron between January 1944 and March 1945. An active pilot during his tour, and an avid musician, he merits a particular mention for his post-War life and, oddly enough, also for his demise. He became a professional musician after he left the RAF in August 1945 and joined the Philharmonia Orchestra in 1954. Within two years, he had joined the London Symphony Orchestra and during this time became rather (in)famous for a dressing down he gave to one of the Century’s most celebrated performing artists, Herbert von Karajan. The Orchestra felt von Karajan had been unprofessional when conducting smaller, ‘less important’ concerts during a tour of the United States in 1956. He had often just bowed once and left the stage at the end of concerts, refusing to return for encores, despite the applause from the audience. The orchestra was slighted by this behaviour, and eventually had had enough. The last straw came when von Karajan left the stage in Boston after the last note was played, neither waiting for applause nor calls for an encore. The orchestra, in which Gibbs was playing First Violin, was upset by this apparent insult to both them and the audience, but turned up nonetheless on time for an early rehearsal the following morning. Von Karajan, however, came in late, much to the disgruntlement of the whole orchestra. When he finally arrived, Peter Gibbs, an impromptu, self-appointed spokesman, stood up and addressed him directly, demanding an apology. He rebuked von Karajan, stating, “I did not spend four years of my life fighting bastards like you to be insulted before our own Allies as you did last evening.” Von Karajan ignored him completely and continued conducting as if nothing had happened. That night, however, during a concert, von Karajan chose his moment and, during the interval, refused to go back on stage until a letter was signed stating that Gibbs be immediately sacked. The orchestra’s managers had little choice but to bow to the demand. Although Gibbs was never to play with the Philharmonia again after this incident, it is understood that von Karajan also never conducted the Philharmonia again after the tour either, and it is said that he vowed to never conduct an English orchestra again. All this time, Gibbs also flew privately. He had joined the Surrey Flying Club in June 1957 and then flew more-or-less continuously for the next 18 years. Gibbs bought himself a Tiger Moth and found great pleasure in peacetime flying. However, flying was also what brought about his premature death in December 1975. He took off for a brief flight in a Cessna from Glenforsa Airfield on the Isle of Mull in Scotland on Christmas Eve 1975, but failed to return. A search was mounted but no trace whatsoever could be found of him. Oddly, his body was found four months after his disappearance part way up a hill, approximately one mile from Glenforsa Airfield, without his aircraft, showing the signs of having lain there all that time. The original search for Gibbs had passed through the area at the time he had gone missing, but nothing had been seen. His body gave away no clues as to his cause of death. Gibbs’ missing Cessna bewildered officials and his case soon became known as the ‘Great Mull Air Mystery’. It was not until September 1986 – almost 11 years after Gibbs’ death – that his aircraft was located in the sea off Oban. The aircraft’s remains also gave up no clue as to the reason it was there. It can only be assumed that Gibbs, for some reason, came down in the sea and that he had managed to free himself and swim ashore. It is thought he then tried to make his way back to the airfield, around a mile away, but, considering the time of year, location, and likely temperatures of both the water and air, probably succumbed to the effects of exposure.[10]
  • Sgt Plt Aharon Remez served with 41 Squadron from April 1945 to March 1946 as an NCO pilot and was not commissioned in the RAF. He often went to help Jews he found towards the end of the War, and was given special leave to allow him to be able to do so. By July 1948, however, he had become a Brigadier General and the founder and first Commanding Officer of the Israeli Air Force, a post he held until December 1950. He was the Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom from May 1965 to July 1970 and often met up with his fellow 41 Squadron pilots whilst in the UK.[11]

Post War, 1946–2006[edit]

A 41 Sqn Jaguar GR3 during "Operation Northern Watch" in 1999.

On 1 April 1946, only a day after being disbanded in Germany, 41 Squadron was re-formed at RAF Dalcross in Scotland as a fighter squadron, by re-numbering from 122 Squadron, and reverted to the Supermarine Spitfire, this time the Mk. F.21

The Squadron flew its Spitfires for the last time on 18 August 1947, and became No. 41 Instrument Flying Rating Squadron, equipped with the Airspeed Oxfords & North American Harvard.[2] However, in June the following year, the Squadron reverted to fighter defence and was re-equipped with the De Havilland Hornet F.1, followed later by the F.3.

41 Squadron became a day fighter unit again in January 1951 and entered the jet age, receiving its first jet-powered aircraft, the Gloster Meteor F.4. In April 1951 these were replaced by the Gloster Meteor F.8, and four years later the squadron received the Hawker Hunter F.5. During the time that 41 Sqn operated the Mk5 Hunter it additionally provided an aircraft as part of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, which at that time was, like 41 Sqn, also based at RAF Biggin Hill.

On 14 July 1957, the Squadron was presented with a Standard displaying the unit’s Battle Honours by the CAS, Air Marshal Sir Theodore McEvoy KCB CBE, who had served three years with 41 Squadron as a young officer, following his graduation from RAF College, Cranwell in 1925.[12]

However, no amount of nostalgia would save the unit from the Government’s budgetary axe. On 15 January 1958, as a part of a scheme to reduce the size of Fighter Command, 41 Squadron fell to the same fate as 600 and 615 Squadrons had before them, and were also disbanded. With the departure of 41 Squadron from RAF Biggin Hill ceased to be a Fighter Command airfield, its infrastructure now deemed out of date for the requirements of modern warfare. The runways had become too short for the RAF’s newest generation of aircraft and, as a result of encroaching development and civil air paths which now passed above, the base was no longer in a practical location. Fighter Command officially departed from the airfield on 1 March 1958.

This gave 41 Squadron the curious distinction of being the last fighter squadron ever to be based at Biggin Hill. The departure of the unit marked the end of an era for the Station in every sense of the word, as thereafter it was relegated to non-operational status and only used by the London University Air Squadron.

The Jaguar of outgoing Officer Commanding 41 Squadron, Wg Cdr R. M. J. 'Dick' MacCormac, RAF Coltishall, 1 April 2006

However, as with 41 Squadron’s 1946 disbanding, this, too, was a mere technicality. On 16 January 1958, just a day after being disbanded, 141 Squadron, based at RAF Coltishall, near Norwich in Norfolk, dropped the ‘1’ at the beginning of its number and was thus reborn as 41 Squadron. In doing so, they automatically absorbed 141’s all-weather Gloster Javelin FAW.4 fighters and personnel.

41 Squadron’s Standard, originally presented only six months previously, was handed over to 141 Squadron on 16 January 1958 in a short ceremony attended by Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Fighter Command, ACM Sir Thomas Pike, and by 11 Group’s Air Officer Commanding, Air Vice-Marshal Victor Bowling, himself a veteran 41 Squadron pilot from 1935.

Only remaining at Coltishall six months, the Squadron moved to RAF Wattisham, near Ipswich, Suffolk, on 5 July 1958, where the Gloster Javelin FAW.4s were replaced by FAW.8s in January 1960. By this time, 56 Squadron had also joined them at the station. Whilst there, they hosted French Air Force Dassault super Mystère fighters during President Charles de Gaulle’s state visit in April 1960. 41 Squadron called Wattisham home for approximately five-and-a-half years, before the unit was disbanded again, on 31 December 1963.

On 1 September 1965, after a 20-month break, 41 Squadron was re-formed at RAF West Raynham, near Fakenham in Norfolk, but this time as a completely different structure. The unit remained firmly on the ground as a Missile Defence Squadron, armed with Bloodhound Mk. II surface-to-air-missile (SAM). Changes to the SAM programme, however, saw 41 Squadron disbanded yet again just five years later, on 18 September 1970. The Squadron Standard was moved to the Church of St. Michael and St. George at RAF West Raynham, for safe-keeping.[2]

On 1 April 1972, at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, the Squadron was reborn as a tactical fighter reconnaissance and ground attack unit within 38 Group Air Support Command. To support them in their reconnaissance role, a "Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre" or "RIC" was formed. The RIC is composed of a number of Air Transportable Reconnaissance Exploitation Laboratories (ATREL) which enable the developing of images and their subsequent analysis. The ATRELs can be transported by air or road and can be deployed with the squadron to forward operating bases.[2]

A flypast of a 41 Squadron Tornado and three 41 Squadron Harriers, RAF Coningsby, October 2006.

In this role, they were equipped with McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom FGR.2s but these were soon deemed to be unsuitable for the unit. Over the ensuing years, a strategic decision was made to change the role of the RAF’s Phantoms from a fighter to an interceptor. This amendment, however, created consternation within some circles as it was felt the squadron should maintain her role as a fighter and ground attack unit. Consequently, it was resolved to disband 41 Squadron and re-form it elsewhere to enable it to do so.

In preparation for this change, "41 Designate Squadron" was formed at RAF Coltishall, in Norfolk, on 1 July 1976 and commenced training as a reconnaissance unit with SEPECAT Jaguar GR.1 aircraft. The two squadrons operated independently of one another until 31 March 1977 when 41 Squadron was disbanded at Coningsby. This allowed 41 Designate Squadron to drop ‘Designate’ from their name, take possession of the Standard, adopt the Squadron badge, and become the ‘new’ combat-ready 41 Squadron at RAF Coltishall a day later.

41 Squadron Jaguar XZ103 Tailfin, RAF Coltishall, 1 April 2006.

41 Squadron’s role changed to low-level reconnaissance and, in early 1978, it became part of SACEUR’s Strategic Reserve. In 1980, the unit was assigned to the Allied Command Europe Mobile Force (AMF) and was subsequently involved in exercises at Bardufoss in Norway and in the Mediterranean.

In support of its reconnaissance role, the unit formed an RIC at Coltishall to process and interpret the photographs made by pilots, who collected "wet film" images using sensors located in a large external pod. Smaller "air-portable" RICs were also used during off-base deployments. The objective of the RIC was to have photographs and reports processed within 45 minutes of an aircraft’s touchdown at base.

As a result of this ability, the Squadron has been involved in a number of conflicts over the past two decades. In early 1991, during the First Gulf War (Operation Granby, but more widely known by its American name, "Desert Storm"), a large number of reconnaissance and bombing missions were flown against Iraqi forces with Jaguar GR.1A aircraft as a part of the coalition forces.

In its aftermath, the squadron was deployed to Incirlik, in southwest Turkey, where it participated in the defence of Iraq’s Kurdish minority within the boundaries of the country’s northern no-fly zone (Operations "Warden" and "Resinate North") until April 1993. It was during this period that the large external photographic pods were replaced with smaller, more versatile, medium level pods.

Four months later, the Squadron was deployed to Southern Italy, where it flew policing duties over Bosnia in support of Operation "Deny Flight" until August 1995. It was during this time that one of the unit’s Jaguars became the first RAF aircraft to drop a bomb in anger over Europe since the end of World War II. The target was a Bosnian tank.

The Squadron returned to Coltishall in August 1995 for a well-earned rest. Despite the vital work they had performed in Iraq and Bosnia, however, the Squadron found their photographic systems were inhibited by the use of photographic film, which required special handling and processing before any results could be viewed and analysed. This drawback was compounded by the inherent difficulties of moving hardcopy prints around the battlefield, particularly with the distances involved in modern warfare. To overcome these issues, the Jaguar Replacement Reconnaissance Pod (JRRP) was introduced in August 2000.

The new system provided for the recording of a digital images by three cameras onto VHS-C super videotapes with electro optical sensors for day operations and infra-red sensors for night operations. Digital images were then analysed in the ATRELs through in a windows-based application, named ‘Ground Imagery Exploitation System’, or "GIES". GIES allowed analysts to edit images and send them electronically.

The interior of the doors on 41 Squadron's hangar at RAF Coltishall on the day the Station was closed, 1 April 2006.

This system was taken into battle on the Squadron’s last operational deployment, during the Second Gulf War (Operation Telic. in Iraq in March–April 2003. During the operation, they were based at Incirlik, Turkey, once again, equipped with the more up-to-date Jaguar GR.3.

In July 2004, the Defence Secretary announced that 41 Squadron would be disbanded once again, on 31 March 2006, as a part of a re-organisation of the Defence Forces following a Government spending review, and the so-called Gershon efficiency study. A White Paper, titled "Delivering Security in a Changing World: Future Capabilities", foresaw the retirement of the RAF’s Jaguar aircraft two years early and the closure of RAF Coltishall. Advances in technology, it reasoned, would mean air defence could be maintained with fewer aircraft, thus allowing older equipment to be withdrawn from service earlier than originally intended. The authors planned that the RAF’s future air combat force would be based around the multi-role Typhoon and Joint Combat Aircraft, in co-operation with the Tornado GR4 and Harrier GR7/GR9. Furthermore, the paper intended to reduce RAF trained strength from 48,500 to 41,000 by 1 April 2008.[13]

As a result of these decisions, every one of RAF Coltishall’s units would be directly affected. 16(R) and 54(F) Squadrons, the Operational Evaluation Unit (OEU) and Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) would be disbanded by 1 April 2005, and 41 Squadron by 1 April 2006. 6 Squadron, with the last of the RAF’s Jaguars, would be moved to RAF Coningsby on 1 April 2006 and disbanded by 31 October 2007. RAF Coltishall itself would be shut down in December 2006, thus ending an over 66-year history.[14]

The first of these draw-downs took place on 11 March 2005, when 16 and 54 Squadrons held a combined passing-out parade. However, their disbandment had little immediate effect on the activity at Coltishall as most airframes and personnel were absorbed into 6 and 41 Squadrons. However, with the departure of these latter squadrons in 2006, and the subsequent closure of the base in December, the close-knit RAF community was dispersed to other locations, and a quiet returned to the area, which has not existed since May 1940.

However, despite the Government’s intention to disband 41 Squadron, and plans drawn up for final ceremonies to take place on the first weekend in April 2006, the unit was given a new lease on life only a short while before taking effect. Approval was received to move 41 Squadron to Coningsby with 6 Squadron on 1 April 2006, and to assume the role of the Fast Jet and Weapons Operational Evaluation Unit, or "FJWOEU".[2]

RAF Panavia Tornado GR4 of 41 Squadron (code ZA447) at the 2010 Royal International Air Tattoo, RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, England. To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain in 2010, all of the Squadron's aircraft were painted with World War II-era EB codes at the top of each tail fin to represent specific pilots of the period. This particular airframe commemorates Spitfire Mk Ia, P9428, EB-R ('R for Robin'), and its pilot, Sqn Ldr Hilary R. L. 'Robin' Hood DFC, the Squadron Commanding Officer, who was killed during the Battle of Britain.

Fast Jet & Weapons Operational Evaluation Unit, 2006–2010[edit]

The Fast Jet and Weapons Operational Evaluation Unit (FJWOEU) was formed before it assumed the 41 Squadron number plate. It was created on 1 April 2004 from the merger of the Strike Attack OEU (SAOEU), the F3 OEU and the Air Guided Weapons OEU (AGWOEU). The FJWOEU took over 41(F) Squadron's number plate on 1 April 2006, rescuing 41 Squadron from disbandment that would have otherwise resulted from the retirement of the RAF's Jaguar fleet.

Their new aircraft consisted of Panavia Tornados and Harrier GR9.s, and that same year, the Squadron celebrated its 90th Anniversary. It remained in the role of FJWOEU until 2010, during that time testing numerous weapons and defence systems that were subsequently deployed by British forces on the front line at various locations throughout the world, including Afghanistan.

Test and Evaluation Squadron, 2010 to Present[edit]

On 1 April 2010, the Boscombe Down based Fast Jet Test Squadron (FJTS) was amalgamated into 41(R) Squadron to create a new entity, 41 Squadron Test and Evaluation Squadron, or "41(R) TES", in which form it continues today.

In September 2010, the Squadron celebrated the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain, holding an event at RAF Coningsby attended by families of pilots of the World War II era.[15] The Squadron painted up its aircraft with World War II "EB" codes, recognising various World War II pilots and their aircraft. Originally, some of these codes were applied to the Squadron's Harriers, but when these were retired the codes were applied to the Tornados, and subsequently Typhoons, that replaced them. They currently encompass the following World War II aircraft:

Aircraft Serial Code A/C Type Serial Date Pilot
Typhoon FGR4 ZJ947 EB-L Spitfire Ia K9805 August 1940 Wg Cdr Edward A. Shipman AFC RAF
Typhoon FGR4 ZJ930 EB-R Spitfire Ia P9428 September 1940 Sqn Ldr Hilary R. L. 'Robin' Hood DFC RAF
Tornado GR4 ZA600 EB-G Spitfire Ia N3162 September 1940 Flt Lt Eric S. 'Lockie' Lock DSO DFC* MiD RAF
Typhoon FGR4 ZK332 EB-J Spitfire Ia X4559 September 1940 Sqn Ldr George H. 'Ben' Bennions DFC RAF
Tornado GR4 ZA614 EB-Z Spitfire IIa P7666 November 1940 Gp Capt Donald O. Finlay DFC AFC RAF
Tornado GR4 ZG777 EB-Q Spitfire Va R7304 August 1941 WO William A. 'Bill' Brew RAAF
Tornado GR4 ZA601 EB-B Spitfire XII MB882 September 1944 Sqn Ldr Terence 'Terry' Spencer DFC TEM RAF

Commencing the draw-down of the RAF's Harrier force as a result of the British Government's Strategic Defence and Security review (SDSR),[16] 41 Squadron's three Harrier GR.9’s were transferred to 1 (Fighter) Squadron at RAF Cottesmore on 4 November 2010. The Squadron subsequently increased its fleet of Tornado GR.4's to compensate the loss of these aircraft, and only operated the GR.4 until April 2013.

41 Squadron Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 EB-H at the RAF Waddington air show in July 2013. This aircraft code is the newest addition to the Squadron's World War II coded aircraft, representing Spitfire XIV, NH915, EB-H. This aircraft was flown by Gp Capt (then Flt Lt) Derek Rake OBE AFC & Bar when he made 41 Squadron's last victory claim of the War, on 3 May 1945.

41 Squadron was also in the spotlight on 29 April 2011, when two of its Tornado GR.4s flew with two Typhoons from RAF Coningsby in the RAF flypast down The Mall and over Buckingham Palace for the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. One of the Tornados was flown by the Squadron's then Officer Commanding, Wg Cdr Rich Davies.

In 2012, to mark the London 2012 Olympic Games, 41 Squadron unveiled special tail markings on Panavia Tornado GR4, ZA614, EB-Z, to commemorate the Squadron's link with the Olympic Games. Gp Capt Donald O. Finlay DFC AFC, who commanded the Squadron from September 1940 – August 1941, had won Bronze in the Men Hurdles at the 1932 Los Angeles Games, won Silver in the same event at the 1936 Berlin Games, and read the Olympic Oath at the commencement of 1948 London Games.[17]

The first published history of 41 Squadron, "Blood, Sweat, and Valour", was launched at the RAF Club in London in December 2012, and recounts the unit's wartime activity during the war years August 1942 – May 1945.

Another major change took place on 22 April 2013, when 41 Squadron took over the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4s of fellow RAF Coningsby based No. 17(R) Test and Evaluation Squadron, which will have a new role, preparing for the introduction of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II into RAF and Royal Navy service.[18]

41 Squadron's WWII era EB codes have been carried over onto three of their new aircraft. They are ZJ930, coded EB-R for Sqn Ldr Hilary R. L. 'Robin' Hood DFC (OC 41 Sqn 1940); ZJ947 coded EB-L for Wg Cdr Edward 'Shippy' Shipman AFC (1936–40); and ZK332, coded EB-J for Sqn Ldr George H. 'Ben' Bennions DFC (1936–40). An additional aircraft had also joined the Squadron, prompting the need for an eighth code, and the opportunity to honour another of the Squadron's World War II pilots. The honour has gone to Gp Capt Derek S. V. Rake OBE AFC & Bar (1945) and Typhoon ZJ914 has been coded EB-H.

Equipment 1916–2013[edit]

Aircraft Received Aircraft Received
Airco de Havilland DH.2 ‘Scout’ July 1916 Supermarine Spitfire Mk. F.21 April 1946
Vickers F.B.5 ‘Gun Bus’ July 1916 Airspeed Oxford AS.10 August 1947
Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.8 September 1916 North American Harvard August 1947
Airco de Havilland DH.5 July 1917 De Havilland Hornet F.1 June 1948
Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5a October 1917 De Havilland Hornet F.3 August 1948
Sopwith 7F.1 Snipe April 1923 Gloster Meteor F.4 January 1951
Armstrong Whitworth Siskin III/IIIa April 1924 Gloster Meteor F.8 April 1951
Bristol Bulldog 105A Mk. IIa October 1931 Hawker Hunter F.5 July 1955
Hawker Demon Mk. I July 1934 Gloster Javelin FAW.4 February 1958
Hawker Fury Mk. II October 1937 Gloster Javelin FAW.8 January 1960
Supermarine Spitfire Mk. I December 1938 Bloodhound Mk. II S.A.M. September 1965
Supermarine Spitfire Mk. Ia September 1939 McDonnell Douglas Phantom FGR.2 April 1972
Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IIa October 1940 SEPECAT Jaguar GR.1 July 1976
Supermarine Spitfire Mk. Ia February 1941 SEPECAT Jaguar GR.3 May 1997
Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IIa March 1941 SEPECAT Jaguar T4 Date?
Supermarine Spitfire Mk. Va & Vb July 1941 Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR9 April 2006
Supermarine Spitfire Mk. XII February 1943 Panavia Tornado F3 April 2006
Supermarine Spitfire Mk. XIV September 1944 Panavia Tornado GR4 April 2006
Hawker Tempest Mk. V September 1945 Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 April 2013

Vital Dates[edit]

Event Date Notes
Formed 15 April 1916 As a fighter squadron (nucleus from 28 Squadron RFC)
Disbanded 22 May 1916
Re-formed 22 May 1916 By renumbering to 27 Reserve Squadron RFC
Disbanded 14 July 1916
Re-formed 14 July 1916 As 41 Squadron RFC (nucleus from 27 Reserve Squadron RFC)
Disbanded 31 December 1919
Re-formed 1 April 1923 As a fighter squadron
Disbanded 31 March 1946 By renumbering to 26 Squadron
Re-formed 1 April 1946 By re-numbering from 122 Squadron
Disbanded 15 January 1958
Re-formed 16 January 1958 By re-numbering from 141 Squadron
Disbanded 31 December 1963
Re-formed 1 September 1965 As Bloodhound Mk. IIa SAM Defence Squadron
Disbanded 1 July 1970
Re-formed 1 April 1972 As a fighter and ground attack squadron
Disbanded 31 March 1977
Re-formed 1 April 1977 As a low-level reconnaissance squadron
Disbanded 1 April 2006
Re-formed 1 April 2006 As Reserve Squadron (41(R) Squadron) and Fast Jet & Weapons Operational Evaluation Unit (FJWOEU)
New Entity 1 April 2010 As Test and Evaluation Squadron (41(R) TES)

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b The Durkirk Battle Honour was not awarded until 2012. The reason the Honour was not originally awarded is unknown and was likely just an oversight. Recognising the error and a legitimate claim to the Honour, the Squadron made a formal application in 2010 and Buckingham Palace approved the Honour in February 2012, almost 72 years after the event. 41 Squadron was involved in the evacuation of Dunkirk between 28 May and 8 June 1940. In addition to claiming several victories against the Luftwaffe, the unit lost one pilot killed in action and a second shot down and captured.
  2. ^ a b c d e http://www.raf.mod.uk/organisation/41squadron.cfm
  3. ^ Rawlings 1978, p. 106.
  4. ^ Retrieved 12 February 2010.
  5. ^ The Times, 29 July 1929
  6. ^ The Loss of H.M. Airship R101, http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1930/untitled0%20-%201171.html
  7. ^ The Times, 27 June, 1 July, 2 July, & 3 July 1935
  8. ^ The Times, 14 August & 2 November 1936
  9. ^ The Times, 14 August & 16 September 1936
  10. ^ Brew, p. 671.
  11. ^ Brew, p. 707 & 815.
  12. ^ The Times, 13 May & 5 July 1957
  13. ^ Delivering Security in a Changing World: Future Capabilities, p.9, http://merln.ndu.edu/whitepapers/UnitedKingdom-2004.pdf
  14. ^ Delivering Security in a Changing World: Future Capabilities, p.12, http://merln.ndu.edu/whitepapers/UnitedKingdom-2004.pdf
  15. ^ 2010 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain event, http://www.raf.mod.uk/rafconingsby/newsweather/index.cfm?storyid=3982B877-5056-A318-A8BB6EE4091C7B11
  16. ^ http://www.direct.gov.uk/prod_consum_dg/groups/dg_digitalassets/@dg/@en/documents/digitalasset/dg_191634.pdf
  17. ^ http://www.raf.mod.uk/rafconingsby/newsweather/index.cfm?storyid=4062B136-5056-A318-A8F58BF02D1D5BF8
  18. ^ http://www.raf.mod.uk/rafconingsby/newsweather/index.cfm?storyid=F98C1C92-5056-A318-A8E6523A2460382A

Bibliography[edit]

  • 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. Fighter Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald and Jane's Publishers Ltd., 1969 (second edition 1976). ISBN 0-354-01028-X.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]