No. 101 Squadron RAF

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No. 101 Squadron RAF
Squadron badge
  • 12 Jul 1917 – 31 Dec 1919
  • 21 Mar 1928 – 1 Feb 1957
  • 15 Oct 1957 – 4 Aug 1982
  • 1 May 1984 – present
CountryUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
Branch Royal Air Force
TypeFlying squadron
RoleAir transport and air-to-air refuelling
Part ofNo. 1 Group RAF
Home stationRAF Brize Norton
Motto(s)Mens agitat molem
(Latin for 'Mind over matter')[1]
AircraftAirbus A330 Voyager K2/K3
Battle honours * Honours marked with an asterisk may be emblazoned on the Squadron Standard
Wg Cdr Paul Summers
Squadron badge heraldryIssuant from the battlements of a tower, a demi lion rampant guardant.[2] The battlements symbolise the squadron's pioneering role in the development of power-operated gun turrets, while the lion indicates the unit's fighting power and spirit. Approved by King George VI in February 1938
Squadron codesLU (Apr 1939 - Sep 1939)
SR (Sep 1939 - Apr 1951)
MW ('C' Flight - May 1942)

No. 101 Squadron of the Royal Air Force operates the Airbus Voyager in the air-to-air refuelling and transport roles from RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire.


Formation and early years[edit]

101 Squadron RFC was formed at Farnborough on 12 July 1917 operating the Royal Aircraft Factory FE2b. Two weeks later it moved to France to operate as a night bomber squadron. In March 1919 the squadron returned to the UK and it was disbanded on 31 December 1919.[3]

Reformation and World War II[edit]

An Airborne Cigar (ABC) Lancaster I of No. 101 Squadron dropping bombs over Duisburg, 1944

The squadron was reformed in March 1928 at RAF Bircham Newton as a day bomber squadron flying the Boulton Paul Sidestrand. In 1938 the squadron was equipped with the Bristol Blenheim. In 1941 the squadron changed to a medium-bomber squadron with the Vickers Wellington. These were replaced the following year with the Avro Lancaster. 101 Squadron Lancasters were in 1943 equipped with a top secret radio jamming system codenamed "Airborne Cigar" (ABC) operated by an eighth crew member who could understand German, some with German or Jewish backgrounds known as "special operators" commonly abbreviated to "spec ops" or "SO". They sat in a curtained off area towards the rear of the aircraft and located and jammed German fighter controller's broadcasts, occasionally posing as controllers to spread disinformation. The aircraft fitted with the system were distinctive due to the two large vertical antennae rising from the middle of the fuselage. Deliberately breaking the standing operating procedure of radio silence to conduct the jamming made the aircraft highly vulnerable to being tracked and attacked, which resulted in 101 Squadron having the highest casualty rate of any RAF squadron.[4]


In October 1945, the squadron moved to RAF Binbrook, Lincolnshire and in June 1946 re-equipped with Avro Lincolns. These aircraft were deployed in conducting small-scale raids against the Quteibi tribe at Thumier in Aden in October 1947.[5]

On 25 May 1950, the squadron took delivery of its first English Electric Canberra B2 thereby becoming the RAF’s first jet bomber unit. Without a training unit in existence, conversion to type was achieved by the squadron itself with assistance from English Electric test pilots. Most of the type’s service trials were flown by the squadron and, by the end of 1950, nine Canberra B2s were held on strength. Out of the pool of type-qualified crews, a wing of five squadrons had been formed by August 1952 at Binbrook, comprising Nos. 9, 12, 50, 101 and 617.[6]

In June 1954, the squadron became the first to receive the B.6 variant of the Canberra. After full conversion to the type, the Binbrook Wing of five squadrons undertook an intensive training programme in readiness for staged detachments to Malaya as support for Operation Firedog. This was a large-scale counter-insurgency campaign, on-going in Malaya since 1948 against communist guerrillas. 101 Squadron became the first RAF jet bomber squadron to serve in the Far East when four Canberras arrived at Changi on 11 February 1955. The first bomb drop by an RAF jet bomber occurred when the squadron, which had been deployed to RAF Butterworth, Penang, was operating against a target in Johore. Over a period of two months operating from Butterworth, ninety-eight raids were made before the squadron returned to Binbrook on 21 June 1955. A final deployment to the same base from June to August 1956 signified the last Canberra participation in the Malayan operation. Also in 1956, the squadron flew night bombing raids against Egyptian airfields from their base at Hal Far, Malta during the Suez crisis. With the entry into service of the V bombers, Canberras in the bomber role were becoming outmoded. Consequently, 101 Squadron was temporarily disbanded on 1 February 1957.[3]


101 Squadron Vulcan B.2 of the RAF Waddington Wing in 1972

The squadron reformed on 15 October 1957 as part of RAF Bomber Command's V bomber force maintaining the UK's strategic nuclear deterrent, equipped with Avro Vulcan B1s from RAF Finningley, and in 1961 the squadron moved from Finningley to RAF Waddington where it remained until disbandment in 1982. Its aircraft were now the upgraded Vulcan B1A fitted with the ECM tailpod. The squadron's assigned role was high-level strategic bombing with a variety of free fall nuclear bombs. These included American bombs supplied to the RAF under Project E.[7]

On 20 June 1961 a 101 Squadron Vulcan B1A (XH481) flew non-stop from RAF Waddington to the Royal Australian Air Force Base Richmond, NSW, the longest recorded non-stop flight by a Vulcan, and the 10,000 nmi flight[8] still stands as a record for the Vulcan, exceeding the mileage done by the Black Buck Vulcan[9] by some 3,000 nmi.[10]

After the advent of effective Soviet SAMs forced Bomber Command to reassign V bombers from high-altitude operations to low-level penetration operations in March 1963, the squadron's Vulcans adopted a mission profile that included a 'pop-up' manoeuvre from 500–1,000 ft to above 12,000 ft for safe release of Yellow Sun Mk2.[11]

By Dec 1967[12] the squadron was re-equipped with eight Vulcan B2 aircraft and eight WE.177B laydown bombs[13] which improved aircraft survivability by enabling aircraft to remain at low-level during weapon release.[14]

A VC10 K3 in 2013 the last year of operation.

Following the transfer of responsibility for the nuclear deterrent to the Royal Navy the squadron was reassigned to SACEUR for tactical strike missions still armed with the WE.177B bomb and a variety of conventional munitions. In a high-intensity European war the squadron's new role was to support land forces on the Continent resisting an assault on Western Europe by the Red Army, by striking deep into enemy-held areas beyond the forward edge of the battlefield, striking at enemy concentrations and infrastructure, first with conventional weapons and secondly with WE.177 tactical nuclear weapons as required, should a conflict escalate to that stage. The squadron continued in this role until the Falklands War of 1982[15] when the squadron performed operations during the campaign in the South Atlantic, and was then disbanded on 4 August 1982.[3]


In 1978, the RAF announced a plan to convert second-hand civil Vickers VC10 aircraft for conversion to aerial refuelling aircraft and the first K2 flew in 1982.[16] No 101 Squadron was chosen to operate the aircraft and was reformed at RAF Brize Norton on 1 May 1984. Notable recent deployments of 101 Squadron include the Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.[3] The VC10 aircraft was retired on 20 September 2013, and was replaced by the Airbus Voyager.[17]

Aircraft operated[edit]

Airbus Voyager
data from[18][19][20]
From To Aircraft Version
July 1917 March 1918 Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.12 BE.12
July 1917 March 1918 Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.12 BE.12a
July 1917 March 1919 Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2 FE.2b and FE.2d
April 1928 July 1936 Boulton Paul Sidestrand Mk.III
November 1928 June 1929 de Havilland DH.9A
January 1935 August 1938 Boulton Paul Overstrand Mk.I (four converted from Sidestrands)
June 1938 April 1939 Bristol Blenheim Mk.I
April 1939 May 1941 Bristol Blenheim IV Mk.IV
April 1941 February 1942 Vickers Wellington Mk.Ic
February 1942 October 1942 Vickers Wellington Mk.III
October 1942 August 1946 Avro Lancaster Mk.I & Mk.III
August 1946 June 1951 Avro Lincoln B.2
June 1951 August 1954 English Electric Canberra B.2
June 1954 January 1957 English Electric Canberra B.6
October 1957 May 1962 Avro Vulcan B.1
March 1961 December 1967 Avro Vulcan B.1a
December 1967 August 1982 Avro Vulcan B.2
February 1984 March 2001 Vickers VC10 K2
February 1985 September 2013 Vickers VC10 K3
July 1994 March 2013 Vickers VC10 K4
October 2005 July 2013 Vickers VC10 C1K
October 2013 present Airbus Voyager KC2 and KC3

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Pine, L.G. (1983). A dictionary of mottoes (1 ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 138. ISBN 0-7100-9339-X.
  2. ^ Moyes 1976, p. 135.
  3. ^ a b c d "101 Squadron". RAF Museum. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  4. ^ "John Hereford". Obituaries. The Daily Telegraph. 13 December 2007. Archived from the original on 13 February 2008. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  5. ^ "British Military Aviation in 1947". RAF Museum. Archived from the original on 30 June 2019. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  6. ^ "Binbrook Canberras" (PDF). Flight International. 10 October 1952. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  7. ^ Tim McLelland. The Avro Vulcan: a complete history. p120. ISBN 978-0-85979-127-4
  8. ^ Great Circle Mapper shows 9,108 nm by shortest Great Circle route, but the Vulcan could not fly the shortest route over the USSR and China, although this Great Circle route was greater than the 6,753 nm return flight of Black Buck.
  9. ^ Shortest Great Circle route.
  10. ^ McLelland. p161-2.
  11. ^ McLelland p. 155.
  12. ^ Humphrey Wynn. RAF Strategic Nuclear Deterrent Forces: their origins, roles and deployment 1946-69. p565 ISBN 0-11-772833-0
  13. ^ RAF nuclear front line Order-of-Battle 1966-67
  14. ^ Weapon overview @ Carriage
  15. ^ RAF nuclear front line Order-of-Battle 1982
  16. ^ A Little VC10derness website
  17. ^ "ZZ338 arrival completes the RAF Voyager core fleet". Airtanker. Archived from the original on 7 January 2016. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  18. ^ Moyes 1976, pp. 137-138.
  19. ^ Halley 1988, p. 176.
  20. ^ Jefford 2001, p. 57.


  • Alexander, Raymond. Special Operations: No.101 Squadron. Published privately, 1979.
  • Ashworth, Chris. Encyclopedia of Modern Royal Air Force Squadrons. Wellingborough, UK: Patrick Stevens Limited, 1989. ISBN 1-85260-013-6.
  • 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.
  • Hobson, Chris. Mind over Matter: A Brief History of 101 Squadron Royal Air Force 1917-1988. Published privately, 1988.
  • Jefford, C.G. RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury: Airlife Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
  • Moyes, Philip J.R. Bomber Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald and Jane's (Publishers) Ltd., 1964 (new edition 1976). ISBN 0-354-01027-1.

External links[edit]