No. 120 Squadron RAF

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No. 120 Squadron RAF
120 Squadron RAF.jpg
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 – 26 May 2011
Country United Kingdom United Kingdom
Branch Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Royal Air Force
Motto Endurance
Equipment Nimrod MR.2
Battle honours Atlantic, 1941–1945*;
Biscay, 1941–1944*;
Arctic, 1942–1944*;
Channel and North Atlantic, 1941–1944*;
South Atlantic, 1982;
Gulf, 1991;
Iraq, 2003
Honours marked with an asterisk* are those emblazoned on the Squadron Standard
Squadron Badge heraldry Standing on a demi-terrestrial globe, a falcon close[1]
The falcon, an Icelandic falcon, commemorates the Squadron's stay there and also indicates the squadron's predatory instinct[2]
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?)

No. 120 Squadron RAF was a squadron of the Royal Air Force which was established as a Royal Flying Corps unit late in World War I, disbanded a year after the end of the war, then re-established as a RAF Coastal Command squadron during World War II. Although disbanded again a month after Victory in Europe Day, during and after World War II it operated almost continuously, with maritime patrol aircraft; most recently with the Hawker Siddeley Nimrod, based at RAF Kinloss in Scotland[1] until the type's withdrawal in March 2010.[3] The squadron was disbanded again the following year.


Formation in First World War[edit]

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,[1] so 120 Squadron spent late 1918 and 1919 flying communication and mail flights in Western Europe until it was disbanded late in 1919.[4]

Second World War[edit]

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.[5]

120 Sqn Liberator IIIs at Aldergrove, 1943.

The squadron was very successful in this role, sinking fourteen U-Boats outright; and was credited with a share in sinking three more, plus eight damaged.[1] This was the highest kill total in Coastal Command, achieved while flying from Northern Ireland, Iceland, and in support of Operation Overlord – the Allied invasion of France in 1944.[4]

  • 12 October 1942 – U-597 sunk by depth charges from Liberator H piloted by Squadron Leader Terry Bulloch.[6]
  • 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

After the war against Nazi Germany ended in May 1945, the squadron was disbanded on 4 June 1945 at RAF Ballykelly.

Immediate post-war[edit]

The squadron was re-established on 1 October 1946, by renumbering 160 Squadron at RAF Leuchars. It was equipped with Avro Lancaster GR.3s, although some Liberators remained on strength until June 1947.[1] A detachment of the squadron moved to Palestine in November 1947, where it carried out searches for illegal immigrant ships until February 1948, when it returned to Britain.[4]

Cold War and beyond[edit]

The squadron re-equipped with Avro Shackleton MR.1s in April 1951. The squadron began operating from its new base RAF Kinloss on 1 April 1959.[1][7] It continued operating the MR.2 and MR.3 versions of the Shackleton in the maritime patrol role until February 1971,[1] when it re-equipped with Hawker Siddeley Nimrods, gaining the updated Nimrod MR.2 in 1981.[4] It flew operationally in the Falklands War in 1982 and the Gulf War in 1991.[7] On 31 March 2010, the Nimrod MR.2 was withdrawn from service,[3] and the squadron formally disbanded on 26 May 2011.[8]

Aircraft operated[edit]

From To Aircraft Variants
October 1918 October 1919 Airco DH.9 DH.9A and DH.10
June 1941
November 1946
June 1945
June 1947
Consolidated Liberator Mk. I, Mk. II, Mk. III, Mk. V, Mk. VI, Mk. VIII and GR.1
November 1946 April 1951 Avro Lancaster GR.3
April 1951 February 1971 Avro Shackleton MR.1, MR.2 and MR.3
October 1970 30 March 2010 Hawker Siddeley/BAe Nimrod MR.1, MR.2 and MR.2p


See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Halley 1988, p. 196.
  2. ^ Rawlings 1982, p. 103.
  3. ^ a b Hastings, David. "BAE System Nimrod: Squadron Service". Target Lock. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d Ashworth 1989, p. ?
  5. ^ Gannon 1998, p. ?
  6. ^ "Squadron Leader Terry Bulloch - obituary". Daily Telegraph. 23 Nov 2014. Retrieved 23 Nov 2014. 
  7. ^ a b RAF-120 Squadron
  8. ^ "Squadron Disbandment Parade". Royal Air Force. 27 May 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2011. 
  9. ^ Jefford 2001, p. 60.
  10. ^ 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.

External links[edit]