No. 1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit RAF

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No. 1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit RAF
Active14 Nov 1940–18 Oct 1942
1 Jun 1982–1 Jul 1992
CountryUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
BranchAir Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Air Force
Roleaerial reconnaissance
Part ofNo. 16 Group RAF, Coastal Command
No. 1 Group RAF, Strike Command
Squadron CodesLY (Nov 1940–Oct 1942)[2][3]

No. 1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit (or 1 PRU) was a flying unit of the Royal Air Force, first formed in 1940.


A 1 PRU Spitfire in flight.

On 24 September 1939, the Royal Air Force formally took over the "Heston Flight", a civilian photo reconnaissance unit headed by Sidney Cotton based at Heston Aerodrome.[4] The unit had previously been contracted by MI6 to perform clandestine photographic reconnaissance over Europe, using civilian-registered Lockheed 12A aircraft.[4] The Flight was redesignated several times, first on 1 November 1939 as No. 2 Camouflage Unit,[5] then on 17 January 1940 as the Photographic Development Unit,[5] then on 18 June 1940 the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit,[1][6] and finally on 14 November 1940, No. 1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit.[6][7]

The unit was equipped with a variety of aircraft modified for the photographic reconnaissance role, including Supermarine Spitfires, Bristol Blenheims, Lockheed Hudsons and de Havilland Mosquitos.

On 18 October 1942, 1 PRU was disbanded and the individual Flights of the Unit were redesignated as five separate squadrons, Nos. 540, 541, 542, 543 and 544 Squadrons.

On 1 June 1982, the Unit was revived at RAF Wyton[8] when No. 39 Squadron was disbanded and some of its English Electric Canberra PR.9 reconnaissance aircraft were transferred to a newly formed No. 1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit. The Unit reverted to its previous identity on 1 July 1992, when it was renumbered No. 39 (1 PRU) Squadron.[8]



  1. ^ a b Ashworth 1992, p. 160.
  2. ^ Bowyer and Rawlings 1979, p. 70.
  3. ^ Flintham and Thomas 2003, p. 88.
  4. ^ a b Nesbit, p. 84
  5. ^ a b Ashworth 1992, p. 159.
  6. ^ a b Lake 1999, p. 155.
  7. ^ Ashworth 1992, p. 161.
  8. ^ a b Jefford 2001, p. 41.


  • Ashworth, Chris. RAF Coastal Command, 1936-1969. Sparkford, Somerset, UK: Patrick Stephens Ltd., 1992. ISBN 1-85260-345-3.
  • Bowyer, Michael J.F. and John D.R. Rawlings. Squadron Codes, 1937-56. Cambridge, UK: Patrick Stephens Ltd., 1979. ISBN 0-85059-364-6.
  • Flintham, Vic and Andrew Thomas. Combat Codes: A full explanation and listing of British, Commonwealth and Allied air force unit codes since 1938. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing Ltd., 2003. ISBN 1-84037-281-8.
  • Jefford, C.G. RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 1988 (second edition 2001). ISBN 1-85310-053-6.
  • Lake, Alan. Flying Units of the RAF: The ancestry, formation and disbandment of all flying units from 1912. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 1999. ISBN 1-84037-086-6.
  • Nesbit, Roy Conyers. 1996. Eyes of the RAF. Sutton Publishing ISBN 0-7509-1130-1

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