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No. 208 Squadron RAF

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No. 208 Squadron RAF
ActiveRoyal Naval Air Service
26 October 1916 – 1 April 1918
Royal Air Force
1 April 1918 – 7 November 1919
1 February 1920 - 30 March 1959
1 April 1959 - 10 September 1971
1 March 1974 - 31 March 1994
1 April 1994 -13 April 2016
CountryUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
Branch Royal Air Force
RoleAdvanced flying training
Instructor training
Conversion training
BaseRAF Valley
Nickname(s)The Flying Shuftis
AircraftBAE Systems Hawk
Battle honoursWestern Front 1915-1918*
Ypres 1917*
Somme 1918*
Egypt and Libya 1940-1942*
Greece 1941*
Iraq 1941
Syria 1941
El Alamein*
Italy 1944-1945*
Gustav Line
Gothic Line
Gulf 1991*
Honours marked with an asterisk* are those emblazoned on the Squadron Standard
Geoffrey Rhodes Bromet
Squadron Badge heraldryA sphinx affrontée proper[1][2]
The Gizah Sphinx commemorated the Squadron's long association with Egypt during the inter-war years. An unofficial 'winged eye' badge had been in use from July 1930 until 1937.[3]
Squadron roundel
Squadron CodesGA (Apr 1939 - Sep 1939)[4][5]
RG (Mar 1944 - 1949)[6][7]
S (Carried on Buccaneers)[8]
D (1994 - present)[9]

No 208 (Reserve) Squadron was a reserve unit of the Royal Air Force, most recently based at RAF Valley, Anglesey, Wales. It operated the BAe Hawk aircraft, as a part of No. 4 Flying Training School. Due to obsolescence of its Hawk T.1 aircraft compared to the new-build Hawk T.2 aircraft of its sister unit, 4(R) Sqn, the squadron was disbanded in April 2016, in its 100th year of operations.


World War I[edit]

The squadron was established as part of the Royal Naval Air Service on 25 October 1916[10][11] at Dunkirk as No. 8 (Naval) Squadron. In its early days, the unit flew Sopwith Pups, 1½ Strutters and Nieuport Scouts. Later in World War I it re-equipped with Sopwith Camels and was assigned to artillery spotting. The squadron returned to the UK briefly before being sent back to France to face the German offensive. While in France a significant number of Camels belonging to the squadron were destroyed by the RAF to prevent the Germans capturing them during their advance. When the Royal Air Force was formed on 1 April 1918, the unit was renumbered to No. 208 Squadron RAF. After the war ended, 208 Squadron remained with the occupying forces until August 1919, when it again returned to the UK for disbandment on 7 November 1919 at Netheravon.[12] For some time the squadron was based at the aerodrome at the Beaupré-sur-la-Lys Abbey in La Gorgue in northern France.[13]

During the war, the squadron claimed 298 victories. Twenty-five aces had served in the squadron. Notable among them were Anthony Arnold, Charles Dawson Booker, Robert J. O. Compston, Harold Day, Stanley Goble, Edward Grahame Johnstone, William Lancelot Jordan, Robert A. Little, William E. G. Mann, Richard Munday, Guy William Price, George Simpson, Reginald Soar, Ronald Thornley, and James White.[14]


The squadron re-formed at RAF Ismailia in Egypt on 1 February 1920 by the renumbering of No. 113 Squadron RAF.[15] It was at first equipped with RE8s and from November 1920 till May 1930 with Bristol Fighters. In September 1922 the squadron was sent to Turkey for a year during the Chanak crisis, being stationed at San Stefano, a part of the Bakırköy district of Istanbul.[15] After the conflict, 208 Squadron went back to Egypt and in 1930 got Armstrong Whitworth Atlas aircraft to replace the old Bristol fighters. The Atlases in their turn were replaced five years later by Audaxes and for one flight by Demons. Just before the outbreak of World War II, in January 1939, these gave way for the Westland Lysander.[16]

World War II[edit]

No. 208 Squadron was still stationed in Egypt at the outbreak of World War II. It joined the war effort in mid-1940, flying Westland Lysander reconnaissance aircraft and Hawker Hurricane fighters on army co-operation duties in the North African Campaign[17] and the Greek Campaign of 1941. During the war it included a significant number of Royal Australian Air Force and South African Air Force personnel, along with other nationalities. Amongst the members of the squadron at this time was Robert Leith-Macgregor, shot down on more than one occasion, once ending up taxiing through a minefield, but managing not to trigger any mines.[18]

The unit was later stationed in Palestine, before returning to North Africa. It briefly converted to Curtiss Tomahawks, but received Supermarine Spitfires in late 1943 and flew them for the remainder of the war. From 1944, it took part in the Italian Campaign.[citation needed]

After World War II[edit]

Shortly after the war, 208 Squadron moved back to Palestine where it was involved in operations against the Egyptian Air Force. In 1948, the squadron moved to the Egyptian Canal Zone. It saw action in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, losing four Spitfires in combat with Israeli Air Force aircraft (which also included Spitfires).[citation needed]

The last officially recorded "Air to Air fighter pilot kill" (bullets only, without guidance systems) occurred on 22 May 1948. At 09:30 two Egyptian Spitfire LF.9s staged a third attack on Ramat David. This time Fg Off Tim McElhaw and Fg Off Hully of 208 Squadron had taken over the standing patrol. Fg Off McElhaw, flying Spitfire FR.18 TZ228, intercepted and shot down both LF.9s.[19]

In 1951, the squadron relocated to RAF Fayid where its Spitfires were replaced with Gloster Meteor jets. From there it moved to RAF Abu Sueir, relocating to RAF Takali, Malta, in August 1956, with interim spells earlier in the year at RAF Hal Far, Malta, and RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus. It disbanded at Takhali in January 1958, but re-formed the same month in the UK at RAF Tangmere from a nucleus of No. 34 Squadron RAF.[20] In March 1958, re-equipped with Hunter FMk 6's, it returned to the Middle East, based at RAF Nicosia, with detachments to RAF Akrotiri and Aman, Jordan. The squadron disbanded at RAF Nicosia on 31 March 1959.[citation needed]

The next day, 1 April 1959, it re-formed at RAF Eastleigh, Nairobi, Kenya, by the re-numbering of No. 142 Squadron RAF under Squadron Leader R. Ramirez.[21] It operated from Eastleigh from April 1959 to March 1960, being redeployed home to RAF Stradishall from March to June 1960, but returning to Eastleigh in June, sending detachments to Kuwait and Bahrain during the period. It was moved to RAF Khormaksar in Aden in November 1961, under Air Forces Arabian Peninsula, which became Air Forces Middle East the same year.[22] In June 1964 it moved to Muharraq in Bahrain. The squadron remained in the Middle East until September 1971 when it was disbanded as a consequence of British drawdown of armed forces from East of Suez.[citation needed]

Flying Buccaneers[edit]

A 208 Sqn. RAF Buccaneer S.2B in 1981. Wrap-around camouflage was applied, as it would often be observed manoeuvring at low level
RAF Buccaneer S.2 with wings folded
Buccaneer airbrake detail

208 Squadron re-formed at RAF Honington in 1974 with Blackburn Buccaneer S2s, assigned to SACEUR in a low-level strike role. The squadron's twelve Buccaneers were declared operational to SACEUR from 1975 armed with 24 WE.177 nuclear weapons.[23] The squadron was tasked with supporting land forces resisting an advance by the Warsaw Pact into western Europe, by striking at enemy forces, logistics and infrastructure beyond the forward edge of the battlefield, initially with conventional munitions, and with nuclear weapons in the event of escalation.[24] The allocation of the British-owned WE.177 weapon freed the squadron from the time-consuming burden, at a critical time, of using US-owned nuclear weapons held in US custody at a central location. The squadron continued in this role, based at RAF Honington, until late 1983,[25] when it moved base to RAF Lossiemouth and was reassigned to SACLANT for maritime strike duties. At Lossiemouth it flew alongside No. 12 Squadron RAF with the same role. The squadron's allocation of WE.177 nuclear weapons was reduced to twelve, one per aircraft,[26] although the Buccaneer was able to carry two in its internal bomb bay.[27] The squadron continued in this role until late 1993[28] when it relinquished its nuclear weapons. The unit was one of the last squadrons to operate the Buccaneer before it went out of service in 1994, and after the type's retirement the squadron again disbanded on 31 March 1994.[12]

Between 1 October 1991 and November 1992, the Buccaneer Training Flight was formed as part of 208 Squadron at RAF Lossiemouth and operated the S.2B variant and some Hawker Hunter T.7's.[29]

Transition to Hawk[edit]

BAe Hawk of No. 208 Squadron
BAe Hawk of No. 208 Squadron in flight

208 Squadron re-formed again on 1 April 1994 from 234 (Reserve) Squadron, attached to No. 4 Flying Training School RAF. It moved to RAF Valley operating the BAe Hawk. The School was made up of two squadrons: 208 Squadron with the Hawk T Mk1 and No. 4(R) Squadron with the Hawk T Mk2. Both squadrons provided Advanced Jet Flying Training and Tactical Weapons Training to prepare pilots for the front line on either the Tornado or Typhoon. 208(R) Squadron's Hawk tasks included:

Advanced flying and tactical weapons training

  • To train RAF, RN and some foreign ab-initio pilots to Operation Conversion Unit (OCU) entry standard.
  • To re-train RAF and RN multi-engine and rotary pilots to OCU entry standard.
  • To refresh Shorts Tucano QFIs to OCU entry standard.

Instructor training

  • To train Hawk QFIs to B2 standard in accordance with the current Central Flying School (CFS) syllabuses.
  • To upgrade Hawk QFIs to B1, A2 and A1 standard in accordance with 208(R) Squadron staff training requirements and CFS syllabuses.
  • To train Hawk IREs in accordance with the current CFS syllabuses.
    A Hawk painted to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of the Squadron in 2006

Conversion training

  • To provide a common conversion course for all qualified pilots re-roling to the Hawk.
  • To provide United Kingdom Orientation training for Foreign and Commonwealth pilots destined for fast-jet appointments.
  • To provide conversion training for pilots destined for the Royal Air Force Aerobatics Team.

Incidents and accidents

On 20 April 2007, a BAE Hawk from the squadron crashed near RAF Mona. The pilot was taken to hospital and discharged soon after. The accident was caused by a solo student stalling the aircraft on an overshoot.[30]

Centenary and disbandment[edit]

XX188 and XX256 Centenary Photoshoot
208(R) Sqn Hawks XX188 and XX256 on their last flight, 13 April 2016

Despite conducting parallel training alongside the advanced Hawk TMk2 aircraft of 4(R) Squadron for several years, once 4(R) Squadron reached full output capacity, in January 2016 the Royal Air Force took a decision to disband 208(R) Squadron.

The Squadron celebrated its centenary on 1 April 2016[31] with the final student course graduation, a families' day and a formal dinner. Shortly afterwards the Squadron disbanded, making its last flight on 13 April 2016 where three aircraft (two in centenary markings) led by OC 208(R) Squadron and the RAF Valley Station Commander overflew several landmarks linked with the Hawk TMk1.[32] When it was handed back, it was estimated that over 1000 student pilots had been trained in the 208(R) Squadron building during its 22-year tenure at RAF Valley. The Squadron Standard was lodged in the RAF church, St Clement Danes, at a ceremony on 22 May 2016, attended by squadron personnel, members of the 208 Squadron Association, Air Officer Commanding 22(Trg) Group and the Director of Flying Training.

Aircraft operated[edit]

Aircraft operated by No. 8 Squadron RNAS and no. 208 Squadron RAF[12][16][33]
From To Aircraft Variant From To Aircraft Variant
October 1916 November 1916 Sopwith 1½ Strutter May 1942 September 1942 Curtiss Tomahawk Mk IIb
October 1916 December 1916 Nieuport Scout May 1942 December 1943 Hawker Hurricane Mks. Ia, IIb, IIc
October 1916 February 1917 Sopwith Pup December 1943 July 1944 Supermarine Spitfire Mk Vc
February 1917 September 1917 Sopwith Triplane March 1944 June 1947 Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX
September 1917 November 1918 Sopwith Camel August 1944 October 1944 Supermarine Spitfire Mk VIII
November 1918 September 1919 Sopwith Snipe August 1946 March 1957 Supermarine Spitfire FR18
February 1920 November 1920 Royal Aircraft Factory RE8 March 1951 January 1958 Gloster Meteor FR9
November 1920 May 1930 Bristol F2 Fighter F2b January 1958 February 1958 Hawker Hunter F5
May 1930 August 1935 Armstrong Whitworth Atlas January 1958 March 1959 Hawker Hunter F6
August 1935 January 1939 Hawker Audax April 1959 March 1960 de Havilland Venom FB4
September 1935 March 1936 Hawker Demon March 1960 September 1971 Hawker Hunter FGA9
January 1939 May 1942 Westland Lysander Mrs I, II October 1974 March 1994 Blackburn Buccaneer S2A, S2B
November 1940 September 1942 Hawker Hurricane Mk I April 1994 April 2016 BAe Hawk TMk1, TMk1A
May 1941 June 1941 Hawker Audax

Commanding Officers[edit]

Name Commenced Name Commenced
Squadron Commander G R Bromet, DSO 25 October 1916 Squadron Leader R Ramirez 1 April 1959
Squadron Commander C Draper, DSC 28 October 1917 Squadron Leader M Goodfellow 1 April 1961
Major H G Smart 14 January 1919 Squadron Leader G N Lewis, AFC 7 March 1963
Squadron leader W J Guilfoyle,OBE, MC 1 February 1920 Squadron Leader D J Rhodes, AFM 1 April 1965
Squadron Leader A ap Ellis 17 February 1922 Squadron Leader A J Chaplin 8 January 1966
Wing Commander A C Winter 14 November 1923 Squadron Leader C Taylor AFC 1 June 1968
Squadron Leader H M Probyn 8 March 1924 Squadron Leader G E Ord 25 May 1970
Squadron Leader A S C MacLaren, OBE,NC, DFC, AFC 12 December 1925 Squadron Leader I C H Dick, AFC 25 May 1971
Squadron Leader V S E Lindop 14 March 1927 Wing Commander P F Rogers 1 July 1974
Squadron Leader M Moore, OBE 14 April 1930 Wing Commander P G Pinney MVO 27 November 1976
Squadron Leader J Whitworth-Jones 29 April 1933 Wing Commander G R Pitchfork, MBE, BA, FRAeS 15 June 1979
Squadron Leader A H Flower 1 November 1934 Wing Commander B C Laite 4 December 1981
Squadron Leader W A D Brook 2 February 1936 Wing Commander J A F Ford 6 July 1984
Squadron Leader G N J Stanley-Turner 2 December 1938 Wing Commander B S Mahaffey, BA 6 March 1987
Squadron Leader R A Sprague 10 April 1940 Wing Commander A W Cope, MBE, AFC 9 September 1989
Squadron Leader J R Wilson 16 December 1940 Wing Commander N M Huckins, MBE, BSc 27 March 1992
Squadron Leader L G Burnand, DFC 6 October 1941 Squadron Leader G Brough 4 April 1994
Wing Commander J K Rogers 23 June 1942 Squadron Leader M P Christy 25 September 1996
Wing Commander M A Johnson, DFC 12 September 1942 Squadron Leader P K Comer 27 March 1998
Wing Commander E P H Wheller 21 September 1943 Squadron Leader S C Stocker BSc 11 September 2000
Lieutenant Colonel J P D Blaauw, DFC 23 January 1944 Wing Commander N Meadows, MA, BSc, MRAeS 5 March 2001
Wing Commander J B A Fleming, OBE 10 March 1945 Wing Commander N Clifford MA LLB 9 September 2003
Squadron Leader J F Norton, DFC 22 October 1945 Wing Commander G S Kelly BSc 20 March 2005
Squadron Leader R T Llewellyn, DFM 28 February 1946 Squadron Leader M A Simmonds BEng 10 April 2008
Squadron Leader F J Roder 26 June 1946 Wing Commander J H Hunter MA BSc 19 June 2008
Squadron Leader C F Ambrose, DFC 15 May 1947 Squadron Leader A V Dow 19 July 2010
Squadron Leader J M Morgan, DFC 8 July 1948 Wing Commander E P Moriarty 6 October 2010
Squadron Leader F V Morello 4 November 1950 Squadron Leader P K Harrison 15 October 2012
Squadron Leader T F Neil 24 May 1953 Wing Commander N J Gatenby BSc 3 December 2012
Squadron Leader J N Thorne 10 November 1955 Wing Commander C R Kidd BEng 1 May 2015
Squadron Leader J H Granville-White 21 March 1958 Disbanded 22 May 2016


  1. ^ a b Halley 1988, p. 270.
  2. ^ "208 Sqn". RAF. Archived from the original on 19 October 2015. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
  3. ^ "2007 Hawk Display Fact Sheet". RAF. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
  4. ^ Bowyer and Rawlings 1979, p. 14.
  5. ^ Flintham and Thomas 2003, p. 50.
  6. ^ Bowyer and Rawlings 1979, p. 89.
  7. ^ Flintham and Thomas 2003, p. 104.
  8. ^ Flintham and Thomas 2003, p. 198.
  9. ^ Flintham and Thomas 2003, p. 199.
  10. ^ Marr 1966, pp. 1, 105, 109.
  11. ^ Johnstone 1972, pp. 10, 183, 189.
  12. ^ a b c Jefford 2001, p. 72.
  13. ^ "Beaupré-sur-la-Lys (Abbey)". European Charter of the Cistercian Abbeys and Sites. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  14. ^ Shores, Franks & Guest 1990, pp. 41–42
  15. ^ a b Marr 1966, p. 13.
  16. ^ a b Marr 1966, p. 111.
  17. ^ Playfair Vol. I, p. 113
  18. ^ "Obituaries: Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Leith-Macgregor, Pilot who won an MC and was pulled from his burning cockpit by German troops after one of several crashes". www.telegraph.co.uk. The Daily Telegraph. 7 January 2009. Retrieved 18 January 2009.
  19. ^ Marr 1966, p. 79.
  20. ^ Marr 1966, p. 89.
  21. ^ Rawlings 1978, p. 323.
  22. ^ Rawlings 1984, p. 261.
  23. ^ Burnell, Brian. "RAF nuclear front line Order-of-Battle 1975". nuclear-weapons.info. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  24. ^ Burnell, Brian (7 November 2010). "WE.177". Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  25. ^ Burnell, Brian. "RAF nuclear front line Order-of-Battle 1983". nuclear-weapons.info. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  26. ^ Burnell, Brian. "RAF nuclear front line Order-of-Battle 1984". nuclear-weapons.info. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  27. ^ Rotating bomb door animation with WE.177[permanent dead link]
  28. ^ Burnell, Brian. "RAF nuclear front line Order-of-Battle 1993". nuclear-weapons.info. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  29. ^ Lake 1999, p. 41.
  30. ^ "RAF jet crash at island airfield". news.bbc.co.uk. BBC. 20 April 2007. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  31. ^ "208(R) Squadron celebrates its 100th at RAF Valley". Archived from the original on 11 April 2016. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  32. ^ "RAF Valley Hawks jet to make last ever flight today". Daily Post. 13 April 2016. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  33. ^ Halley 1988, p. 271.
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  • Johnstone, E.G. Naval Eight. The signal Press Ltd., 1931 (2nd edition Arms and Armour Press, 1972). ISBN 978-0-85368-469-5.
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  • 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.
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  • Playfair, Major-General I.S.O.; Molony, Brigadier C.J.C.; with Flynn, Captain F.C. (R.N.) & Gleave, Group Captain T.P. (2009) [1st. pub. HMSO:1954]. Butler, Sir James (ed.). The Mediterranean and Middle East, Volume I: The Early Successes Against Italy, to May 1941. History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series. Uckfield, UK: Naval & Military Press. ISBN 978-1-84574-065-8.
  • Rawlings, John D.R. Fighter Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald & Jane's (Publishers) Ltd., 1969 (2nd edition 1976, republished 1978). ISBN 0-354-01028-X.
  • Rawlings, John D.R. The History of the Royal Air Force. Feltham, Middlesex, UK: Temple Press/Aerospace, 1984. ISBN 0-600-34990-X.
  • Shores, Christopher; Franks, Norman; Guest, Russell (1990). Above The Trenches: A Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the British Empire Air Forces 1915–1920. London: Grub Street. ISBN 0-948817-19-4.
  • Styles, Dr. David G. 75 Years on - "The Flying Shuftis": Number 208 Squadron, Royal Air Force. Deerfield, Illinois: Dalton Watson, 1991. ISBN 1-85443-101-3.
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External links[edit]