No. 216 Squadron RAF

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No. 216 Squadron RAF
216 Squadron badge
Active5 October 1917 – 1975
1979 – 20 March 2014
RoleAir Transport / Air-to-Air Refuelling
Garrison/HQRAF Brize Norton
Motto(s)CCXVI dona ferens
Latin:"216 bearing gifts"[1]
EquipmentLockheed Tristar
Battle honoursIndependent Force and Germany 1917–1918, Egypt and Libya 1940–1942, Greece 1940–1941, Syria 1941, El Alamein, North Africa 1943, North Burma 1944, South East Europe 1944–1945, Kosovo
An eagle, wings elevated, holding a bomb in its claws

No. 216 Squadron was a squadron of the Royal Air Force and, before disbandment operated the Lockheed Tristar K1, KC1 and C2 from RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire.


First World War[edit]

216 Squadron was formed on the 1st April 1918 when 16 Squadron Royal Naval Air Service was operating out of Villeseneux (south east of Reims) Initially with the Handley Page O/100 bomber and later with the Handley Page O/400.

Between the wars[edit]

Between the two world wars the squadron used Vickers Vimy, Vickers Victoria and Vickers Type 264 Valentia aircraft on transport duties around the Middle East.

Second World War[edit]

During the Second World War, with a few exceptions, such as the attacks from 17 to 21 June 1940 by single aircraft of No. 216 Squadron on the airfields of El Adem and Tobruk,[2] the unit was principally a transport squadron, operating the Vickers Type 264 Valentia, Bristol Bombay, ,de Havilland DH86 Lockheed Hudson and Douglas Dakota. It spent a lengthy time deployed to Greece from October 1944 to August 1946 as the primary transport unit for British forces involved in the Greek Civil War.


De Havilland Comet C.2 operating a VIP flight from London Heathrow Airport in 1965

In 1949 the Dakotas were replaced by Vickers Valletas and Handley Page Hastings transport aircraft; in 1955 the squadron moved to RAF Lyneham from RAF Fayid in Egypt to operate the DH Comet jet airliner until 1975.

The squadron reformed at RAF Honington in 1979 as a maritime strike squadron assigned to SACLANT with twelve Buccaneer S2[3] aircraft transferred from the Fleet Air Arm's 809 Naval Air Squadron. These aircraft had been embarked on HMS Ark Royal[4] until flying off for the last time in November 1978 for a delivery flight from the carrier in the Mediterranean to RAF St Athan). Designated Buccaneer S2A by the RAF, they were equipped with twelve WE.177A nuclear bombs,[5] free-falling conventional HE bombs and Martel missiles for non-nuclear strike. However, in early 1980 a XV Squadron Buccaneer crashed after a wing failed in flight during the Red Flag exercise in the USA. The resulting grounding and inspections saw the size of the Buccaneer fleet reduced, with the result that the squadron was disbanded barely a year after its reformation, and its assets merged with 12 Squadron.[6]

Following the Falklands War, the RAF found itself lacking in the strategic transport capabilities required to sustain the expanded military presence there; this shortfall was filled initially by chartered British Airways 747 and Britannia Airways 767s. To address this, in December 1982 the RAF purchased six former British Airways Lockheed Tristar 500s. The aircraft had only entered service in 1979 but had been deemed surplus to requirements.

A No. 216 Squadron Tristar

216 Sqn was reformed in November, 1984 at RAF Brize Norton to operate the Tristar. The aircraft were operated initially in the air-transport role but the fleet's role was eventually expanded to Air-to-Air Refuelling with the addition of hose/drogue units.

The ex-BA aircraft were converted to K1 standard, operating as a single point tanker, as opposed to the VC10 which has three refueling points – both wings and the centre line. Four of these were converted to KC1 standard with the addition of a freight door, reinforced floor and cargo handling equipment.

In 1984 the RAF purchased a further three Tristar 500s from Pan-Am. One of these was stored and the others formed the backbone of the air trooping service to the Falkland Islands as Tristar C2s, carrying 267 passengers in an airline configuration. The stored aircraft was upgraded with military radios and avionics, becoming the C2A.

No. 216 Squadron deployed the Tristar fleet in support of many high-profile missions including the Gulf War (for which the aircraft received a desert paint scheme), Operation Allied Force (Kosovo), Operation Veritas and Operation Herrick (Afghanistan), Operation Telic (Iraq 2003) and Operation Ellamy (Libya).

The squadron was disbanded on 20 March 2014.

216 Sqn Leaving RAF Fayid (Egypt) for the UK in 1955

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Pine, L.G. (1983). A dictionary of mottoes (1 ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 59. ISBN 0-7100-9339-X.
  2. ^ Playfair, Vol. I, page 113.
  3. ^ RAF nuclear front line Order-of-Battle 1980
  4. ^ RAF nuclear front line Order-of-Battle 1977–78
  5. ^ RAF nuclear front line Order-of-Battle 1981
  6. ^ Weapon overview @ Carriage


  • Flintham, V. (1990) Air Wars and Aircraft: A Detailed Record of Air Combat, 1945 to the Present. Facts on File. ISBN 0816023565
  • 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 1-84574-065-3.
  • E.D Harding 1923. A history of Number 16 Squadron Royal Naval Air Service - Revised 2006 Peter Chapman

External links[edit]