No. 31 Squadron RAF

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No. 31 Squadron RAF
31 Squadron badge
Active11 October 1915 – 1 April 1918 (RFC)
1 April 1918 – 30 September 1946 (RAF)
1 November 1946 – 31 December 1947
19 July 1948 – 14 March 2019
CountryUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
BranchAir Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Air Force
TypeFlying squadron
Motto(s)In cælum indicum primus
(Latin for First into Indian skies)[1]
Battle honours *Honours marked with an asterisk are those emblazoned on the Squadron Standard
Squadron badge heraldryIn front of a wreath of laurel, a mullet. The badge was based on an unofficial emblem, the mullet indicating the Star of India and the squadron's claim to being the first military unit to fly in India. Approved by King George VI in June 1937.[2]
Squadron RoundelRAF 257 Sqn.svg
Squadron codesZA (Apr 1939 – Sep 1939)
CB (Jul 1948 – Mar 1955)
VS (Jul 1948 – 1951)
DA–DZ (Jun 1976–Mar 2019)

Number 31 Squadron, known as the 'Goldstars',[3] was a squadron of the Royal Air Force. The Squadron lays claim to being the first military unit to fly in India, where it was based from 1915 to 1947.[2] Throughout the Cold War, No. 31 Squadron was based in West Germany, flying from RAF Laarbruch and RAF Brüggen. Between September 1984 and March 2019, the Goldstars operated the Panavia Tornado GR1/4, initially from RAF Brüggen and after August 2001 from RAF Marham, Norfolk. No. 31 Squadron was disbanded on 14 March 2019 at RAF Marham and will reform sometime in 2024 at RAF Waddington operating the General Atomics Protector RG1.


First World War and Inter-War period[edit]

A Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2c, similar to what No. 31 Squadron flew from 1915 to 1920.

No. 31 Squadron was formed at Farnborough on 11 October 1915 (1915-10-11) as part of the Royal Flying Corps.[4] The Squadron was initially composed of a single 'A' flight and was equipped with the Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2c.[5] No. 31 Squadron was soon deployed to Risalpur, on the North-West Frontier in the British Raj, where they arrived on 26 December.[6] 'B' and 'C' flights were formed at Gosport in January and April 1916, before joining up with 'A' flight in Risalpur in May.[5] In 1917, the Squadron sent a detachment to Khormaskar, Aden, to fly reconnaissance flights against Ottoman forces.[7] No. 31 Squadron helped form No. 114 Squadron at Lahore when it provided an initial nucleus in September 1917.[8] No. 31 Squadron would remain operating in India throughout the entirety of the First World War, flying the B.E.2c, B.E.2e and the Henri Farman HF.27, primarily supporting the British Army against dissident tribesmen.[9][10]

The Squadron, along with No. 114 Squadron, took part in operations during the Third Anglo-Afghan War between May and August 1919.[5] No. 31 Squadron carried out raids on Jalalabad on 17, 20 and 24 May in which they lost three aircraft.[11] In June 1919, the Squadron's fleet was standardised with the replacement of the B.E.2s and HF.27s with the Bristol F.2B Fighter.[12] For the next ten years, No. 31 Squadron helped police the Waziristan and Afghanistan regions as well as supporting the British Army in putting down any rebellions.[5]

In February 1931, the Squadron replaced their outdated Bristol F.2Bs with the Westland Wapiti Mk.IIa.[12] The 1935 Quetta earthquake forced the Squadron to relocate to RAF Drigh Road.[13] In June 1937, No. 31 Squadron's laurel wreath and mullet squadron badge was officially approved by King George VI.[2] In April 1939, No. 31 Squadron became a bomber-transport squadron when it inherited Vickers Valentinas from No. 216 Squadron and the Bomber Transport Flight.[5] After re-equipping with the Valentina, the Squadron carried out attacks against Mirzali Khan (known as the Faqir of Ipi) during the 1939 Waziristan campaign.[14]

Second World War[edit]

For the first 18 months of the Second World War, No. 31 Squadron remained stationed at the North-West Frontier.[15] In April 1941, the Squadron started to be equipped with Douglas DC-2s and began flying support missions to RAF Habbaniya during the 1941 Iraqi coup d'état and the following Anglo-Iraqi War.[10] Returning to India the squadron re-equipped with the Douglas Dakota Mk.I. After the Japanese invasion of Burma, it flew missions between Calcutta and Rangoon dropping supplies for the XIVth Army. After World War II the squadron moved to Java. In 1946 the Squadron was disbanded in Java and reformed at PAF Base Masroor, Mauripur Karachi, at that time in British India.


At the end of 1947 it was again disbanded, but reformed in July 1948. In 1955, the unit reverted to its previous identity, and No. 31 Squadron moved to RAF Laarbruch in Germany with English Electric Canberra PR.7s. The squadron flew Canberras until 1971 when they were replaced by the McDonnell Douglas Phantom FGR.2.

No. 31 Squadron Jaguar GR.1 strike aircraft at the Queen's Silver Jubilee Review in July 1977.

The Phantoms were replaced in 1976 when the squadron re-equipped with twelve SEPECAT Jaguar GR.1 strike aircraft, and assigned to Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), were declared operational at RAF Brüggen with conventional weapons and eight British WE.177 nuclear bombs from 1977[16] to 1984.[17] where their role was in support of land forces in a high-intensity European war using conventional weapons initially, and tactical nuclear weapons if a conflict escalated.

Tornado GR (1984–2019)[edit]

The squadron took delivery of Panavia Tornado GR1s in 1984. The squadron's assignment to SACEUR and its war role did not change, although the squadron's allocation of WE.177 weapons increased to eighteen to account for the greater capacity of the Tornado, which could each carry two nuclear weapons, and the ratio of weapons to aircraft at full strength increased to 1.5 : 1.[18] The apparent mismatch between aircraft numbers and WE.177 numbers is explained thus: RAF staff planners expected up to one third attrition in a conventional European high-intensity war, and some aircraft were to be held back in reserve to ensure that if a conflict escalated to use of tactical nuclear weapons, there were sufficient aircraft surviving to deliver the squadron's full stockpile of eighteen nuclear weapons.[19] The squadron's nuclear strike role continued at RAF Bruggen until 1994.[20] and ended with retirement of the WE.177 weapon in the period 1994–98.

In 1991, No. 31 Squadron was the lead Squadron of the Dhahran Tornado GR1/GR1A detachment during Operation Granby (Gulf War 1). Under the overall command of Wing Commander Jeremy (Jerry) Witts, the composite squadron was principally comprised from No. 31 Squadron with elements of Nos IX (B), 14, 17 and 27 Sqns together with a reconnaissance flight formed from elements of Nos II (AC) and 13 Sqns. Wg Cdr Witts was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his actions.

No. 31 Squadron was the last RAF Squadron to be based at RAF Brüggen in Germany, before returning to the UK to be based at RAF Marham in August 2001.

In 2003, within Operation Telic, during the Iraq War, No. 31 Squadron was the lead Squadron that formed the Ali Al Salem Combat Air Wing in Kuwait; an amalgamated Composite squadron of Nos. 31, 9, 617 and II Squadron crews under the overall command of Wing Commander Paddy Teakle (OC No. 31 Squadron at the time). His actions in command of the Squadron earned him the DSO.

A No. 31 Squadron Tornado GR4

Now part of the Marham Wing, No. 31 Squadron's aircraft and crews were part of the RAF Tornado force in the 1991 Gulf War and the Squadron has continued to fly on regular operations over Iraq. On 1 January 1995, the Squadron was declared operational in the Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD) role equipped with the Air Launched Anti Radiation Missile ALARM Anti Radiation Missile. While all Tornado GR4s are capable of carrying the ALARM Anti Radiation Missile, only No. 31 Squadron and No. IX (B) Squadrons specialise in the role. In this role they are known as "Pathfinder" squadrons.

No. 31 Squadron aircrew scramble in Afghanistan, June 2013

During 1999 the Squadron re-equipped with the Tornado GR4. In 1999, No. 31 Squadron participated in Operation Engadine, NATO operations over the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. For the latter part of this operation the Squadron was temporarily based in Corsica. In 2001, No 31 Squadron moved to RAF Marham, and in 2003 formed the core of the Ali Al Salem Air Combat Wing, operating over Iraq during Operation Resinate South and Operation Telic.

No. 31 Squadron became the lead RAF Tornado GR4 unit on the Brimstone anti-tank missile, accepting the weapon into RAF service at its home base, RAF Marham, on 7 April 2005.

The Squadron completed a tour of Afghanistan on Operation Herrick in 2012 providing fast air support to ground troops in contact. They achieved a 100% sortie success rate, the first Tornado squadron to achieve this milestone on an operational detachment. They received their Operation Herrick service medals from the Air Officer Commanding No. 1 Group Air Vice-Marshal G J Bagwell CBE in September 2012.

In September 2012 they participated in Shaheen Star, a series of exercises in the United Arab Emirates with the host nation's air force, the French Air Force and the United States Air Force.[21] No. 31 Squadron was disbanded, along with No. IX (B) Squadron, on 14 March 2019 at RAF Marham.[22]

Protector (2024)[edit]

No. 31 Squadron will reform sometime around 2024 at RAF Waddington, equipped with up to sixteen General Atomics MQ-9B, a remotely piloted air system (RPAS), which will be known as the Protector RG1 in RAF service.[23][24][25][26]

Commanding Officers[edit]

A Protector RG1 in No. 31 Squadron markings at RIAT, 2018. The Goldstars will begin operating the Protector in 2024.
  • 11 Oct 1915 | Capt C Y MacDonald
  • 27 Mar 1916 | Maj C R S Bradley
  • May 1917 | Maj S Hutcheson
  • Jul 1917 | Maj R G H Murray MC
  • Dec 1918 | Maj E L Millar MBE
  • Aug 1919 | Flt Lt D H M Carbery MC DFC
  • Jan 1920 | Sqn Ldr A L Neale MC
  • Jan 1921 | Sqn Ldr A T Harris AFC; later MRAF Arthur 'Bomber' Harris
  • May 1922 | Sqn Ldr A C Maund CBE, DSO; later AVM
  • May 1924 | Sqn Ldr A A Walser MC, DFC; later Air Cdre
  • Jun 1924 | Sqn Ldr H S Powell MC
  • Nov 1925 | Sqn Ldr J O Archer CBE
  • Apr 1926 | Sqn Ldr J F Gordon DFC
  • Mar 1931 | Sqn Ldr B Ankers DCM
  • Feb 1934 | Sqn Ldr C J S Dearlove
  • Nov 1934 | Sqn Ldr R M C Macfarlane
  • Oct 1935 | Sqn Ldr J L Airey DFC
  • Oct 1936 | Sqn Ldr A V Hammond
  • Oct 1938 | Sqn Ldr F F Wicks DFC
  • Nov 1938 | Sqn Ldr C Stephenson
  • Apr 1939 | Wg Cdr G J L Read AFC
  • Dec 1940 | Wg Cdr W T H Nicholls
  • Jun 1941 | Wg Cdr S E Ubee AFC; later AVM
  • Sep 1941 | Wg Cdr H P Jenkins DFC
  • Jun 1942 | Wg Cdr W H Burbury AFC
  • May 1943 | Wg Cdr H A Olivier
  • Jan 1944 | Wg Cdr W H Burbury DFC, AFC
  • Feb 1945 | Wg Cdr R O Altman DSO, DFC
  • Sep 1945 | Wg Cdr Brian R Macnamara DSO; later Air Cdre
  • Sep 1946 | Sqn Ldr D W S Evans
  • Sep 1946 | Wg Cdr R G F Drinkwater
  • Nov 1946 | Wg Cdr J M Cooke DSO, DFC
  • Sep 1947 | Wg Cdr C Fothergill
  • Jul 1948 | Wg Cdr A R Fane de Salis
  • Mar 1950 | Wg Cdr R E Ridgway DSO
  • Apr 1952 | Sqn Ldr C G StD Jeffries DFC
  • Nov 1952 | Sqn Ldr N Williamson DFC
  • Nov 1954 | Sqn Ldr R F V Ellis
  • Mar 1955 | Sqn Ldr J C Stead DFC
  • Jul 1957 | Sqn Ldr F H P Cattle AFC
  • Jan 1958 | Sqn Ldr L A Ferguson
  • Feb 1958 | Wg Cdr P A Kennedy DSO, DFC, AFC; later Air Cdre
  • Jun 1960 | Wg Cdr C T Dalziel
  • Dec 1962 | Wg Cdr P H L Scott AFC; later Air Cdre
  • May 1965 | Wg Cdr R G Price; later AVM
  • May 1967 | Wg Cdr R L Bennett
  • Oct 1967 | Wg Cdr R J Offord; later Air Cdre
  • Jun 1971 | Wg Cdr J C Sprent; later Gp Capt
  • Aug 1974 | Wg Cdr T H Stonor; later AM Sir Thomas
  • Jul 1976 | Wg Cdr T J Nash AFC
  • Jul 1978 | Wg Cdr R J Howard AFC
  • Dec 1980 | Wg Cdr P Edwards
  • May 1983 | Wg Cdr J W A Bolton
  • Nov 1984 | Wg Cdr Richard Bogg; later Air Cdre
  • Nov 1986 | Wg Cdr P Dunlop AFC
  • Aug 1989 | Wg Cdr J J Witts later Air Cdr
  • Feb 1992 | Wg Cdr I S Hall Later Gp Capt
  • Aug 1994 | Wg Cdr S L Parkinson; later A/Cdre
  • Feb 1997 | Wg Cdr S Randles
  • Feb 1998 | Wg Cdr Robbie Low
  • Sep 2000 | Wg Cdr Iain (Paddy) D Teakle OBE; later A/Cdre
  • May 2003 | Wg Cdr Alistair (Al) J Byford MA; later A/Cdre
  • Jan 2006 | Wg Cdr Dean (Deano) R Andrew OBE; later A/Cdre
  • May 2008 | Wg Cdr Ian (Windy) D Gale MBE; later AVM, ACAS
  • Oct 2010 | Wg Cdr James (Jim) Mullholland MA BSc
  • Oct 2012 | Wg Cdr Richard Yates OBE; later Gp Capt
  • Dec 2014 | Wg Cdr James (Freebs) Freeborough OBE; later Gp Capt
  • 2016 | Wg Cdr Matthew (Matt) Bressani OBE; Later Gp Capt

Notable 'Goldstars'[edit]

ACM Sir Mike Wigston former Goldstar Pilot CAS

AVM Iain Gale former Goldstar Pilot ACAS


As part of the celebrations of its 100th birthday, a No. 31 Squadron memorial was unveiled at the National Arboretum in October 2015.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pine, L.G. (1983). A dictionary of mottoes (1 ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 35. ISBN 0-7100-9339-X.
  2. ^ a b c "31 SQUADRON". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  3. ^ "31 Squadron". Royal Air Force. Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  4. ^ a b Williams, Simon, ed. (6 November 2015). "Star attraction at 31 Squadron centenary bash". RAF News (1382). Royal Air Force. p. 25. ISSN 0035-8614.
  5. ^ a b c d e "31 Squadron History". Royal Air Force. Archived from the original on 17 October 2012. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  6. ^ "No. 31 Squadron Royal Flying Corps". The Wartime Memories Project. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  7. ^ Philpott 2013, p. 276.
  8. ^ "114 Squadron". Royal Air Force. Archived from the original on 3 May 2016. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  9. ^ Philpott 2013, p. 400.
  10. ^ a b "No 31 - 35 Squadron Histories". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  11. ^ "British Military Aviation in 1919". Royal Air Force Museum. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  12. ^ a b "No 31 Squadron Aircraft and Markings". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  13. ^ Ian, Philpott (2006). The Royal Air Force - Volume 2: An Encyclopedia of the Inter-War Years 1930-1939. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Aviation. p. 307. ISBN 1844153916.
  14. ^ "Group Captain Dudley Burnside". The Telegraph. London. 29 September 2005. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  15. ^ "No. 31 Squadron (RAF): Second World War". History of War. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  16. ^ RAF nuclear front line Order-of-Battle 1977-78
  17. ^ RAF nuclear front line Order-of-Battle 1984
  18. ^ RAF nuclear front line Order-of-Battle 1985
  19. ^ Weapon overview @ Carriage
  20. ^ RAF nuclear front line Order-of-Battle 1994
  21. ^ Awad, Mustafa (7 September 2012). "UAE and UK to begin two weeks of sky-high military exercises".
  22. ^ Russell, Sam (14 March 2019). "Tornado's final scheduled flight as Marham squadrons are disbanded". Easter Daily Express. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  23. ^ "Key Battle of Britain Fighter Command group to be reformed". St Helens Star. Newsquest Media Group. 11 July 2018. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  24. ^ "Protector makes its way to the UK". Royal Air Force. 11 July 2018. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  25. ^ "RAF announces new Typhoon, Protector squadrons". IHS Janes. 12 July 2018. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  26. ^ "RAF Protector aircraft demos automatic take-off and landing capability". Air Force Technology. 22 August 2019.
  27. ^ Mander, Simon (19 June 2013). "Second French Medal". Retrieved 12 August 2017.
  • Ian, Philpott (2013), The Birth of the Royal Air Force, Barnsley: Pen & Sword Aviation, ISBN 1781593337

External links[edit]