No. 543 Squadron RAF

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No. 543 Squadron RAF
543 Squadron Crest
Active19 October 1942 – 18 October 1943
24 September 1955 – 24 May 1974
CountryUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
BranchAir Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Air Force
RolePhotographic Reconnaissance
Part ofNo. 16 Group, RAF Coastal Command (42–43)[1]
No. 3 Group, RAF Bomber Command (55–68)[2]
No. 1 Group, RAF Strike Command (68–74)[3]
Motto(s)Valiant and Vigilant[4][5]
Squadron Badge heraldryA crane's head, the crane carrying an open padlock, with key, in its beak[4][5]
Squadron CodesNo codes are known to have been carried[6][7]

No. 543 Squadron RAF was a photographic reconnaissance squadron of the Royal Air Force, active in two periods between 1942 and 1974.


The squadron was formed on 19 October 1942[5] at RAF Benson as a photo-reconnaissance unit with the Supermarine Spitfire. A detachment was stationed at RAF St Eval, Cornwall to carry out reconnaissance flights over France. The rest of the squadron carried out operational training. On 18 October 1943 the squadron was disbanded.

On 24 September 1955 the squadron was reformed at RAF Gaydon to operate the Vickers Valiant for reconnaissance duties. It moved to RAF Wyton in November 1955.[8] The squadron's official war role was to carry out pre- and post-strike reconnaissance in support of the RAF's nuclear-armed V-bombers, although the post-strike bomb damage assessment mission was soon abandoned as impracticable in a nuclear war.[9][10] The squadron carried out frequent long-range survey flights, including mapping Thailand in 1959 and 1961 in Operation Segment, and surveying Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia and Bechuanaland (now Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana respectively) in 1964 in Operation Pontifex.[11][12] Other photo survey duties were carried out to aid relief efforts following natural disasters, with Valiants despatched to survey the damage following the 1960 Agadir earthquake and mapped British Honduras in December 1961 following the devastating Hurricane Hattie.[13] The squadron also carried out Maritime Reconnaissance over the North Atlantic, Norwegian and Barents Seas.[14] In 1964, the Valiant developed metal fatigue problems, with one of the squadron's Valiants was found to have a cracked wing spar in July 1964 during Operation Pontifex. Inspection of the squadron's aircraft in October 1964 found that only two of eight were fit for further service. The RAF's Valiant fleet, including No. 543's aircraft, were grounded on 26 January 1965.[15]

The squadron re-equipped with the Handley Page Victor in 1965, receiving its first Victor B(SR)2 on 19 May 1965 and reaching its full strength of eight aircraft by April 1966.[16] The squadron's Victors increasingly concentrated on the Maritime Radar Reconnaissance role, as photographic duties could be carried out for less money by the RAF's English Electric Canberras, and the Victors' cameras were removed in 1970. The squadron had a secondary role of air sampling This involved flying through plumes of airborne contamination and using onboard equipment to collect fallout released from French and Chinese nuclear tests for later analysis at the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston.[17] The squadron also found time to enter two Victors in the May 1969 Daily Mail Trans-Atlantic Air Race.[17] It was disbanded on 24 May 1974 at RAF Wyton.[18]

Aircraft Operated[edit]

Aircraft operated by 543 Squadron, RAF[4][18][19]
From To Aircraft Version
October 1942 October 1943 Supermarine Spitfire Mks.IV & V
November 1942 October 1943 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IX
June 1943 October 1943 de Havilland Mosquito PR.IV
June 1955 December 1964 Vickers Valiant B(PR).1
February 1956 December 1964 Vickers Valiant B(PR)K.1
May 1965 December 1965 Handley Page Victor B.1
January 1966 May 1974 Handley Page Victor B.2(SR)

Commanding Officers[edit]

Commanding Officers of 543 Squadron, RAF[4]
From To Name
October 1942 October 1942 S/Ldr. A.E. Hill DSO, DFC & Bar
October 1942 February 1943 S/Ldr. G.E. Hughes DFC
February 1943 August 1943 S/Ldr. F.A. Robinson DFC
September 1943 October 1943 F/Lt. R.C. Cusson
September 1955 August 1957 W/Cdr. R.E. Havercroft AFC
August 1957 September 1959 W/Cdr. R. Berry DSO, OBE, DFC
September 1959 January 1962 W/Cdr. C.J. StD. Jeffries DFC
January 1962 December 1963 W/Cdr. B. Hamilton OBE, DFC, AFC
December 1963 February 1966 W/Cdr. A.W. Tarry
February 1966 W/Cdr. R.H. McV. Redfern

Squadron Bases[edit]

Bases and airfields used by 543 Squadron, RAF[4][18][19][20]
From To Base Remark
19 October 1942 18 October 1943 RAF Benson, Oxfordshire Detachments at RAF St Eval, Cornwall; RAF Mount Farm, Oxfordshire; Grasnaya and Vaenga, Russia
1 July 1955 18 November 1955 RAF Gaydon, Warwickshire
18 November 1955 23 March 1970 RAF Wyton, Cambridgeshire
23 March 1970 1 October 1970 RAF Honington, Suffolk
1 October 1970 24 May 1974 RAF Wyton, Cambridgeshire Disbanded here

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Delve 1994, p. 64.
  2. ^ Delve 1994, p. 88.
  3. ^ Delve 1994, p. 90.
  4. ^ a b c d e Rawlings 1982, p. 233.
  5. ^ a b c Halley 1988, p. 407.
  6. ^ Bowyer and Rawlings 1979, p. 148.
  7. ^ Flintham and Thomas 2003, p. 232.
  8. ^ Brookes 2012, p. 92.
  9. ^ Gordon Aeroplane June 2017, p. 73.
  10. ^ Brookes 2012, p. 67.
  11. ^ Brookes 2012, pp. 72–73.
  12. ^ Gordon Aeroplane June 2017, pp. 71–73.
  13. ^ Gordon Aeroplane June 2017, pp. 70–71.
  14. ^ Gordon Aeroplane June 2017, pp. 73–74.
  15. ^ Brookes 2012, pp. 87–90.
  16. ^ Brooke 2011, pp. 67–68.
  17. ^ a b Brookes 2011, p. 70.
  18. ^ a b c Jefford 2001, p. 98.
  19. ^ a b Halley 1988, p. 408.
  20. ^ Bases and airfields used on


  • Bowyer, Michael J.F. and John D.R. Rawlings. Squadron Codes, 1937–56. Cambridge, UK: Patrick Stephens Ltd., 1979. ISBN 0-85059-364-6.
  • Brookes, Andrew. Valiant Units of the Cold War (Osprey Combat Aircraft: 95). Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2012. ISBN 978-1-84908753-7.
  • Brookes, Andrew. Victor Units of the Cold War (Osprey Combat Aircraft: 88). Osprey Publishing, 2011. ISBN 978-1-84908-339-3.
  • Delve, Ken. The Source Book of the RAF. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 1994. ISBN 1-85310-451-5.
  • 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.
  • Gordon, Doug. "Valiant & Vigilant". Aeroplane, Volume 45, No. 6, June 2017. pp. 68–74. ISSN 0143-7240.
  • 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, 1988 (second edition 2001). ISBN 1-85310-053-6.
  • 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.

External links[edit]