No. 7 Squadron RAF
|No. 7 Squadron RAF|
|Branch||Royal Air Force|
|Role||Helicopter heavy-lift support|
|Part of||Joint Helicopter Command|
|Home station||RAF Odiham|
Per diem, per noctem|
(Latin for By day and by night)
|Aircraft||Boeing Chinook HC6|
|Squadron badge heraldry||On a hurt, seven mullets of six points forming a representation of the constellation Ursa Major. Approved by King George VI in June 1939.|
LT (November 1938 – September 1939)
Formation and early years
No. 7 Squadron was formed at Farnborough Airfield on 1 May 1914 as the last squadron of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) to be formed before the First World War, but has been disbanded and reformed several times since, the first being after only three months of existence, the latter as early as 28 September 1914. The squadron spent most of the First World War in observation and interception roles and was responsible for the first ever interception of an enemy aircraft over Britain. It deployed to France in April 1915, flying Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.5s for reconnaissance and Vickers Gunbuses as escort fighters. Captain John Aidan Liddell of 7 Squadron won the Victoria Cross for his actions on 31 July 1915, when he continued his reconnaissance mission over Belgium after the aircraft was hit by ground fire, the aircraft being badly damaged and Liddell suffering a broken thigh. Although he successfully recovered the R.E.5 to allied lines, saving his observer, he died of his wounds a month later.
The squadron re-equipped with B.E.2s in 1916, which it used for both bombing and reconnaissance during the Battle of the Somme that year. The B.E.2s were replaced by R.E.8s in July 1917, continuing in the reconnaissance role for the rest of the war, operating over Ypres in the summer and autumn of 1917 and in support of Belgium forces in the closing months of the war. It disbanded at the end of 1919.
To Bomber Command
It re-formed at RAF Bircham Newton on 1 June 1923 with the Vickers Vimy as a night heavy bomber squadron, continuing in this role with a succession of types through the inter-war period. It started to receive the Vickers Virginia bomber on 22 May 1924, being the first RAF Squadron to operate Virginias, although it did not dispose of the last of its Vimys until April 1927. In 1927 it moved to RAF Worthy Down, commanded by Charles Portal, later to become Chief of the Air Staff during the Second World War. In 1932, Frederick Higginson, who became a fighter ace in the Second World War, was assigned as a mechanic-gunner to the squadron.
The squadron gained a reputation as being one of the leading RAF heavy bomber squadrons, winning the Lawrence Minot Memorial Bombing Trophy six times between 1927 and 1933 and shared in 1934 with 54 Squadron in 1934, achieving an average bombing error of 40 yards (37 m). By this time, the elderly Virginia was obsolete, and in April 1935 they were replaced by the more modern Handley Page Heyford, which it won the Lawrence Minot trophy yet again in 1935. Part of the squadron was split off in October 1935 to form No. 102 Squadron, while the remainder moved to RAF Finningley in September 1936. In April 1937 the squadron received four Vickers Wellesleys to equip a flight which was again split off to form 76 Squadron.
In March 1938 it replaced its Heyford biplanes with Armstrong Whitworth Whitley monoplanes. It re-equipped again in April 1939, with Handley Page Hampdens bombers replacing the Whitleys. In June 1939 it became a training unit, preparing crews for the Hampden equipped 5 Group.
Second World War
On the outbreak of the Second World War, it continued to be used for training bomber crews, disbanding on 4 April 1940 when it merged with 76 Squadron to form No. 16 OTU. On 1 August 1940 it reformed, becoming the first squadron to equip with the new Short Stirling heavy bomber, the first RAF squadron to operate four engined bombers during the Second World War, flying the first bombing raids with the Stirling against oil storage tanks near Rotterdam on the night of 10/11 February 1941. It flew on the 1000 bomber raids to Cologne, Essen and Bremen in May and June 1942. It was transferred to the Pathfinder Force in August 1942, with the job of finding and marking targets for the Main Force of Bomber Command bombers. It re-equipped with the Avro Lancaster from 11 May 1943, flying its first mission with the Lancaster on 12 July 1943. It continued in the Pathfinder role until the end of the war in Europe. It flew its last bomber mission on 25 April 1945 against Wangerooge, and dropped food to starving civilians in the Netherlands in May. While it was planned to fly 7 Squadron out to the Far East to join Tiger Force for air attacks against Japan, the war ended before the squadron was due to move.
The squadron carried out 5,060 operational sorties with the loss of 165 aircraft.
After World War II it was equipped with Avro Lincoln bombers, an update of the Lancaster. Based at RAF Upwood, the Lincoln was for several years the front line cold war bomber aircraft. It was used in the Malayan emergency, the Middle East, the Trucial States (the Emirates) and then Aden. The squadron disbanded on 2 January 1956 before reforming with the Vickers Valiant at RAF Honington in Suffolk in December that year, flying them in the Strategic Bomber role until disbanding in 1962. 7 Squadron was intended to be reformed as one of the force of four General Dynamics F-111K squadrons, but this was shelved when the F-111K was cancelled. It was eventually reformed in 1970, this time as a target squadron flying the English Electric Canberra until January 1982.
The squadron quickly reformed in the Support Helicopter role, receiving Chinooks HC.1s in September 1982, and today operates five of the helicopters. The Chinook HC.2, equivalent to the US Army CH-47D standard, began to enter RAF service in 1993. 7 Squadron took part in the UK's deployment to the Gulf following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. 15 HC.1s were sent from No. 7 and No. 18 squadrons. On 2 June 1994 a 7 Sqn Chinook HC.2 (ZD576) crashed into the Mull of Kintyre while carrying 25 senior members of the British security forces from RAF Aldergrove, Belfast to Inverness. All passengers and the four crew were killed.
In April 2001 7 Sqn RAF and No. 657 Squadron AAC, became part of the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing (JSFAW) whose role is to support the United Kingdom Special Forces. 651 Sqn AAC joined them in 2004 with a complement of Islander aircraft.
|May 1914||Aug 1914||Maurice Farman MF.7 Longhorn|
|May 1914||Aug 1914||BE.8|
|May 1914||Aug 1914||Sopwith Tabloid|
|Sep 1914||Oct 1914||Farman HF.20|
|Sep 1914||Oct 1914||Morane-Saulnier H|
|Sep 1914||Oct 1914||Blériot XI|
|Sep 1914||Apr 1915||Avro Type E|
|Sep 1914||Apr 1915||Vickers FB Gun Carrier|
|Oct 1914||Sep 1915||Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.5|
|Apr 1915||Sep 1915||Voisin LA|
|Jun 1915||Jun 1916||Bristol Scout|
|Jul 1915||Feb 1917||Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2||BE.2c|
|Dec 1915||Dec 1915||Morane-Saulnier LA|
|May 1916||Oct 1916||Royal Aircraft Factory BE.2||BE.2d|
|Oct 1916||Jun 1917||Royal Aircraft Factory BE.2||BE.2e|
|Dec 1916||May 1917||Royal Aircraft Factory BE.2||BE.2f|
|Dec 1916||Jun 1917||Royal Aircraft Factory BE.2||BE.2g|
|May 1917||Oct 1919||Royal Aircraft Factory RE.8|
|Jun 1923||Apr 1927||Vickers Vimy|
|May 1924||May 1925||Vickers Virginia||Mk.III|
|Sep 1924||Feb 1927||Vickers Virginia||Mk.II|
|Sep 1924||Jun 1925||Vickers Virginia||Mk.IV|
|Jan 1925||May 1926||Vickers Virginia||Mk.V|
|Jun 1925||Aug 1926||Vickers Virginia||Mk.VI|
|May 1927||Jan 1933||Vickers Virginia||Mk.VII|
|Sep 1927||Aug 1933||Vickers Virginia||Mk.IX|
|Nov 1928||Mar 1936||Vickers Virginia||Mk.X|
|Mar 1935||Apr 1938||Handley Page Heyford||Mk.II|
|Mar 1936||Apr 1938||Handley Page Heyford||Mk.III|
|Apr 1937||Apr 1938||Vickers Wellesley|
|Mar 1938||Dec 1938||Armstrong Whitworth Whitley||Mk.II|
|Nov 1938||May 1939||Armstrong Whitworth Whitley||Mk.III|
|Mar 1939||Apr 1940||Avro Anson||Mk.I|
|Apr 1939||Apr 1943||Handley Page Hampden|
|Aug 1940||Aug 1943||Short Stirling||Mk.I|
|Mar 1943||Aug 1943||Short Stirling||Mk.III|
|May 1943||Aug 1945||Avro Lancaster||Mks.I, III|
|Aug 1945||Jan 1950||Avro Lancaster||B.1(FE)|
|Aug 1949||Dec 1955||Avro Lincoln||B.2|
|Nov 1956||Sep 1962||Vickers Valiant||B(PR).1|
|Jan 1957||Sep 1962||Vickers Valiant||B.1|
|Jan 1957||Sep 1962||Vickers Valiant||B(K).1|
|Aug 1961||May 1962||Vickers Valiant||B(PR)K.1|
|May 1970||Jan 1982||English Electric Canberra||TT.18|
|Dec 1970||Oct 1975||English Electric Canberra||B.2|
|Sep 1982||Feb 1994||RAF Chinook||HC.1|
|Sep 1993||Oct 2012||RAF Chinook||HC.2|
|Oct 2012||2015||RAF Chinook||HC.4|
|2015||Present||RAF Chinook||Mk 6|
- Jefford 2001, p. 29
- Pine, L.G. (1983). A dictionary of mottoes (1 ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 170. ISBN 0-7100-9339-X.
- Halley 1988, p. 32.
- West 1974, p. 1.
- West 1974, p. 2.
- The Air Defence of Britain 1914–1918, Cole & Cheeseman
- Ashworth 1989, p. 41.
- Yoxall Flight 18 May 1951, pp. 590–591.
- Yoxall Flight 18 May 1951, pp. 591–592.
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- RAF History – Bomber Command 60th Anniversary: No. 7 Squadron Royal Air Force. 6 April 2005. Retrieved 17 December 2008.
- Thetford Aeroplane Monthly June 1993, p. 34.
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- "The Airmen's Stories – P/O F W Higginson" Archived 7 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine.. The Battle of Britain London Monument. Retrieved 21 February 2011.
- Yoxall Flight 18 May 1951, pp. 592–593.
- Halley 1980, pp. 28–29.
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- Yoxall Flight 18 May 1951, p. 593.
- Bowyer 2002, pp. 53—54.
- Lewis 1959, p. 15.
- Yoxall Flight 25 May 1951, p. 622.
- Yoxall 25 May 1951, p. 624.
- Falconer 2003, page 239
- Ashworth 1989, pp. 41—42.
- Ashworth 1989, p. 42.
- Ashworth, Chris. Encyclopedia of Modern Royal Air Force Squadrons. Wellingborough, UK:PSL, 1989. ISBN 1-85260-013-6.
- Bowyer, Michael J.F. The Stirling Story. Manchester: Crécy Publishing, 2002. ISBN 0-947554-91-2.
- Docherty, Tom. Bomber Squadron No.7, The World War 2 Record. Pen & Sword Aviation, 2007. ISBN 1-84415-481-5.
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- 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.
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- Yoxall, John "No. 7 Squadron: The History of a Famous Bomber Squadron: Part II". Flight, 25 May 1951. Vol. LIX, No. 2209. pp. 620–624.
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