IV Squadron (R)
A sun in splendour divided per bend by a flash of lightning - approved by HRH King Edward VIII in May 1936. The red and black segmented sun suggests round-the-clock operations, while the lightning flash is a reference to the unit's early use of wireless telephony for artillery co-operation.
In futurum videre - To see into the future.
1912 - Formed at Farnborough.
1922 - Deployed to Turkey during the Chanak crisis.
1982 - Detachment based at RAF Stanley after the Falklands War
Current Aircraft and Location:
History of IV Squadron:
The Formative Years
In 1912 the Army founded the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), recognising a need to grant aviation more autonomy. No 4 Sqn was created out of No 2 Flt No 2 Sqn at Farnborough on 16 Sep 1912. As soon as a nucleus of pilots had been formed the Sqn moved to Netheravon. The first aircraft operated by 4 Sqn included Breguet and BE2A bi-planes. In the period between its formation and the outbreak of the First World War, the Sqn carried out intensive training in the army co-operation role including reconnaissance, artillery co-operation, cross-country and night flying. A number of experimental tasks were also carried out including aerial photography and wireless communication.
The 1914 – 1918 War
In the opening days of the First World War, 4 Sqn was tasked with naval and anti-Zeppelin patrols and proved the concept of undertaking artillery observations by wireless-carrying aircraft. The Sqn deployed to France in August 1914. Its many duties included reconnaissance, artillery observation, photography, tactical bombing and machine gunning. In the Autumn of 1915, the Sqn took on the new task of landing covert agents behind enemy lines.
The following year brought an ever-increasing tempo despite much of the weather being unsuitable for flying. Amazing feats were performed without the aid of radar or navigation aids. An extended use of contact patrols became the norm with the opening of the Battle of Somme offensive in Jul 1916. Aircraft kept a check on the position of our troops, attacked enemy positions and dropped supplies to troops cut off by the enemy. After the battle, tasking reverted to more normal intensity until the situation flared up again in the Spring of 1917. In Jun of that year the Sqn was re-equipped with the RE8 aircraft.
The Inter War Years
In Jan 1919 the Sqn (now part of the newly-formed Royal Air Force) moved back to England and by Feb had been reduced to a small cadre at Northolt before disbanding on 20 Sep 1919. This was not uncommon throughout the RAF, which had gone from a strength of 200 sqns in RFC guide at the end of WWI to only 29 in the RAF, 7 of which were of cadre status. The Sqn reformed at Farnborough in Apr 1920 with Bristol F2B fighters.
In the Autumn of 1920, A Flt proceeded to Aldergrove to aid in communications duties as the roads were very vulnerable to ambush in the Irish civil war. In May 1921 the Flt relocated to Baldonnell where it remained until rejoining the full Sqn at Farnborough in Jan 1922 where a new technique of picking up written messages without landing was developed. Messages could now be received from small units in the field and relayed to the Corps HQ without the need to equip each section with an expensive and bulky wireless set.
In Aug 1922, No 4 Sqn embarked on HMS Air Royal with FE2Bs as an expeditionary force against overt Turkish aggression during the Chanak crisis. The aircraft were then transferred to HMS Argus and flown off the deck. Returning to Farnborough a year later, the Sqn settled down into a cosy routine of training flights, summer camps and Army co-operation duties and showed off its skills at the annual Hendon Pageant. In 1924 all sqns were authorised to include their role in the sqn title and so from May, No 4 Sqn became No 4 (Army Cooperation) Squadron. In 1929 the Sqn received dedicated Atlas aircraft and then Audaxes in 1931 and Hectors in 1937 followed by the Lysander in 1938.
Second World War
The Sqn moved to France on 23 Sep 1939 with the Lysanders shortly after war was declared and occupied a variety of locations before withdrawing to UK via Dunkirk on 22 May 1940. During the Battle of France the Sqn sustained 60% casualties amongst the groundcrew and 18 aircrew were killed along with the loss of all but 11 aircraft and all the heavy equipment.
The Sqn settled at Linton-on-Ouse then Clifton on the outskirts of York but maintained an Air Sea Rescue detachment at Manston. A switch to reconnaissance tasks in 1942 saw the Lysander exchanged for Mustang aircraft and with it, the posting out of all the air gunners.
In Oct 1942 the Sqn became operational once again carrying out photographic reconnaissance patrols of the French coast as well as strafe attacks on numerous tactical targets. In 1943 the Sqn was withdrawn from operations and received Mosquito PR XVI and Spitfire PR XI reconnaissance versions for work in connection with the forthcoming invasion of Europe. Now part of 2ATAF, operations recommenced early in Mar 1944 with the Sqn entirely engaged on high-level photographic reconnaissance. D-Day itself proved a disappointment, however, with cloud obscuring the area and only 1 sortie flown.
In Aug 1944, the Sqn found itself once again operating from bases in France and moving forward to bases in Holland with the advancing armies. The Sqn took delivery of the recce version of the Typhoon in Oct 1944 in the low level recce role to add to their armoury of high-altitude PR Spitfires, only to have the Typhoons withdrawn early in 1945. The Sqn role remained that of low and high level photographic reconnaissance mainly in support of the 21st Army Group and the First Canadian Army until VE Day on 8 May 1945. After moving to Celle in occupied Germany on 28 May 1945 the Sqn conducted aerial surveys of Germany until Sqn disbandment on 31 Aug 1945.
Post Second World War
No 605 Sqn was renumbered IV(AC) Squadron at Volkel on 1 Sep 1945 and the role changed from photographic reconnaissance to Light Bomber with the Mosquito FB6 becoming the new Sqn aircraft. The Sqn first took up residence at Gutersloh in Nov 1945, later to become the Sqn’s base when flying Hunters and Harriers. Training included air to air and air to ground firing, low level navigation, formation practice and participation in both Army and Air Force exercises.
The Mosquitoes remained with the Squadron until 1950 when they were replaced firstly by Vampires then Sabres and Hunters. The Sqn moved to a succession of Germany bases including Celle, Wunstorf and then Jever for nearly 9 years until disbandment on 31 Dec 1960. However, the Sqn was reformed on 1 Jan 1961 after No 79 Sqn was renumbered as IV(AC) Sqn and returned to Jever for 6 months followed by Gutersloh with Hunters until re-roling with the Harrier in 1969/70. In Nov 1963 the Sqn celebrated 50 years of service to the crown. This was also the year the Sqn began to take part in the AFCENT annual aerial reconnaissance competition and, for the next 5 years, winning the trophy outright.
The Harrier Years in Germany
On 22 Jun 1970 four Harrier GR1 aircraft were delivered to IV(AC) Sqn at RAF Wildenrath, Germany. By Apr 1971 the Sqn was fully manned and equipped and declared operational and assigned to NATO in the attack role. On I Sep 1972 the Sqn adopted the dual role of attack and tactical reconnaissance. To support the recce role a Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre (RIC) was attached to the Sqn to facilitate recce exploitation.
Recognising the vulnerability of static airfields, the Harrier Force’s war role was to disperse and operate from non-airfield sites to aid survival. Operating forward in ‘field sites’, Close Air Support and recce missions were flown mainly in support of 1(BR) Corps conducting cockpit turnrounds to increase sortie rates and reduce reaction times when responding to CAS/Recce requests. On 4 Jan 1977 the Sqn moved to RAF Gutersloh on the withdrawal of air defence Lightnings in order to be closer to the army formations it was earmarked to support. At the end of Feb 1977, the Sqn strength increased to 18 aircraft/24 pilots with the recent disbandment of No 20 Sqn at RAF Wildenrath.
In Aug 1978 the Sqn took over the Harrier GR3 support of the British forces in Belize, sharing the commitment with No 1(F) Sqn and No 3(F) Sqn until withdrawal in 1993. In 1982 following the Falklands conflict, Sqn pilots deployed to the Falklands on a regular basis until withdrawal of the Harrier GR3 from theatre in 1985.
The Sqn continued operating the Harrier GR3 until 1989 when it was replaced with the much enhanced and bigger Harrier GR5 with greatly improved range/payload and Hands on Throttle and Stick (HOTAS) cockpit. This was followed by the GR7 ‘night attack’ aircraft 2 years later.
After a lengthy period at Gutersloh, the Squadron moved to RAF Laarbruch in Nov 1992 and within 6 months became embroiled in Op WARDEN, deploying to Incirlik, Turkey in order to protect the Kurds and enforce the Northern Iraq No Fly Zone. Over nearly 3 years, the commitment was conducted in rotation with 1(F) Sqn and 3(F) Sqn until handing over to the Tornado GR1s in Jan 1995.
There was however no let up, with further operations beginning in Jul 1995 in support of Op DENY FLIGHT over the troubled Former Republic of Yugoslavia with the Sqn deploying to Gioia del Colle in Southern Italy. The already unstable situation worsened and on 30 Aug 1995, NATO air strikes were authorised. In the ensuing 2 weeks the Sqn flew 144 missions on Op DELIBERATE FORCE, the NATO air strikes over Bosnia, employing Laser Guided and Freefall 1000lb bombs. The bombing missions, which represented the first use of offensive air power in Europe since 1945, resulted in a successful outcome with the signing of the Dayton Peace Accord. Subsequent deployments, shared with sister Harrier sqns, continued until IV(AC) Sqn were stood down in autumn 1996.
In the summer of 1998 IV(AC) Sqn redeployed to Gioia in response to continued Serbian aggression. The commitment, which was shared with its sister sqns, continued through Op DELIBERATE FORGE and ultimately several Sqn members participated in Op ALLIED FORCE, the air strikes that helped persuade Slobodan Milosovic to withdraw Serbian troops from Kosovo.
In Apr 1999, No IV(AC) Sqn (and No1(F) Sqn) were transferred to RAF Cottesmore thus ending 50 years of continuous service in Germany.
Despite the disruption of relocating, the Sqn continued to maintain its commitment to Op DELIBERATE FORGE on a rotational basis with the other 2 Harrier sqns. First in and last out of the Balkans, the Sqn departed from Gioia del Colle in Apr 2001, the Harrier Force having been stood down from the Operation.
The Sqn then focused on a period of training which included Ex SAIF SAREEA II in Oct 2001. The Ex included a work-up phase on HMS ILLUSTRIOUS for a month in the Mediterranean, a transit through the Suez Canal and the Red Sea before deploying to Masirah in Oman. This event was the longest period that the Sqn had spent on a carrier since the Chanak crisis over 80 years previously.
The entire Sqn deployed to Kuwait in Feb 2003 with personnel from 1(F) Sqn to take part in Op TELIC (IRAQI FREEDOM), conducting CAS using mixed Paveway 2 and Maverick weapon loads. The Sqn returned from Op TELIC in May 2003 and rapidly rebuilt skill sets for the European theatre. However, the desert beckoned again and Joint Force Harrier (JFH) was soon on the move. In Aug 2004, the Force deployed to Kandahar Airfield to support NATO troops in Afghanistan for Op HERRICK. In Mar 2005, whilst deployed to HMS INVINCIBLE for Ex MAGIC CARPET, No IV(AC) Sqn conducted the UK's first strike mission from an aircraft carrier into Kandahar Airfield. The Sqn's role in Afghanistan was to provide close air support (CAS) and reconnaissance to the NATO International Security and Assistance Force and to Op ENDURING FREEDOM. The Sqn’s capabilities were significantly enhanced with the introduction of the Harrier GR9/9A and associated systems including SNIPER Advanced Targeting Pod. The Sqn’s final detachment from Dec 2008 until Apr 2009 achieved a 100% success rate in terms of missions flown against missions tasked.
IV(R) was re-formed on the 31 March 2010 following the disbandment of 20(R) Squadron.
Western Front 1914-1918*, Mons*, Neuve Chapelle, Somme 1916, Ypres 1917*, Lys, Somme 1918*, France and Low Countries 1939-1940*, Fortress Europe 1942-1944, France and Germany 1944-1945*, Normandy 1944*, Arnhem*, Rhine, Iraq 2003*.
*Honours marked with an asterisk are emblazoned on the Squadron’s Standards.
For a further detailed description of IV Squadron's History with images view/download the following document (.pdf 6.13Mb)