RAF Timeline 1950 -1959

Back to 1945-49


26 Mar 1950 - Eight Avro Lincoln bombers, a descendant of the Lancaster, deployed at Tengah airfield, Singapore, use 1,000lb (450 kg) bombs to attack a terrorist base in Malaya. Washington

Aug 1950 - A stop-gap measure to fill the long-range bomber requirement in the Cold War, the Boeing B-29D Washington began entering service with Bomber Command Squadrons during August. The type began to be retired in 1953 with the advent of the V-bombers, but the last did not leave the RAF until 1958.

22 Aug 1950 - RAF Sunderland flying boats begin blockade operations off the west coast of Korea.


Shackleton 5 Apr 1951 - The Avro Shackleton maritime patrol aircraft enters service with No. 120 Sqn Coastal Command, at RAF Kinloss.

May 1951 - The RAF's first jet bomber, the Canberra, enters service with No. 101 Sqn at RAF Binbrook, Lincolnshire.


Neptunes Jan 1952 - As a stop-gap, while the Avro Shackleton entered service, four UK based Squadrons were equipped with the Lockheed Neptune MR1. With a crew of ten (two pilots, two navigators , five air signallers and an engineer) and an 8,000 lb weapon load, the long range Neptunes were returned to the US in 1956.


12 Mar 1953 - Seven airmen are killed when the Avro Lincoln B2 they are flying in, RF531, is shot down by a Soviet fighter in the Berlin air corridor. The aircraft, from the RAF Central Gunnery School, was on a training flight.

15 Jul 1953 - RAF Odiham hosts the Coronation Review of the RAF by HM Queen Elizabeth II. The flypast included 640 aircraft.

Oct 1953 - London to New Zealand Air Race featuring 5 RAF/RAAF Canberras. The winning Canberra PR3 (in the Hendon Museum) captained by Flt Lt Burton with navigator Flt Lt Gannon covered the 11,796 miles from London to Christchurch New Zealand in 23 hours 51 minutes (elapsed time) and 22 hours 28 minutes Flying time, giving an average speed of 494.5mph which was a world record at the time. Sadly Sqn Ldr Bob Currie and Wg Cdr Bob Hodges’ PR7 suffered generator failure at Perth, though they did achieve the fastest flying time and a world record for the London to Colombo leg.


Swift Feb 1954 - The first British swept-wing fighter, the Supermarine Swift, enters service with No. 56 Sqn, at RAF Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire.

1 Apr 1954 - Photo-reconnaissance Spitfires make the last operational flight by the type during Operation Firedog, Malaya.

31 Jul 1954 - The classic British single-seat jet fighter, the Hawker Hunter, enters service with No. 43 Sqn based at RAF Leuchars in Scotland.

Hunter Oct 1954 - A Canberra bomber belonging to the RAF Flying College, Manby, makes the first jet flight over the North Pole.


Valiant B1s Jan 1955 - The first of the new V-Bombers, the Vickers Valiant, enters service with No. 138 Sqn at RAF Gaydon, Warwickshire.

Aug 1955 - An experimental all-jet training programme commences at No. 2 Flying Training School, Hullavington using the Jet Provost trainer.


Javelin F3 Feb 1956 - The Gloster Javelin all-weather fighter enters service with No. 46 Sqn, Odiham.

10 March 1956 - The second Fairey Delta 2, WG777, today captured the World's Absolute Speed Record at 1,132 mph between Ford and Chichester in Sussex. Piloted by Lt Cdr P Twiss, this was the first aircraft to exceed 1,000 mph in level flight.

May 1956 - The Avro Vulcan becomes the second V-bomber to enter RAF service, equipping No. 230 Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) at Waddington.

Vulcan B1 Jun 1956 - No. 216 Sqn at Lyneham becomes the worlds first jet transport squadron after re-equipping with the de Havilland Comet.

11 Oct 1956 - WZ366, a Valiant of No. 49 Sqn, drops the first British air dropped fission weapon(Blue Danube) during Operation Buffalo over the Maralinga test area, South Australia.

31 Oct 1956 - Operation Musketeer, the Suez Crisis, begins. After failing to stop Egyptian and Israeli fighting around the Suez Canal, RAF Canberra and Valiant bombers flying from Malta and Cyprus, in conjunction with French Air Force aircraft, attack twelve airfields in the Canal Zone. Airfield attacks continued until 4 November, by which time the Egyptian Air Force had been decimated. Key installations were captured by Anglo-French Nicosia56 airborne troops on the 5th prior to a major seaborne offensive. The operations continued until 7 November, when a cease-fire was arranged. So deep was the crisis, that the United States Air Force was brought to a high state of readiness in case of Russian intervention.


4 Apr 1957 - After publication of a Defence White Paper in the UK by the Conservative government, the days of manned aircraft look numbered when Britain chooses to concentrate on defence by advanced interception and nuclear strike missiles. This infamous paper, presented by Duncan Sandys, forces the cancellation of almost all new British military aircraft projects - notable exceptions being the Lightning fighter and the highly Lightning F1 controversial TSR2 strike/attack and reconnaissance aircraft.

15 May 1957 - The first British Hydrogen bomb (Yellow Sun) is dropped near Christmas Island in the south- west Pacific in a series of tests known as Operation Grapple. The aircraft involved, XD818, a Valiant of No. 49 Sqn, is now preserved at the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford.

Victor B1 29 Nov 1957 - No. 232 OCU at Gaydon receives the first Victor B1 aircraft, the third of the RAF's V- bombers.


20 Jun 1958 - Wessex HC2 First flight of the Westland Wessex helicopter derived from the American designed Sikorsky S58.

Jul 1958 - The Bloodhound surface-to-air missile entered service with Fighter Command at North Coates in Lincolnshire.

19 Sep 1958 - The first American-built Thor Ballistic Missile (IRBM) is handed over to No. 77 Sqn, Bomber Command at RAF Feltwell. The first RAF-controlled launch of Thor took place at Vandenberg Air Base, USA, on 16 April 1959.

19 Oct 1958 Following an appeal for funds by the Royal Air Force, St Clement Danes was completely restored and was re-consecrated to become the Central Church of the Royal Air Force.


Last Sunderland 15 May 1959 - The last operational flight by an RAF flying boat is made by a Sunderland of No. 205 Sqn.

1 Nov 1959 - The first RAuxAF Maritime Headquarters Unit (MHQ) is set up at Edinburgh. Others are later formed at Northwood, Plymouth and Belfast.

Forward to 1960-69

Text size: