Search and Rescue Sea King

203(R) Squadron

203(R) Sqn Crest


A winged sea horse – approved by King George VI in February 1937


Occidens and oriensque – ‘East and West’

Current Aircraft and Location:

Current Aircraft: Sea King

Current Location: RAF Valley

Battle Honours:

Western Front 1914 – 1918, Independent Force and Germany 1914 – 1918, Aegean 1915, Helles, Anzac, Suvla, Arras, Lys, Somme 1918, Hindenburg Line 1918, East Africa 1940 – 1941, Mediterranean 1941 – 1943, Iraq 1941, Habbaniya, Syria 1941, Egypt and Libya 1941 – 1942, North Africa 1943, Sicily 1943, Eastern Waters 1944 – 1945, Burma 1945(Honours marked with an asterisk, may be emblazoned on the Squadron Standard).

History of 203 (R) Squadron:

No. 3 Squadron, RNAS, was formed at Eastchurch in February 1914 and took its Nieuports and Farmans across to the Dardanelles to carry out spotting duties in support of Royal Navy vessels in the area.

During a bombing raid against a railway junction near the Maritza River in Bulgaria on 19th November 1915, Squadron Commander Richard Bel-Davies won the Victoria Cross for landing to pick up a downed pilot in the face of intense enemy fire.

At the end of the year, the unit returned to the UK and was disbanded.

Six months later, ‘C’ Squadron, RNAS, based at Dunkirk was re-titled No. 3 Squadron and the unit flew Bristol and Nieuport Scouts on coastal patrols over the Belgian coast before moving to support RFC squadrons involved in action over the Somme.

The squadron saw little change in its duties after the creation of the RAF and remained in Belgium until March 1919 when it returned home prior to disbanding at Scopwick on 21st January 1920.

Reformed at Leuchars in March 1920 as a naval co-operation unit initially with Avro 504s and Camels, both types were replaced by the Nightjar for carrier-borne fighter duties.

No. 203 returned to Turkey during the Chanak crisis in 1922, but was disbanded once again in April 1923.

On 1st January 1929, No 482 Flight at Mount Batten was renumbered No. 203 Squadron and the unit moved to Basra in Iraq with Southamptons. The aircraft were used for anti-piracy and policing duties in the Persian Gulf and with the arrival of Short Rangoons in 1931 a number of local rulers were entertained in the capacious cabins whenever trouble was brewing. With war imminent, the squadron, now equipped with Singapores, flew to Aden and converted shortly after to Blenheims.

After the Italian declaration of war in June 1940, No. 203 became heavily involved in the East Africa campaign before moving on to Crete to cover the evacuation of the beleaguered island. The squadron flew anti-shipping patrols around the Middle and Far East with a variety of types including Baltimores, Wellingtons and Liberators, remaining in Ceylon until May 1946 when it returned to Leuchars and then St Eval and to re-equip with Lancasters. These aircraft survived until late 1952 when the unit relocated to Topcliffe prior to converting to Neptunes for anti-submarine and maritime patrols over the North Sea. These aircraft barely lasted three years, and the Squadron was disbanded in September 1956.

On 1st November 1958, No. 240 Squadron based at Ballykelly with Shackletons was renumbered No. 203. Various versions of the type were flown until October 1971, when the first Nimrods arrived. Now based at Luqa in Malta, the unit patrolled the Mediterranean until disbanded on the final day of 1977.

In October 1996, the Sea King HAR Mk3A OCU at St Mawgan was renamed No. 203 (Reserve) Squadron, thus returning one of the oldest RNAS / RAF squadrons to active service.

In early 2003, the squadron undertook a detachment to Cyprus providing search and rescue cover for the island while the resident squadron, No. 84, re-equipped with the Griffin HAR Mk2 back in the UK.

Since 2008 203(R) Squadron have been based at RAF Valley as the Sea King Operational Conversion Unit.

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