No. 101 Squadron

101 Squadron

No. 101 Squadron

No. 101 Squadron Badge Aircraft : Vickers VC10 K3 / K4.

Motto : Mens agitat molem - 'Mind over matter'.

Badge : Issuant from the battlements of a tower, a demi lion rampant guardant - approved by King George VI in February 1938. The battlements symbolise the Squadron's pioneering role in the development of power-operated gun turrets, while the lion indicates the unit's fighting power and spirit.

Battle Honours : Western Front 1917-1918*, Ypres 1917*, Somme 1918*, Lys, Hindenburg Line, Fortress Europe 1940-1944*, Invasion Ports 1940*, Ruhr 1940-1945*, Berlin 1941*, Channel and North Sea 1941-1944, Biscay Ports 1941-1944, German Ports 1941-1945, Baltic 1942-1945, Berlin 1943-1944, France and Germany 1944-1945, Normandy 1944*, Walcheren, South Atlantic 1982, Gulf 1991, Kosovo, Iraq 2003.

( * Honours may be emblazoned on the Squadron Standard ).

History of No. 101 Squadron

For the better part of a century there can be few RAF units with a finer operational record than No 101 Squadron. In service from the Somme to Suez, Berlin to Baghdad, in Malaya, the Falklands and Afghanistan, 101 Squadron has endured tragedy and sacrifice while carving more than its fair share of glory, as well as leading the way in the development of cutting edge aviation technology.

The Great War

FE2b two-seat bi-plane No 101 Squadron was formed on the 12 July 1917 at South Farnborough, where its air and ground crews mustered before deploying to the Western Front two weeks later. Commanded by Major The Hon L J E Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, 101 Squadron was to become the second specialist night-bomber unit in the Royal Flying Corps. In France it was equipped with the FE2b two-seat pusher bi-plane and began flying night bombing operations on 20th September 1917 during the Battle of Menin Ridge. Throughout the 3rd Battle of Ypres and the Battle of Cambrai 101 Squadron flew night bombing raids against German communications and supply centres. During February 1918 101 101 sqn at catigney in 1918 Squadron attacked several German long-range night bomber airfields in what was one of the first offensive counter air operations. In March the German army broke through the British line on the Somme and the squadron was forced to evacuate its own base at Catigney. However, it continued night attacks on the German supply lines without pause and in April operated against a second German breakthrough on the River Lys. In August 101 Squadron's FE2bs supported the final allied offensive at Amiens and on the Hindenburg line. After the Armistice 101 Squadron was billeted in Belgium for occupation duties, but following the signing of the Versailles treaty in March 1919 it returned to England, where it disbanded on 31 December 1918.

Sidestrand & Overstrand

Sidestrand and crews in 1931 No 101 Squadron reformed on the 21st March 1928 at RAF Bircham Newton in Norfolk, where it intended to equip with the revolutionary Boulton and Paul Sidestrand day bomber. Delivery delays meant 101 Squadron crews had to keep current on the DH9A before the first Sidestrand was finally delivered in March 1929. In October 1929 101 Squadron redeployed to RAF Andover, where it was to work alongside another experimental unit, 12 Squadron with its Fairy Fox light bombers. The high performance of the Sidestrand amazed crowds at the Hendon Air Pageants, where it flew mock combat aerobatics with the Overstrand turret fighters of the day. 101 Squadron Sidestrands won a number of bombing and reconnaissance competitions and carried out trial anti-shipping strikes against Royal Navy battleships. In December 1934 the squadron moved to RAF Bicester and a month later re-equipped with the improved Boulton Paul Overstrand, with uprated engines, autopilot, enclosed cockpit and introducing the first powered gun turret into RAF service. The turret armed Overstrand proved to be just as manoeuvrable as its predecessor and Sgt D A Reddick thrilled the crowds at Hendon in July 1936 when he looped, rolled and stall turned an Overstrand while in mock combat with Hawker Fury fighters! By 1937 the Overstrand was obsolescent but one Overstrand was used in early air-to-air refuelling trials, a prophecy of things to come. The Overstrand is forever commemorated in 101 Squadron's official badge, approved by King George VI in 1938, featuring a fierce lion rampant issuant from a castle turret.

World War 2

Bristol blenhiem biv No 101 Squadron re-equipped with Bristol Blenheim monoplane bombers in June 1938 and moved to RAF West Raynham in May 1939, joining No 2 Group, Bomber Command. On the declaration of war with Germany 101 Squadron initially deployed to its dispersal airfield, RAF Brize Norton, but after a few days it returned to West Raynham. 101 Squadron's Blenheims lacked the latest modifications and the unit spent the next few months as a training and conversion unit for new Blenheim crews in 2 Group. With the fall of France 101 Squadron became operational, but its officer commanding, Wg Cdr J H Hargroves, and his crew were lost on its first bombing mission on 5th July 1940. During the Battle of Britain 101 Squadron Blenhiems carried out attacks on invasion barge concentrations in the French Channel ports and attacked enemy bomber airfields. Throughout the winter of 1940/41 101 Squadron carried out anti-shipping strikes and attacked German and French ports, including Brest where the German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were based. Another OC 101 Squadron, Wg Cdr D Addenbrooke, was lost on one of these attacks on 3 April, just 3 days after taking command.

101 sqn wellington in may 1942 In April 1941 the Squadron re-equipped with the Vickers Wellington and redeployed to RAF Oakington to join No 3 Group. On the 24th July 101 Squadron lost its first Wellington on another daylight raid against Brest. Early in 1942 101 Squadron carried out trials with the "Gee" navigation aid, which went some way to improve bombing accuracy. On the 30th May 1942 ten 101 Squadron Wellingtons took part in the first 1,000 bomber raid on Cologne, but losses began to mount and between July and September the Squadron lost 20 Wellingtons with 86 aircrew killed.

Servicing lancaster engines In September 101 Squadron moved to RAF Holme-on-Spalding-Moor and re-equipped to become the first operational Avro Lancaster squadron in No 1 Group. In January 1943 Wg Cdr D A Riddick (who had impressed the Hendon crowds with his Overstrand aerobatics) took command and led the Squadron through the Battles of the Ruhr. On 15 June 1943 101 Squadron moved to its final wartime base, RAF Ludford Magna. From here its Lancaster crews participated in the battle of Hamburg and the raid on the secret German rocket site at Peenemunde. In September 1943 101 Squadron crews began to fly specially modified Lancasters fitted with top secret AIRBORNE CIGAR or ABC radio jamming equipment. An additional "Special Operator" joined each 101 Squadron crew to monitor this equipment. During the winter of 1943/4 No 101 Squadron crews fought in the Battle of Berlin but suffered high casualties. On the 31st March 1944, during the Nuremberg Raid, 101 Squadron lost 7 Lancasters and crews out of 26 dispatched. In the spring and summer of 1944 101 Squadron attacked targets in France in preparation for and support of the allied invasion of Normandy. These raids were no milk runs and 4 crews were lost on 4th May in the raid on Mailly-le-Camp. On D-Day, the squadron used "ABC" to jam nightfighter controllers to protect the British airborne landings. Returning to targets in Germany by the end of 1944, 101 Squadron Lancasters carried out a series of devastating raids on cities and ports and carried out their last attack on Berchtesgarden on 25th April 1945. During the bomber campaign against Germany 101 Squadron flew on more raids than any other bomber squadron but suffered the highest casualties of any RAF unit in the war, losing 1176 aircrew killed in action.


In October 1945, the Squadron moved to RAF Binbrook and the following year began to re-equip with Avro Lincoln bombers. In October 1947 the Squadron deployed to Egypt and six Lincolns detached to make a series of punitive raids on rebel desert tribes around Aden. On the way home, five 101 Squadron Lincolns carried out a ten-day goodwill tour of Turkey. In June 1950 101 Squadron Lincolns led the very first King's Birthday Flypast of Buckingham Palace, as well as leading a vast formation flypast by Bomber Command at the Farnborough Airshow in July.

English electric canberra b2s On the 25th May 1951 101 Squadron became the RAF's first jet bomber unit with the delivery of its first EE Canberra B2. It was fully operational by the beginning of 1952 and trained crews for new Canberra squadrons until the OCU was formed. It was the first to receive the upgraded Canberra B6 in 1954 and deployed to Malaya early in 1955, where it carried out the first RAF jet bomber operations against terrorist targets on 25th April, 10 years to the day after its last WWII bombing raid. In June 1956 101 Squadron redeployed to Malaya, returning home in August only to be deployed again in October 1956 during the Suez crisis to Malta for Operation MUSKETEER bombing raids against Egypt. The Canberras returned to Binbrook in November, where 101 Squadron was disbanded in February 1957.


Vulcan bomb release 101 Squadron reformed at RAF Finningley, Yorkshire, in October 1957 to become the second RAF unit to fly the Avro Vulcan B1 and the first armed with British H-bombs. It moved to RAF Waddington in 1961 with upgraded Vulcan B1As and was the first Vulcan squadron to qualify in air-to-air refuelling (AAR). In March 1962 a 101 Squadron crew used AAR to set a world speed record for London to Aden and in July 1963 a flight of three 101 Squadron Vulcans broke the speed record for a flight from RAF Waddington to Perth, Australia, in 17 hours and 50 minutes. In January 1968 101 Squadron converted to the Vulcan B2 and completed a number of deployments to the Far East and Australia over the next few years. In 1974 a 101 Squadron crew won the prestigious Navigation Trophy in the Strategic Air Command GIANT VOICE bombing competition, beating over 20 American crews on their home ground. A 101 Squadron Vulcan led the Queen's Birthday Flypast in the 1977 Sliver Jubilee year and in 1979 it won the "Blue Steel" and "Minot" trophies in the Strike Command bombing competition. 101 Squadron served in the free-fall nuclear bombing role for 25 years, longer than any other V-Force unit. Due to disband in May 1982, 101 Squadron Vulcans were called upon for one final task during Operation CORPORATE, the Falklands War. A 101 Squadron crew carried out the first and last Operation BLACKBUCK Vulcan conventional bombing raids on Argentinean forces occupying Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. These 8,000 mile round trip missions required extensive use of AAR, showing the way forward for the next phase of 101 Squadron's dramatic history. The Squadron disbanded on 4th August 1982, relinquishing its bombing role after 65 years service.


VC10 with russian bear On the 1st May 1984 101 Squadron reformed at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, flying the VC10 K2 AAR tanker aircraft. Over the next few years it took delivery of 5 VC10 K2s and 4 VC10 K3s, all converted from civilian airline use. In the 1980s, during the last years of the Cold War, No 101 Squadron's main operational role was supporting the Lightning, Phantom and Tornado fighters of the UK's air defence forces, intercepting Soviet intruder aircraft. It also supported a series of world-wide "out of area" exercise deployments, including Ex Saif Sereea I in 1986, when it refuelled RAF Tornado fighters and bombers flying non-stop to Oman. On the 8th April 1987 101 Squadron celebrated its 70th Anniversary by breaking it's own non-stop speed record from UK to Australia. Wg Cdr Jim Uprichard flew a VC10 K3 from Brize Norton to Perth in just under 16 hours, refuelling twice in the air on the way.

VC10 refuels tornado gr1 Far from bringing any "peace dividend" the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War unleashed new areas of conflict. Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 brought 101 Squadron's AAR skills into high demand. 101 Squadron VC10 tankers rapidly deployed RAF combat aircraft to the Gulf and supported them in theatre. By January 1991 all nine 101 Squadron VC10 tankers were based in Saudi Arabia, and the Squadron flew 381 AAR missions during the DESERT STORM Gulf War air campaign, refuelling British, French, Australian, Canadian and American aircraft. In March the Squadron returned home for a brief rest, but it was to return to the Middle East in January 1992, establishing a detachment in Turkey. Between 1992 and 1997, it flew over 1200 sorties supporting Operation WARDEN missions over Northern Iraq. Another post-Cold War flashpoint erupted in the Balkans and in 1993 101 Squadron VC10 Ks deployed to Italy to fly missions in support of Operation DENY FLIGHT over Bosnia. In 1994 No 101 Squadron received reinforcement as the first of 5 VC10 K4 aircraft was delivered and by 1996 it had 14 VC10 refuels us f-18 VC10 tankers on strength. From March 1996 101 Squadron has detached aircraft and crews to 1312 Flt at Mount Pleasant Airfield in the Falklands, to provide AAR support to the Tornadoes of 1435 Flt. In May 1997 the Operation WARDEN detachment was redeployed from Incirlik in Turkey to Muharraq in Bahrain in support of Operation JURAL (later Operation BOLTON) missions over Southern Iraq. Tensions began to build in the Gulf as Saddam Hussein tested the will of the allied coalition and in December 1998 101 Squadron crews supported the Operation DESERT FOX airstrikes on Iraqi air defence targets. In March 1999 the Balkan Kosova crisis reached its climax and NATO began airstrikes on Serbia. 101 Squadron VC10K tankers deployed to RAF Bruggen in Germany, flying seven-hour refuelling missions in support of Tornado bombing raids. In June the VC10s redeployed to Ancona in Italy to provide AAR for NATO and US Navy aircraft. These operations earned for 101 Squadron the Battle Honour of "Kosova". In late 1999 the Squadron began to lose its fleet of five old and less capable VC10 K2s, as they were retired to the scrap yard.

Maintaining a vc10 in the desert However, the new Millennium brought new threats, highlighted by the terrorist outrages on 11th September 2001. 101 Squadron crews were already deployed on exercise in Oman when Operation ORACLE airstrikes began against the Taliban in Afghanistan. VC10 tankers supported US navy aircraft operating from carriers in the Indian Ocean, which acclaimed the RAF tanker crews as a "Godsend". During this period 101 Squadron operated with 10 Squadron, sharing crews and aircraft and also flying Air Transport (AT) tasks. The crisis shifted back to Iraq in 2003 and 101 Squadron crews were heavily involved in the Operation TELIC invasion and final overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime. The considerable AAR experience of 101 Squadron crews, gained over 12 years of continuous deployment in the Middle East, paid dividends with a 100% sortie success rate, despite sandstorms and damage from hostile fire, an incident that earned a 101 Squadron Captain a Queens Commendation for Valuable Service! In addition, 101 Squadron crews flew helped evacuate over 1000 casualties to hospitals in Cyprus.

The Future?

VC10 refuels two eurofighter typhoon Today, 101 Squadron crews continue to be deployed in the Gulf and the Falklands as well as supporting, in both the AAR and AT roles, a multitude of global commitments for the UK Armed Forces. Among their latest tasks was the successful air refuelled deployment and recovery of two Eurofighter Typhoons to Singapore. Its crews can truly be said to be the most experienced AAR operators in the world after over 20 years in the role, building on a proud heritage of courage, determination and professionalism. Their operational record is second to none and is far from over yet. Whatever the future holds, 101 Squadron will be up for the task.

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