12 (B) Squadron Tornado GR4

12 (Bomber) Squadron

12 (Bomber) Squadron History

No. 12 Squadron was formed on 14 February 1915 at Netheravon from a nucleus of crew and aircraft provided by No. 1 Squadron. In April 1916, the Squadron moved to St Omer, France equipped with BE2Cs primarily in the long-range reconnaissance role. By April 1918, No. 12 Squadron had added night bombing and strafing to its repertoire. After the Armistice, the Squadron moved to Germany as part of the Army of Occupation and by November 1919 was the sole operational squadron in Germany until July 1922 when it was disbanded. The Squadron reformed in April 1923 with DH9As spending a short time at Northolt before moving to Andover where it became engaged in the development of bombing techniques. It was during this time that the squadron received the designation 12(B) squadron, for Bomber, to denote its primary mission. In 1926, the Squadron became the sole operator of the Fairey Fox, an aircraft that outpaced many contemporary fighters and revolutionised tactics.

In 1935, flying Hawker Harts, the Squadron moved to Aden in response to the Italian invasion of Abyssinia. They returned home in 1936 and re-equipped with Hinds. At the start of World War II, 12(B) Squadron departed for France as part of the Advanced Air Striking Force equipped with Fairey Battles. In May 1940, Fg Off D E Garland and Sgt T Gray, his observer, led a flight of 5 aircraft in an attack on a vital bridge over the Albert Canal. All except one of the aircraft were shot down by fierce enemy ground fire, but one end of the bridge was destroyed. Garland and Gray were posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the first of the war for the RAF. After the British withdrawal from France in June 1940, the Squadron began night attacks on enemy shipping and re-equipped with Wellingtons. Two years later, Lancaster’s were taken on strength and these lasted until August 1946, when Lincolns replaced them.

During 1952, 12(B) Squadron received Canberra jet-bombers, and these went on to be used in support of Operations Firedog (Malaya) and Musketeer (Suez). In July 1961, the Squadron was disbanded but reformed a year later at Coningsby with the Avro Vulcan, before moving to RAF Cottesmore. In the Vulcan, 12(B) Squadron completed several around-the-world flights. The Squadron once again disbanded in late 1967 before reforming again in October 1969 with Buccaneers at RAF Honington. After a period of relative stability performing the maritime strike mission, 12(B) Squadron moved to Lossiemouth in 1980.

In January 1991, 12(B) Squadron was hastily deployed to the Persian Gulf to support strike operations, providing an airborne laser designator for the RAF's Paveway Laser Guided Bombs dropped from Tornado GR1s. In 1993 Tornado GR1Bs replaced the Buccaneer, though the Squadron continued in the maritime strike role until 1998. During December 1998, the Squadron took part in Operation DESERT FOX. Deployments to the Gulf continued, flying the upgraded Tornado GR4 from
2001; this included a major contribution to Operation TELIC in 2003 as well as supporting the first free elections in Iraq for 50 years during January 2005. In 2006 and again in 2008 the Squadron provided armed overwatch for UK and US ground operations in Iraq. Shortly afterwards, as British troops withdrew from Iraq, the Tornado fleet based in the region also returned to the UK, marking what was expected to be, the end of a long era of the Tornado operating over the Iraqi theatre.
At this time it was announced that the Tornado GR4 was to replace the Harrier in Afghanistan, supporting Operation HERRICK. Specifically, 12(B) Squadron was asked to be the first GR4 Squadron into theatre. After several delays that resulted in an extended work-up period, in June 2009 the Squadron trailed 10 aircraft to Cyprus, 8 of which continued on to Kandahar. For over 4 months they successfully provided support to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), providing Close Air Support for amongst others, British, American, Canadian and Afghan troops in all parts of the country. On the 16th October 2009 12(B) Squadron returned to Lossiemouth having handed over to a Marham-based Squadron.

Between subsequent Operation HERRICK deployments during 2011, 12(B) Squadron was deployed in support Operation ELLAMY. Operation ELLAMY was the UK’s participation in the military intervention in Libya under United Nations’ Security Council Resolution 1973 which stipulated that "all necessary measures" shall be taken to protect civilians. This saw 10 aircrew deploy to Italy to bolster the Tornado component during the peak of operations. The remainder of the Squadron was held at readiness to launch raids on hardened Libyan targets.

12(B) Squadron completed it’s final tour of Afghanistan in the summer of 2013 prior to returning to RAF Lossiemouth, and being disbanded alongside 617 Squadron in March 2014. This was only a short lived break from active service as the Squadron was reformed at RAF Marham in January 2015 as a Tornado GR4 unit following the re-badging of II(AC) Squadron.

12 (B) Squadron Badge

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