31 Sqn History Header - Copyright Jamie Hunter

31 Squadron History

31 Squadron History
31 Squadron was formed at Farnborough on 11 October 1915 composed of a single 'A' flight. In December 1915 the five officers of ‘A’ flight were deployed to Bombay, India and then Risalpur, arriving on 26 December. Subsequently, 'B' flight was formed in January 1916, followed by 'C' flight in April, both at Gosport, joining ‘A’ flight in Risalpur in May 1916. During World War I it operated along the north- west frontier of India, assisting the British army in its struggle against dissident Peshawar tribesmen. The first aircraft used by the squadron were Bristol BE2c and Henri Farman biplanes, fitted with bomb sights and racks. Two of the machines even had wireless sets which were used for observing and directing artillery fire.

Unlike other RAF squadrons in Europe, the end of the war brought little change to 31 Squadron’s daily life. Except for the standardisation in 1919 of the squadron’s aircraft to the Bristol F2B, the next 10 years would see little change in the squadron’s day-to-day operations. The squadron continued to police the Waziristan and Afghanistan regions, assisting the British army in quashing the occasional tribal uprising. Such was life on the north-west frontier. In February 1931 the outdated Bristol F2Bs were replaced by Westland Wapitis and throughout the 1930 31 Squadron continued its army co-operation duties.

Following its return to India, the squadron re-equipped with the DC3 Dakota, and after the Japanese invasion of Burma flew between Calcutta and Rangoon dropping supplies to the XIVth Army. After the War the squadron moved to Java, where barely a year later the squadron was disbanded and reformed at Mauripur, Pakistan.

1939 saw the squadron change to the bomber- transport role, re-equipping with ex-216 Squadron Valentia aircraft and absorbing the bomber- transport flight at Lahore, Pakistan.

During 1941 the squadron began to concentrate on transport duties with Douglas DC2s and these aircraft along with surviving Valentias flew supplies into the beleaguered enclave at Habbaniya in Iraq. 31 Squadron continued its transport duties until the end of 1947 when it was again disbanded until the following July. It reformed, this time at RAF Hendon. A variety of smaller transports were
flown on liaison duties around the UK and these included Ansons, Proctors, Beaufighters, Spitfires and even Tiger Moths. In 1955 31 Squadron moved to Laarbruch in Germany and received Canberra PR7s - a type it flew until 1971 when they were replaced by FGR Mk 2 Phantoms, pending arrival of the new Sepcat Jaguar. It was upon receiving the Jaguar GR1 that the squadron moved to Bruggen, Germany and was declared operational with both conventional and nuclear weapons. Assigned to Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, in support of land forces, its role was to use conventional weapons and tactical nuclear weaponry in case of escalation. Although the Jaguar was replaced in 1984 by the Tornado GR1, its role did not change, retaining the nuclear strike capability until its withdrawal from RAF service in 1994.

31 Squadron next saw action in the 1991 Gulf War, leading the RAFs detachment in Dhahran as part of Operation GRANBY. Wing Commander Jerry Witts, Officer Commanding 31 at the time, led the Tornado GR1 contingent comprising aircraft and aircrew from 31 squadron and elements of II(AC), IX(B), 13, 14, 16, 17 and 617 squadrons. For his actions he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his leadership throughout the Operation. In 1999 31 Squadron participated in air operations over the Former Republic of Yugoslavia as part of Operation ALLIED FORCE and Operation ENDGADINE flying Air interdiction and Close Air Support sorties.

With the withdrawal of RAF forces from Germany, the Goldstars were the last unit to leave, relocating to their current home at RAF Marham in 2002. Iraq air policing operations continued in the form of approximately annual deployments, now to Ali Al Salem airbase in Kuwait, with these eventually escalating into the Iraq conflict of March 2003 For Operation TELIC, the Squadron was a part of the Tornado GR4 Combat Air Wing. Just as in 1991, 31 Squadron's CO found himself in the lead position and, for his work during the operation, Wg Cdr Paddy Teakle was awarded the DSO. 31 continued its army support work, now operating from Al Udeid airbase in Qatar, until 2009 as British forces continued their mission to return Iraq to a state of normality.

No sooner did the GR4 force withdrew from Operation TELIC than it was assigned to replace Harriers in Afghanistan as part of Operation HERRICK. providing all current members of the squadron with new and varied challenges; from high altitude operations and extreme weather to busy and dynamic support for troops on the ground. The tour was an outstanding success with the Squadron Engineering Team receiving a formal Commendation for their exceptional effort from the Air Officer Commanding the 83rd Expeditionary Air Wing.

Pictures Crown Copyright/Jamie Hunter

Battle Honours
North West Frontier 1916-1918
Afghanistan 1919-1920
Mahsud 1919-1920
Waziristan 1919-1925
North West Frontier 1939
Iraq 1941
Syria 1941
Egypt and Libya 1941-1942
Burma 1941-1942
North Burma 1943-1944
Arakan 1943-1944
Manipur 1944
Burma 1944-1945
Gulf 1991
Iraq 2003

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