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No. 261 Squadron RAF
Active 20 August 1918 – 13 September 1919
2 August 1940 – 21 May 1941
12 July 1941 – 26 September 1945
Country United Kingdom United Kingdom
Branch Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Royal Air Force
Role Fighter squadron
Motto(s) Latin: Semper Contendo
("I strive continually")[1][2]
Squadron Badge heraldry In front of a sword erect, the point downwards, a mullet, the whole in front of a Maltese Cross[1][2]
Squadron Codes FJ (Jun 1944 – Sep 1945)[3][4]

No. 261 Squadron RAF was a squadron of the Royal Air Force during World War I and World War II. It was involved in the defence of Malta from August 1940 till May 1941 and the campaign in Burma.


Formation and World War I

The squadron first formed officially on 20 August 1918 at Felixstowe from Nos. 339, 340 and 341 flights of the former RNAS, and continued to operate their Felixstowe F.3 flying-boats on anti-submarine and anti-shipping patrols. After the armistice it was officially disbanded on 13 September 1919.[1][2][5]

Reformation and World War II

The squadron was reformed on 2 August 1940 to combine the two flights operating in the defence of Malta, the two flights Malta Fighter Flight operating the Gloster Sea Gladiator and No. 418 Flight RAF operating Hawker Hurricanes. Among the inherited aircraft were the two survivors of the three Gladiators supposedly[6][7][8][9] named Faith, Hope and Charity, Charity had been shot down the week before the squadron formed. The squadron suffered badly from attacks by both German and Italian aircraft and when a relief squadron (No. 185 Squadron) arrived in Malta the squadron was disbanded and the remnants were absorbed into No. 185 Squadron between 12 and 21 May 1941.[2][5]

Reformed again

The squadron was reformed at RAF Habbaniya, Iraq on the 12 July 1941 by renumbering No. 127 Squadron[1] and again was equipped with Gladiators and Hurricanes. The main role was the defence of the oil ports, when fighting in Iraq ended the squadron sent detachments to Palestine and Cyprus. The squadron moved to Haifa, Palestine in January 1942. Re-equipped with the Hurricane IIB the squadron moved to the far east in early 1942 to join the campaign in Burma. The first action was February 1943 when the squadron was used in the ground attack role. It also undertook escort duties to the Douglas Dakota operating supply missions. The squadron re-equipped with the Republic Thunderbolt in 1944 and returned to action in September 1944 to join an attack on Rangoon. It fought to the end of the Burma campaign and it had moved to India to re-group ready to join the action in Malaya as the war ended. The squadron was disbanded on the 26 September 1945 at RAF Tanjore, India.[2][5]

Aircraft operated

A 261 Sqn Hurricane II at RAF Ta Kali, Malta, in September 1941.

From To Aircraft Variant
Aug 1918 Sep 1919 Felixstowe F.3
Aug 1940 Jan 1941 Gloster Sea Gladiator Mk.I
Aug 1940 May 1941 Hawker Hurricane Mk.I
Jul 1941 Sep 1941 Gloster Gladiator Mk.I
Jul 1941 Apr 1942 Hawker Hurricane Mk.I
Mar 1942 Nov 1943 Hawker Hurricane Mk.IIb
Oct 1943 Jun 1944 Hawker Hurricane Mk.IIc
Jun 1944 Oct 1944 Republic Thunderbolt Mk.I (P-47D "Razor back")
Aug 1944 Sep 1945 Republic Thunderbolt Mk.II (P-47D "Bubble top")


Surviving aircraft

The fuselage of Gladiator Faith is on display at the Malta War Museum, Fort St Elmo, Valletta.[10]

See also



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Rawlings 1982, p. 185.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Halley 1988, pp. 327–328.
  3. Bowyer and Rawlings 1979, p. 41.
  4. Flintham and Thomas 2003, p. 72.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Jefford 2001, p. 82.
  6. Crawford 2002, pp. 120–121.
  7. Hayles, John. "Gladiator.", 17 April 2004. Retrieved: 12 April 2009.
  8. "The fate of Gloster Gladiator 'Faith'." Malta Aviation Museum, 2009. Retrieved: 12 April 2009.
  9. Sanderson, Michael. "Faith, Hope and Charity." Retrieved: 12 April 2009.
  10. Faith in the Malta War Museum


  • Bowyer, Michael J.F. and John D.R. Rawlings. Squadron Codes, 1937–56. Cambridge, UK: Patrick Stephens Ltd., 1979. ISBN 0-85059-364-6.
  • Crawford, Alex. Gloster Gladiator. Redbourn, UK: Mushroom Model Publications, 2002. ISBN 83-916327-0-9.
  • Flintham, Vic and Andrew Thomas. Combat Codes: A full explanation and listing of British, Commonwealth and Allied air force unit codes since 1938. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing Ltd., 2003. ISBN 1-84037-281-8.
  • Halley, James J. The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth 1918–1988. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1988. ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
  • Jefford, Wing Commander C.G., MBE, BA, RAF(Retd.). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 1988 (second edition 2001). ISBN 1-85310-053-6.
  • Rawlings, John D.R. Coastal, Support and Special Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Jane's Publishing Company Ltd., 1982. ISBN 0-7106-0187-5.
  • The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft (Part Work 1982–1985), Orbis Publishing, UK.

External links

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