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No. 30 Squadron RAF
30 Squadron badge
Active 24 March 1915 – 1 December 1946
November 1947 – September 1967
June 1968 – present[1]
Role Air transport
Garrison/HQ RAF Brize Norton
Motto(s) Ventre a terre
French: "All out"
Equipment C-130 Hercules
Battle honours see below
A date palm tree

No. 30 Squadron of the Royal Air Force operates the second generation C-130J Hercules from RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire. The squadron operates alongside No. 24 Squadron and No. 47 Squadron all flying the Hercules.


First World War

No 30 Squadron was formed for service in Egypt in October 1914 at Farnborough, but was not allocated the squadron number 30 until 24 March 1915. Initially a single flight of BE2s at Ismailia Airfield.

However, the first aircrews from the squadron to see action were a separate flight, provided by the Australian Flying Corps (AFC). In early 1915, the Australian Government received a request for assistance for air support from the British Government of India. The AFC was still in its infancy and could only provide enough aircrews and ground staff for half a flight. All aircraft were to be provided by the Indian Government. Captain Henry Petre was appointed commander, before the half-flight sailed for Bombay. The Australians were augmented by personnel from the Indian Army and New Zealand.

On 20 April, the half-flight left India for Mesopotamia (Iraq) to provide air support to Indian and British troops during the Mesopotamian campaign against the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). The unit was commonly known in Australia as the "Mesopotamian Half Flight" (or "Australian Half-Flight").

Upon its arrival in Basra on 26 May, the half-flight took delivery of two Maurice Farman Shorthorns and a Maurice Farman Longhorn. These three biplanes were of a "pusher" design, so-called because the propeller faced backwards, behind the cockpit and were already obsolete. In particular, they were not suitable for desert conditions: their top speed was only 50 mph (80 km/h), while the wind (known locally as the shamal) often reached 80 mph (129 km/h). Secondly, the warmer air reduced aerodynamic lift, rendering the Farmans unable to take off on some occasions. In addition, the Longhorn was a second-hand aircraft with persistent mechanical problems, meaning that it spent many ours undergoing maintenance.

Nevertheless, the half-flight was immediately put to use on reconnaissance missions. Shortly afterwards, the Indian Army captured the town of Amarah, and the half-flight moved there on 9 June.

On 4 July, the half-flight's equipment was augmented with two Caudron G.3 aircraft, which were still not up-to-date, but generally preferred to the Farmans. On 30 July, one of the Caudrons was forced to land in enemy territory due to mechanical problems. It was later reported that the crew — Lieutenants George Pinnock Merz and W. W. A. Burn (a New Zealander) — were killed by armed civilians in a running gun battle, over several miles. They were Australia's first military aviation casualties.

On 24 August, the half-flight was formally attached to No. 30 Squadron RFC, which referred to it as "B" Flight. The rest of 30 Sqn relocated to Iraq in April 1916. In April the squadron carried out one of the earliest air supply mission when it air-dropped food and other supplies to the garrison at Kut which was besieged by the Turks.

After breaking out, Allied forces met with stiff opposition outside Baghdad, and were forced back to Kut on 4 December, where they were again besieged. Ottoman forces eventually broke through and nine AFC ground staff became prisoners of war. Like the rest of the Allied POWs, they endured a punishing forced march to Turkey and only four of them survived captivity.

By 7 December, Petre was the last remaining AFC airman in Mesopotamia. He was transferred from 30 Squadron RFC to No. 1 Squadron AFC, based in Egypt. Petre flew the only remaining Shorthorn to 1 Sqn's base in Egypt.

The rest of 30 Sqn carried out bombing and reconnaissance missions until the end of the war with a variety of aircraft including SPADs, DH-4s and RE.8s.

1920s & 1930s

In 1919 the squadron was sent to Iran as part of the Norperforce.[2] This was followed by a posting to Iraq, for which it was re-equipped with DH.9As but by 1929 these in turn had been replaced by Westland Wapitis followed by Hawker Hardys (a tropicalised, general purpose version of the Hawker Hart light bomber) in 1935 and Blenheim Is in 1938.

Second World War

In August 1939, as war loomed, the squadron moved back to Egypt and carried out escort missions in the Western Desert and provided fighter defence of Alexandria. In November 1940, it was sent to Greece to operate its Blenheims in both the bomber and fighter roles, but in March 1941 the squadron was redesignated a fighter unit. After the fall of Greece and the Battle of Crete the squadron returned to Egypt and was re-equipped with Hurricanes and employed on night defence of Alexandria and then moved on to operations in the Western Desert.

A 30 Squadron Thunderbolt II taking off from Chittagong, 1944.

When the situation in the Far East worsened the squadron was transferred to Colombo Racecourse Airstrip in Ceylon arriving on 6 March 1942, just in time to assist in resisting the Japanese carrier strike against the island in early April.

In February 1944 it moved to the Burma front flying escort and ground attack missions and in May 1944 was re-equipped with American Republic P-47 Thunderbolts, which it took back into action in October until May 1945.


After the Japanese surrender the squadron remained in India and its Thunderbolts were replaced by Hawker Tempest F Mk 2s in March 1946. It was disbanded on 1 Dec 1946.

On 24 November 1947 the squadron was reformed at RAF Oakington, Cambridgeshire in the transport role and remains so to the present day, flying a succession of aircraft from Dakotas to Vickers Valettas to Blackburn Beverleys. It temporarily disbanded in September 1967 but soon reformed at RAF Lyneham equipped with Lockheed Hercules transports.


A Hercules C130J in flight.

The RAF transport fleet is in a period of flux and the Hercules C4/C5 fleet is a major part of this. The RAF ordered 25 of the aircraft with first deliveries in 1999. The first generation Hercules C1/C3 fleet is due to be replaced by 25 Airbus A400Ms at which time RAF Lyneham closed. This will see RAF's transport aircraft concentrated at RAF Brize Norton with the C-17 and tanker fleets.

Aircraft operated

Battle honours

On the squadron standard

Egypt, 1915: Mesopotamia, 1915–1918: Egypt & Libya, 1940–1942: Greece 1940–1941, Mediterranean, 1940–1941, Ceylon April, 1942: Arakan, 1944: Burma 1944-1945


Iraq, 1919–1920: North West Persia, 1920: Kurdistan, 1922–1924: Iraq, 1923–1925: Iraq, 1928–1929: Kurdistan, 1930–1931: Northern Kurdistan, 1932: Gulf, 1991


Memorial to members of 30 and 33 Squadrons RAF killed in battle of Crete

There is an Royal Air Force (RAF) memorial in Crete to the airmen of 30 and 33 Squadrons who died during the Battle of Crete. The memorial is located (35°31′31″N 23°49′43″E / 35.525363°N 23.828619°E / 35.525363; 23.828619) behind the roadside hedge between Maleme and Tavronitis overlooking the (35°31′36″N 23°49′32″E / 35.526625°N 23.825604°E / 35.526625; 23.825604[3]) Iron Bridge across the Tavronitis River and the end of Maleme Airport runway.


  • Hamlin, John F. Flatout – The Story of 30 Squadron Royal Air Force. Tunbridge Wells, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd., 2002. ISBN 0-85130-308-0.
  • de Normann, Roderick. "Mespot Squadron: No 30 Squadron in Mespotamia 1916–1917". Air Enthusiast, No. 66, November – December 1996. Stamford, Lincs, UK: Key Publishing. ISSN 0143 5450.
  • "Sqn Histories 26–30". Air of Authority – A History of RAF Organisation. 

External links

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