|No 3 Squadron|
|Active||13 May 1912 (RFC)|
|Role||Air Defence and Early Warning|
Latin language: Tertius primus erit|
("The third shall be the first")
|Equipment||Typhoon F2, FGR4, T3|
|Battle honours||Western Front 1914–1918, Mons, Somme 1918, Low Countries 1940, Battle of Britain 1940, Normandy 1944, Arnhem, France and Germany 1944–1945, Iraq 2003|
|Squadron Badge heraldry||On a monolith, a cockatrice|
No 3 (F) Squadron, which celebrated its 100th anniversary (as one of the three founder squadrons of the Royal Flying Corps) over the weekend of 11–13 May 2012, is unique in the RAF for having two official badges.
The main badge is the cockatrice on a monolith ('chicken on a brick'). Then there is the ground crew (Aircraft Engineers) badge having three vertical monoliths and two 'capping' monoliths ('The Wickets'), representing the association of Larkhill with Stonehenge.
The reasons for this distinction are hotly debated.
Foundation and First World War
No 3 Squadron (Royal Flying Corps) was formed at Larkhill on 13 May 1912 by the renaming of No. 2 (Aeroplane)Company of the Air Battalion Royal Engineers, under the command of Major HRM Brooke-Popham. Being already equipped with aeroplanes and manned by pilots and air mechanics, No. 2 (Aeroplane)Company was thus the first British, Empire or Commonwealth independent military unit to operate heavier-than-air flying machines, hence the 3 Squadron motto Tertius primus erit, meaning "The third shall be the first". On 5 July 1912, two members of the squadron, Captain Eustace Loraine and Staff Sergeant Wilson were killed in an aircraft crash making them the first RFC fatalities. In 1913, No 3 Squadron deployed to Halton in Buckinghamshire to support the land manoeuvres of the Household Division. A temporary airfield was set up on what later became RAF Halton's Maitland Parade Square. During the exercise, No 3 Squadron flew a number of reconnaissance sorties and staged the first confrontation between an airship and an aeroplane.
Sent to France on the outbreak of the Great War First World War, the squadron initially operated in the reconnaissance role using a variety of aircraft types. The English ace James McCudden served as a mechanic and later observer with 3 Squadron from June 1913 to January 1916 before leaving to become a pilot. Cecil Lewis, author of Sagittarius Rising flew Morane Parasols with No 3 Squadron during the Somme offensive in the summer of 1916. Later in October 1917, with the introduction of Sopwith Camels, a fighter/scout role was taken on, with 59 enemy aircraft being claimed by the end of the war. The squadron disbanded in October 1919.
There were nine flying aces among its ranks, including Douglas John Bell, George R. Riley, Will Hubbard, Adrian Franklyn, Hazel LeRoy Wallace, Lloyd Hamilton, David Hughes, Neil Smuts, and William H Maxted
It reformed in India in 1920 as a fighter squadron equipped with Sopwith Snipes, being disbanded again in October 1921. It was immediately reformed at RAF Station Leuchars, Scotland, as a naval observation squadron equipped with the Airco DH.9A, receiving the Westland Walrus and Avro Bison before being disbanded to form two independent flights in April 1923.
It reformed as a fighter squadron with Snipes in April 1924, operating a succession of different types, based in the UK, including the Gloster Gladiator. The only highlight of these years was the 1935 deployment to the Sudan during the Italian invasion of Abyssinia.
Second World War
At the start of the Second World War No 3 Squadron was posted as part of Fighter Commandto RAF Station Biggin Hill equipped with the Hawker Hurricane. It briefly deployed to France in support of the British Expeditionary Force following the German attack on the West in 1940, being forced to withdraw after 10 days, having claimed 60 German aircraft for the loss of 21 of its own. <06/41 to 08/41 No 3 Sqn moved from Martlesham Heath to RAF Stapleford Tawney operating 4 canon Hurrican 11s in 'Rhubarb' attacks on defended ground targets and shipping in northern France & Belgium. (Source Sqn logs National Record Office>. On 21 July 1940 "B" flight was detached to form the nucleus of the newly formed No. 232 Squadron. Once back up to strength, No. 3 Squadron was used as air defence for the Royal Naval base at Scapa Flow, remaining in Scotland until April 1941, based at RAF Station Wick in Northern Scotland.
In February 1943 it re-equipped with the Hawker Typhoon for fighter-bomber and anti-shipping strikes. It re-equipped in March 1944 with the new Hawker Tempest fighter, operating over the Normandy beach-head and against German V1 flying bombs, claiming 288 V-1s shot down.
It then deployed across the Channel, flying as part of the 2 TAF fighting through the low countries and into Germany. Amongst its pilots was F/L Pierre Clostermann, who flew with 3 Squadron from March 1945 until the end of the war in Europe.
The squadron moved onto jets with the De Havilland Vampire during 1948, in Germany, where it had remained after moving there in the latter stages of the war. Sabres and Hunters replaced the Vampires during the 1950s, followed by Gloster Javelins and then a conversion onto Canberra bombers. Most of its time with Canberras was spent at RAF Geilenkirchen moving to RAF Laarbruch in January 1968.
3 Sqn's association with the Harrier began in the early 1970s with the Harrier GR1 at RAF Wildenrath where it reformed from Canberra's to Harriers and they joined IV & 20 Squadron equipped with Harrier GR1's who were already operational at RAF Wildenrath. The squadron received the later GR3 and GR5 model Harriers successively at RAF Gütersloh, finally receiving the GR7 and relocating to RAF Laarbruch in the 1992. In 1999, with the drawdown of the RAF in Germany, the Squadron moved back to the UK along with its sister squadron No IV (AC) Squadron RAF. The two squadrons operated at RAF Cottesmore, being joined by the other Harrier operator, No. 1 Squadron RAF, in 2001. 3 Sqn later moved to RAF Coningsby in 2006.
As part of Joint Force Harrier, 3 Squadron operated alongside the Fleet Air Arm Sea Harriers, and was capable of deployment from the Royal Navy aircraft carriers. Operations included Operation Allied Force over Kosovo in 1999, Operation Palliser over Sierra Leone in 2000 and Operation Telic over Iraq in 2003. In August 2004, it was announced that 6 Harriers would be deployed to Afghanistan in support of NATO forces.
Its Harrier GR7s were passed to the Fleet Air Arm to be used by the recommissioned No. 800 Naval Air Squadron when 3 Squadron re-equipped with the Eurofighter Typhoon. It became the first operational front line RAF Typhoon squadron on 31 March 2006 and was declared operational in 2007.
In May 2012 four aircraft were deployed to RAF Northolt in an air defence role covering the duration of the Olympic Games, the first time RAF fighters had been stationed at the base since the Second World War.
- Sopwith Camel September 1917 – February 1919
- Sopwith Snipe April 1920 – October 1921; April 1924 – October 1925
- Airco DH.9A October 1921 – October 1922
- Westland Walrus January 1922 – April 1923
- Hawker Woodcock II July 1925 – September 1928
- Gloster Gamecock I August 1928 – July 1929
- Bristol Bulldog II May 1929 – December 1932
- Bristol Bulldog IIA February 1931 – January 1932; December 1932 – June 1937
- Gloster Gladiator I March 1937 – March 1939; July 1938 – July 1939
- Hawker Hurricane I March–July 1938; July 1939 – April 1941
- Hawker Hurricane IIA/IIB April–November 1941
- Hawker Hurricane IIC April 1941 – May 1943
- Hawker Typhoon IB February 1943 – April 1944
- Hawker Tempest V February 1944 – April 1948
- De Havilland Vampire F.1 April 1948 – May 1949
- De Havilland Vampire FB.5 May 1949 – May 1953
- North American Sabre F.1/F.4 May 1953 – June 1956
- Hawker Hunter F.4 May 1956 – June 1957
- Gloster Javelin FAW.4 January 1959 – December 1960
- English Electric Canberra B(I).8 January 1961 – January 1972
- Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR.1A, T.2 January 1972 – March 1977
- Harrier GR.3, T.4 March 1977 – May 1989
- BAE Harrier GR.5, T4 May 1989 – February 1992
- BAE Harrier GR7, T10 February 1992– March 31, 2006
- BAE Harrier GR7A 2004 – March 31, 2006
- Eurofighter Typhoon F2 1 April 2006–present
- Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 June 2011 – present
- Eurofighter Typhoon T3 June 2011 – present