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No. 55 Squadron RAF

27 April 1916 (RFC)
1 April 1918 (RAF) – 22 January 1920
1 February 1920 – 1 November 1946
1 September 1960 – 15 October 1993
15 October 1993 – 31 March 1996

1 November 1996 – 20 January 2011
Role Training
Garrison/HQ RAF Cranwell
Motto(s) "Nil nos tremefacit" (Nothing shakes us)
Equipment Hawker Siddeley Dominie
Battle honours Western Front 1917–1918*
Ypres 1917*
Independent Force and Germany 1918*
Iraq 1920
Kurdistan 1922-1924
Iraq 1928-1929
Kurdistan 1930-1931
Northern Kurdistan 1932
Egypt and Libya 1940-1943*
El Alamein*
El Hamma*
North Africa 1943
Sicily 1943
Italy 1943-1945
Gustav Line
Gothic Line*
South Atlantic 1982
Gulf 1991
*Denotes honours emblozoned on standard[1]
A cubit arm, the arm grasping a spear

No. 55 Squadron is a squadron of the Royal Air Force. It was formed in 1916 at Castle Bromwich as a unit of the Royal Flying Corps. No. 55 Squadron was the last RAF Squadron to operationally fly the Handley Page Victor, in its Victor K.2 in-flight refuelling tanker role. It was subsequently a navigator training squadron based at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire. The squadron operated the Hawker Siddeley Dominie, a military version of the HS.125 business jet, until January 2011.[2]


First World War

No. 55 Squadron was formed at Castle Bromwich on 27 April 1916. It initially operated as a training unit, flying a mixture of types, including the Avro 504, Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2 and the Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8, but in January 1917 it changed its role to a day-bomber squadron and re-equipped with the Airco DH.4, being the first squadron to receive the new light bomber.[3][4]

It took these to France on 6 March that year as part of 9th Wing, flying its first bombing mission against Valenciennes railway station on 23 April 1917 in support of the Battle of Arras.[5] It became part of the Independent Air Force as part of No 41 Wing based at Azelot,[6] carrying out daylight strategic bombing missions against targets in Germany.[4] 55 Squadron developed tactics of flying in wedge formations, bombing on the leader's command and with the massed defensive fire of the formation deterring attacks by enemy fighters.[7] Despite heavy losses, 55 Squadron continued in operation, the only one of the day bombing squadrons in the Independent Force which did not have to temporarily stand down owing to aircrew losses.[8]

Following the Armistice on 11 November 1918, 55 Squadron was briefly used to run airmail services to British forces, before returning to the United Kingdom and losing its aircraft in January 1919, formally disbanding on 22 January 1920.[3]

Between the Wars

The Squadron reformed on 1 February 1920, when No. 142 Squadron, based at Suez and equipped with Airco DH.9s was renumbered. It started to receive more capable Airco DH.9As in June 1920, and was equipped with a mixture of DH.9s and DH.9As when it transferred to Turkey in July to support British forces occupying Constantinople and the Dardanelles.[9][10] It moved to Bagdhad in Iraq in September that year, discarding its remaining DH.9s to standardise on the DH.9A.[11] It remained in Iraq for 19 years, flying "Air Policing" operations against rebelling tribemen when required. It moved to Mosul in March 1921 and to RAF Hinaidi in May 1924.[11] Its aging DH.9As were replaced by Westland Wapitis in February 1930, which in turn were replaced by Vickers Vincents in 1937,[12] taking these to RAF Habbaniya in September that year.[11]

It finally received modern monoplanes in March 1939, when it received twin-engined Bristol Blenheim bombers, transferring to Egypt just before the outbreak of the Second World War.[12]

Second World War

No. 55 Squadron flew its Blenheims on shipping patrols over the Gulf of Suez until Italy declared war in June 1940, when it switched to operations against targets in Libya. On 11 June 1940 the unit participated in the first attack by the RAF on the Italian air force base at El Adem, where 18 aircraft were destroyed or damaged on the ground, against the loss of three British aircraft from 3 squadrons.[13] It was switched to anti-shipping operations in September 1941, continuing these operations until it was withdrawn from operations in March 1942 for conversion to Martin Baltimores, after which it returned to the bombing role.[12] The squadron continued in support of the Eighth Army for the remainder of the North African Campaign.[1]

It flew its Baltimores on bombing raids in support of the Allied invasion of Sicily and the subsequent invasion of Italy. It re-equipped with Boston light bombers in October 1944.[12] The squadron moved to Greece in September 1945, replacing its Bostons with de Havilland Mosquitos in June 1946, disbanding in December that year.[3]


A 55 Sqn Victor K1 refules a US Navy KA-6D Intruder from VA-65, in 1971.

No. 55 Squadron did not reform until 1 September 1960 at RAF Honington,[3] when it became part of the RAF's V bomber force, being the fifth squadron equipped with the Handley Page Victor when it received Victor B.1As.[14] When the Vickers Valiant was grounded in December 1964 owing to metal fatigue, the RAF lost its aerial refueling tanker force, and a rush programme was launched to convert Victor B.1s to fill the tanker gap. From May 1965 when it moved to RAF Marham,[11] 55 Squadron received six interim two-point Victor BK.1A tanker conversions, allowing it to become operational in the tanker role in August 1965.[15] It had replaced the interim BK.1As with the definitive three-point tankers (Victor K.1 and K.1A) by December 1966, retaining them until 1975, when they were replaced by the more powerful Victor K.2.[12]

55 Squadron provided tanker support during the Falklands War in 1982, including for the Operation Black Buck raids, where they refuelled Avro Vulcan bombers to allow them to reach the Falklands from Ascension Island.[1] 55 Squadron's Victors went to war again in 1991, when it was deployed to the Gulf as part of Operation Granby, Britain's response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, refuelling coalition aircraft during Operation Desert Storm.[16][17] It disbanded on 15 October 1993, the last Squadron to operate the Victor.[18]

Training roles

On the same day as 55 Squadron disbanded as a Victor squadron, No. 241 Operational Conversion Unit RAF at RAF Brize Norton was renumbered No. 55 (Reserve) Squadron. This OCU was responsible for training Vickers VC10 and Lockheed TriStar crews, although it had no aircraft of its own.[19] Disbanding again on 31 March 1996, it reformed at RAF Cranwell on 1 November 1996 when the Navigation Squadron of No. 3 Flying Training School, flying Hawker Siddeley Dominie, Weapon Systems Officer and Weapon System Operators trainers, adopted its identity.[19] The Dominie was withdrawn from service when WSO and WSOp training ended on 20 January 2011.[2]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "55 Squadron". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 6 September 2010.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Farewell flypast for RAF's Hawker Siddeley". BBC, 20 January 2011. Retrieved 25 January 2011.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Halley 1980, p. 91.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Ashworth 1989, p. 130.
  5. Bruce Flight 17 October 1952, p. 507.
  6. Rennles 2002, pp. 5–6.
  7. Williams 1999, p. 84.
  8. Williams 1999, p. 195.
  9. Ashworth 1989, pp. 130–131.
  10. Halley 1980, pp. 91–92.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Halley 1980, p. 92.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Ashworth 1989, p. 131.
  13. Playfair, Vol. I, page 112.
  14. Mason 1994, p. 389.
  15. Gunston Aeroplane Monthly February 1981, p. 65.
  16. "Third Tornado squadron goes to Saudi Arabia". Flight International, 9–15 January 1991.
  17. World Air Power Journal Volume 5 Spring 1991, p. 35.
  18. Mason 1994, p. 390.
  19. 19.0 19.1 "No 51 - 55 Squadron Histories". Air of Authority. 


  • Ashworth, Chris. Encyclopaedia of Modern Royal Air Force Squadrons. Wellingborough, UK:Patrick Stephens Limited, 1989. ISBN 1-85260-013-6.
  • Bruce, J.M. "The De Havilland D.H.4." Flight, 17 October 1952, pp. 506–510.
  • "Desert Storm: The First Phase". World Air Power Journal, Volume 5, Spring 1991. pp. 24–35.
  • Gunston, Bill. "The V-Bombers: Handley Page Victor, Part 2". Aeroplane Monthly, Vol. 9, No 2, February 1981, pp. 60–65. ISSN 0143-7240.
  • Halley, James J. The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force.Tonbridge, Kent, UK:Air Britain (Historians), 1980. ISBN 0-85130-083-9.
  • Mason, Francis K. The British Bomber since 1914. London: Putnam, 1994. ISBN 0-85177-861-5.
  • Miller, Leonard. The Chronicles of 55 Squadron RFC and RAF. London: Unwin Brothers Ltd., 1919.
  • Playfair, Major-General I.S.O.; Molony, Brigadier C.J.C.; with Flynn, Captain F.C. (R.N.) & Gleave, Group Captain T.P. (2009) [1st. pub. HMSO:1954]. Butler, Sir James. ed. The Mediterranean and Middle East, Volume I: The Early Successes Against Italy, to May 1941. History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series. Uckfield, UK: Naval & Military Press. ISBN 1-84574-065-3. 
  • Rennles, Keith. Independent Force:The War Diary of the Daylight Bomber Squadrons of the Independent Air Force 6th June–11th November 1918. London:Grub Street, 2002. ISBN 1-902304-90-X.
  • Williams, George K. Biplanes and Bombsights: British Bombing in World War I. Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Air University Press, 1999. ISBN 1-4102-0012-4.

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