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No. 72 (Reserve) Squadron RAF
Badge of No. 72 Squadron RAF
Active 28 Jun 1917 - 22 Sep 1919
22 Feb 1937 - 30 Dec 1946
1 Feb 1947 - 30 Jun 1961
15 Nov 1961 - Easter 2002
12 July 2002 - present
Country United Kingdom United Kingdom
Branch Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Royal Air Force
Role Army support (1917-19)
Fighter (1937-46, 1947-61)
Transport (1961-2002)
Flying training (2002-present)
Base RAF Linton-on-Ouse
Nickname(s) "Basutoland"[1]
Motto(s) Swift
Post 1950 squadron insignia RAF 72 Sqn.svg
Aircraft Short Tucano T.1
Battle honours Mesopotamia 1918*, Channel and North Sea 1939-1942, Dunkirk*, Battle of Britain 1940*, Fortress Europe 1941-1942*, North Africa 1942-1943*, Mediterranean 1942-1943, Sicily 1943*, Italy 1943-1945, Salerno*, Anzio and Nettuno*
The honours marked with an asterisk* are those emblazoned on the Squadron Standard
Squadron badge heraldry A Swift Volant
The swift in the squadron's badge is symbolic of speed[2]
Squadron Codes RN (Oct 1938 - Apr 1939)[3]
SD (Apr 1939 - Sep 1939)[3][4]
RN (Sep 1939 - Dec 1946)[5][6]
FG (Jan 1947 - Apr 1951)[7][8]
A (on Wessex)[9]

No. 72 Squadron Royal Air Force started its service life supporting the army during World War I on operations in Middle East and afterwards was quickly disbanded. In its second incarnation the squadron was a real fighter unit, transitioning from Gloster Gladiator biplanes[10] to Gloster Javelin all-weather jets, in between flying the Supermarine Spitfire during the Battle of Britain. The jets went in 1961 and from then till 2002 the squadron flew helicopters in the transport role. No. 72 (Reserve) Squadron Royal Air Force is currently a training reserve squadron based at RAF Linton-on-Ouse using the Short Tucano T.1, a modified version of the Brazilian Embraer EMB-312 Tucano training aircraft.

The squadron nickname, "Basutoland", is derived from the fact that during both world wars, the Basutoland Protectorare, now Lesotho, donated aircraft to RAF, which were assigned to No. 72 Squadron.[11]


First World War

No. 72 Squadron was formed on 28 June 1917 at Upavon.[2][12] On Christmas Day, the squadron left for the Middle East and regrouped at Basra on 2 March. Here, they split in three flights, each assisting the Army in their various missions, and were disbanded in Baghdad on 22 September 1919.[2]

Second World War

A 72 Sqn Spitfire IIA in April 1941.

No. 72 Squadron was reformed at RAF Tangmere on 22 February 1937 from 'B' flight of No. 1 Squadron.[2] In 1939, the squadron was outfitted with Spitfires which replaced the Gloster Gladiators that came with the flight from No. 1 Squadron. These were used in Air defence and convoy protection duties following the start of World War II. Then, in 1940, the squadron moved to assist in the evacuation of Dunkirk.

During the Battle of Britain, No 72 spent the early days at RAF Acklington as part of No. 13 Group RAF, before moving south during September to aid the main defence force. The squadron was then moved to North Africa to support the Tunisian campaign before being supplied with the updated Spitfire Mk.IX in 1942. They then assisted the British 8th Army as they advanced through Italy and France up until the German surrender. At this point they were moved to Austria. It was here they were disbanded on 30 December 1946 at Zeltweg.[2]

Post war jets

A Gloster Javelin at RAF Museum Cosford.

The squadron was reformed on 1 February 1947 at RAF Odiham by renumbering No. 130 Squadron RAF.[2] They took over 130 squadrons Vampire F.1s, making no haste to remove that units 'AP' code[13] The Vampire soldiered on for three versions until it gave way to the Meteor F.8 in 1952, and when the squadron was given a night-fighter role in February 1956 these were replaced with Meteor NF.12s and Meteor NF.14. In 1959 the squadron got the all-weather fighter role and was given Javelin FAW.4s and later Javelin FAW.5s. These were flown until the Squadron was disbanded at RAF Leconfield on 30 June 1961.[2]


A Bristol Belvedere

On 15 November 1961 No. 72 squadron was reformed at RAF Odiham, but now as a helicopter unit.[14] They were equipped with twin-rotor Belvederes HC.1s until the Wessex HC.2 replaced these aircraft in August 1964. For the next thirty-eight years they continued to use these aircraft and in that time the Squadron saw action in Malaya, provided post-disaster assistance following the Torrey Canyon tanker disaster in 1967 and supported the security forces in Northern Ireland from 1969. From January 1997 the Wessex was partly supplanted with the more modern Westland Puma. The Squadron was disbanded in April 2002 at RAF Aldergrove and the Wessex helicopters were retired from service.[14]


A RAF Short Tucano T.1 of no. 72 squadron at Shoreham Airport, 2005

On 12 July 2002 No. 1 Flying Training School divided its strength between two new reserve Squadrons, one of which was No 72, reformed as No. 72 (Reserve) Squadron operating the Short Tucano at RAF Linton-on-Ouse.[15]


The squadron also had an Air Training Corps squadron named after it which is situated in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. 72 Squadron's relationship with Northern Ireland and the young people living there was honoured upon their departure there when Air Cadets in the newly formed Omagh Squadron chose 72 as their Squadron Number. Many young people in Northern Ireland enjoyed a warm welcome, and hours in the air with 72 Squadron.

Aircraft operated

Aircraft operated by no. 72 squadron RAF, data from[12][16]
From To Aircraft Variant Remark
March 1918 June 1918 Airco DH.4 'A' flight
March 1918 January 1919 Spad S.7 'A' flight
April 1918 November 1918 Martinsyde G.100 'B' flight
April 1918 February 1919 Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5 S.E.5A 'A' flight
April 1918 February 1919 Bristol M.1 M.1c 'C' flight
May 1937 May 1939 Gloster Gladiator Mk.I
April 1939 April 1941 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I
May 1940 May 1940 Gloster Gladiator Mks.I, II Acklington unserviceable for Spitfires[17]
April 1941 July 1941 Supermarine Spitfire Mks.IIa, IIb
July 1941 July 1942 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb
July 1942 February 1943 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vc
July 1942 August 1942 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IX
August 1942 November 1942 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb
February 1943 October 1944 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IX
June 1943 January 1944 Supermarine Spitfire Mk. Vc
October 1944 December 1946 Supermarine Spitfire LF.Mk.IX
February 1947 October 1948 de Havilland Vampire F.1
June 1948 February 1950 de Havilland Vampire F.3
November 1949 July 1952 de Havilland Vampire FB.5
July 1952 February 1956 Gloster Meteor F.8
February 1956 June 1959 Gloster Meteor NF.12
February 1956 June 1959 Gloster Meteor NF.14
April 1959 June 1961 Gloster Javelin FAW.4
June 1959 June 1961 Gloster Javelin FAW.5
November 1961 August 1964 Bristol Belvedere HC.1
August 1964 Easter 2002 Westland Wessex HC.2
January 1997 Easter 2002 Westland Puma HC.1
July 2002 present Short Tucano T.1

See also


  1. Rawlings 1978, p. 522.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Rawlings 1978, p. 176.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Flintham and Thomas 2003, p. 51.
  4. Bowyer and Rawlings 1979, p. 12.
  5. Bowyer and Rawlings 1979, p. 90.
  6. Flintham and Thomas 2003, p. 104.
  7. Bowyer and Rawlings 1979, p. 40.
  8. Flintham and Thomas 2003, p. 151.
  9. Flintham and Thomas 2003, p. 199.
  10. Gustavsson, Håkan. "Gloster Gladiator in 72 RAF Squadron service". Biplane Fighter Aces from the Second World War. Retrieved 17 April 2013. 
  11. "Jackson, 2006, p260"
  12. 12.0 12.1 Jefford 2001, p. 50.
  13. Flintham and Thomas 2003, p. 148.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Rawlings 1982, p. 89.
  16. Halley 1988, p. 140.
  17. Rawlings 1978, p. 177.
  • Bowyer, Michael J.F. and John D.R. Rawlings. Squadron Codes, 1937-56. Cambridge, UK: Patrick Stephens Ltd., 1979. ISBN 0-85059-364-6.
  • Delve, Ken. The Source Book of the RAF. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 1994. ISBN 1-85310-451-5.
  • Docherty, Tom. Swift to Battle: No. 72 Fighter Squadron RAF in Action, Volume 1: 1937 to 1942, Phoney War, Dunkirk, Battle of Britain, Offensive Operations. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Pen and Sword, 2009. ISBN 978-1-84415-829-4.
  • Docherty, Tom. Swift to Battle: No. 72 Fighter Squadron RAF in Action, Volume 2: 1942 to 1947, North Africa, Malta, Sicily, Southern France and Austria. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Pen and Sword, 2009. ISBN 978-1-84884-087-4.
  • Docherty, Tom. Swift to Battle: No. 72 Fighter Squadron RAF in Action, Volume 3: 1947 to 1961, Cold War Operations. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Pen and Sword, 2010. ISBN 978-1-84884-186-4.
  • 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.
  • Jackson, Ashley, The British Empire and the Second World War (London/New York: Hambledon Continuumn, 2006).
  • 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, 2001. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
  • 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.
  • Rawlings, John D.R. Fighter Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald and Jane's (Publishers) Ltd., 1969 (new edition 1976, reprinted 1978). ISBN 0-354-01028-X.
  • Robinson, Anthony. RAF Fighter Squadrons in the Battle of Britain. London: Arms and Armour Press Ltd., 1987 (Reprinted in 1999 by Brockhampton Press, ISBN 1-86019-907-0.)
  • Sturtivant, Ray, ISO and John Hamlin. RAF Flying Training And Support Units since 1912. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd., 2007. ISBN 0-85130-365-X.

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