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No. 78 Squadron RAF
Active 1916–1918
Role Battlefield Support Helicopter
Garrison/HQ RAF Benson, Oxfordshire
Motto(s) "Nemo non paratus" (Nobody unprepared)
Equipment AgustaWestland Merlin HC3/HC3A
A heraldic tiger

No. 78 Squadron of the Royal Air Force operates the Merlin HC3/3A transport helicopter from RAF Benson. Until December 2007 it was the operator of two Westland Sea King HAR3s from RAF Mount Pleasant, Falkland Islands.


No. 78 Squadron was formed as part of the Royal Flying Corps on 1 November 1916 for home defence at Harrietsham and tasked with protecting the southern English coast. It was originally equipped with obsolescent BE2 and more modern BE12 fighters. On the night of 25 September 1917 a Captain Bell of the squadron encountered a German Gotha and attacked it over Joyce Green. John Rawlings, writing in Fighter Squadrons of the Royal Air Force (1969), stated that 'it was believed that he damaged it for one of the German raiders failed to return that night, being lost at sea.'[1] The squadron received Sopwith 1½ Strutters in late 1917, followed by Sopwith Camels in mid-1918. It arrived at Sutton's Farm, under the command of Major Cuthbert Rowden, in September 1917 and was there until December 1919, with a detachment at Biggin Hill. The squadron disbanded on 31 December 1919 following the Armistice.

During the buildup of the RAF in the period before World War II, No. 78 Squadron was reformed at RAF Boscombe Down on 1 November 1936, twenty-two years after it was first formed, by redesignating a flight of No. 10 Squadron.

A 78 Sqn Whitley V, 1940.

In July 1939 it was equipped with Armstrong Whitworth Whitley medium bombers, and on the outbreak of war was designated as a training squadron and moved to RAF Linton-on-Ouse as part of the newly formed No. 4 Group RAF(RAF Bomber Command). From September 1939 to April 1941, however, Whitley Mk V bombers were flown by No. 78 for night operations from the bases at RAF Dishforth and RAF Linton-on-Ouse.

78 Sqn Halifax B Mark II Series 1A based at RAF Breighton

In July 1940 it was returned to front-line duties, and served as a full-time night bomber squadron of RAF Bomber Command, being re-equipped with Handley Page Halifax heavy bombers in early 1942 flying from Breighton Airfield in East Yorkshire

In May 1945 it was transferred into Transport Command, re-equipping with Dakotas in July and moving to the Middle East in September. It remained active in the post-war period as a transport squadron, converting to Valettas in 1950, before being disbanded on 30 September 1954.

The squadron was again reformed in April 1956 at Aden, operating Pioneer and later Twin Pioneer light transport aircraft. In 1965 these were transferred to No. 21 Squadron and the squadron converted to a helicopter unit operating the Wessex; it remained in this role until being disbanded in 1971.

Current service

The Squadron reformed on May 22, 1986 and has operated in the same role since then. Originally operating the Chinook HC.1, these were replaced with HC.2s. The Chinook HC.2, equivalent to the US Army CH-47D standard, began to enter RAF service in 1993.

From 1988 to 2007, No. 78 Squadron was the only RAF squadron permanently based in the Falkland Islands. The four Tornado F3s which provide air defence are operated by No. 1435 Flight, while No. 1312 Flight operates a single Vickers VC10 and one C-130K Hercules.

In December 2007, No. 78 Squadron reverted to its previous identity of No. 1564 Flight and a new No. 78 Squadron formed at RAF Benson as part of the Joint Helicopter Command, flying the Merlin HC3 and the new Merlin HC3A helicopters purchased from Denmark. By 2008, the total fleet of twenty eight RAF Merlin helicopters will be operated in a pool with 28 (AC) Squadron, also based at RAF Benson.[2]

On June 22, 2013 Group Captain Rawson and his crew of the No. 78 Squadron visited the town of Renswoude in the province of Utrecht in the Netherlands. The crew landed a Merlin HC3 in a field next to a monument to commemorate the fallen flightcrew of a Handley Page Halifax II of the No.78 Squadron, that was shot down on the way to Germany.

Aircraft operated

See also


  1. John Rawlings, Fighter Squadrons of the Royal Air Force, MacDonald, 1969, p.193
  2. 78 Squadron Operational

External links

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