No. 3 Squadron RAF: Wikis


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No. 3 Squadron
3 Squadron badge
Active 18 May 1912 (RFC)
Role Air Defence and Early Warning
Garrison/HQ RAF Coningsby
Motto Latin: Tertius primus erit
("The third shall be the first")
Equipment Typhoon F2
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
On a monolith, a cockatrice

No. 3 (F) Squadron of the Royal Air Force operates the Typhoon F2 and T1 from RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire.




Foundation and First World War

No. 3 Squadron (Royal Flying Corps) was formed at Larkhill on 13 May 1912 from No 2 Company of the Air Battalion Royal Engineers. 3 Squadron was actually the first squadron to receive heavier than air flying machines, hence the motto Tertius primus erit, meaning "The third shall be the first". In 1913, 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, 3 Squadron flew a number of reconnaissance sorties and staged the first confrontation between an airship and an aeroplane.[1]

Sent to France on the outbreak of the First World War, the squadron initially operated in the reconnaissance role using a variety of aircraft types. Cecil Lewis, author of Sagittarius Rising flew Morane Parasols with 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.[2][3]

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, and Neil Smuts.[4]

Inter War

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 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.[2][3]

It reformed as a fighter squadron with Snipes in April 1924, operating a sucession of different types, based in the UK. The only highlight of these years was the 1935 deployment to the Sudan during the Italian invasion of Abyssinia.[3]

Second World War

At the start of the Second World War 3 Sqn was based at Biggin Hill having just re-equipped with the Hawker Hurricane, as part of Fighter Command. 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. It was then sent to Wick in Northern Scotland and then to co-operate with "Turbinlite" seachlight equipped Douglas Havocs in the night fighter role.[3]

In February 1943 it re-equipped with the Hawker Typhoon flying them on fighter-bomber and anti-shipping strikes. It re-equipped again in March 1944, this time receiving the new Hawker Tempest fighter, operating over the Normandy beach-head and against German V1 flying bombs, claiming 288 V1s shot down.[3]

It then deployed across the Channel, flying its Tempests as part of 2 TAF fighting through the low countries and into Germany. Amongst its pilots was Pierre Clostermann, who flew with 3 Squadron from March 1945 until the end of the war in Europe.[2][3]

Post War

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. The squadron received the later GR3 and GR5 model Harriers successively at its Gütersloh base, finally receiving the GR7 and relocating to Laarbruch in the 1990s. In the 1999, with the drawdown of the RAF in Germany, 3 Sqn moved back to the UK along with its sister 4 Sqn. The two squadrons operated at RAF Cottesmore, being joined by the other Harrier operator, 1 Sqn, in 2001.

No. 3 Sqn, as part of Joint Force Harrier, operated alongside the Fleet Air Arm Sea Harriers, and itself was capable of deployment from the Royal Navy aircraft carriers. Operations have 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 will be deployed to Afghanistan in support of NATO forces.

No. 3 Sqn became the first operational front line squadron equipped with the Eurofighter Typhoon on March 31 2006. 3(F) Sqn was declared operational in 2007. Its Harrier GR7s have now been passed to the Fleet Air Arm to be used by the recommissioned 800 Naval Air Squadron.

In 2007 No. 3 (F) Squadron celebrated its 95th anniversary over the weekend of 11, 12 & 13 May at RAF Coningsby.

No 3 Sqn is unique in the RAF having 2 official crests; the main one, the cockatrice on a monolith ('chicken on a brick') and the ground crew (Aircraft Engineers) having 3 vertical monoliths and 2 'capping' monoliths ('The Wickets') representing the association of Larkhill with stonehenge. The reasons for this distinction is hotly debated.

Previous aircraft operated

3 Squadron Typhoon F2

See also



  1. ^ Finn, C. J. et al. (2004). Air Publication 3003 - A Brief History of the Royal Air Force. p. 331. HMSO.
  2. ^ a b c Lewis 1959, p.13.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Ashworth 1989, p.30.
  4. ^ Retrieved 26 January 2010.


  • Ashworth, Chris. Encyclopedia of Modern Royal Air Force Squadrons. Wellingborough, UK: Patrick Stevens Limited, 1989. ISBN 1-85260-013-6.
  • 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.
  • 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: Airlife Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
  • Lewis, Peter. Squadron Histories: R.F.C, R.N.A.S and R.A.F., 1912-59. London: Putnam, 1959.
  • Long, Jack T.C. Three's Company: An Illustrated History Of No. 3 (Fighter) Squadron RAF. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2005. ISBN 1-84415-158-1.
  • Moyes, Philip J.R. Bomber Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald and Jane's (Publishers) Ltd., 1964 (new edition 1976). ISBN 0-354-01027-1.
  • 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.

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