No. 501 Squadron RAF: Wikis


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No. 501 (County of Gloucester) Squadron, RAF Regiment
Active 14 June 1929 - 20 April 1945
10 May 1946 - 10 March 1957
June 2001 - present
Country United Kingdom United Kingdom
Branch Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Royal Air Force
Part of Royal Auxiliary Air Force
Motto Latin: Nil Time
("Fear nothing")
Colors RAF 501 Sqn.svg
Battle honours France & Low Countries, 1940; Battle of Britain, 1940; Home Defence, 1940-45; Fortress Europe, 1940-44; Channel & North Sea, 1940-44; France & Germany, 1944; Normandy, 1944.
Christopher Frederick "Bunny" Currant
Squadron Badge heraldry A boar's head couped[1]
The boar's head is taken from the arms of Gloucester; the animal is also noted for its courage[2]
Squadron Codes ZH (Apr 1939 - Sep 1939)
SD (Sep 1939 - Apr 1945
and 1949 - 1951)
RAB (May 1946 - 1949)

No. 501 Squadron was the fourteenth of the twenty-one flying units in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force[3], the volunteer reserve part of the British Royal Air Force. The squadron won seven battle honours flying Hurricane, Spitfire and Tempest fighter aircraft during World War II, and was one of the most heavily engaged units in RAF Fighter Command. In particular, the Squadron saw extensive action during the Battle of France and Battle of Britain. At present the unit is not flying anymore and has a Force Protection role.




Formation and early years

The squadron was originally formed as a day-bomber unit named No 501 (City of Bristol) Squadron as part of the Special Reserve squadrons on 14 June 1929, made up of volunteers and regulars, flying D.H.9As, which were later replaced with Wapitis and later still with Wallaces. In 1936 it became "No 501 (County of Gloucester) Squadron", changing the name to embrace a larger area of recruitment[1]. On 1 May 1936 it was transferred to the Auxiliary Air Force and in July of that year the squadron converted to Harts. In March 1938 these were exchanged for Hinds, but at the end of 1938 No. 501 squadron was transferred from RAF Bomber Command to RAF Fighter Command, and Hurricanes began to arrive in March 1939.

In World War II

When war was declared in September 1939, 501 Squadron was based at RAF Filton, near Bristol. On 10 May 1940, the Squadron became part of the Advanced Air Striking Force (AASF)[4] and moved to France where it saw extensive action, stationed at airfields as Bétheniville, Anglure, Le Mans and Dinard. After the retreat from France through Saint Helier, Jersey, its battle-hardened pilots were re-organised at RAF Croydon and then moved on to RAF Middle Wallop and later RAF Gravesend (now Gravesend Airport). It subsequently served at RAF Kenley, south London, until 17 December 1940. At Kenley, the squadron was commanded by S/Ldr. Harry Hogan and still was equipped with Hurricanes. Spitfires arrived in April 1941. Between November 1943 and October 1944 the squadron formed part of Air Defence of Great Britain and by that time flew Tempest Mk.Vs on "Anti-Diver" patrols. The squadron was disbanded at RAF Hunsdon the end of the war on 20 April 1945.

Notable squadron members

The squadron included several notable pilots of WWII, including Sergeant Pilot Antoni (Toni) Glowacki VM, CV and 3 bars, DFC, DFM, who shot down five German aircraft on 24 August 1940 to become the first of only two pilots to achieve "Ace-in-a-day" status during the Battle of Britain.[5] Among others who achieved fighter ace status were Ken Mackenzie, "Ginger" Lacey, Stanisław Skalski, Robert Dafforn and Kenneth Lee. Lacey was one of the highest scoring pilots in the Battle of Britain.[6]

Into the jet age

The squadron was reformed on 10 May 1946 as an Auxiliary Air Force fighter squadron at RAF Filton. In February 1957, Flt Lt John Crossley flew Vampire FB.9 jet WR260 beneath the Clifton Suspension Bridge, before a fatal crash into Leigh Woods.[7][8] This was the last recorded -and only jet aircraft- flight under that bridge. The Squadron was disbanded in March 1957, along with all the other Auxiliary units.

Present role

In June 2001 No. 501 squadron was reformed in the Force Protection role as 501 (Operational Support) Squadron in 2001 at RAF Brize Norton. 501 Squadrons Gunners provide a reserve of trained manpower for 1 Squadron RAF Regiment, No 4 Force Protection Wing. In 2003, its personnel deployed as part of Operation Telic, the liberation of Iraq. The squadron continues to deploy personnel on Force Protection duties in this region. In 2006 the first 501 Squadron Gunners deployed with 2 Squadron RAF Regiment to Afghanistan, carrying out force protection duties of Kandahar airfield and surrounding areas. This has been continued with members of both Regiment and FP roles mobilising with 1 Squadron RAF Regiment tour of the region (8 August to 9 March). Between November 2006 and April 2007 501 Squadron Gunners also deployed with the Queens Colour Squadron, 63 Squadron RAF Regiment to Basra Iraq.

Aircraft operated

From To Aircraft Version Remark
Aug 1929 Mar 1930* Avro 504 N Used for training[9]
Mar 1930 Nov 1930 Airco DH.9A
Sep 1930 Mar 1933* Westland Wapiti Mk.IIa
Jan 1933 Jul 1936 Westland Wallace Mk.I
Mar 1936 Jul 1936 Westland Wallace Mk.II
Jun 1935 Mar 1937 De Havilland Tiger Moth Mk.I Used for training[9]
Jan 1936 Oct 1939 Avro Tutor Mk.I Used for training[9]
Jul 1936 Mar 1938* Hawker Hart Mk.I One example used for training till May 1939[10]
Mar 1938 Mar 1939* Hawker Hind Mk.I One example used for training till February 1941[10]
Mar 1939 Dec 1939 Fairey Battle Used for training[9] Used for training
Mar 1939 May 1941 Hawker Hurricane Mks.I, II and X[11]
Aug 1940 Jan 1943 Miles Magister Used for training[9]
Apr 1941 Jun 1941 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I
May 1941 Sep 1941 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IIa One example (P8799) soldiered on till July 1943[12]
Sep 1941 Jan 1942 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Va R7334, nicknamed "Perfect"[12]
Sep 1941 Jul 1944 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb
1942 Nov 1942 Miles Master Used for training[9]
May 1942 Oct 1942 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vc
Nov 1943 Jul 1944 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IX
Jul 1944 Apr 1945 Hawker Tempest Mk.V
Aug 1946 Nov 1953 Harvard T.2b Used for training[13]
Oct 1946 May 1949 Supermarine Spitfire LF.16e
Nov 1948 Jun 1951 De Havilland Vampire F.1
Sep 1949 Feb 1957 Gloster Meteor T.7 Used for training[13]
Mar 1951 Mar 1957 De Havilland Vampire FB.5
Feb 1955 Feb 1957 De Havilland Vampire FB.9
Sep 1955 Feb 1957 Gloster Meteor F.8 Used for training[13]

*=Remained in service after replacement as main equipment


Commanding officers

From To Name
Jul 1929 Aug 1929 Flt/Lt. L.P. Winters
Aug 1929 Jan 1932 S/Ldr. R.S. Sugden, AFC
Jan 1932 Jan 1934 S/Ldr. W. Eliot, DFC
Jan 1934 Jun 1936 S/Ldr. H.G. White
Jun 1936 Jun 1936 Flt/Lt. H.M. Pearson
Jun 1936 Dec 1936 Flt/Lt. E.S. Finch
Dec 1936 Mar 1937 Flt/Lt. H.R.L. Hood
Mar 1937 Jul 1937 Flt/Lt. F.W. Stannard
Jul 1937 Jun 1940 S/Ldr. M.V.M. Clube
Jun 1940 Nov 1940 S/Ldr. H.A.V. Hogan
Nov 1940 Jun 1941 S/Ldr. E. Holden, DFC
Jun 1941 Aug 1941 S/Ldr. A.H. Boyd, DFC
Aug 1941 Jun 1942 S/Ldr. C.F. Currant, DFC
Jun 1942 Sep 1942 S/Ldr. J.W. Villa, DFC and Bar
Sep 1942 May 1943 S/Ldr. A.J. Robinson
May 1943 Oct 1943 S/Ldr. E. Barthold
Oct 1943 Aug 1944 S/Ldr. M.G. Barnett
Aug 1944 Nov 1944 S/Ldr. J. Berry, DFC
Nov 1944 Apr 1945 S/Ldr. A. Parker-Rees, DFC
Aug 1946 Dec 1946 Flt/Lt. R.F.W. Cleaver, DSO, DFC
Dec 1946 Sep 1949 S/Ldr. T. James
Sep 1949 Sep 1950 S/Ldr. A.C. Henderson, DFC
Sep 1950 Oct 1952 S/Ldr. P.J. Simpson, DSO, DFC
Oct 1952 May 1955 S/Ldr. G.B. Mercer
May 1955 Mar 1957 S/Ldr. M.C. Collings




  1. ^ a b c Halley 1988, p. 389.
  2. ^ Rawlings 1978, p. 455.
  3. ^ Hunt 1972, p. 293.
  4. ^ Watkins and Listemann 2007, p. 6.
  5. ^ Ace in a day
  6. ^ Bickers 1990, p. 192.
  7. ^ Whittel 2007, p. 151.
  8. ^ Watkins 1990, p. 124.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Watkins 1990, p. 125.
  10. ^ a b Watkins 1990, p. 105.
  11. ^ Watkins 1990, p. 112.
  12. ^ a b Watkins 1990, p. 114.
  13. ^ a b c Watkins 1990, p. 126.
  14. ^ Jefford 2001, p. 96.
  15. ^ Watkins 1990, pp. 104-126.
  16. ^ Watkins 1990, p. 98.


  • Bickers, Richard Townshend. The Battle of Britain: The Greatest Battle in the History of Air Warfare. London: Salamander Books Ltd., 1990. ISBN 0-86101-477-4.
  • Darlow, Steve. Five of the Few: survivors of the Battle of Britain & the Blitz tell their story. London; Grub Street, 2006. ISBN 1-90494-358-6.
  • 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.
  • Hunt, Leslie. Twenty-one Squadrons: History of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, 1925-57. London: Garnstone Press, 1972. ISBN 0-85511-110-0. (New edition in 1992 by Crécy Publishing, ISBN 0-94755-426-2.)
  • 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.
  • Mackenzie, Wing Commander Kenneth William., DFC, AFC, AE. Hurricane Combat. Grenville Publishing, 1990. ISBN 0-903243-08-3.
  • Ogley, Bob. Surrey at War. Froglets Publications Ltd., 1995. ISBN 1-87233-765-1.
  • 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.
  • Watkins, David. Fear Nothing: The History of No.501 (County of Gloucester) Fighter Squadron, Royal Auxiliary Air Force. Cowden, Kent, UK: Newton Publishers, 1990. ISBN 1-872308-07-4.
  • Watkins, David and Phil Listeman. No.501 (County of Gloucester) Squadron, 1939-1945: Hurricane, Spitfire, Tempest. France: Phil Listemann Publisher, 2007. ISBN 2-95263-813-6.
  • Whittel, Giles. Spitfire Women of World War II. Harper Perennial, 2007. ISBN 978-0-00-7235353.

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