No.20 Squadron

In front of a rising sun, an eagle, wings elevated and perched on a sword
In front of a rising sun, an eagle, wings elevated and perched on a sword
Facta non verb - Deeds not words
01 September 1915

No 20 Squadron was formed at Netheravon, Wiltshire, on 1 September 1915 as a fighter-reconnaissance unit. In January 1916 it moved to France where it saw continuous service until the end of World War One. During this period, the Squadron achieved a place in the record books when, at the cessation of hostilities, it had claimed 613 air combat victories - a record for fighter squadrons involved in this conflict.

At the end of the war No 20 Squadron was posted to India arriving on 6 June 1919. For many years it operated on the Northwest Frontier. From the outbreak of war in the Far East the unit was involved in providing tactical reconnaissance and ground attack missions. Soon after the Japanese surrender the squadron moved to Don Muang, Thailand. It returned to India in 1946 and disbanded on 31 July 1947.

On 11 February 1949 No 631 Squadron was renumbered No 20 Squadron. Operating as a anti-aircraft co-operation unit it flew a variety of types. The unit disbanded on 22 September 1951. On 1 July 1952 the squadron reformed at Jever, Germany as a fighter bomber unit. It disbanded again on 30 December 1960.

On 1 September 1961 the unit was formally reformed at Tengah, Malaya but it had received its first aircraft and aircrew earlier in July. The unit was detached to Thailand from May to November 1960 to counter communist activity on the Thai-Laos border. The squadron was involved in ground attack sorties against Indonesian infiltrators during the 1965-66 Indonesian/Malaysian Confrontation. On 28 February 1970 the squadron disbanded.

The squadron reformed on 1 December 1970 at Wildenrath, Germany.
Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990, No.20 Squadron began working up crews in the use of the JP233 airfield attack weapon. However, on 8 November an additional task was issued; the Squadron was also to train in the use of the new Air-Launched Anti-Radiation Missile (ALARM) used to target enemy radar systems. During the 43 days of the conflict in January and February 1991, the Squadron contributed to the effectiveness and overall success of the Tabuk Wing in Saudi Arabia, conducting ALARM, JP233, 1000lb bomb and laser-guided bomb operations.

On 1 September 1992 the unit disbanded. The Squadron standard and designation passed to the Harrier Operational Conversion Unit, becoming No.20 (Reserve) Squadron. No.20(R) Squadron prior to 1992 was known as No.233 Operational Conversion Unit (OCU). This unit continues to provide operational conversion of all RAF pilots to the Harrier GR7.

In November 2003 the RAF’s first Harrier GR7As were delivered to 20 Squadron, which was responsible for providing the RAF’s GR7 and GR7A display aircraft in 2004.


Various types including Bleriot XI 1915 - 1915
Fe2b/d 1915 - 1917
F2b 1917 - 1932
Wapiti 1932 - 1935
Audax 1935 - 1941
Blenheim I 1941 - 1941
Lysander 1941 - 1943
Hurricane II/IV 1943 - 1945
Spitfire VIII/XIV 1945 - 1947
Tempest 2 1946 - 1947
Spitfire 16 1949 - 1951
Martinet 1949 - 1950
Harvard 1949 - 1951
Vampire 1/3 1949 - 1951
Oxford 1949 - 1951
Beaufighter 10 1950 - 1951
Vampire 9/5 1952 - 1954
Sabre 1953 - 1956
Hunter 4/6/9 1955 - 1970
Pioneer 1969 - 1969
Harrier 1/3 1970 - 1977
Jaguar 1977 - 1984
Tornado 1 1984 - 1992
Harrier 7/7A/10 1992 - date (30 Jun 2006)

Reference Sources

The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force James J Halley Air Britain (Historians) Ltd 1988

RAF Squadrons Wg Cdr C G Jefford Airlife 2001

Fighter Squadrons of the RAF and their aircraft John D R Rawlings Crecy Books 1993

Coastal Support and Special Squadrons of the RAF and their aircraft John D R Rawlings Jane’s Publishing 1982

Air Forces Monthly No. 190 (Jan 2004) & No. 196 (Jul 2004)

« back to all squadrons