No.3 Squadron

On a monolith, a cockatrice
On a monolith, a cockatrice
Tertius primus erit - The third shall be the first
13 May 1912

No 3 Squadron has its roots in the earliest days of aviation. In 1910, the War Office arranged for two privately owned aircraft to be used experimentally during Army training. The Balloon School became the Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers and on 12 May 1912 this in turn was superseded by the Royal Flying Corps, when No 2 Company became No 3 Sqn RFC; the only squadron possessing aeroplanes, making it the oldest aircraft unit. On the outbreak of war the squadron took its aircraft to France and operated in the reconnaissance role for the next three years. In September 1917 it changed to a fighter squadron when it received Camels. On 27 October 1919 it disbanded.

On 1 April 1920 the unit re-formed at Bangalore in India but only survived until 30 September 1921 when it disbanded. The following day Mobile Flight, No 205 Squadron was re-designated No 3 Squadron. The unit undertook fleet co-operation duties. On 1 April 1923 the squadron ceased to exist when it was divided into two independent flights - Nos 421 and 422.

Exactly one year later the squadron re-formed at RAF Manston as a fighter unit.
No 3 Squadron continued in this role throughout the inter war years. On the outbreak of war it undertook defensive patrols over southern England; in May 1940 it moved to France to re-enforce RAF fighter units trying to stem the German Blitzkrieg. Having been virtually destroyed in those air battles it was sent to Scotland upon its return to the UK to re-equip and re-build. The squadron remained there until 1941. In April the unit moved south. By 1944, now equipped with Tempest Vs, it was used to combat V-1 flying bomb attacks. Later it moved onto the Continent as a part of Second TAF.

It remained in Germany after the war as a part of the occupation forces. The squadron was disbanded on 15 June 1957. On 21 January 1959 No 96 Squadron at RAF Geilenkirchen was renumbered and No 3 was re-born. It formed a part of the all-weather fighter defence in Germany until it disbanded at the end of the following year. On 1 January 1961 No 59 Squadron was renumbered No 3 Squadron. The unit flew Canberras for the next eleven years until it converted onto the Harrier GR1 on 1 January 1972. During the 1982 Falklands Conflict No 3 Squadron provided reinforcements for OPERATION CORPORATE. The squadron continued to be based in Germany as it converted onto second generation Harrier aircraft.

In May 1999 No 3 Squadron returned to the UK from Germany.

During 2003 men and machines from this unit participated in OPERATION TELIC. Coalition forces, led by the United States overthrew the Iraqi regime led by Saddam Hussein in a short campaign.

From September to December 2004 and again for a very busy four months up to November 2005 the Squadron deployed to Kandahar in Afghanistan, flying anti-terrorist missions, including the use of live ordnance, as part of OPERATION VERITAS, where the unit made its final operational Harrier sortie on 31 October 2005.

In April 2005 it had deployed to the Czech Republic as part of a series of exercises with former Eastern Bloc air forces.

It disbanded as a Harrier Unit on 31 March 2006, and reformed the following day at RAF Coningsby as the first Eurofighter Typhoon front-line unit, and after working up it is expected to be granted full operational status as an air defence unit in 2007.


Various types including Bleriot XI 1912 - 1915
Morane Type L/LA 1915 - 1917
Morane Type BB 1915 - 1916
Camel 1917 - 1919
Snipe 1920 - 1921
DH9A 1921 - 1922
Walrus 1922 - 1923
Snipe 1924 - 1925
Woodcock 1925 - 1928
Gamecock 1928 - 1929
Bulldog 1929 - 1937
Gladiator 1937 - 1939
Hurricane I/II 1938 - 1943

Tempest V 1944 - 1948
Vampire 1/5 1948 - 1953
Sabre 1953 - 1956
Hunter 4 1956 - 1957

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