No.32 Squadron

A hunting horn stringed
A hunting horn stringed
Adeste comites - Rally round, comrades
12 January 1916

No 32 Squadron formed at Netheravon on 12 January 1916 as a fighter squadron. It moved to France in May 1916 and immediately began fighter patrols. On 1 July 1916 the squadron’s CO, Major L W B Rees, saw a formation of ten enemy aircraft which he attacked. Although wounded he forced down two and broke up their formation. He was awarded a Victoria Cross for this action. In March 1919 it returned to the UK and on 29 December 1919 it disbanded.

The unit reformed on 1 April 1923 at RAF Kenley. The unit only came to full strength fourteen months later. The squadron undertook defensive patrols during the opening months of the war. In May 1940 it operated over northern France before returning to the UK air defence. It took part in the opening stages of the Battle of Britain before moving north. It returned south in December 1940. In 1942 it began night training and intruder missions. At the end of that year it was involved in the North Africa landings. It arrived in Algeria in December 1942. In August 1943 it took its aircraft to Italy. In October 1944 it moved to Greece. In February of the following year it transferred to Palestine.

In May 1948 the squadron moved to Cyprus. The unit remained in the Middle East for most of the next twenty years only returning to the UK to re-equip. On 3 February 1969 it disbanded.

On the same day the Metropolitan Communications Squadron was renamed No 32 Squadron. This RAF Northolt unit has operated a mix of aircraft and helicopters it has undertaken communications duties ever since. The squadron's role became that of transporting Government and Military VIPs, a task inherited when No 207 Squadron disbanded on 30th June 1984.

During 1991 the squadron numbered among its members Flt Lt Julie Gibson, the first female RAF pilot to reach an operational phase in her career. The squadron was also committed to operations in the 1991 Gulf War and, long before hostilities began, HS125s were detached to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In 1995, the Squadron amalgamated with The Queen's Flight from RAF Benson. On 31st March 1995 and No 32 Sqn became No 32 (The Royal) Squadron with effect from the following day.

On the 24th March 1995, two Wessex and two BAe 146s arrived at RAF Northolt as part of the transfer process. AS355 Twin Squirrel helicopters on a CO-MO (Company Owned - Military Operated) basis. The Squadron now operates 3 of the type.

The Royal Family's drive to modernise the Monarchy and decrease costs resulted, on 1st April 1998, in the withdrawal of the Squadron's venerable Wessex HCC4. The Royal Family opted to use a privately leased Sikorsky S57 but their use of the fixed wing fleet continues.

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.

Since 2003 the Squadron has continued with its Royal duties and the unit’s BAe 125s have provided in-theatre VIP transport for both the Iraq and Afghanistan operational areas.

In May 2005 the Defence Logistics Organisation awarded a contract to AgustaWestland to provide a Civil Owned Military Registered (COMR) helicopter for No. 32(The Royal) Squadron for a period of five years. As of 1 April 2006 three AgustaWestland A109 Powers are due to replace the three Twin Squirrels currently on strength.


Various types 1916 - 1916
DH2 1916 - 1917
DH5 1917 - 1918
SE5A 1917 - 1919
Snipe 1923 - 1924
Grebe 1924 - 1927
Gamecock 1926 - 1927
Siskin IIIA 1928 - 1931
Bulldog 1930 - 1936
Gauntlet 1936 - 1938
Hurricane I/II 1938 - 1943
Spitfire V/IX/VIII 1943 - 1947
Spitfire 18 1947 - 1949
Vampire 3/5/9 1948 - 1955
Venom 1 1954 - 1957
Canberra 2/15 1957 - 1969
Basset 1969 - 1975
Pembroke 1969 - 1969
Sycamore 14 1969 - 1972
Andover 2 1969 - 1987
1992 - 1995

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