No.56 Squadron

A phoenix
A phoenix
Quid si coelum ruat - What if heaven falls?
09 June 1916

No 56 Squadron was formed on 9 June 1916 at Gosport, Hampshire, from a nucleus of No 28 Squadron. It moved to London Colney in June 1916 in preparation for service over the Western Front. The Squadron was deployed to St Omer in France on 6 April 1917, and Captain Albert Ball recorded the Squadron's first kill on 23 April 1917, destroying an unidentified German aircraft. 56 Squadron's operational performance during World War I was second to none. Between 1917 and November 1918, it recorded 427 confirmed aerial victories. The unit returned to the UK after the war and disbanded on 22 January 1920.

Reformed on 1 February 1920 but renumbering No 80 Squadron at Aboukir. The unit disbanded on 23 September 1922. However an independent detachment at Constantinople continued to exist until August 1923 despite this official disbandment and subsequent reform on 1 November 1922 at RAF Hawkinge.

At the outbreak of World War Two, No 56 Squadron was stationed at North Weald. It took part in the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain in 1940. No 56 Squadron was chosen to introduce the untested Hawker Typhoon into service. Despite several teething problems, the Squadron persevered with the powerful new fighter and achieved great success on offensive missions over German occupied Europe. In April 1944 it converted to Spitfire IX but in June it again converted to the Hawker Tempest V. It used these aircraft in the battle against the German flying bombs (V-1). When World War Two ended, the Squadron was based in Fassberg, having achieved 130 kills and also having destroyed 63 flying bombs. On 31 March 1946 it was renumbered No 16 Squadron.

On the following day No 124 Squadron at RAF Bentwaters was renumbered No 56 Squadron. For the next twenty years the unit formed part of the jet fighter defence of the UK. In 1967 it moved to Cyprus to form the fighter component of the Near East Air Force. It returned to the UK in 1975 and relinquished its Lightnings for the McDonnell Douglas FGR 2 Phantom. However, under Options for Change, the Phantom was retired from Royal Air Force Service and No 56 Squadron disbanded on 31 July 1992. It was immediately reformed as No 56(Reserve) Squadron at RAF Coningsby with Tornado F3 aircraft. In March 2003, the squadron moved to RAF Leuchars.


Various types 1916 – 1917
SE5/SE5A 1917 – 1920
Snipe 1920 – 1924
Grebe 1924 - 1927
Siskin IIIA 1927 - 1932
Bulldog 1932 - 1936
Gauntlet 1936 - 1937
Gladiator 1937 - 1938
Hurricane I/II 1938 - 1942
Typhoon 1941 - 1944
Spitfire IX 1944 - 1944
Tempest V 1944 - 1946
Meteor 3/4/8 1946 - 1955
Swift 1/2 1954 - 1955
Hunter 5/6 1955 - 1961
Lightning 1/3/6 1961 - 1976
Phantom FGR2 1976 – 1992
Tornado F3 1992 – current (17 March 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

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