No.6 Squadron

An eagle, wings elevated, preying on a serpent
An eagle, wings elevated, preying on a serpent
Oculi exercitus - The eyes of the army
31 January 1914

No. 6 Squadron has the longest continuous history of any RAF Squadron. It has never been disbanded or reduced to a cadre. The Squadron was formed at Farnborough on 31 January 1914. The squadron crossed to Belgium on 7 October 1914. By the end of 1914 it had become a fully developed army co-operation unit; its duties being tactical reconnaissance, artillery observation, photography and trench mapping.

Early in 1915 No. 6 Squadron started to fly 'scouts' to provide fighter defence for the army co-operation aircraft against German air attacks. On 25 July 1915 one of the Squadron's pilots Captain L.G. Hawker, flying a Bristol Scout and armed with a single shot carbine, attacked three German aircraft in quick succession and shot the third down in flames. For this exploit Captain Hawker was awarded the Victoria Cross, the first to be awarded for air-to-air fighting.

As the war progressed the Squadron turned to bombing and in 1918 undertook low level bombing assignments.

In the spring of 1919 the Squadron moved to the Middle East, remaining in the area for the next 25 years. It became frequently involved in the ever-present Middle Eastern problems of rebellions and wars and Arab-Jewish conflict.

At the outbreak of World War Two, No. 6 was at Ramleh and Haifa in Palestine with a variety of aircraft. In 1940 it reverted to army co-operation. During 1941 No 6 Squadron was intensively engaged in the desert during the Eighth Army's withdrawal. In April 1942 No. 6 Squadron re-equipped with the Hurricane IID, fitted with 40mm cannon for 'tank busting', an activity at which the Squadron became so successful that they gained the name 'Flying Can Openers'.

On 24 February 1944 the Squadron returned to Europe when they moved to Taranto, Italy. It was first employed against land targets, including some in Yugoslavia where it was based for a time. However, in the latter stages of the war the Squadron was mainly employed on anti-shipping operations.

After the war the unit returned to the Middle East. No. 6 Squadron moved to Cyprus in 1956 and attacked Egyptian airfields during the Suez crisis. In 1969 it returned to the United Kingdom for the first time since 1914 to be based at RAF Coningsby flying Phantoms in the ground-attack role. In 1974 the Squadron re-equipped with Jaguar aircraft.

No. 6 was the first Squadron to deploy forward, back to the desert, for Operation Desert Shield and several Squadron pilots earned individual Battle Honours flying bombing missions into Kuwait during the Gulf War of 1991.
The unit has continued to contribute to world peace with frequent detachments to live theatres of operations.

RAF Jaguar squadrons were earmarked to take part in OPERATION TELIC against the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein, but Turkish refusal to allow them to operate from that country meant they did not take part in the hostilities.

With the closure of RAF Coltishall in March 2006 the Squadron moved to RAF Coningsby, and with the accelerated withdrawal of the RAF Jaguar force it has become the RAF’s last Jaguar Squadron. It is scheduled to disband in early 2007.


Various types 1914 - 1914
RE5/7 1914 - 1914
BE2c 1914 -1916
Martinsyde S1 1915 - 1915
Bristol Scout 1915 - 1916
BE2d/e 1916 - 1917
RE8 1917 - 1920
F2b 1919 - 1919
1920 - 1932
Gordon 1931 - 1935
Hart 1935 - 1938
Demon 1935 - 1936
Hardy 1938 - 1940
Gauntlet 1939 - 1940
Lysander 1939 - 1942 (not continuously)
Hurricane 1941 - 1942
Gladiator 1941 - 1942
Blenheim IV 1941 - 1942
Hurricane II/IV 1942 - 1947
Spitfire IX 1945 - 1946
Tempest 6 1946 - 1949
Vampire %/9 1949 - 1954
Venom 1/4 1954 - 1957
Canberra 2/6/16 1957 - 1969
Phantom FGR2 1969 - 1974
Jaguar 1974 - current (30 June 2006)

Reference Sources

The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force
James J Halley A

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