No.617 Squadron

On a roundel, a wall in fesse, fracted by three flashes of lightning in pile and issuant from the breach water proper
On a roundel, a wall in fesse, fracted by three flashes of lightning in pile and issuant from the breach water proper
Après moi, le deluge - After me the flood
21 March 1943

617 (Dambusters) Squadron, one of the most famous squadrons in the RAF, was formed on 21 March 1943 under the command of Wg Cdr Guy Gibson. The Squadron evolved specifically for the famous Dams raids that took place on the night of 16/17 May 1943. During this raid, the Squadron employed the 'Upkeep', a bouncing bomb designed by Barnes Wallis. Following the dams raid, No 617 Squadron remained a special operations unit, operating against selected targets.

In September 1944 the Squadron was tasked to attack the battleship Tirpitz. Operating from Northern Scotland and Russia over a period of several months, 617 Squadron finally sank the Tirpitz on 12 November 1944. In the summer of 1945 the unit was allotted to ‘Tiger Force’ for operations in the Far East against the Japanese. The squadron moved to India in January 1946 but returned to the UK in May.

In 1952 it became the second squadron to convert to jet bombers and flew operationally in Malaya. The squadron disbanded on 15 December 1955. Three years later, on 1 May 1958, the unit reformed as a V-bomber squadron. No 617 Squadron disbanded on 1 January 1982. Exactly one year later it reformed at RAF Marham with Tornado aircraft.

In 1991 the Squadron was involved in 'Operation Granby', flying war missions from both Bahrain and Tabuk airfields. Following the Gulf War, crews from No 617 Squadron have continued operations in the Gulf area as part of Southern Watch, patrolling the south of Iraq.

The Squadron relocated to RAF Lossiemouth in May 1994 and took on the role of maritime attack in addition to maintaining its capability in the overland strike/attack role. In 1995, crews from 617 involvement in 'Operation Warden', patrolling the Kurdish areas of Northern Iraq.

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.

The unit is currently based at RAF Lossiemouth and is equipped with Tornado GR4s.


Lancaster I/III/VII 1943 - 1946
Lincoln 1946 - 1952
Canberra 2/6 1952 - 1955
Vulcan 1/2 1958 - 1981
Tornado 1/4 1983 - current (1 July 2003)

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

Bomber Squadrons of the RAF and their aircraft
Phillip J R Moyes Macdonald & Jane’s 1976

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