No.72 Squadron

A swift volant
A swift volant
02 July 1917
01 April 2002

No 72 Squadron was formed Upavon on 2 July 1917 from personnel supplied by the Central Flying School. In December 1917 it left for Mesopotamia. Although it reformed as a single unit at Basra in March 1918 it was spilt up into separate flights supporting different army formations for the rest of the war. On 13 January 1919 it returned to the UK and on 22 September disbanded.

On 22 February 1937 the unit reformed at RAF Tangmere as a fighter squadron and was the first to introduce the Gladiator into service. In June 1940 it helped to provide air cover of the Dunkirk evacuation beaches. It was then involved in the Battle of Britain. Offensive fighter sweeps were undertaken from July 1941. No 72 Squadron took part in the North African landings in 1942. It first operated from Gibraltar before occupying newly liberated airfields in Algeria. In June 1943 it moved to Malta to undertake fighter sweeps over Sicily. In September it moved to Italy. In July 1944 it moved to Corsica to provide fighter cover over the Allied landings in Southern France. It moved briefly to France before returning to Italy in October 1944. With little sign of German aircraft the unit concentrated on ground attack missions. It formed part of the occupation forces in Austria and northern Italy until 30 December 12946 when it disbanded. Throughout WWII the Squadron distinguished itself with the high enemy kill rate of 248 enemy aircraft destroyed, a further 67 probable kills and 181 damaged.

No 130 Squadron was renumbered on 1 February 1947 and No 72 Squadron was reborn. In February 1956 it changed role from day to night fighter. The unit disbanded again on 30 June 1961. On 15 November 1961 No 72 Squadron reformed at RAF Odiham as a helicopter unit. During the early years of the 1960s the squadron became operational for landing on Fleet carriers which increased its mobility. In 1969 the unit first deployed its Wessex Helicopters across the Irish Sea and since then it has maintained a continual presence in the Province, accumulating 24 years of unbroken service in an operational theatre.

At its height in 1991, the Squadron operated 25 Wessex, 5 Puma and 2 Chinook aircraft. In 2001 the squadron operates a mix of Wessex and Puma helicopters. As the Wessex is the only type in the Province equipped for Search and Rescue, the Squadron supports the inshore lifeboats and coastguard responding to approximately 25 call-outs each year. The unit disbanded on 1 April 2002.


Various types 1917 - 1917
Spad S7 1918 - 1919
Martinsyde G100 1918 - 1918
Bristol M1c 1918 - 1918
SE5A 1918 - 1919
Gladiator 1937 - 1940
Spitfire I/II/V/IX 1939 - 1946
Vampire 1/3/5 1947 - 1952
Meteor 8 1952 - 1956
Meteor 12 1956 - 1959
Javelin 4/5 1959 - 1961
Belvedere 1961 - 1964
Wessex 1964 - 2002
Chinook 1990 - 1997 ?
Puma 1997 - 2002

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

Coastal Support and Special Squadrons of the RAF and their aircraft John D R Rawlings Jane’s Publishing 1982

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