No. 3 Squadron RAF

No. 3(F) Squadron of the Royal Air Force operates the Typhoon F2, FGR4 and T3 from RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire. It was formed in 1912 as one of the first squadrons of the Royal Flying Corps.

No. 3(F) Squadron RAF
Active13 May 1912 (1912-05-13) – 1 April 1918 (RFC)
1 April 1918 – present (RAF)
Country United Kingdom
Branch Royal Air Force
TypeFlying squadron
RoleMulti–role combat
Part ofNo. 1 Group RAF
Home stationRAF Coningsby
Motto(s)Tertius primus erit
(Latin for The third shall be the first)[1]
AircraftEurofighter Typhoon FGR4/T3
Battle honours * Honours marked with an asterisk may be emblazoned on the Squadron Standard
Squadron tail badge
Squadron badge heraldryA cockatrice on a monolith, chosen because in mythology it was the first creature to fly. Approved by King George VI in September 1937.
Squadron Roundel


Foundation and First World War

No 3 Squadron (Royal Flying Corps) was formed at Larkhill on 13 May 1912 by the renaming of No. 2 (Aeroplane) Company of the Air Battalion Royal Engineers, under the command of Major Robert Brooke-Popham. Being already equipped with aeroplanes and manned by pilots and air mechanics, No. 2 (Aeroplane) Company was thus the first British, Empire or Commonwealth independent military unit to operate heavier-than-air flying machines, hence the 3 Squadron motto Tertius primus erit, meaning "The third shall be the first". On 5 July 1912, two members of the squadron, Captain Eustace Loraine and Staff Sergeant Wilson were killed in an aircraft crash, making them the first RFC fatalities.[2] In 1913, No 3 Squadron deployed to Halton in Buckinghamshire to support the land manoeuvres of the Household Division. A temporary airfield was set up on what later became RAF Halton's Maitland Parade Square. During the exercise, No 3 Squadron flew a number of reconnaissance sorties and staged the first confrontation between an airship and an aeroplane.[3]

Sent to France on the outbreak of the Great War, the squadron initially operated in the reconnaissance role using a variety of aircraft types. On 22 August 1914, Captain L.E.O. Charlton, 3 Sqn Flight commander and Lieutenant V.H.N. Wadham reported German General Alexander von Kluck's army was preparing to surround the BEF, contradicting all other intelligence.[4]

The English ace James McCudden served as a mechanic and later observer with 3 Squadron from June 1913 to January 1916 before leaving to become a pilot. Cecil Lewis, author of Sagittarius Rising flew Morane Parasols with No 3 Squadron during the Somme offensive in the summer of 1916. Later in October 1917, with the introduction of Sopwith Camels, a fighter/scout role was taken on, with 59 enemy aircraft being claimed by the end of the war. The squadron disbanded in October 1919.[5][6]

There were nine flying aces among its ranks, including Douglas John Bell, George R. Riley, Will Hubbard, Adrian Franklyn, Hazel LeRoy Wallace, Lloyd Hamilton, David Hughes, Neil Smuts,[7] and William H Maxted.[8]


It reformed in India in 1920 as a fighter squadron equipped with Sopwith Snipes, being disbanded again in October 1921. It was immediately reformed at RAF Leuchars, Scotland, as a naval observation squadron equipped with the Airco DH.9A, receiving the Westland Walrus and Avro Bison before being disbanded to form two independent flights in April 1923.[5][6]

It reformed as a fighter squadron with Snipes in April 1924, operating a succession of different types, based in the UK, including the Gloster Gladiator.[9] The only highlight of these years was the 1935 deployment to the Sudan during the Italian invasion of Abyssinia.[6]

Second World War

At the start of the Second World War No 3 Squadron was posted as part of Fighter Command to RAF Station Biggin Hill equipped with the Hawker Hurricane. It briefly deployed to France in support of the British Expeditionary Force following the German attack on the West in 1940, being forced to withdraw after 10 days, having claimed 60 German aircraft for the loss of 21 of its own. On 21 July 1940 "B" flight was detached to form the nucleus of the newly formed No. 232 Squadron. Once back up to strength, No. 3 Squadron was used as air defence for the Royal Naval base at Scapa Flow, remaining in Scotland until April? 1941, based at RAF Station Wick in Northern Scotland.[10] In June 1941 No 3 Squadron moved from Martlesham Heath to RAF Stapleford Tawney operating 4 canon Hurricane 11s in 'Rhubarb' attacks on defended ground targets and shipping in northern France and Belgium.[11]

The squadron then co-operated with "Turbinlite" searchlight equipped Douglas Havocs in the night fighter role.[6]

In February 1943 it re-equipped with the Hawker Typhoon for fighter-bomber and anti-shipping strikes. It re-equipped in March 1944 with the new Hawker Tempest fighter, operating over the Normandy beach-head and against German V1 flying bombs, claiming 288 V-1s shot down.[6]

It then deployed across the Channel, flying as part of the 2 TAF fighting through the low countries and into Germany. Amongst its pilots was F/L Pierre Clostermann, who flew with 3 Squadron from March 1945 until the end of the war in Europe.[5][6]


The squadron moved onto jets with the De Havilland Vampire during 1948, in Germany, where it had remained after moving there in the latter stages of the war. Sabres and Hunters replaced the Vampires during the 1950s, followed by Gloster Javelins and then a conversion onto Canberra bombers. Most of its time with Canberras was spent at RAF Geilenkirchen moving to RAF Laarbruch in January 1968.[12]

3 Squadron's association with the Harrier began in the early 1970s with the Harrier GR1 at RAF Wildenrath where it reformed from Canberras to Harriers and they joined 4 & 20 Squadron equipped with Harrier GR1's who were already operational at RAF Wildenrath. The squadron received the later GR3 and GR5 model Harriers successively at RAF Gütersloh, finally receiving the GR7 and relocating to RAF Laarbruch in the 1992. In 1999, with the drawdown of the RAF in Germany, the squadron moved back to the UK along with its sister squadron No IV (AC) Squadron RAF. The two squadrons operated at RAF Cottesmore, being joined by the other Harrier operator, No. 1 Squadron RAF, in summer 2000.[13]

As part of Joint Force Harrier, 3 Squadron operated alongside the Fleet Air Arm Sea Harriers, and was capable of deployment from the Royal Navy aircraft carriers. Operations included Operation Allied Force over Kosovo in 1999, Operation Palliser over Sierra Leone in 2000 and Operation Telic over Iraq in 2003.[14] In August 2004, it was announced that 6 Harriers would be deployed to Afghanistan in support of NATO forces.[15]

After the Harrier GR7s had been passed to the Fleet Air Arm to be used by the recommissioned No. 800 Naval Air Squadron, No. 3 Squadron moved to RAF Coningsby where it re-equipped with the Eurofighter Typhoon in March 2006 and became the first operational front line RAF Typhoon squadron in July 2007.[16]

In March 2011 3 Squadron deployed to Southern Italy to take part in Operation Ellamy over Libya in support of UN Security Council Resolution 1973.[17]

In May 2012 four aircraft were deployed to RAF Northolt in an air defence role covering the duration of the Olympic Games, the first time RAF fighters had been stationed at the base since the Second World War.[18]

During March 2018, six Typhoons from No. 3 Squadron deployed to Andravida Air Base in Greece for Exercise Iniochos. It was the first time that RAF Typhoons had participated in the annual NATO exercise.[19]

Aircraft operated


Date appointed Name
13 May 1912 Major H R M Brooke-Popham
12 Aug 1914 Major J M Salmond DSO
Apr 1915 Major D S Lewis DSO
1 Nov 1915 Major E R Ludlow-Hewitt MC
Jan 1916 Major H D Harvey-Kelly DSO
Sep 1916 Major D E Stodart
May 1917 Major E D Horsfall
Jun 1917 Major J A De Courcy
Sep 1917 Major R Raymond-Barker
Apr 1918 Major R St Clair-McClintock MC
Dec 1920 Sqn Ldr G G A Williams
Jun 1922 Sqn Ldr D G Donald
Feb 1923 Sqn Ldr C C Miles
Apr 1924 Sqn Ldr J C Russel DSO
Apr 1926 Sqn Ldr J M Robb DFC
Sep 1927 Sqn Ldr E D Johnson AFC
Aug 1930 Sqn Ldr C A Stevens MC
Mar 1934 Sqn Ldr G Martyn
Mar 1936 Sqn Ldr H L P Lester
Aug 1938 Sqn Ldr H H Chapman
Nov 1939 Sqn Ldr P Gifford DFC
May 1940 Sqn Ldr W M Churchill DSO DFC
Jun 1940 Sqn Ldr S F Godden
Sep 1940 Sqn Ldr G F Chater DFC
Nov 1940 Sqn Ldr A W Cole
Jan 1941 Sqn Ldr R E Barnett MBE
Jan 1941 Sqn Ldr E P P Gibbs
Apr 1941 Sqn Ldr R F Aitken
Apr 1942 Sqn Ldr A E Berry DFC
Aug 1942 Sqn Ldr L F De Soomer
Aug 1943 Sqn Ldr S R Thomas DFC AFC
Sep 1943 Sqn Ldr R Hawkins MC DFC
Oct 1943 Sqn Ldr A C Dredge DFC AFC
Aug 1944 Sqn Ldr K A Wigglesworth DFC
Sep 1944 Sqn Ldr H N Sweetman DFC
Jan 1945 Sqn Ldr K F Thiele DSO DFC**
Feb 1945 Sqn Ldr R B Cole DFC*
May 1947 Sqn Ldr C H Macfie DFC
Nov 1949 Sqn Ldr D R Griffiths DFC
Jun 1952 Sqn Ldr W J S Sutherland
Dec 1953 Sqn Ldr D C H Simmons CBE AFC
Dec 1954 Sqn Ldr T H Hutchinson
15 Jun 1957 Sqn Disbanded
Jan 1959 Wg Cdr D W B Farrar DFC AFC
May 1960 Wg Cdr A F Peers DFC
Jan 1961 Wg Cdr D G Walker AFC
Jan 1961 Wg Cdr D F C Ross DFC
Jul 1963 Wg Cdr J L Field CBE
Jul 1965 Wg Cdr L E H Scotchmer OBE
May 1967 Wg Cdr R Hollingworth
Dec 1969 Wg Cdr M R T Chandler

See also



  1. Pine, L.G. (1983). A dictionary of mottoes (1 ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 231. ISBN 0-7100-9339-X.
  2. Airmen's Cross Air Vice-Marshal Barry Newton Archived 8 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  3. Finn, C. J. et al. (2004). Air Publication 3003 – A Brief History of the Royal Air Force. p. 331. HMSO.
  4. Barass, Malcolm (6 June 2007). "Air Commodore L E O Charlton". Air of Authority – A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 3 November 2007.
  5. Lewis 1959, p.13.
  6. Ashworth 1989, p.30.
  7. "3 Squadron". Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  8. "William Henry Maxted". Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  9. Gustavsson, Håkan. "Gloster Gladiator in 3 RAF Squadron service". Biplane Fighter Aces from the Second World War. Retrieved 17 April 2013.
  10. Photo evidence shows A Flight based at St Andrews dated 1 July 1941 under group training
  11. Squadron logs, National Record Office
  12. "Stations-L". Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  13. Graveling, Tony; Tulloch, James (1 May 2001). "RAF Cottesmore". Meteorological Office, RAF Cottesmore. doi:10.1002/wea.6080570405. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  14. "Collection: Ministry of Defence: RAF Cottesmore". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  15. "Afghanistan: Deployment Of Raf Harrier G R7s". Hansard. 9 September 2004. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  16. "Typhoon Goes Operational". Ministry of Defence. 11 July 2007. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  17. "Typhoon factbox: £70m-a-piece jets which fly at twice the speed of sound". The Telegraph. 29 March 2011. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  18. "An Olympics Vigil, From 30,000 Feet". New York Times. 1 August 2012. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  19. "RAF Typhoons fly to Greece for Exercise Iniochos". Royal Air Force. 16 March 2018. Retrieved 19 March 2018.


  • Ashworth, Chris. Encyclopedia of Modern Royal Air Force Squadrons. Wellingborough, UK: Patrick Stevens Limited, 1989. ISBN 1-85260-013-6.
  • Halley, James J. The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth, 1918–1988. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1988. ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
  • Jefford, C.G. RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury: Airlife Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
  • Lewis, Peter. Squadron Histories: R.F.C, R.N.A.S and R.A.F., 1912–59. London: Putnam, 1959.
  • Long, Jack T.C. Three's Company: An Illustrated History Of No. 3 (Fighter) Squadron RAF. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2005. ISBN 1-84415-158-1.
  • Moyes, Philip J.R. Bomber Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald and Jane's (Publishers) Ltd., 1964 (new edition 1976). ISBN 0-354-01027-1.
  • Rawlings, John D.R. Coastal, Support and Special Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Jane's Publishing Company Ltd., 1982. ISBN 0-7106-0187-5.
  • Rawlings, John D.R. Fighter Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald and Jane's (Publishers) Ltd., 1969 (new edition 1976, reprinted 1978). ISBN 0-354-01028-X.

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