The History of 14 Squadron


The massive expansion of the British Army in late 1914 was reflected in an expansion of the Royal Flying Corps.  Because of the shortage of both aeroplanes and trained pilots, new squadrons were formed as cadres of semi-trained pilots around a nucleus of pilots from RFC training squadrons.  On 3 February 1915 number 14 Squadron RFC was formed at Shoreham by Captain Alexander Ross-Hume from number 3 Reserve Aeroplane Squadron.  The unit started working up towards combat readiness with an assortment of aircraft and moved firstly to Hounslow Heath (close to the site of modern-day Heathrow Airport) and then to Gosport where, along with 17 Squadron, it came under the operational control of 5 Wing RFC which was commanded by Colonel Geoffrey Salmond.  By autumn 1915 the unit was ready for deployment overseas, but by this stage in the War it was clear that air power was needed in the Middle East theatre of war and 5 Wing, including 14 Squadron, was dispatched not to France as expected, but to Egypt.

On arrival at Heliopolis in Egypt, 14 Squadron was equipped with BE2c aircraft, and once these aircraft had been erected and tested the Squadron was divided into three Flights.  While “B” Flight remained at Heliopolis, “A” Flight and “C” Flights were based respectively at Ismailia and Kantara on the Suez Canal, in support of the Army units defending the Canal from Turkish forces in Sinai and Palestine.  The Flights were engaged in patrolling the Sinai desert to provide forewarning of any Turkish attacks and taking photographs which would provide the basis for the maps used by the Army during its advance across Sinai.  Additionally air attacks were carried out against Turkish troops and installations in the Sinai.

In December 1915 a detachment of two aircraft from “A” Flight under command of Maj Arthur Ross was dispatched to the Western Desert of Egypt in support of the campaign against the Senussi sect which was threatening the security of Egypt’s western borders. Despite the harsh conditions and the heat, the open desert in Egypt proved to be ideal conditions for aerial reconnaissance, and the Squadron’s aircraft were used to locate Senussi troops and also to provide fire control for land-based artillery and naval guns. 

By mid-1916 the Squadron was operating in support of the Army advance across the Sinai.  Frequent attacks were mounted against Turkish military installations including interdiction of the Turkish water supplies and attacks against the aerodrome at El Arish, as well as continuing the artillery direction and reconnaissance roles.  By now the BE2 aircraft had been supplemented by Martynside Elephants.  14 Squadron operated in close support of the Army throughout the advance across the Sinai in late-1916 and worked closely with XXI Corps during the battles of Gaza which raged from April to October 1917.  During this time the Squadron pioneered the use of wireless to direct artillery and also adopted the “contact patrol” tactics utilised on the Western Front to assist in the command and control of ground forces engaged with the enemy.

In late October 1916, “C” Flight was deployed to the Hejaz region of western Arabia in support of Colonel Lawrence and fighters of the Arab Revolt. They found that conditions and terrain were somewhat harsher in the Hejaz even than the Western Desert had been for “B” Flight.  Nevertheless, in six months of operations, the Flight was able to provide valuable reconnaissance for Lawrence as well as carrying out bombing attacks on Turkish facilities in the Hejaz.

In May 1917 the Squadron received a number of “scout” aircraft such as DH1, DH2 and Bristol Scouts.  These latter types were concentrated in “A” Flight which in August 1917 was detached to form 111 Squadron, a dedicated fighter unit, leaving 14 Squadron to concentrate on its role as a ground-attack and Army co-operation unit.  In November 1917, 14 Squadron, which was by now based at the aerodrome at Wadi Surar, began re-equipment with the RE8 aircraft.  The RE8 offered a significant improvement in performance over the BE2c, which was particularly important as operations had moved from the flat desert plains of Sinai and the south Palestine coast to the Judean Hills, and the relatively low-powered BE2c was hard-pressed to remain clear of the terrain and weather.  Weather almost stopped operational flying during December 1917 when Wadi Surar became waterlogged after heavy rain, however the resourceful Squadron members discovered that by hauling their aeroplanes up the nearest hill and launching downhill they could become airborne before they could become bogged down.  In this way 14 Squadron was able to continue operations in support of XX Corps’ advance on Jerusalem, when all other units were unable to fly.

The Squadron continued to support the Army advance through Palestine and onwards towards Damascus up until the Turkish Armistice which was signed at the end of October 1918.  Following the successful conclusion of the Palestine campaign, 14 Squadron returned to Egypt and prepared to embark for Salonika, but the War ended with the Armistice of 11th November 1918 and, instead, the unit returned to the UK where it was reduced to a cadre.  In 1919, during the rapid reduction of the RFC, the Squadron was disbanded.

However, in the aftermath of the War, the newly-formed Air Force Board decided that in the new reduced-size RAF of only thirty-two squadrons, certain squadron numbers should be continued in recognition of distinguished wartime service.  The first seven squadron numbers chosen were 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 14 thus placing 14 Squadron as the seventh most senior unit in the RAF.  In 1920, it was decided that 111 Squadron at Ramleh should be re-numbered 14 Squadron – an appropriate choice since 111 Squadron had itself been formed from a flight of 14 Squadron and because the base at Ramleh revived the link between 14 Squadron and Palestine.  Furthermore 111 Squadron was at the time commanded by Maj Charles Medhurst OBE MC who had commanded 14 Squadron throughout Allenby’s advance through Palestine.

The new 14 Squadron was equipped with the Bristol FE2b Fighter, affectionately known as the “Brisfit”.  It was at this time that the “Winged Crusader” badge was first applied to Squadron aircraft.  The Squadron’s role was to provide the “Air Control” component of the British Mandate in Palestine.  That in turn meant patrolling the frontiers to prevent incursions by Arab tribes from beyond Palestine and to police inter-communal disturbances.  In 1921 the Squadron’s area of responsibility was increased to include the Emirate of Transjordan, whose frontiers with Saudi Arabia were often crossed by marauding tribes.  In this work, 14 Squadron co-operated closely with the TransJordan Frontier Force (TJFF) and number 2 Armoured Car Company RAF.  During 1921-23 the Squadron’s main operational work was focussed on assisting the gendarmeries resolving inter-communal fighting within Palestine – at Jaffa in 1921 and Kerak in 1922

The Bristol FE2b was gradually superseded in Squadron service from 1924 by the De Havilland DH9A (known as the “Ninak”), another First War-vintage aircraft, but a machine that was more robust than the Bristol.  In the autumn of 1924 the Squadron was instrumental in halting the invasion of Transjordan by 5,000 Wahabi fighters from Saudi Arabia.  In appreciation of this action, the Emir of Transjordan presented the Squadron with one of the captured Wahabi battle standards.  The following year operations were mounted to quell fighting around Beersheba and in 1926 the Squadron intervened to stop the Jebel Druze from using a refugee camp at Azrak as a base for incursions into Syria.  In 1926 also, the Squadron moved its permanent home from Ramleh to Amman.

1928 was remarkable in being the first year since the Squadron’s formation that the Unit’s aircraft were not fired upon and did not use their own weapons in anger.  However, 14 Squadron was not idle and in this year won the Lloyd Cup for Reliability of Flying among the RAF’s squadrons Middle East and was also ranked first amongst all the Service’s single-engined bomber squadrons for air firing.  Firing in anger resumed during the Palestine Disturbances of August 1929, during which a Flight from 14 Squadron was detached to Ramleh and played a major role in quelling the disturbance.

At this time, the RAF mounted a number of pioneering long-range flights which demonstrated the speed of mobility and range of projection of air power.  In 1930 the Squadron was selected to carry out the third annual long-range Cairo to Capetown Flight, using new Fairey IIIF aircraft.  The Flight was accomplished successfully in a record time of 45 days.  Meanwhile operations in Palestine and Transjordan continued apace, with numerous cross-border raids mounted by tribes from Arabia.  The Squadron also started flying night patrols to demonstrate to the tribes that aircraft could, if necessary, operate 24 hours a day.  It was during this phase of night flying that a 14 Squadron pilot, Flight Lieutenant Richard Atcherly started to develop an airfield lighting system that is the basis of the modern runway lighting.  The DH9A was retired from service in 1930, being replaced by the more modern Fairey IIIF, which, in turn, was superseded by the Fairey Gordon just two years later.

By now, the Squadron’s routine work comprised daily patrols along the borders of Transjordan extending from the Syrian border down past Ma’an and to Aqaba.  The early ‘thirties were a relatively quiet time operationally for the Squadron, although there were still frequent calls for air support for ground forces.  In 1935, and as part of the general re-expansion of the RAF, a fourth Flight, “D” Flight, was added to the Squadron, though after working up to operational capability it was re-equipped with Vickers Vincent aircraft and transferred to 45 Squadron.  The following year disturbances once again occurred in Palestine and “C” Flight was detached to Jisr El Mejanie, where a large number of night patrols were mounted in support of ground forces.

The Squadron’s crest dates from August 1937, when it was formally approved by the Chester Herald; the motto, an extract from the Koran, was suggested by his Highness Emir Abdullah.  However, there was some considerable disappointment amongst the Squadron’s personnel that the Crusader’s shield of the original badge, which dated back to the First World War, had been replaced in new crest by a circular “plate”.

The Fairey Gordon aircraft were replaced by Vickers Wellesleys in 1938: a monoplane with retractable undercarriage and a variable-pitch propeller, the new type represented a quantum leap in performance and capability over the previous biplanes.  These aircraft were soon involved in counter-insurgency operations during the Palestine rebellion of 1938-39.  On the declaration of the Second World War, 14 Squadron was deployed briefly to Ismailia before returning to Amman.  It was then sent to Port Sudan in readiness for operations against Italian forces in Abyssinia and the Red Sea.  On 11 June 1940, the day after war was declared by Italy, the Squadron carried out a raid on the Italian air base at Massawa.  Over the next 10 months the Squadron was engaged in convoy protection duties over the Red Sea, interdiction against Italian installations at Massawa and Asmara, and close support of 4th Indian Division’s advances against Kassala and Keren.  During these operations the Squadron also converted from the Wellesley to the twin-engined Bristol Blenheim MkIV.  After the successful conclusion of the Abyssinian campaign, 14 Squadron was sent to the Western Desert of Egypt, the site of the Squadron’s first operations in 1915.

During the months of May and June 1941, 14 Squadron was heavily involved in direct support firstly of Operation Brevity and then Operation Battleaxe, two unsuccessful attempts by the army to break through the Axis front line near Sollum.  These operations were interspersed by long-range missions over Crete following the German invasion, and two months of hard operational flying took its toll: of the sixteen crews and twenty aircraft with which the Squadron had deployed to Egypt, by June 1941 only four crews and three serviceable aircraft remained.  The Squadron was withdrawn from the desert and dispatched to Iraq, where it was involved in demonstrations of force, including long-range leaflet-dropping raids, over Persia.

14 Squadron returned to operations in the Western Desert in October 1941, arriving in time to participate in the Operation Crusader advance towards Benghazi.  Unfortunately the success of the British ground offensive was short-lived and the Squadron found itself caught up in the mass retreat eastwards towards El Alemein.  In May 1942 the Squadron was once again withdrawn from operations, this time to convert to the Martin B26 Marauder.  Although the original intention was to resume tactical bombing operations in the new aircraft, the Squadron instead found itself carrying out armed torpedo reconnaissance and naval mine-laying sorties over the Mediterranean.  On 21st February 1943 nine Marauders led by Maj Eric Lewis SAAF attacked shipping in the harbour at Melos, but despite the success of this action, this operation was the last time that the Squadron used torpedoes.  The Squadron’s role was now low-level coastal reconnaissance in an area of responsibility which covered the Mediterranean, Tyrrhenian and Adriatic Seas.  In April 1943, 14 Squadron was amongst the thirty RAF squadrons to be awarded a Standard by King George VI, although the standard itself would not be presented for another twelve years.  Following the advance of ground forces across North Africa and into Italy, the Squadron operated progressively from Tunisia, Sardinia, Corsica and Southern Italy and played an important part in the interdiction of Axis shipping and transport aircraft throughout the Mediterranean theatre.  14 Squadron’s airborne successes included shooting down a number of ME323 “Gigant” transport aircraft.  Additionally it was 14 Squadron aircraft which located the Italian Liner Rex, on its way to blockade Trieste harbour in September 1944.

At the conclusion of the Mediterranean campaign, 14 Squadron returned to UK and re-equipped with the Vickers Wellington MkXIV for anti-submarine operations in the Western Approaches, using the Leigh Light.  The Squadron was disbanded on 25th May 1945, but on the same day 143 Squadron, flying De Havilland Mosquito FBVI at Banff was re-numbered 14 Squadron.  Four months later, the new 14 Squadron deployed to Cambrai to become part of the British Air Forces of Occupation (BAFO) of Germany.  However, this incarnation of the Squadron was short-lived and was disbanded on 31st March 1946.  The next day, 128 Squadron, which was equipped with the Mosquito BXVI at Wahn near Cologne, was re-numbered to become 14 Squadron. 

While the first thirty years of 14 Squadron’s history were closely linked to the Middle East, the next half-century would be linked with Germany.  14 Squadron was now part of the BAFO with a war-time role of providing tactical air support to ground forces.  The Unit was also tasked with providing an air courier service for the War Trials at Nuremburg.  The Mosquito BXVIs were replaced by more modern Mosquito B35s in 1947.  As airfields closer to the Inner German Border (IGB) became available after the Berlin Air Lift, the Squadron moved forward first to Celle then to Fassberg.  Throughout its time as a Mosquito unit, 14 Squadron participated in a number of exercises in the UK, as well as training flights to RAF bases in the Mediterranean; it also participated in the Farnborough Air Show of 1950 with a re-enactment of the wartime Mosquito raid on Amiens prison.

In 1951, 14 Squadron entered the jet age with the introduction of the De Havilland Vampire FB5.  With these aircraft, the Squadron took on a new role as both a day fighter and ground attack unit.  Although the Vampire began to be progressively replaced by the Venom FB1 from 1953, serviceability problems with the Venom meant that the Vampire was never completely replaced.  The Squadron’s Standard, awarded in 1943, was presented to the Unit at Fassberg on 21st August 1954 by Air Vice-Marshall Thomas Traill who had himself commanded 14 Squadron in the 1930s.

Shortly after re-equipment with the Hawker Hunter F4 in 1955, arrangements were made to hand the base at Fassberg to the Luftwaffe, and 14 Squadron was transferred to Oldenburg where it joined 124 Wing in the day fighter role.  NATO policy to return a number of airbases in Germany to the Luftwaffe, and also the contraction of the RAF after the 1957 Defence White Paper caused subsequent moves to Ahlhorn in 1957 and then to Gutersloh in 1958.  While at Ahlhorn the Squadron received the Hunter F6 aircraft which it operated until, as the last Day Fighter squadron in RAF Germany, it disbanded on 17th December 1962.

On the same day, 88 Squadron, flying Canberra B(I)8 strike aircraft at Wildenrath was re-numbered 14 Squadron.  The new 14 Squadron was operational in the nuclear strike and long range interdiction roles.  Although most of the day-to-day flying took place within the low flying system in Germany, there were also a number of detachments to use bombing ranges in the Mediterranean, as well as occasional detachments to Africa and the Middle East.  In 1964, 14 Squadron aircraft and crews deployed to Kuantan, an operational detachment which was part of the RAF’s response to the Indonesian Confrontation. On this occasion, however, the Squadron was not required to take offensive action.

In June 1970, 14 Squadron moved to RAF Bruggen and became the first unit in RAF Germany to be equipped with the McDonnell-Douglas F4M Phantom FGR2.  With supersonic performance and a pulsed-doppler air-to-air radar, the Phantom provided a considerable improvement to the Squadron’s operational capability.  The Phantom era set the pattern for the next twenty years: maintenance of the nuclear strike role, and training for both nuclear and conventional operations within the low flying system in Germany.  Additionally, annual Armament Practice camps were held at the Quadri-national Training Base at Decimomannou in Sardinia.  Shortly after becoming operational with the Phantom, 14 Squadron won the Salmond Trophy, a highly prestigious bombing and navigation competition between the flying Squadrons in RAF Germany.  The Phantom was replaced by the Sepecat Jaguar GR1 aircraft in 1975, making 14 Squadron the first-ever single-seat strike squadron in the RAF, and with this new aeroplane the Squadron went on to achieve the remarkable feat of winning the Salmond Trophy for the three consecutive years of 1975, 76 and 77.  For the ten years in which it operated the Jaguar, the Squadron consistently achieved the highest operational standards as assessed by the NATO Tactical Evaluation (TACEVAL) Team.

The Jaguar aircraft was replaced by the Panavia Tornado GR1 in October 1985, and with the new aircraft came a long-range night/all-weather capability.  In 1990, the Squadron deployed to Bahrain as part of the RAF’s initial response to the Kuwait crisis.  When hostilities started in February 1991, most of the Squadron had returned to Bruggen; however, four of the Squadron’s crews flew operations with the Tornado detachment at Dhahran and two other crews operated from Tabuk throughout the Gulf War.  After the cessation of hostilities, the Squadron was still engaged with air operations over Iraq which continued for the next fifteen years. During this period the Squadron frequently mounted detachments to Saudi Arabia, and later Kuwait, and a number of laser-guided bombs were dropped on targets in Southern Iraq.

During the Kosovo War of April 1999, 14 Squadron flew operational sorties from its base at Bruggen against Serbian military infrastructure in Kosovo and Serbia.  These sorties, many of which lasted in excess of seven hours, were conducted at night and were supported by VC-10 air-to-air refuelling.  Two years later, when Bruggen closed as a result of the contraction of the RAF after the end of the Cold War, 14 Squadron moved to Lossiemouth – the first time, apart from a brief period in 1945, that the unit had been permanently based in the UK since its formation in 1915.  The Tornado GR1 aircraft were superseded by the Tornado GR4 variant in 2004.

14 Squadron continued to operate the Tornado GR4 aircraft from its base at Lossiemouth and it regularly participated in training exercises throughout the NATO area including the US and Canada.  The Squadron was also heavily involved in British military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Defence announced in March 2011 that 14 Squadron, along with 13 Squadron based at Marham, would be disbanded on the 1 June 2011. Subsequently the Air Force Board agreed that 14 Squadron’s numberplate should be passed to a new unit operating in the Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) role.  This unit had previously been operating as a semi-autonomous Flight within 5 Squadron at RAF Waddington.  The new 14 Squadron operates 5 Beechcraft Shadow R1 aircraft, an aircraft which is based on the twin turboprop KingAir 350ER.  It boasts turret-housed Electro-optical /Infra-red sensors, a Synthetic Aperture Radar, defensive aids and a fully integrated communications suite which includes datalink and satellite capabilities.


The Shadow has been operational in Afghanistan since 2009 and by September 2010 the aircraft had clocked up over 2,500 hours’ worth of operational flying in theatre.  Thus the new 14 Squadron’s role, working in close co-operation with army units, is very similar to that of 14 Squadron RFC during its first operational deployment in late 1915. 


Motto: In Arabic - 'I spread my wings and keep my promise', an extract from the Koran suggested by the Emir of Transjordan.

Badge: A winged plate charged with a cross throughout and shoulder pieces of a suit of armour - approved by King George VI in May 1937. The badge represents a crusader in association with the Cross of St George because of the Squadron's close First World War ties with Diospolis, Palestine, the reputed burial place of the Saint,  and its location in the Middle East at the time of submission to the Chester Herald.

Battle Honours: Egypt 1915-1917*, Gaza, Megiddo,  Arabia 1916-1917*, Palestine 1917-1918*, Transjordan 1924,  Palestine 1936-1939, East Africa 1940-1941*, Mediterranean  1941-1943*, Egypt and Libya 1941-1942*, Sicily 1943*,  Atlantic 1945*, Gulf 1991, Kosovo

* emblazoned on the Squadron Standard

Marauder Aircraft ListHistory_files/Marauder%20List.html
Mataro Wreckage 1944Mataro.html





































Milos Harbour 1943Milos.html