No. 81 Squadron RAF

No. 81 Squadron RAF
No. 81 Squadron RAF
Active 7 January 1917 – 4 July 1918
1 December 1939 – 15 June 1940
29 July 1941 – 20 June 1945
20 June 1945 – 30 June 1946
1 September 1946 – 16 January 1970
Country United Kingdom United Kingdom
Branch Royal Flying Corps (1917–1918)
Royal Air Force (1918, 1939–1970)
Role Training, Fighter, Reconnaissance
Motto "Non Solum Nobis"
'Not for us alone'
Battle honours France & Low Countries, 1939-40

Russia, 1941
Fortress Europe, 1942
Home Defence, 1942
Channel & North Sea, 1942
North Africa, 1942-43
Mediterranean, 1943
Sicily, 1943
Italy, 1943
Burma 1944
Arakan, 1944
North Burma, 1944
Manipur, 1944

Badge: An erect dagger in front of a mullet.

No 81 Squadron was a squadron of the Royal Air Force. It flew Fighter aircraft during the Second World War, and reconnaissance aircraft in the Far East after the war, but was disbanded in 1970.



First World War

No. 81 Squadron Royal Flying Corps was formed on 7 January 1917 at Gosport as a training unit, but unlike many other Training squadrons during the First World War, it was not mobilised for active service and was disbanded on 4 July 1918.[1]

Second World War

On 1 December 1939 the Communications Squadron at Mountjoie, France, operating de Havilland Tiger Moths, was redesignated No. 81. It was disbanded on 15 June 1940, when the advancing German forces forced its withdrawal to the United Kingdom.[1]

Following the German Invasion of the Soviet Union, it was decided to send a wing of Hawker Hurricane fighters to assist the Soviet war effort,and No. 81 Squadron reformed at RAF Leconfield on 29 July 1941 as part of No. 151 Wing RAF. In September it flew its Hurricanes off the carrier HMS Argus, deploying to an airfield near Murmansk. It flew both devensive sorties and escort missions for Soviet bombers, while carrying out its principal role of training Soviet pilots on the Hurricane. After a few weeks of operations the Hurricanes were handed over to the Soviets and the Squadron left to return to the UK at the end of November.[1][2]

When it arrived back at the UK, it was re-equipped with Supermarine Spitfires at RAF Turnhouse, Edinburgh, being declared operational on 1 February 1942. It moved to RAF Hornchurch near London in May, flying its first operation, escorting Hurricanes bombing Bruges on 1 June.[2]

At the end of October the Squadron moved to Gibraltar and on 8 November, 19 Spitfires moved to the newly captured airfield at Maison Blanche, Algiers. Following the German surrender in North Africa, it moved to Malta in preparation for the Invasion of Sicily. It then moved to Italy in September but was withdrawn to Egypt in November to prepare for deployment to the Far East.[1][3]

It arrived at Alipore, India in December 1943, equipped with more modern Spitfire VIII, starting operations in January. It flew fighter and ground attack missions in support of the Second Battle of Arakan and the Battle of Imphal as part of the RAF Third Tactical Air Force. It was withdrawn to Ceylon in August and disbanded on 20 June 1945.[1][4]

On the same day No. 123 Squadron was renumbered as No. 81 but its Thunderbolts did not become operational before the war ended. In October, the Squadron was sent to Java in response to the Indonesian War of Independence, flying tactical reconnaissance duties and covering Allied road convoys,while striking against nationalist held airfields and ammunition dumps. On 30 June 1946, the Squadron was again disbanded.[4][5]

Postwar reconnaissance operations

On 1 September 1946, No. 684 Squadron, the Far east photo-reconnaissance squadron flying de Havilland Mosquito PR.34s and Spitfire PR.19s, was renumbered as No. 81. It added fighter-reconnaissance Spitfires in August 1947, when it became involved in the Malayan Emergency. Conversion to Meteor PR.10s began in September 1953, with the Squadron flying the RAF's last operational Spitfire mission on 1 April 1954 and the last operational RAF Mosquito mission on 15 December 1955.[1][4] It received a few Percival Pembrokes for survey operations in 1956,[4] and began converting to the English Electric Canberra in 1958,[1] flying its last Meteor mission on 7 July 1961,[2] retaining the Canberra until the Squadron was disbanded as part of Britain's withdrawal from bases East of Suez on 16 January 1970.[1]

The squadron was based at RAF Kai Tak in Hong Kong from 1947 to 1958.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "81 Squadron". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 30 December 2009.
  2. ^ a b c Rawlings 1961, p.322.
  3. ^ Rawlings 1961, pp. 322–323.
  4. ^ a b c d Rawlings 1961, p.323.
  5. ^ "No 81 - 85 Squadron Histories". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 30 December 2009.
  • Rawlings, J.D.R. "Squadron Histories:No.81". Air Pictorial, October 1961. pp. 322–323.

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