No. 12 Squadron RAF

No. 12 Squadron RAF
No. 12 Squadron RAF
12 Squadron badge
Active 14 February 1915
Role Air Interdiction, Ground Attack, Close Air Support, Reconnaissance, Suppression of enemy Air Defenses
Garrison/HQ RAF Lossiemouth
Motto "Leads the Field"
Equipment Tornado GR4
Battle honours Western Front 1915-1918, Loos, Somme 1916, Arras, Cambrai 1917, Somme 1918, Hindenburg Line, France and Low Countries 1939-1940, Meuse Bridges, Fortress Europe 1940-1944, German Ports 1941-1945, Biscay Ports 1940-1945, Berlin 1941-1945, Ruhr 1941-1945, France and Germany 1944-1945, Rhine*, Gulf 1991*, Iraq 2003
A fox's mask

No. 12 Squadron of the Royal Air Force currently operates the Tornado GR4 from RAF Lossiemouth.



No. 12 Squadron Royal Flying Corps was formed in February 1915 from a flight of No. 1 Squadron RFC at Netheravon. The squadron moved to France in September 1915 and operated a variety of aircraft on operations over the Western Front. In March 1918 the squadron was re-equipped with the Bristol F2b Fighter just before the squadron became part of the newly formed Royal Air Force. The squadron then based at Bickendorf in Germany was disbanded in 1922.

The squadron reformed at RAF Northolt on the 1 April 1923 to operate the de Havilland DH.9A. In 1924 it moved to RAF Andover and converted to the Fairey Fawn a single-engined biplane bomber. The Fawns were replaced in 1926 with the Fairey Fox, which influenced the adoption of the fox's head as part of the squadron badge.This is because No 12 Squadron was the only RAF user of the Fairey Fox and its performance was superior to other types i.e. it led the field. In 1931 the squadron re-equipped with the Sydney Camm designed Hawker Hart. In October 1935 the squadron moved to the Middle East, but returned to Andover in August 1936. The Harts were replaced by the Hawker Hind in 1936 and in 1938 the squadron was equipped with Fairey Battles.

On the first day of the Second World War the squadron moved to France to begin operations. On 12 May 1940, over the Albert Canal, Belgium, one bridge in particular was being used by the invading German army, with protection from fighter aircraft, anti-aircraft and machine-guns. The RAF was ordered to demolish this vital bridge, and five Fairey Battles from the squadron were dispatched. They met an inferno of anti-aircraft fire, but the mission was accomplished, much of the success being due to the coolness and resource of the pilot Flying Officer Garland of the leading aircraft and the navigation of Sergeant Gray. Unfortunately the leading aircraft and three others did not return. Flying Officer Garland and Sergeant Gray were both posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

The squadron returned to England in June. It was stationed initially at RAF Finningley, arriving at RAF Binbrook on July 1940 when it was refurnished with Battles. Amongst other missions, it carried out anti-invasion strikes against shipping in Boulogne Harbour, most notably on 17 and 19 August. The Squadron was one of the last No.1 Group units to conduct operations with Fairey Battles. These took place on 15/16 October 1940, when No.301 (Polish) Squadron bombed Boulogne and Nos. 12 and 142 Squadrons bombed Calais.

By November 1940, the Squadron had been completely re-equipped with the Vickers Wellington, remaining for the time being at RAF Binbrook. The squadron moved again in 1942, to RAF Wickenby, and soon after converted to operate the Avro Lancaster. In 1946 the squadron re-equipped with the Avro Lincoln until in 1952 it joined the jet-age and re-equipped with the Canberra jet bomber. After 44 years continuous service the squadron was again disbanded in July 1961.

A 12 Sqn Buccaneer S.2B in 1981.

In 1962 the squadron was reformed to operate eight Avro Vulcan V-bombers, initially from RAF Coningsby then RAF Cottesmore equipped with Yellow Sun one megaton free-fall strategic nuclear bombs for medium to high altitude release. The advent of effective Soviet SAMs made high-flying bombers vulnerable, and in late 1966 the squadron took delivery of eight WE.177B strategic nuclear laydown bombs for low-level penetration missions, and still based at Cottesmore were assigned to SACEUR as part of the UK strategic nuclear forces deployed with that 450 kt weapon, that was intended as a temporary stop-gap until the UK Polaris force began to take over the strategic nuclear delivery role.[1] The squadron stood down from this role at the end of 1967.[2][3]

No.12 squadron reformed at RAF Honington in October 1969 with 12 Buccaneer aircraft assigned to SACLANT in the anti-shipping role, equipped with 12 WE.177 nuclear bombs and free-falling conventional HE bombs,[4] and from 1974 with Martel missiles for non-nuclear strike. The squadron moved to RAF Lossiemouth in 1980, still in the same anti-shipping role.[5] In 1993 it was disbanded once more.

In September 1993, No. 27 Squadron RAF then at RAF Marham disbanded and immediately re-formed as No.12 Squadron operating twelve Tornado GR1 aircraft equipped with eighteen WE.177 nuclear weapons[6] and relocated to RAF Lossiemouth.

In the period January to April 2001, the Tornado GR1s were replaced with upgraded Tornado GR4s.

Current role

No. 12 Squadron currently operates from RAF Lossiemouth and operates the Tornado GR4 in a variety of roles, from close air support and strike bombing to training missions that keep the Aircrew current in the latest tactics and methods as well as giving them the continued hands on experience with the vast and varied weapon systems that are available to them.

From 2009 the squadron has supported Coalition forces in Afghanistan, as part of Operation HERRICK. 12(B) Sqn was the first GR4 Tornado Squadrons to operate from Kandahar airbase taking over the role from the Harrier fleet. One of the seven squadrons in a rotational cycle of all the operational Tornado GR4 squadrons, the squadron spends from three months at an NATO controlled air base at Kandahar, Afghanistan . The squadron conducts close air support operations as well as providing a reconnaissance role.

Aircraft operated




  • G G Jefford, RAF Squadrons, second edition 2001, Airlife Publishing, UK, ISBN 1-84037-141-2.

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