No. 501 Squadron RAF
|No 501 (County of Gloucester) Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force|
|Active||14 June 1929 – 20 April 1945|
10 May 1946 – 10 March 1957
June 2001 – present
|Branch||Royal Auxiliary Air Force|
|Part of||No 85 Expeditionary Logistics Wing, RAF A4 Force|
|Motto(s)||Latin: Nil Time|
|Battle honours||France & Low Countries, 1940|
Battle of Britain, 1940
Home Defence, 1940–45
Fortress Europe, 1940–44
Channel & North Sea, 1940–44
France & Germany, 1944
All these honours are emblazoned on the squadron standard
|Honorary Air Commodore||Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester|
|Christopher Frederick "Bunny" Currant |
|Squadron Badge heraldry||A boar's head couped|
The boar's head is taken from the arms of Gloucester; the animal is also noted for its courage
|Squadron Codes||ZH (Apr 1939 – Sep 1939)|
SD (Sep 1939 – Apr 1945
and 1949 – 1951)
RAB (May 1946 – 1949)
No 501 Squadron was the fourteenth of the twenty-one flying units in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, the volunteer reserve part of the British Royal Air Force. The squadron won seven battle honours, flying Hurricane, Spitfire and Tempest fighter aircraft during World War II, and was one of the most heavily engaged units in RAF Fighter Command. In particular, the Squadron saw extensive action during the Battle of France and Battle of Britain. At present the unit is not flying any more and has a logistics role as part of No 85 Expeditionary Logistics Wing.
Formation and early years
The squadron was originally formed as a day-bomber unit named No 501 (City of Bristol) Squadron as part of the Special Reserve squadrons on 14 June 1929, made up of volunteers and regulars, flying D.H.9As, which were later replaced with Westland Wapitis and later still with Westland Wallaces. In 1936 it became "No 501 (County of Gloucester) Squadron", changing the name to embrace a larger area of recruitment. On 1 May 1936 it was transferred to the Auxiliary Air Force and in July of that year the squadron converted to Hawker Harts. In March 1938 these were exchanged for Hawker Hinds, but at the end of 1938 No. 501 squadron was transferred from RAF Bomber Command to RAF Fighter Command, and Hawker Hurricanes began to arrive in March 1939.
Second World War
When war was declared in September 1939, 501 Squadron was based at RAF Filton, near Bristol.
On 10 May 1940, with the attack on France, the Squadron became part of the Advanced Air Striking Force and moved to France where it saw extensive action, stationed at airfields as Bétheniville, Anglure, Le Mans and Dinard. Sgt J.H. "Ginger" Lacey of 501 Squadron shot down three enemy aircraft in a single day to win the Croix de Guerre. (He later returned to England with five victories). After the retreat from France through Saint Helier, Jersey, its battle-hardened pilots were reorganised at RAF Croydon and then moved on to RAF Middle Wallop and later RAF Gravesend (now Gravesend Airport). It subsequently served at RAF Kenley, south London, commanded by S/L Harry Hogan, until 17 December 1940 by which time the squadron had claimed 149 enemy aircraft destroyed. Success came at a high cost; in addition to the heavy losses suffered in France, the squadron lost 19 pilots killed during the Battle of Britain, more than any other squadron.
The squadron re-equipped with the Supermarine Spitfire in April 1941 and the squadron moved to Northern Ireland in October 1942. In April 1943 the squadron returned to Tangmere for bomber escort work – some pilots being issued with the Spitfire Mk IXc. Between November 1943 and October 1944 the squadron formed part of Air Defence of Great Britain (ADGB). For Operation Overlord (the Allied invasion of Normandy) it flew the Spitfire V LF operating from RAF Friston in ADGB, though under the operational control of RAF Second Tactical Air Force.
During August 1944, the squadron began converting to the Tempest Mk.V at RAF Manston, for the purposes of Operation Diver – the interception of V-1 missiles. On 23 August, a Tempest flight from the elite Fighter Interception Unit (FIU) was merged into 501 Squadron and S/L Joe Berry of FIU was appointed commanding officer of the combined unit.
The squadron was disbanded at RAF Hunsdon at the end of the war on 20 April 1945. During World War II the pilots of No. 501 Squadron had flown 11,140 operational sorties, in which they shot down 201 enemy aircraft and at least 84 V-1s.
Notable squadron members
The squadron included several notable pilots of World War II, including Sergeant Pilot Antoni (Toni) Głowacki VM, CV and 3 bars, DFC, DFM, who shot down five German aircraft on 24 August 1940 to become the first of only two pilots to achieve "Ace-in-a-day" status during the Battle of Britain. Among others who achieved fighter ace status were Ken Mackenzie, "Ginger" Lacey, Stanisław Skalski, Robert Dafforn, Kenneth Lee. Lacey was one of the highest scoring pilots in the Battle of Britain. Squadron Leader Joseph Berry, DFC & 2 bars, was the top scoring V-1 (flying bomb) ace of the squadron, though he claimed only 10 of his 61 victories whilst flying 501 squadron In addition to these unmanned missiles he also shot down three enemy aircraft.
Into the jet age
The squadron was reformed on 10 May 1946 as an Auxiliary Air Force fighter squadron at RAF Filton. In February 1957, Flt Lt John Crossley flew Vampire FB.9 jet WR260 beneath the Clifton Suspension Bridge, before a fatal crash into Leigh Woods. This was the last recorded – and only jet aircraft – flight under that bridge. The Squadron was disbanded in March 1957, along with all the other Auxiliary units.
In June 2001 No. 501 squadron was reformed in the Force Protection role as 501 (Operational Support) Squadron in 2001 at RAF Brize Norton. 501 Squadrons Gunners provide a reserve of trained manpower for 1 Squadron RAF Regiment, No 4 Force Protection Wing. In 2003, its personnel deployed as part of Operation Telic, the liberation of Iraq. The squadron continues to deploy personnel on Force Protection duties in this region. In 2006 the first 501 Squadron Gunners deployed with 2 Squadron RAF Regiment to Afghanistan, carrying out force protection duties of Kandahar airfield and surrounding areas. This has been continued with members of both Regiment and FP roles mobilising with 1 Squadron RAF Regiment tour of the region (8 August to 9 March). Between November 2006 and April 2007 501 Squadron Gunners also deployed with the Queens Colour Squadron, 63 Squadron RAF Regiment to Basra Iraq. Based at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, 501 (County of Gloucester) Squadron has been newly re-formed to expand the RAF Reserves Logistics capability, recruiting Logistics Officers, Drivers and Suppliers as part of No 85 Expeditionary Logistics Wing of the RAF A4 Force.
|August 1929||March 1930*||Avro 504||N||Used for training|
|March 1930||November 1930||Airco DH.9A|
|September 1930||March 1933*||Westland Wapiti||Mk.IIa|
|January 1933||July 1936||Westland Wallace||Mk.I|
|March 1936||July 1936||Westland Wallace||Mk.II|
|June 1935||March 1937||De Havilland Tiger Moth||Mk.I||Used for training|
|January 1936||October 1939||Avro Tutor||Mk.I||Used for training|
|July 1936||March 1938*||Hawker Hart||Mk.I||One example used for training till May 1939|
|March 1938||March 1939*||Hawker Hind||Mk.I||One example used for training till February 1941|
|March 1939||December 1939||Fairey Battle||Used for training|
|March 1939||May 1941||Hawker Hurricane||Mks.I, II and X|
|August 1940||January 1943||Miles Magister||Used for training|
|April 1941||June 1941||Supermarine Spitfire||Mk.I|
|May 1941||September 1941||Supermarine Spitfire||Mk.IIa||One example (P8799) soldiered on till July 1943|
|September 1941||January 1942||Supermarine Spitfire||Mk.Va||R7334, nicknamed "Perfect"|
|September 1941||July 1944||Supermarine Spitfire||Mk.Vb|
|1942||November 1942||Miles Master||Used for training|
|May 1942||October 1942||Supermarine Spitfire||Mk.Vc|
|November 1943||July 1944||Supermarine Spitfire||Mk.IX|
|July 1944||April 1945||Hawker Tempest||Mk.V|
|August 1946||November 1953||Harvard||T.2b||Used for training|
|October 1946||May 1949||Supermarine Spitfire||LF.16e|
|November 1948||June 1951||de Havilland Vampire||F.1|
|September 1949||February 1957||Gloster Meteor||T.7||Used for training|
|March 1951||March 1957||de Havilland Vampire||FB.5|
|February 1955||February 1957||de Havilland Vampire||FB.9|
|September 1955||February 1957||Gloster Meteor||F.8||Used for training|
*=Remained in service after replacement as main equipment
|14 June 1929||28 November 1939||RAF Filton, Gloucestershire|
|28 November 1939||10 May 1940||RAF Tangmere, West Sussex|
|10 May 1940||16 May 1940||Bétheniville, France|
|16 May 1940||2 June 1940||Anglure, France|
|2 June 1940||11 June 1940||Le Mans, France|
|11 June 1940||17 June 1940||Dinard, France|
|17 June 1940||21 June 1940||RAF Saint Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands|
|21 June 1940||4 July 1940||RAF Croydon, Surrey|
|4 July 1940||25 July 1940||RAF Middle Wallop, Hampshire|
|25 July 1940||10 September 1940||RAF Gravesend, Kent|
|10 September 1940||17 December 1940||RAF Kenley, Surrey|
|17 December 1940||9 April 1941||RAF Filton, Gloucestershire|
|9 April 1941||25 June 1941||RAF Colerne, Wiltshire|
|25 June 1941||5 August 1941||RAF Chilbolton, Hampshire|
|5 August 1941||3 July 1942||RAF Ibsley, Hampshire|
|3 July 1942||24 August 1942||RAF Tangmere, West Sussex|
|24 August 1942||8 October 1942||RAF Middle Wallop, Hampshire|
|8 October 1942||10 October 1942||RAF Hawkinge, Kent|
|10 October 1942||19 October 1942||RAF Middle Wallop, Hampshire|
|19 October 1942||30 April 1943||RAF Ballyhalbert, County Down, Northern Ireland||det. at RAF Eglinton, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland|
|30 April 1943||17 May 1943||RAF Westhampnett, West Sussex|
|17 May 1943||5 June 1943||RAF Martlesham Heath, Suffolk|
|5 June 1943||12 June 1943||RAF Woodvale, Merseyside|
|12 June 1943||21 June 1943||RAF Westhampnett, West Sussex|
|21 June 1943||21 January 1944||RAF Hawkinge, Kent|
|21 January 1944||4 February 1944||RAF Southend, Essex|
|4 February 1944||30 April 1944||RAF Hawkinge, Kent|
|30 April 1944||2 July 1944||RAF Friston, Suffolk|
|2 July 1944||2 August 1944||RAF Westhampnett, West Sussex|
|2 August 1944||22 September 1944||RAF Manston, Kent|
|22 September 1944||3 March 1945||RAF Bradwell Bay, Essex|
|3 March 1945||20 April 1945||RAF Hunsdon, Essex|
|10 May 1946||5 September 1951||RAF Filton, Gloucestershire|
|5 September 1951||8 October 1951||RAF Tangmere, West Sussex|
|8 October 1951||10 March 1957||RAF Filton, Gloucestershire|
|July 1929||August 1929||Flt/Lt. L.P. Winters|
|August 1929||January 1932||S/Ldr. R.S. Sugden, AFC|
|January 1932||January 1934||S/Ldr. W. Eliot, DFC|
|January 1934||June 1936||S/Ldr. H.G. White|
|June 1936||June 1936||Flt/Lt. H.M. Pearson|
|June 1936||December 1936||Flt/Lt. E.S. Finch|
|December 1936||March 1937||Flt/Lt. H.R.L. Hood|
|March 1937||July 1937||Flt/Lt. F.W. Stannard|
|July 1937||June 1940||S/Ldr. M.V.M. Clube|
|June 1940||November 1940||S/Ldr. H.A.V. Hogan|
|November 1940||June 1941||S/Ldr. E. Holden, DFC|
|June 1941||August 1941||S/Ldr. A.H. Boyd, DFC|
|August 1941||June 1942||S/Ldr. C.F. Currant, DFC|
|June 1942||September 1942||S/Ldr. J.W. Villa, DFC & Bar|
|September 1942||May 1943||S/Ldr. A.I. Robinson|
|May 1943||October 1943||S/Ldr. E. Barthold|
|October 1943||August 1944||S/Ldr. M.G. Barnett, RNZAF|
|August 1944||November 1944||S/Ldr. Joseph Berry, DFC|
|November 1944||April 1945||S/Ldr. A. Parker-Rees, DFC|
|August 1946||December 1946||Flt/Lt. R.F.W. Cleaver, DSO, DFC (acting)|
|December 1946||September 1949||S/Ldr. T. James|
|September 1949||September 1950||S/Ldr. A.C. Henderson, DFC|
|September 1950||October 1952||S/Ldr. P.J. Simpson, DSO, DFC|
|October 1952||May 1955||S/Ldr. G.B. Mercer|
|May 1955||March 1957||S/Ldr. M.C. Collings|
- Moyes 1976, p. 263.
- Rawlings 1978, p. 455.
- Halley 1988, p. 389.
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- The Hawker Tempest Page, 2014, Squadron Leader Joseph Berry (DFC**) (4 December 2014)
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- "Supermarine LF Mk.Vb Spitfire EP120 (G-LFVB)". The Fighter Collection. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
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