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Squadron History

I was somewhat surprised that on the official RAF web sitethere is no mention of 216 Squadronon the RAF Squadron pages. The RAF Brize Norton official pages give a reasonable amount of info on 216 Squadron with Tristars but little else. In the short time I have been deep searching the web for 216 Squadron info I have been able to find some amazing stories, which will eventually appear on the Flight/Line Book pages. In the meantime I am slowly building up this section, and am aware that Lyneham not mention in depth yet. If any members of the Squadron have stories of 216 Squadron aircraft, camps that hosted 216 Squadron or stories of life on 216 Squadron I'd be obliged if they could send me them, e-mail.
Cheers Dave Maloney temporary historian!

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In August 1917 a detachment of No 7 (Naval) Squadron was sent to Redcar to operate four Handley Page 0/100 bombers in the anti-submarine role.  Beginning operations in September the unit was moved to Manston in October, where on the 5th of the month,

it was redesignated as 'A' Squadron.  As such it was intended for strategic bombing operations in France .  At the end of October the unit moved to Ochey, where it joined the 41st Wing, which later became the Independent Bombing Force.  On 8 January 1918, 'A' Squadron was once again redesignated,

this time as No 16 Squadron RNAS.  On 24/25 March 1918, an aircraft of the unit carried out an 8½ hour operation against Cologne .  When the RAF was formed on 1 April 1918, all RNAS numbered squadrons had 200 added to their designation and No 16 RNAS therefore became No 216 Squadron RAF. 

To the present day such squadron numbers are pronounced number hyphen number, so two- sixteen, as apposed to two one six. Formed specifically as a strategic bomber unit to attack industrial targets in Germany, it dropped 176.5 tons of bombs in 162 raids before the armistice led to its being employed on mail-carrying to Cologne and Valenciennes. This new role for 216 was continued when the squadron was moved to Egypt in May 1919 and equipped with O/400s it settled at Kantara, from where it transported mail and passengers throughout the Middle East . 

 

DH10s replaced the Handley Page machines in 1921, but a year later these had been superseded by Vimys. 

 

 

Vickers Vimy in 216 Squadroncolours. Click the image for larger image and a little more info on this aircraftsactivities when the photograph was taken.

 

The next equipment change came in January 1926, when Victorias replaced the Vimys which were used to continue mail flights along the Cairo-Baghdad route as well as route-proving and survey work throughout North and West Africa . 
Many of the routes surveyed later became established commercial routes in the 1930's. This article in Aeroplane Monthly,describes long distant flying undertaken by 216 Squadron.


 

Valentias supplemented the Victorias.

From 1931 the squadron was redesignated as a 'Bomber-Transport' unit and in 1935 Valentias supplemented the Victorias. From the end of 1939 Bristol Bombays  arrived but it the last Valanteni flight was not until 13.9.41 when Sgt Shuttleworth took srations to Hurghads.
When the Italians decalred war in June 1940, 216 fitted bomb racks to its Bombays. Three days after Italy declared war the Bombays went into action and bombed Mersa Matruh, Egypt. The scope of these bombing raids included such targets as Sidi Barani, Tobruk and Benghazi.

In order to reach Benghazi extra fuel tanks were fitted and a further 160 gallons of fuel was carried in 4 gallon tins, which were thrown out of the doors when empty. Meanwhile the valentias were moving V.I.P's. By the end of 1940 the last bombing raid was carried out, from now on 216 Squadron was a full time Transport Squadron

On 2 May 1941 Bombays of 216 Squadron RAF evacuated the Greek Royal Family from Crete to Egypt .
Five Bombay bombers were used by the fledgling SAS in their first official operation in the Middle East , a raid on five forward German aerodromes.  Supplies were flown to Tobruk, and in November 1941 five Bombays made the first Allied airborne landing in North Africa, dropping 54 airborne troops at Tmimi. Late in 1941 the squadron briefly operated De Havilland DH86as on casulaty evacuatiobn flights.

Squadron's duties for this period were flights to evacuate the troops from Greece and supplying the besieged bases at Habbaniya and Tobruk. It begin training in the airborne support role, dropping its first parachute troops in November . Bombays we finally removed from 216 Squadron inventory in May 1945

 

 

 

 

Late 1941 Three de Havilland DH 86 express aircraft (HK829 HK844 & AX762) were operated by 216 squadron in passenger and air ambulance roles.

AX762 was G-ADUE of Imperial Airways (named Dardanus) and was also Impressed into service on 29.09.41 Apparently it was incorrectly painted as AX762 and stayed that way until its undercarriage collapsed writing it off in June 42.

HK829 was G-ACWD of Imperial airways ( named Dorado) Impressed into service on 29.09.41 . It was transferred to RAAF No 1 air ambulanceunit on 29.05.42. It was damaged beyond repair whilst landing. 17th March 1943.

HK844 was G-ACPL of Imperial Airways (Named Delphius) Artie Ashworth logbooks show him operating
this aircraft from Dec -Feb 42. It crashed at Meeten Bagush, Egypt on the 10 th April 1942 when two engines cut on take off and the undercarriage collapsed. There were no fatalities. Interestingly though there are few records of this aircraft o the www

The one shown in RAAF No. 1 Air Ambulance Unit colours and was suspected to have been scrapped and used for spares at B.A.R.U Heliopolis after Sept 43.

More details 0n the DH 86's can be found here

In July 1942 it received Hudson's(Became C Flight) although the Bombay's soldiered on until May 1943. Hudsons were not designed as transport aircraft and they were hastily converted on the spot. Although the British had been pushed back to El Alamein patrols and larger units were frequently operating behind enemy lines and 216 Squadron was their life line. Stores were landed and casualties collected well inside Axis territory. 13th Sept 1942 the five Hudsons carried out their first operation.

Aircraft shown is one of 216 Squadrons with a unit code of LO


 

Lockheed Lodestar AX876 (or it could beAX 686 both numbers appear in the Operations Record Book but one or the other could be a typo) was allocated to the squadron (arrived 18.07.42 ) to help convert the Bombay pilots to dual control. Haven't found any photos yet to incidate if the aircarft was in 216 squadron colours.

First mention of the Lodestar flying with 216 was 25th September 1942. This being in the F 4003 in Squadron archives

Prior to the battle of El Alamein 216 squadron was involved in diversionary operations, dropping dummy paratroopers and flares to draw German forces out of position. By Nov 1942 216 squadron was moving forward, detachingsome aircraft to El Adem. The new year saw rapid advances and 216 Squadron was fully engaged transporting flightier units to new bases, supplying ground forces and evacuating casualties.

 

In March 1943, Dakotas began to arrive and by May the squadron was solely equipped with this type. The North Africa Campaign had ended in victory and in May 1943 216 Squadron was absorbed into the new RAF Transport Command. With the Dakotas the squadron began scheduled flights although some paratroop and re-supply missions were carried out, dropping Greek troops onto Aegean Islands( Kos, Leros, Samos and Seriphos). Between 1944 and 1946 216Squadron was one of the busiest units during the civil war in Greece.(1944-1949)

On 31st march 1944 the squadron detached15 aircraft to India. By 7th April 1944 these aircraft were flying into occupied Burma (in support of Chindit operations), where it carried out re-supply drops and casualty evacuations from the area, sadly several aircraft were lost on these sorties.

By the end of the war, the squadron was acting much in the role of an airline with scheduled services throughout Africa, the Middle East, India , the Mediterranean, Southern Europe and even back to the UK . As well as these 'scheduled' services, airborne force operations were flown and detachments to Yugoslavia (supporting Tito's Partisans) and others as far apart as Nairobi and Karachi occurred during the remainder of the War.

 

Again the F4003 from 216 Sqaudron shows more info on aircraft operated (as it would have course) Ansons MXII , PH550 & PH540 were allocated to the squadron on 16th March 1944.

Haven't found any photos yet to incidate if the aircarft were in 216 squadron colours.

 

After the war the squadron remained as part of the Middle East Transport Wing,fully replacing its Dakotas with Valettas by February 1951.  The squadron eventually returned to the UK, Royal Air Force Lyenham,on the 10th November 1955, the first time it had been stationed there for 38 years.

The Squadron flew its eight Valetta'sfrom from Fayid, via malta, to RAF Lyneham to be welcomed by Air Marshall Sir Donald Hardman, Air Member for Supply and Organization.
Ex Squadron Commanders were invitedto attend and many attended. See a Flight International report on the return of 216 here

In June 1956, the Squadron received the first de Havilland Comet 2 aircraft, and became the first military Jet Transport Squadron. More photographs here

Eventually equipped with ten Comet C Mk 2s, the squadron operated scheduled services around the world, carried VIPs, conducted casevac operations and conducted a number of special operation including transporting the Queen on numerous occasions.   In February 1962, five Comet C Mk 4s were added to the squadron's complement and when the Mk 2s were retired in April 1967, the Mk 4s continued the service. The new aircraft carried over twice as many passengers at a higher speed, and for a greater distance. The last C2 was disposed of in 1967, leaving the unit equipped with 5 of the later mark.  

 

 

However, with the reduction in number of the overseas bases, the squadron was disbanded after 58 years of service on
27 June 1975, the first time since its formation in 1918. This article in the Lyneham Globe reports on the history of 216 Squadron at the time. The scanned article has cut an edge.If someone has a copy of this edition I would be greatful for a better scanned document.
Commemerative programme

 

The Squadron's inactivity was, however, to be short-lived. In July 1979, 216 was reformed at RAF Honington, and equipped with the Blackburn Buccaneer S2B; for the first time in many years it had returned to the bombing role in the Maritime Strike/Attack field.

In 1980, the Squadron had a detatchemt at
RAF Lossiemouth (The detatchment known as 216 North) when structural problems with the Buccaneer resulted the aircraft being grounded Hawker Hunter Hunters T. Mk 7 were used to keep the crews current.The squadron operated one F.6 XF383.

Sadly a number of Buccanners were scrapped so the number of squadrons needed to be reduced. This lead to 216 handing its aircraft to
12 Squadron and 216 was disbanded on the
4 August 1980.  Some of the 216 ground crew were amalgamated into 12 Squadron but retained their 216 Patches saying they had never officially been posted to 12 Squadron

 

 

 

 

 

Following the Falklands conflict in 1982, a requirement for more tanker aircraft became apparent. The Ministry of Defence purchased nine TriStar 500s from British Airways and Pan American Airways, and in August 1983, the first aircrew arrived at RAF Brize Norton to begin training with British Airways flightdeck crews. By February 1984 the RAF crews were fully qualified and, in November 1984, No 216 Squadron was officially reformed.

In December 1985, a thrice-weekly schedule to the Falkland Islands commenced and, although subsequently reduced to a twice-weekly schedule it was the main task of the Squadron at that time. In March 1986, the first of the converted tankers was delivered to the Squadron.

At the end of July 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait . No 216 Squadron made a significant contribution to the Allied operation to defend Saudi Arabia and free Kuwait (Operation GRANBY). The Squadron transported vast quantities of personnel and materials from Germany , Cyprus and the UK to the Middle East . In addition, with the UK 's other Transport Squadrons, the Tanker variants were in constant demand to provide Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) support for deployments of fast jet aircraft to and from the Gulf. On 6th January 1991 a single K1 aircraft, together with a small detachment of Squadron personnel, were deployed to Riyadh to support the RAF fighter force and other probe-equipped receivers. By the time this detachment was withdrawn in March 1991, the single aircraft had flown over 90 AAR missions, accumulating over 430 flying hours and transferring 3,100,00 Kg of fuel.

In response to the UN decision to establish a no-fly zone over Bosnia-Herzegovina, two K1 aircraft were deployed to Italy in June 1993 to provide AAR , primarily for the British combat aircraft. In March 1999, as the situation in the Balkan region deteriorated, Operation ALLIED FORCE was initiated, and No 216 Sqn was involved from the first night of the hostilities. Throughout the Operation, No 216 Sqn had five tanker aircraft in theatre, flying a total of 230 missions with a 100% success rate; some 13.5 million lbs of fuel were given to 1580 aircraft from seven countries. The success of the campaign resulted in the award of the DFC to one of the Squadron pilots, along with 4 other awards to aircrew for gallantry. The Squadron remained in Italy until July 2001, ensuring that peace prevailed in the volatile Balkan region.

Between August 2001 and March 2003, the Squadron took over Operation RESINATE (South) from No 101 Squadron. This detachment, based in Bahrain , supported the long-standing commitment by UN Forces to maintain the no-fly zone over Southern Iraq .

Following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, No 216 Squadron was been heavily involved in Operation ORACLE, the war against terrorism in Afghanistan . During the course of operations, the Squadron had the distinction of being the first Allied tanker asset to enter Afghanistan airspace, and in a period of just 4 months had dispensed more than 10 000 tons of fuel to coalition aircraft.

The war in Iraq (Operation TELIC) saw No 216 Squadron heavily involved in ensuring coalition victory. Throughout the duration of the conflict, the TriStars of No 216 Squadron flew approximately 300 AAR missions, amassing 1500 flying hours and dispensing in excess of 900,000 Kg of fuel to coalition aircraft. In the AT role the Squadron deployed 16,000 personnel and 700 tonnes of freight to the Middle East . With the draw down of Operation TELIC in Iraq , the focus shifted towards Operation HERRICK in Afghanistan .

The Squadron's very first flight into an Afghan airfield under Operation HERRICK, was to Kabul on 27 March 2002. With little airfield infrastructure (including bomb craters and mined areas), mountainous terrain and only the most basic of approach aids, Kabul was an extremely challenging environment for the Squadron crews to operate a wide-bodied, legacy airliner. The Tristar operated into Kabul for many years with the routine airbridge commencing in late 2005. However, in 2006, due to the shift in United Kingdom operations away from Kabul to southern Afghanistan , Kandahar Air Base became the new destination for the airbridge. 216 Squadron became responsible for delivering the United Kingdom airbridge for personnel into and out of theatre. Flights began in December '06 departing on a regular basis from the United Kingdom flying directly to Afghanistan , with troops stepping onto the aircraft at RAF Brize Norton then some 7 hours later stepping off into the heart of a war zone.

As the numbers of United Kingdom troops increased, so did the tasking. At the peak of activity, 216 Squadron would launch 5 Operation HERRICK runs per week. The majority of these flights were flown using the passenger carrying C2 Tristars. The front of these aircraft had been specially modified with stretchers, allowing injured personnel to be carried on board as well as returning soldiers. In addition to this, on occasion, specific aeromed tasks were flown for personnel in need of critical care.

Parallel to the AT support, with the drawdown of Op TELIC, the focus of the AAR detachment in Oman shifted more and more to Op HERRICK. During the period 2008 to 2012, operational tanking sorties flying from the Squadron's detachment in Seeb and then later Musannah airbase were launched on a daily basis. Many of these sorties were flown in support of the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps due to the compatibility of the ‘probe and drogue' system incorporated by the Tristar and American F-18 and Prowler aircraft (pictured).

Operation ELLAMY

The Squadron continued to support emergent operations. In 2011, Operation ELLAMY, the United Kingdom 's   participation in the military intervention in Libya , brought a hefty challenge for the AAR crews of 216 Squadron. The operation again demonstrated a valuable force multiplier . Crews immediately commenced long range AAR missions to Libya flying sorties in excess of 12 hours in duration. Crews launched from the United Kingdom laden with fuel (in excess of 120 tonnes) bound for the Libyan coastline. After a high level transit through Europe the aircraft was descended to enter via the tactical airway structure close to Malta bound for a rendezvous with “fast air” in need of fuel. After a period of 3-4 hours on task within striking distance of the Libyan coastline and having ensured all available fuel was given to the receivers, the jet would then depart, often on minimum fuel, to begin its flight back to the United Kingdom .

Of particular note, 216 Squadron were tasked with supporting long range strike missions by Tornado aircraft launching from the United Kingdom on a round trip to Libya . On the night of 19–20 March 2011 Tornado aircraft from RAF Marham   flew a 3,000 mi (4,800 km) mission to fire Storm Shadow missiles against targets in Libya . They required refuelling by British tanker aircraft 3 times on the outward journey and once on the return. The AAR crews of 216 Squadron performed admirably throughout the Libyan conflict managing challenging missions in order to ensure fuel reached those in need. For their efforts, a number of Squadron personnel were awarded the NATO medal. These extremely long range missions clearly demonstrated the essential on-going requirement for a strategic AAR platform.

In August 2013, the Squadron deployed an aircraft to the Falkland Islands in support of 1312 Flight to take over from the retiring VC10. The aircraft and its crew, on Quick Reaction Alert 24 hours a day for a month at a time, primarily provide an AAR capability to 1435 Flight Typhoons. They are also a vital element in the compassionate and aeromedical role to the South American mainland and beyond. With the retirement of the VC10 also came the United Kingdom National Security commitment, Operation TANSOR, where, similar to the Falklands , an aircraft and a crew would be on 24 hour standby.

Their legacy will live on…

So to the future. All of the past hard work and vital contribution will be taken on by the newest addition to the Royal Air Force, the KC30 Voyager. This aircraft will shortly be taking over 216 Squadron's Quick Reaction Alert responsibilities and has recently taken on the Operation HERRICK airbridge. The 31 March 2014 will be a sad day for all those 216 Squadron members both past and present. However, all those individuals can be very proud of their immense contributions over the last 96 years, through 2 World Wars, 2 Gulf Wars, the Balkans, Afghanistan and Libya . Their legacy lives on within the ethos of the strategic air transport and air to air refuelling capability of the Royal Air Force - even if their squadron will not.

216 Squadron was disbanded for the second, possible never to be revived again, the 31st march 2014.

The Tristar Years- Tristar ops as gleaned from F540 (Operations Record Book)

Details of the parade and dining out night can be found here.
Details of th 216 Squadron Standar Laying up ceronmony can be found here.

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Notes:

Snippets of Squadron History can be found here

For more detailed info on some of the aircraft operated by 216 Squadron visit: http://www.rafweb.org/SqnMark214-216.htm

Photo of the inside of a 216 Sqn Vickers Valentia can be seen here

For defence news of 216 squadron Tristars take a look here

Acknowledgements:

Text

M B Barrass http://www.rafweb.org/Sqn216-220.htm

MOD RAF http://www.raf.mod.uk/rafbrizenorton/aboutus/216squadron.cfm

Bart FM Droog : http://www.epibreren.com/ww2/raf/216_squadron.html information here also of lost crew members of 216

Victor Flintham (1990). Air Wars and Aircraft: A Detailed Record of Air Combat, 1945 to the Present. Facts on File. ISBN 0-8160-2356-5 available here

MOD History of RAF Lyneham: http://www.raf.mod.uk/raflyneham/aboutus/history60sand70s.cfm

DH86 historical info http://www.warbirdsdirectory.goodall.com.au/australian-aviation/dh86/dh86.html

DH86 http://www.warbirdsdirectory.goodall.com.au/australian-aviation/dh86/dh86.html

DH86 Vincent Ashworth, Morrinsville 3300. New Zealand

Hawker Hunter 1951-2007 David J Griffin ISBN 1430305932

Images

Unless stated otherwise aircraft images are from the Milestones of Flight pages at the RAF Museum site: http://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/milestones-of-flight/aircraft/1910.cfm (text added by Dave Maloney)

216 Squadron Buccanner - Pete Tulip

AMB 216 Sqn Comet: http://forums.airshows.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=40&t=17760

Anson http://www.yorkshire-aircraft.co.uk/aircraft/dj222.html

DH86 http://www.warbirdsdirectory.goodall.com.au/australian-aviation/dh86/dh86.html

Lodestar Photo Renato Spilimbergo Carvalho

Vickers Valetta- Derick Oakley (RAF Church Fenton photographic club)

Vickers Valentia (en route to Nairobi 1939) B J Lynch.

Hawker Hunter D.J. Griffin/D Simpson

Hudson. A History of the Mediterranean Air War, 1940-1945: Volume 2: North African ... By Christopher Shores, Giovanni Massimello

 

 



 

 

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