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Squadron History

I was somewhat surprisedthat on the official RAF web sitethere is no mention of 216 Squadronon the RAF Squadron pages. The RAF Brize Norton officialpages give a reasonable amount of info on 216 Squadron with Tri starsbut 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.

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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 two- sixteen as apposed to two one six. The squadron operated until the end of the war dropping four of the eleven 1,650 lb bombs expended in the war and remained in France after the war, carrying out air mail duties.

However, instead of being disbanded the squadron was transferred 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  DH10s replaced the Handley Page machines in 1921, but a year later these had been superseded by Vimys. 

 

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. 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 was 1941 before the Valentias were completely replaced and when the Italians declared war in June 1940, 216 fitted bomb racks to its Bombays and carried out bombing missions against targets in Libya. On 2 May 1941 Bombays of No. 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.  

 

In 1941, the Squadron received its first Wellingtons . Its task was concentrated on transport flying, moving troops around the Middle East and Greek theatres of operations, as well as keeping open the supply and reinforcement route across Africa to the Gold Coast. Amongst the

 

Squadron's duties for this period were flights to evacuate the troops from Greece and supplying the besieged bases at Habbaniya and Tobruk. I t begin training in the airborne support role, dropping its first parachute troops in November .

In July 1942 it received Hudsons and was now definitely a pure transport unit, carrying supplies throughout the Western Desert and supporting units operating behind enemy lines, although the Bombays soldiered on until May 1943.  1943 saw the squadron settle down to routine missions including VIP flights

 

In March 1943, Dakotas began to arrive and by May the squadron was solely equipped with this type.  With the Dakotas the squadron began scheduled flights although some paratroop and re-supply missions were carried out. 216 was also one of the busiest units during the civil war

in Greece ,the only Dakota equipped RAF unit operated in Greece f trom October 1944 through March 1946 performing primarily transport duties. In April 1944, the squadron sent a large detachment to Burma ((in support of Chindit operations), where it carried out re-supply drops and casualty evacuations from the area. 

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.

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

 

Whilst still operating in the transport role, it was to introduce the De Havilland Comet into RAF service.  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 on 27 June 1975, the first time since its formation in 1917

 

The Squadron's inactivity was, however, to be short-lived. In July 1979, the Squadron 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 was moved to RAF Lossiemouth, Structural problems with

 

the Buccaneer resulted in a number of aircraft being scrapped and the need to reduce the number of squadrons.  This led to No 216 handing its aircraft to No 12 Squadron and disbanding on 4 August 1980. 

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.

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

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 has 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 .

Bought as a response to the identified need after the Falklands War for a strategic tanker aircraft, the TriStar's capability for AT, AAR and joint AT-AAR operations produces a remarkably versatile type, which No 216 Squadron expects to operate well into the 21st century.

Notes:

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

 

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)

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

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

216 Squadron Buccanner - Pete Tulip

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

 

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