No. 47 Squadron RAF
No. 47 Squadron of the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 operates the Hercules
C-130 Hercules
The Lockheed C-130 Hercules is a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft designed and built originally by Lockheed, now Lockheed Martin. Capable of using unprepared runways for takeoffs and landings, the C-130 was originally designed as a troop, medical evacuation, and cargo transport...

 from RAF Brize Norton
RAF Brize Norton
RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, about west north-west of London, is the largest station of the Royal Air Force. It is close to the settlements of Brize Norton, Carterton and Witney....

, Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire is a county in the South East region of England, bordering on Warwickshire and Northamptonshire , Buckinghamshire , Berkshire , Wiltshire and Gloucestershire ....


First formation

No. 47 Squadron Royal Flying Corps
Royal Flying Corps
The Royal Flying Corps was the over-land air arm of the British military during most of the First World War. During the early part of the war, the RFC's responsibilities were centred on support of the British Army, via artillery co-operation and photographic reconnaissance...

 was formed at Beverley
Beverley is a market town, civil parish and the county town of the East Riding of Yorkshire, England, located between the River Hull and the Westwood. The town is noted for Beverley Minster and architecturally-significant religious buildings along New Walk and other areas, as well as the Beverley...

, East Riding of Yorkshire
East Riding of Yorkshire
The East Riding of Yorkshire, or simply East Yorkshire, is a local government district with unitary authority status, and a ceremonial county of England. For ceremonial purposes the county also includes the city of Kingston upon Hull, which is a separate unitary authority...

 on 1 March 1916 as a home defence unit, protecting Hull
Kingston upon Hull
Kingston upon Hull , usually referred to as Hull, is a city and unitary authority area in the ceremonial county of the East Riding of Yorkshire, England. It stands on the River Hull at its junction with the Humber estuary, 25 miles inland from the North Sea. Hull has a resident population of...

 and East Yorkshire
Yorkshire is a historic county of northern England and the largest in the United Kingdom. Because of its great size in comparison to other English counties, functions have been increasingly undertaken over time by its subdivisions, which have also been subject to periodic reform...

 against attack by German Zeppelin
A Zeppelin is a type of rigid airship pioneered by the German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin in the early 20th century. It was based on designs he had outlined in 1874 and detailed in 1893. His plans were reviewed by committee in 1894 and patented in the United States on 14 March 1899...

s, being equipped with a mix of aircraft, including Armstrong Whitworth F.K.3
Armstrong Whitworth F.K.3
-See also:...

s, FK.8
Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8
The Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8 was a British two-seat general-purpose biplane built by Armstrong Whitworth during the First World War. The type served alongside the better known R.E.8 until the end of the war, at which point 694 F.K.8s remained on RAF charge....

s and Royal Aircraft Factory BE.12s. After six months training and flying defensive patrols, it was split up, with two flights joining 33 Squadron
No. 33 Squadron RAF
No. 33 Squadron of the Royal Air Force operates the Puma HC.1 from RAF Benson, Oxfordshire.-Current role:The squadron is part of the RAF Support Helicopter force, which reports into the Joint Helicopter Command....

, and the remainder being sent to Salonika
Thessaloniki , historically also known as Thessalonica, Salonika or Salonica, is the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of the region of Central Macedonia as well as the capital of the Decentralized Administration of Macedonia and Thrace...

 in Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

, to support forces fighting on the Macedonian Front
Macedonian front (World War I)
The Macedonian Front resulted from an attempt by the Allied Powers to aid Serbia, in the autumn of 1915, against the combined attack of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria. The expedition came too late and in insufficient force to prevent the fall of Serbia, and was complicated by the internal...

, arriving on 20 September 1916.

It retained a mixture of aircraft, with two flights being used for reconnaissance and bombing while the third flight operated fighters. When the German battlecruiser
Battlecruisers were large capital ships built in the first half of the 20th century. They were developed in the first decade of the century as the successor to the armoured cruiser, but their evolution was more closely linked to that of the dreadnought battleship...

SMS Goeben
SMS Goeben was the second of two Moltke-class battlecruisers of the Imperial German Navy, launched in 1911 and named after the German Franco-Prussian War veteran General August Karl von Goeben...

 ran aground near outside the Dardanelles
The Dardanelles , formerly known as the Hellespont, is a narrow strait in northwestern Turkey connecting the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara. It is one of the Turkish Straits, along with its counterpart the Bosphorus. It is located at approximately...

 after the Battle of Imbros, three 47 Squadron aircraft were sent to attack the stranded ship. Despite continual attacks from these and other aircraft little damage was done to the Goeben owing to the light bombs used. On 1 April 1918, the Royal Flying Corps became part of the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

, and the fighter flights (by now equipped with the Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5
Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5
The Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5 was a British biplane fighter aircraft of the First World War. Although the first examples reached the Western Front before the Sopwith Camel and it had a much better overall performance, problems with its Hispano-Suiza engine, particularly the geared-output H-S...

A) of both 47 Squadron and No. 17 Squadron were detached to form 150 Squadron
No. 150 Squadron RAF
No. 150 Squadron RAF was an aircraft squadron of the Royal Air Force during both World War I and World War II.The squadron was reformed - as 150 Sqn. - on 8 January 1959 as one of 20 Strategic Missile squadrons associated with Project Emily...

. 47 Squadron, now divested of its fighters, and solely equipped with Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8
Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8
The Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8 was a British two-seat general-purpose biplane built by Armstrong Whitworth during the First World War. The type served alongside the better known R.E.8 until the end of the war, at which point 694 F.K.8s remained on RAF charge....

s, was used mainly in the Corps Reconnaissance role, but were used to bomb the retreating Bulgarian forces following the Allied offensive of September 1918.

After the end of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, in April 1919, the squadron was sent to Southern Russia to help General Denikin
Anton Ivanovich Denikin
Anton Ivanovich Denikin was Lieutenant General of the Imperial Russian Army and one of the foremost generals of the White movement in the Russian Civil War.- Childhood :...

's White Russian forces in their fight against the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War
Russian Civil War
The Russian Civil War was a multi-party war that occurred within the former Russian Empire after the Russian provisional government collapsed to the Soviets, under the domination of the Bolshevik party. Soviet forces first assumed power in Petrograd The Russian Civil War (1917–1923) was a...

. While the RAF's ostensible mission was purely to provide training to Denikin's forces, No. 47 Squadron was included in the mission in order to carry out operational sorties. It was equipped with a mixture of aircraft, with flights equipped with Airco DH.9
Airco DH.9
The Airco DH.9 - also known after 1920 as the de Havilland DH.9 - was a British bomber used in the First World War...

 and DH.9A
Airco DH.9A
The Airco DH.9A was a British light bomber designed and first used shortly before the end of the First World War. Colloquially known as the "Ninak" , it served on in large numbers for the Royal Air Force following the end of the war, both at home and overseas, where it was used for colonial...

 bombers and Sopwith Camel
Sopwith Camel
The Sopwith Camel was a British First World War single-seat biplane fighter introduced on the Western Front in 1917. Manufactured by Sopwith Aviation Company, it had a short-coupled fuselage, heavy, powerful rotary engine, and concentrated fire from twin synchronized machine guns. Though difficult...

 fighters. The squadron's flights operated independently, carrying out bombing and strafing missions against Bolshevik forces. One notable incident occurred on 30 July 1919, when, during an attack by C Flight DH.9s on Bolshevik gunboats at Tcherni-Yar, the DH.9 flown by William Elliott
William Elliott (RAF officer)
Air Chief Marshal Sir William Elliott GCVO, KCB, KBE, DFC & Bar, ADC, RAF, was a senior Royal Air Force commander.-RAF career:...

 was shot down. On seeing this, the DH.9 flown by Captain Anderson, despite itself receiving damage that required his gunner, Lt Mitchell to climb onto the wing and block a leaking fuel tank with his thumb, landed next to the striken aircraft to rescue its crew. Anderson and Mitchell were recommended for the Victoria Cross
Victoria Cross
The Victoria Cross is the highest military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories....

 for this action, but in the end they were awarded the Distinguished Service Order
Distinguished Service Order
The Distinguished Service Order is a military decoration of the United Kingdom, and formerly of other parts of the British Commonwealth and Empire, awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers of the armed forces during wartime, typically in actual combat.Instituted on 6 September...

. No. 47 Squadron was disbanded on 7 October 1919, being re-designated 'A' Squadron, RAF Mission.

Although it was not a fighter unit, the squadron did have at least two aces serve in it: Samuel Kinkead
Samuel Kinkead
Samuel Marcus Kinkead DSO, DSC & Bar, DFC & Bar was a South African fighter ace Captain with 33 victories during World War I. He went on to serve in southern Russia and the Middle East postwar.-Early life:...

 and Charles D. B. Green
Charles D. B. Green
Lieutenant Charles Duncan Bremner Green was a Canadian-born World War I flying ace credited with 11 aerial victories. Postwar, he went on to success in business until World War II. After rejoining military life, he again served until his untimely accidental death.-Early life:Charles Duncan Bremner...


1920-1944 East Africa and the Mediterranean

On 1 February 1920 the squadron was re-formed at RAF Helwan in Egypt when 206 Squadron
No. 206 Squadron RAF
No. 206 Squadron was a Royal Air Force unit employed, until 2005, in the maritime patrol role with the Nimrod MR.2 at RAF Kinloss, Moray. It was announced in December 2004 that 206 Squadron would disband on 1 April 2005, with half of its crews being redistributed to Nos. 120 and 201 Squadrons, also...

 was re-numbered. It was a day bomber squadron equipped with the DH.9, re-equipping with DH.9As in 1921. One of the duties was policing in Sudan and the squadron detached aircraft to Khartoum. Another important task carried out during the Squadron's early years in Egypt was to help survey and mark out the route of the Cairo to Baghdad air route
The Air Mail Route
The Cairo - Baghdad Air Route was an airmail route established by the Royal Air Force following a conference of British military and civil officials held in Cairo in March 1921. The aim was to create an air link between Egypt, Mandate Palestine and British Mandate of Mesopotamia , which were under...

, and to carry air mail along that route. In 1925, three aircraft, led by Squadron Leader
Squadron Leader
Squadron Leader is a commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many countries which have historical British influence. It is also sometimes used as the English translation of an equivalent rank in countries which have a non-English air force-specific rank structure. In these...

 Arthur Coningham
Arthur Coningham (RAF officer)
Air Marshal Sir Arthur "Mary" Coningham KCB, KBE, DSO, MC, DFC, AFC, RAF was a senior officer in the Royal Air Force. During the First World War, he was at Gallipoli with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, where he became a flying ace...

 (later an Air Vice Marshal and commander of the Western Desert Air Force during the Second World War), carried out the first RAF flight between Egypt and Kano
Kano is a city in Nigeria and the capital of Kano State in Northern Nigeria. Its metropolitan population is the second largest in Nigeria after Lagos. The Kano Urban area covers 137 and comprises six Local Government Area - Kano Municipal, Fagge, Dala, Gwale, Tarauni and Nassarawa - with a...

, Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

, covering 6,500 miles in 23 days, with 85 hours flying time.

In October 1927 the squadron moved completely to Khartoum and in December it discarded its aging DH.9As in favour of Fairey IIIFs, becoming the first Squadron to receive this aircraft. The squadron co-operated with the Sudan Defence Force, regularly carrying out border patrols, while a flight of IIIFs was fitted with floats, flying patrols over the River Nile and the Red Sea
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

. It also continued to carry out long range flights, flying from Egypt to The Gambia
The Gambia
The Republic of The Gambia, commonly referred to as The Gambia, or Gambia , is a country in West Africa. Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa, surrounded by Senegal except for a short coastline on the Atlantic Ocean in the west....

 in 1930, and carrying out four training flights to South Africa. The Squadron replaced its IIIFs with Fairey Gordon
Fairey Gordon
|-See also:-External links:* * *...

s (effectively IIIFs powered by a radial engine
Radial engine
The radial engine is a reciprocating type internal combustion engine configuration in which the cylinders point outward from a central crankshaft like the spokes on a wheel...

) in January 1933, continuing its operations in support of the Sudan Defence Force and floatplane patrols over the Red Sea.

In July 1936 the squadron re-equipped with the Vickers Vincent, although some float-equipped Gordons were kept until June 1939. In June 1939 the squadron started to operate the Vickers Wellesley
Vickers Wellesley
The Vickers Wellesley was a British 1930s light bomber built by Vickers-Armstrongs at Brooklands near Weybridge, Surrey, for the Royal Air Force...

 monoplane, retaining a flight of Vincents for Army co-operation purposes. To counter Italian forces entering the war
East African Campaign (World War II)
The East African Campaign was a series of battles fought in East Africa during World War II by the British Empire, the British Commonwealth of Nations and several allies against the forces of Italy from June 1940 to November 1941....

 the squadron moved north to Erkowit and flew its first combat mission of the Second World War against Asmara
Asmara is the capital city and largest settlement in Eritrea, home to a population of around 579,000 people...

 airfield in Eritrea
Eritrea , officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea derives it's name from the Greek word Erethria, meaning 'red land'. The capital is Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast...

 on 11 June 1940. The Vincent equipped D Flight was spilt off to form No. 430 Flight in August 1940, that flight continuing in support of Orde Wingate's Gideon Force
Gideon Force
The Gideon Force was a small British-led African regular force which acted as a Corps d'Elite amongst the irregular Ethiopian forces fighting the Italian occupation forces in Ethiopia during the East African Campaign of World War II...

. while 47 Squadron continued to bomb Italian forces in Eritrea until they surrendered in May 1941, and then flying operations in support of British and Commonwealth forces in Ethiopia until the final Italian surrender in Gondar
Gondar or Gonder is a city in Ethiopia, which was once the old imperial capital and capital of the historic Begemder Province. As a result, the old province of Begemder is sometimes referred to as Gondar...

 in November 1941.

The squadron moved to Egypt using the now old Wellesleys in anti-submarine patrols around the eastern Mediterranean, while in July 1942 it acquired a detachment of Bristol Beaufort
Bristol Beaufort
The Bristol Beaufort was a British twin-engined torpedo bomber designed by the Bristol Aeroplane Company, and developed from experience gained designing and building the earlier Blenheim light bomber....

s torpedo bombers from 42 Squadron
No. 42 Squadron RAF
No. 42 Squadron of the Royal Air Force has served during World War I as an army co-operation squadron and during World War II in various roles. In recent years, it was the Operational Conversion Unit for the Nimrod MR.2, based at RAF Kinloss, Moray, until the Nimrod MR2's retirement in 2010.-First...

. It flew its first anti-shipping strikes against enemy convoys supplying the Afrika Korps
Afrika Korps
The German Africa Corps , or the Afrika Korps as it was popularly called, was the German expeditionary force in Libya and Tunisia during the North African Campaign of World War II...

 in Libya on 8 October 1942. It carried on operating Beauforts on anti-shipping as well as convoy escort duties until 1943. In June 1943 the Squadron, by now based in Tunisia, re-equipped with Bristol Beaufighter
Bristol Beaufighter
The Bristol Type 156 Beaufighter, often referred to as simply the Beau, was a British long-range heavy fighter modification of the Bristol Aeroplane Company's earlier Beaufort torpedo bomber design...

s. Now better equipped at striking against enemy shipping, they carried out armed reconnaissance in different areas of the Mediterranean and Aegean sea looking for shipping to attack.

1944-1946 India and the Far East

The squadron moved with the Beaufighters to India in March 1944, re-equipping with de Havilland Mosquito
De Havilland Mosquito
The de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito was a British multi-role combat aircraft that served during the Second World War and the postwar era. It was known affectionately as the "Mossie" to its crews and was also nicknamed "The Wooden Wonder"...

s in October that year. This was not a success as the Mosquito was almost immediately grounded owing to failures of the wooden structure due to the hot and humid Indian climate, and it re-acquired the Beaufighter in November. They were soon supporting operations in Burma in both day and night attacks with rockets. The squadron partly re-equipped with Mosquitos in February 1945, with both its Beaufighters and Mosquitos being heavily used to support General Slim
William Slim, 1st Viscount Slim
Field Marshal William Joseph "Bill"'Slim, 1st Viscount Slim, KG, GCB, GCMG, GCVO, GBE, DSO, MC, KStJ was a British military commander and the 13th Governor-General of Australia....

's 14th Army in its attack against Mandalay
Mandalay is the second-largest city and the last royal capital of Burma. Located north of Yangon on the east bank of the Irrawaddy River, the city has a population of one million, and is the capital of Mandalay Region ....

. It completely re-equipped with Mosquitos in April 1945, continuing operations against Japanese forces until the end of the war. After the war it moved to Java to operate against Indonesian nationalist forces
Indonesian National Revolution
The Indonesian National Revolution or Indonesian War of Independence was an armed conflict and diplomatic struggle between Indonesia and the Dutch Empire, and an internal social revolution...

 but it was disbanded at Butterworth on 21 March 1946.

1946-1967 Transport

On 1 September 1946 the squadron was re-formed at RAF Qastina in Palestine when 644 Squadron
No. 644 Squadron RAF
No. 644 Squadron RAF was a unit in 38 Group of the Royal Air Force during World War II which undertook glider-towing and supply dropping missions as well being employed in the paratroop role.-Formation and World War II:...

 was renumbered. It was now a transport squadron using converted four-engined Handley Page Halifax
Handley Page Halifax
The Handley Page Halifax was one of the British front-line, four-engined heavy bombers of the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. A contemporary of the famous Avro Lancaster, the Halifax remained in service until the end of the war, performing a variety of duties in addition to bombing...

 bombers. It soon returned to the United Kingdom where it flew the Halifax from RAF Fairford
RAF Fairford
RAF Fairford is a Royal Air Force station in Gloucestershire, England. It is a standby airfield, not in everyday use. Its most prominent use in recent years has been as an airfield for United States Air Force B-52s during the 2003 Iraq War, Operation Allied Force in 1999, and the first Gulf War in...

 in the Army support role. The Squadron moved to RAF Disforth  in September 1948, where it became the first RAF Squadron to receive the Handley Page Hastings
Handley Page Hastings
The Handley Page H.P.67 Hastings was a British troop-carrier and freight transport aircraft designed and built by Handley Page Aircraft Company for the Royal Air Force...

 four-engined transport. The conversion process was rushed as the aircraft were needed to support the Berlin Airlift
Berlin Blockade
The Berlin Blockade was one of the first major international crises of the Cold War and the first resulting in casualties. During the multinational occupation of post-World War II Germany, the Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies' railway and road access to the sectors of Berlin under Allied...

, with the Squadron moving to Schleswigland, near Keil
Keil is a surname, and may refer to:*Alfredo Keil , Portuguese romantic composer and painter*Alphonso Keil Samoan born rock & roll musician, founding member of The Zodiacs and The Kavaliers...

 in West Germany on 1 November 1948. The aircraft was mainly used to carry coal, carrying out 3,000 trips to Berlin and carrying 22,000 tons of supplies. When the blockade ended the Squadron returned to the United Kingdom, moving to RAF Topcliffe
RAF Topcliffe
RAF Topcliffe is a Royal Air Force station in North Yorkshire. It is a satellite station of RAF Linton-on-Ouse.Topcliffe opened in September 1940 as a bomber station in RAF Bomber Command and was home to 77 and 102 Squadrons flying the Whitley heavy bomber. There was a decoy site at Raskelf...

 on 22 August 1949, operating in support of airborne forces, moving to RAF Abingdon
RAF Abingdon
RAF Abingdon was a Royal Air Force station near Abingdon, Oxfordshire. It is now known as Dalton Barracks and is used by the Royal Logistic Corps....

 in May 1953.

In May 1956 the squadron became the first to re-equip with the Blackburn Beverley
Blackburn Beverley
The Blackburn B-101 Beverley was a 1950s British heavy transport aircraft built by Blackburn and General Aircraft and flown by squadrons of Royal Air Force Transport Command from 1957 until 1967.-Design and development:...

 heavy-lift transport, the large aircraft were used on Transport Command trooping and freight routes. The squadron also supported operations in Cyprus, Kuwait and East Africa and carried out mercy flights related to floods, droughts and natural disasters. The Beverley was withdrawn and the squadron disbanded on 31 October 1947.


The squadron was re-formed at RAF Fairford on 25 February 1968 to operate the Lockheed Hercules, moving to Lyneham in September 1971. During the Falklands war, the squadron airlifted supplies to Ascension island and later, air dropped men and supplies directly into the South Atlantic. To make the trip from Ascension to the Falklands, several Hercules were given additional fuel tanks and fitted with refuelling probes. 47 Sqn also prepared to fly the SAS to Argentina for the aborted Operation Mikado

The Squadrons Special Forces Flight were involved in the 1991 Gulf War, as well as regular airlift missions, the Hercules also flew missions behind Iraqi lines, landing on ad hoc desert air strips to resupply SAS fighting columns.

The Squadron has supported UN and NATO operations in the Balkans in the 1990s, delivering aid to several besieged cities. It also support coalition forces in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.


  • June 1999 - during NATO operations in Kosovo, a C.1 Hercules crashed on take off from Kukes airbase in Albania. The Hercules was reportedly carrying a number of troops on an urgent mission to reach Pristina Airport before a column of Russian forces arrived. All aboard survived the crash.

  • January 2005 - A Hercules was shot down over Iraq whilst on routine tasking. The low-flying Hercules was hit by enemy ground, which caused a fire to break out onboard and led to structural failure and the eventual crash. All crew members and passengers were killed.

  • May 2006 - A Hercules was destroyed at Bost Airfield, Lashkar Gah in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. The plane reportedly hit a mine upon landing and burst into flames. The crew and passengers managed to escape the fire but the C-130, 2 armoured 4x4 vehicles and a large quantity of cash was destroyed.

  • September 2007 - an Hercules crash-landed at an ad hoc airstrip in Afghanistan whilst supporting UK tasking. The crash was caused by bad pilot judgement. As it was not possible to repair or recover the plane, all sensitive equipment was removed before Royal Engineers blew it up.

External links

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