No. 90 Squadron RAF

No. 90 Squadron RAF (sometimes written as No. XC Squadron) is a squadron of the Royal Air Force.

No. 90 Squadron RAF
Active8 October 1917 - 29 July 1918
14 August 1918 - 13 June 1919
15 March 1937 - 6 April 1940
3 May 1941 - 10 February 1942
7 November 1942 - 1 September 1950
4 October 1950 - 1 May 1956
1 January 1957 – 1 March 1965
CountryUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
BranchAir Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Air Force
Motto(s)Latin: Celer ("Swift")[1]
Squadron badge heraldryA hind salient.
The Hind - "representative of vigilance and great speed" - commemorates the fact that, at one time, the squadron was equipped with Hind aircraft.
Squadron CodesTW Oct 1938 - Sep 1939
WP May 1941 - Sep 1950, Oct 1950 - Apr 1951
XY Mar 1943 - Oct 1944 carried by 'C' Flt only


World War I

No. 90 Squadron was formed as a fighter squadron of the Royal Flying Corps at Shawbury in Shropshire on 8 October 1917, moving to Shotwick in North Wales on 5 December 1917.[2][3] It was equipped with a variety of types, including the Avro 504, Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2b,[4] together with a number of Sopwith Pups.[5] The squadron was intended to equip with the new Sopwith Dolphin fighter, and was intended to become operational in France in the spring of 1918, but although it received a few Dolphins in July 1918, it disbanded at Brockworth, Gloucestershire on 3 August 1918 without becoming operational.[2][6]

The squadron reformed on 14 August 1918 at RAF Buckminster, Leicestershire as a Home Defence squadron equipped with Avro 504Ks with the mission of defending the Midlands against German air attack.[2] Flights of Avro 504s were based at Buckminster, Leadenham and Wittering,[7] but the squadron saw no action, disbanding on 13 June 1919.[2]

World War II

The squadron reformed at RAF Bicester on 15 March 1937 from a flight of 101 Squadron, as a light bomber squadron equipped with Hawker Hind biplanes as its initial equipment. It replaced its Hinds with the more modern Bristol Blenheim twin-engined monoplane from May that year.[8] It replaced its Blenheim Is with Blenheim Mark IVs in early 1939, and on the outbreak of the Second World War, became a training squadron, training Blenheim crews for the rest of Bomber Command. It disbanded on 4 April 1940 when it merged with No. 35 Squadron to become part of No. 17 OTU.[2][3]

RAF Fortress crew at RAF Polebrook July 1941 IWM CH 3090
90 Squadron Fortress crew at RAF Polebrook before an attack on the German battleship Gneisenau at Brest, France

The squadron reformed once more at RAF Watton on 7 May 1941 as Bomber Command's first unit equipped with the American Boeing Fortress I four-engined heavy bomber, moving to West Raynham on 15 May.[2][9] 90 Squadron flew its first operational mission on 8 July 1941, when three Fortresses set off from RAF Polebrook to attack Wilhelmshaven (although only two of them actually managed to bomb the target).[10] The squadron typically flew small formations of Fortresses in high altitude daylight attacks,[9][11] taking part in a large scale attack on the German battleship Gneisenau at Brest, France on 24 July. Three Fortresses attacked were to attack from 30,000 ft (9,100 m), with the objective of drawing German fighters away from 18 Handley Page Hampdens attacking at lower altitudes. A larger force of 79 Vickers Wellingtons would attack later, while the fighters were meant to be refuelling. The operation did not work as expected, with 90 Squadron's Fortresses being unopposed, with the German defenders concentrating on the Hampdens and Wellingtons, shooting down two and ten respectively.[12][13] Small scale attacks continued, with four Fortresses attacking the German "pocket battleship" Admiral Scheer at Oslo harbour on 8 September, losing two of their number to German fighters.[14] 90 Squadron flew its final operational mission over northern Europe on 25 September 1941. In 51 operational sorties, 25 were abandoned due to faults with the aircraft, with 50 tons of bombs being dropped, of which only about 1 ton hit the intended targets. The Fortress I was unsuitable for the type of very high-altitude operations by small formations on which the RAF used them.[15] Four aircraft were dispatched to Egypt in November for operations in support of the Western Desert Campaign, with the three survivors becoming a detachment of 220 Squadron in December. The squadron surrendered its remaining Fortresses to 220 Squadron in February 1942, with the squadron flying a few Blenheims until it disbanded on 14 February 1942.[2][16]

On 7 November 1942 the Squadron again reformed as a night bomber squadron, part of No. 3 (Bomber) Group, at RAF Bottesford.[2] It was to be equipped with the Short Stirling Mk.I, receiving its first Stirling on 1 December and moving to RAF Ridgewell on 29 December 1942.[17] Its first operational venture were mining sorties on 8 January 1943.[18]

The months following saw the Stirling Mk.III (an improved version) introduced to the Squadron,[2] which moved to RAF Wratting Common on 31 May 1943. As a three-flight unit, the squadron was capable of providing 24 aircraft to the Group's Operational Battle Order, with a further six aircraft held in immediate reserve, and a total of 33 crews.[19] The unit's resources were thrown into the Battle of the Ruhr and sent to many of the German targets that were most heavily defended, including Berlin. The Squadron suffered considerable losses over an eight-month period and found it difficult to maintain reserves of men and machines.

The Stirlings suffered from deficiencies in design, due to restrictions laid down in the original Air Ministry specifications. After suffering heavy proportionate losses by type, their operations were restricted to Special Duties i.e.: Dropping sea mines, low level supply dropping to the Maquis, shorter bombing raids on invasion objectives. The Squadron was active on all these fronts.

Boeing B-29A Washington B.1 WF502 90 Sqn Hooton 20.09.52 edited-2
Washington B.1 WF502 of 90 Squadron in September 1952

By June 1944 the Squadron had been declared operational on Lancasters.

The last raid was to Bremen on 22 April 1945, the squadron flew 4,613 operational sorties for Bomber Command during the war and lost 86 aircraft.[20]

At least two books have been written about 90 Squadron airmen. One was an autobiography by Robert E. Wannop DFC, called 'Chocks Away.' The other was a biography of Wannop's tail gunner (James Cyril McCaffery), called 'Dad's War: The Story of a Courageous Canadian Youth who flew with Bomber Command.' It was written by McCaffery's son, Dan McCaffery.

Robert E. Wannop and James McCaffery flew 22 operations together. They arrived at Tuddenham on Christmas Eve 1944 and were still there when the war ended.


The squadron continued to operate the Lancaster in the post-war Bomber Command until May 1947 when the squadron re-equipped with Lincolns. It carried out regular detachments from Wyton to Egypt and Rhodesia before it disbanded on 1 September 1950.

The squadron reformed postwar at RAF Marham on 4 October 1950 and was equipped with the B-29 Superfortress known in Great Britain as the Boeing Washington.

Vickers Valian B.1 WZ393 90 Sqn SGT 10.06.57
Vickers Valiant B(PR)K.1 of 90 Squadron in 1957 wearing the Squadron's XC symbol in a triangle on its fin

On 8 January 1953 a Washington from the squadron WF502 mysteriously crashed near Llanarmon-yn-Ial in Denbighshire with the loss of all 10 crewmen, it had flown into the ground at night.[21]

In November 1953 the squadron began re-equipping with Canberras. The squadron was disbanded on 1 May 1956.

On 1 January 1957, the squadron was reformed at RAF Honington as a V-Bomber squadron, receiving Vickers Valiants from March that year.[3][22] The squadron started to convert to an in-flight refueling mission in August 1961, becoming a dedicated tanker unit on 1 April 1962 when it officially lost its bomber role.[23] Structural problems with the Valiant fleet caused by metal fatigue resulted in the RAF's Valiant fleet being permanently grounded on 26 January 1965,[24] the squadron finally disbanding on 16 April 1965.[3]


  1. ^ Pine, L.G. (1983). A dictionary of mottoes (1 ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 32. ISBN 0-7100-9339-X.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Halley 1980, p. 128.
  3. ^ a b c d "90 Squadron". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
  4. ^ Lewis 1959, p. 47.
  5. ^ Davis 1999, p. 67.
  6. ^ Davis 1999, pp. 130–131.
  7. ^ Cole and Cheeseman, 1984, p. 460.
  8. ^ Robertson Flight 19 January 1939.
  9. ^ a b "Bomber Command No.90 Squadron". Bomber Command: Bomber Command Squadrons. Royal Air Force. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
  10. ^ Chorlton Aeroplane January 2013, pp. 37–38.
  11. ^ "No. 86–90 Squadron Histories". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
  12. ^ Chorlton Aeroplane January 2013, p. 38.
  13. ^ Richards 1995, pp. 122–123.
  14. ^ Chorlton Aeroplane January 2013, pp. 38–39.
  15. ^ Chorlton Aeroplane January 2013, pp. 39–40.
  16. ^ Chorlton Aeroplane January 2013, p. 40.
  17. ^ Bowyer 2002, p. 161.
  18. ^ Ward and Smith 2008, p. 75.
  19. ^ Bowyer 2002, pp. 189–190.
  20. ^ Falconer 2003, p. 244
  21. ^ Halley 1999, p. 139
  22. ^ Brookes 2012, p. 92.
  23. ^ Brookes 2012, p. 64.
  24. ^ Brookes 2012, p. 89.
  • Bowyer, Michael J. F. (2002). The Stirling Story. Manchester, UK: Crécy Publishing. ISBN 0-947554-91-2.
  • Brookes, Andrew (2012). Valiant Units of the Cold War. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84908-753-7.
  • Chorlton, Martyn (January 2013). "Battle Honours: Lone Fortress in the Stratosphere". Aeroplane. Vol. 41 no. 1. pp. 36–40. ISSN 0143-7240.
  • Cole, Christopher; Cheesman, E. F. (1984). The Air Defence of Britain 1914–1918. London: Putnam. ISBN 0-370-30538-8.
  • Davis, Mick (1999). Sopwith Aircraft. Ramsbury, UK: The Crowood Press. ISBN 1-86126-217-5.
  • Falconer, Jonathan (2003). Bomber Command Handbook 1939-1945. Stroud, England: Sutton Publishing. pp. 203–204. ISBN 0 7509 3171 X.
  • Halley, James J. (1980). The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air Britain (Historians) Ltd. ISBN 0-85130-083-9.
  • Halley, James (1999). Broken Wings - Post-War Royal Air Force Accidents. Tunbridge Wells, Kent, United Kingdom: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. ISBN 978-0-85130-290-4.
  • Lewis, Peter (1959). Squadron Histories: R.F.C, R.N.A.S. and R.A.F. 1912–59. London: Putnam.
  • Richards, Denis (1995). The Hardest Victory: RAF Bomber Command in the Second World War. London: Coronet. ISBN 0-340-61720-9.
  • Robertson, F. A. de V. (19 January 1939). "RAF Units Visited: No. 90(B) Squadron". Flight. Vol. XXXV no. 1569. pp. a–c (between 61 and 63).
  • Ward, Chris; Smith, Steve (2008). 3 Group Bomber Command. Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword Aviation. ISBN 978-1-84415-796-9.

External links

90 Squadron

90 Squadron or 90th Squadron may refer to:

No. 90 Squadron RAF, a unit of the British Royal Air Force

90th Fighter Squadron, a unit of the United States Air Force

90th Cyber Operations Squadron, a unit of the United States Air Force

Bombing of Wilhelmshaven in World War II

The Wilhelmshaven World War II bombings by the Allies of World War II destroyed two thirds of the port's buildings. From spring 1943 until November 1943 slave labourers of the SS-Baubrigade II from the Neuengamme camp were transferred to Wilhelmshaven to clear up after air raids.

Flying Fortress (film)

for the film "Flying Fortress" of 2012 please look at Fortress (2012 film)

see also Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress

Flying Fortress is a 1942 British black-and-white war film drama from Warner Bros. Pictures, produced by A. H. Soloman, directed by Walter Forde, that stars Richard Greene and co-stars Carla Lehmann, Betty Stockfeld, and Donald Stewart.During the Blitz, an arrogant American pilot becomes increasingly committed to the Allied cause after ferrying B-17 bombers from Canada to England. After joining the Royal Canadian Air Force and being assigned to an RAF squadron, he finally takes part in a Flying Fortress bombing raid on Berlin.

Hawker Hind

The British Hawker Hind was a Royal Air Force light bomber of the inter-war years produced by Hawker Aircraft. It was developed from the Hawker Hart day-bomber introduced in 1931.

John Cochrane (pilot)

John Cochrane (26 July 1930 – 4 November 2006) was a British test pilot for the Anglo-French supersonic airliner, Concorde.

Leadenham Aerodrome

Leadenham Aerodrome was a Royal Flying Corps First World War airfield at Leadenham, Lincolnshire, England. It became RAF Leadenham in April 1918 until it closed in 1919.

List of museums in Essex

This list of museums in Essex, England contains museums which are defined for this context as institutions (including nonprofit organizations, government entities, and private businesses) that collect and care for objects of cultural, artistic, scientific, or historical interest and make their collections or related exhibits available for public viewing. Also included are non-profit art galleries and university art galleries. Museums that exist only in cyberspace (i.e., virtual museums) are not included.

Operation Titanic

Operation Titanic was a series of military deceptions carried out by the Allied Nations during the Second World War. The operation formed part of Operation Bodyguard, the cover plan for the Normandy landings in 1944. Titanic was carried out on 5–6 June 1944 by the Royal Air Force and the Special Air Service. The objective of the operation was to drop 500 dummy parachutists in places other than the real Normandy drop zones, to deceive the German defenders into believing that a large force had landed, drawing their troops away from the beachheads and strategic sites such as Caen.

Titanic was one of several deception operations involving the Royal Air Force on D-Day; others were Operations Glimmer and Taxable, executed by No. 218 Squadron and No. 617 Squadron, and radar deceptions by No. 101 and No. 214 squadrons.

RAF Anwick

RAF Anwick is a former Second World War faux Royal Air Force station near the village of Anwick, 21.3 mi (34.3 km) south east of the county town of Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England. The airfield was located in a field three quarters of a mile north-north-west of Anwick village.

Originally constructed and operated as a Royal Flying Corps aerodrome in September 1916 it closed between the wars, reopening in September 1939 as a Royal Air Force decoy site to divert bombing raids away from nearby RAF Digby, the closest active fighter airfield.

A minimal facility, even at the height of its active use, the airfield had only grass runways and no permanent brick buildings or hangars. All accommodation was of wooden and metal temporary construction. Within a few years of closing in 1942 there were no visible remains of the former flying facility, although a private landing strip and hangar now exist not far from the original aerodrome.

RAF Bircham Newton

Royal Air Force Bircham Newton or more simply RAF Bircham Newton is a former Royal Air Force station located 2.1 miles (3.4 km) south east of Docking, Norfolk and 13.4 miles (21.6 km) north east of King's Lynn, Norfolk, England.

RAF Bottesford

Royal Air Force Bottesford or more simply RAF Bottesford is a former Royal Air Force station located on the Leicestershire-Lincolnshire county border, 6.8 miles (10.9 km) north west of Grantham, Lincolnshire and 7.6 miles (12.2 km) south of Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire and about 107 miles (172 km) north-northwest of London, England.

Opened in 1942, it was used by both the Royal Air Force (RAF) and United States Army Air Forces (USAAF). During the war it was used primarily as a troop carrier airfield for paratroopers and as a bomber airfield before closing in 1948.

Today the remains of the airfield are located on private property with the technical site being used as an industrial estate.

RAF Buckminster

RAF Buckminster is a former Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force base 2.25 miles (3.62 km) west of Colsterworth, Lincolnshire and 9.3 miles (15.0 km) north-east of Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, England.

RAF Great Massingham

Royal Air Force Great Massingham or more simply RAF Great Massingham is a former Royal Air Force station located 8.1 miles (13.0 km) southwest of Fakenham, Norfolk and 11.7 miles (18.8 km) east of King's Lynn, Norfolk, England.

The airfield was built as a satellite airfield of RAF West Raynham in 1940. The airfield closed in 1945, although remained in use for storage until the 1950s.

RAF Polebrook

Royal Air Force Station Polebrook or more simply RAF Polebrook is a former Royal Air Force station located 3.5 miles (5.6 km) east-south-east of Oundle, at Polebrook, Northamptonshire, England. The airfield was built on Rothschild estate land starting in August 1940.

It was from Polebrook that the United States Army Air Forces' Eighth Air Force carried out its first heavy bomb group (Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress) combat mission on 17 August 1942, and from which Major Clark Gable flew combat missions in 1943.

RAF Ridgewell

Royal Air Force Ridgewell or more simply RAF Ridgewell is a former Royal Air Force station located 7.5 miles (12.1 km) north west of Halstead, Essex, England.

During the Second World War, the airfield was used by the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Forces Eighth Air Force.

RAF Tuddenham

Royal Air Force Station Tuddenham or RAF Tuddenham is a former Royal Air Force station located 3.2 miles (5.1 km) south east of Mildenhall, Suffolk, England and 7.8 miles (12.6 km) north west of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

RAF Weston-on-the-Green

RAF Weston-on-the-Green is a former Royal Flying Corps station that was redeveloped after the Great War period. Much demolition took place (including the original 1916/1917 hangars). The former RFC Officers and Sergeant's messes are located on the opposite side of the road, and are now in commercial use. The station is located near the village of Weston-on-the-Green in Oxfordshire, England.

RAF Weston-on-the-Green is one of the few remaining active RAF bases with some original pre-RAF buildings.

RAF Wratting Common

Royal Air Force Wratting Common or more simply RAF Wratting Common is a former Royal Air Force station located near Newmarket, Suffolk, UK.

Currently active
Australian Flying Corps units
attached to the RAF
during the First World War
Commonwealth air force units
attached to the RAF
during the Second World War
Squadrons formed from
non-Commonwealth personnel
during the Second World War
Royal Auxiliary Air Force
Fleet Air Arm of the RAF


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