No. 202 Squadron RAF

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No. 202 Squadron RAF
Official squadron crest for No. 202 Squadron RAF
Active 17 Oct 1914 (RNAS) - 22 Jan 1920
9 Apr 1920 - 16 May 1921
1 Jan 1929 - 12 Jun 1945
1 Oct 1946 - 31 Jul 1964
1 Sep 1964[1] - present
Country United Kingdom United Kingdom
Branch Air Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Air Force
Role Search and Rescue
Part of Search and Rescue Force
Base RAF Valley plus detached Flights
Motto Latin: Semper vigilate
("Be Always Vigilant")[2][3]
Helicopter Sea King HAR.3
Battle honours Western Front, 1916-1918
Atlantic, 1939-1945
Mediterranean, 1940-1943
North Africa, 1942-1943
Biscay, 1942-1943
The honours marked with an asterix (*) are those emblazoned on the squadron standard
Wing Commander Jon Heald
Squadron Badge heraldry A mallard alighting[2][3]
Squadron Codes JU (Allocated Apr 1939 - Sep 1939, no evidence of use)[2][4]
TQ (Sep 1939 - Aug 1943)[5]
AX (May 1941 - Aug 1943)[6]
TJ (Jul 1944 - Jun 1945)[7]
Y3 (Oct 1946 - Apr 1951)[8]
A (Apr 1951 - 1956)[9]

No. 202 Squadron of the Royal Air Force operated the Sea King HAR.3 in the Search and rescue role at three stations in the northern half of the United Kingdom. It was originally formed as one of the first aeroplane squadrons of the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) before it became part of the RAF.


Formation and the First World War

No. 202 Squadron was formed -along with the entire RAF- on 1 April 1918 by renumbering No. 2 Squadron RNAS.[10] It was originally formed as one of the first aeroplane squadrons of the RNAS on 17 October 1914.[2][11] It served on the Western Front during the First World War, carrying out reconnaissance and bombing missions from bases in Belgium and France before being disbanded on 22 January 1920.[3][11]

The interbellum

No. 202 was reformed for a brief existence as fleet co-operation unit between 9 Apr 1920 and 16 May 1921[2] and some eight years later the squadron came to live again when No. 481 Flight, operating the Fairey III floatplane at Malta was re-numbered as 202 Squadron in 1929, continuing to fly patrols over the Mediterranean Sea throughout the 1930s, being re-equipped with Supermarine Scapa flying boats in 1935.[3][12]

Second World War

During the Second World War, 202 Squadron flew anti-submarine patrols from RAF Gibraltar with Saro London, Consolidated Catalina and Short Sunderland flying boats and some Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers until 1944, when it moved with their Catalinas to RAF Castle Archdale, Northern Ireland, disbanding there on 12 June 1945.[3][12]


Weather Reconnaissance

Handley Page Hastings Met Mk.1 of 202 Squadron wearing Coastal Command camouflage at Manchester Airport in 1954

202 Squadron reformed by renumbering 518 Squadron[1] as a Weather Reconnaissance squadron at RAF Aldergrove near Belfast on 1 October 1946, flying converted Handley Page Halifax GR.6 & A.9 bombers on long range meteorological flights over the North Atlantic (codenamed "Bismuth"). It re-equipped with the more modern Handley Page Hastings Met.1 from November 1950, continuing in this role until disbanding on 31 July 1964.[3][13]

Search and Rescue

No. 202 Squadron was reformed on 1 September 1964[3] by the renumbering of No. 228 Squadron RAF at RAF Leconfield. The squadron began operating in its search and rescue role using the Westland Whirlwind HAR.10 helicopter with flights at RAF Acklington, RAF Ouston, RAF Coltishall and RAF Leuchars. The squadron moved to RAF Finningley during September 1976 with flights at RAF Boulmer, RAF Leconfield, RAF Coltishall, RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Brawdy. The squadron re-equipped with Westland Sea King HAR.3s from July 1978 (operating the Westland Wessex HAR.2 as an intermediate type while its Sea Kings were sent to the Falklands War),[14] moving its HQ to RAF Boulmer on the closure of Finningley in 1989, and then to RAF Valley during April 2008[10] where the HQ is co-located with the SAR Force HQ and HQ 22 Squadron.[citation needed]

The primary role of RAF search and rescue is the recovery of downed military aviators, but in peacetime its aircraft are available all year round for use in civilian distress incidents. Since 1973, over 95% of the rescues carried out by 202 Squadron have been civilian incidents. The rescues carried out over the years by 202 Squadron have included a wide variety of incidents involving rescuing casualties from aircraft, fishing trawlers, ferries, oil rigs, mountainous terrain, cliffs and the waters surrounding Scotland.[15]

The squadron usually had two aircraft at each of its detached flight locations:

Westland Sea King helicopter of 'E' flight, No. 202 Squadron RAF at the celebrations of the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II on 4 June 2012 at the Humber Bridge, Hessle, East Riding of Yorkshire.

The squadron maintained a 15-minutes readiness state during daylight hours and a 45-minutes readiness state during the hours of darkness. The Search and Rescue fleet of Sea Kings were fitted with a video/infrared detection pod, which is similar to the equipment used by police helicopters, to help search for casualties.


In 2006 the Labour government announced its intentions to privatise the search and rescue (SAR) helicopter service in the UK. A ten year contract worth £1.6 billon was signed in March 2013 with Bristow Helicopters who would run the service from 2015 with new AgustaWestland AW189 and Sikorsky S-92 helicopters. SAR helicopter operations ceased in staged handovers from March through September 2015.[18]

Aircraft operated

See also



  1. 1.0 1.1 Jefford 2001, p. 70.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Rawlings 1982, pp. 130-131.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Halley 1988, p. 261.
  4. Bowyer and Rawlings 1979, p. 13.
  5. Bowyer and Rawlings 1979, p. 99.
  6. Bowyer and Rawlings 1979, p. 18.
  7. Bowyer and Rawlings 1979, p. 97.
  8. Bowyer and Rawlings 1979, pp. 118-119.
  9. Bowyer and Rawlings 1979, p. 126.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "202 Squadron". Royal Air Force. 2015. Retrieved 9 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 11.0 11.1 Lewis 1959, p. 69.
  12. 12.0 12.1 "202 Squadron History". Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 16 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Jackson 1989, pp.48-49.
  14. Barrass, M. B. (2015). "No. 201–205 Squadron Histories". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 9 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Search & Rescue Organisations Archived 15 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  16. "Sea Kings Depart RAF Boulmer". Royal Air Force. 1 October 2015. Retrieved 9 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Foote, Chris (7 April 2015). "Last RAF Sea King helicopter leaves Lossiemouth as Bristow takes over". STV News. Retrieved 9 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Bowyer, Michael J.F. and John D.R. Rawlings. Squadron Codes, 1937-56. Cambridge, UK: Patrick Stephens Ltd., 1979. ISBN 0-85059-364-6.
  • Halley, James J. Famous Maritime Squadrons of the RAF, Volume 1. Windsor, Berkshire, UK: Hylton Lacy Publishers Ltd., 1973. ISBN 0-85064-101-2.
  • Halley, James J. The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth, 1918-1988. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1988. ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
  • Jackson, Paul. "The Hastings...Last of a Transport Line". Air Enthusiast. Issue Forty, September–December 1989. Bromley, Kent: Tri-Service Press. pp. 1–7, 47—52.
  • Jefford, Wing Commander C.G., MBE,BA,RAF (Retd). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury: Airlife Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
  • Lewis, Peter. Squadron Histories: R.F.C, R.N.A.S and R.A.F. 1912-59. London: Putnam, 1959.
  • Rawlings, John D.R. Coastal, Support and Special Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Jane's Publishing Company Ltd., 1982. ISBN 0-7106-0187-5.

External links