No. 83 Squadron RAF

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No. 83 Squadron RAF
Active 7 January 1917 – 31 December 1919
4 August 1936 – 31 December 1955
21 May 1957 – 31 August 1969
Country United Kingdom United Kingdom
Branch Royal Flying Corps (1917–1918)
Air Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Air Force (1918 on)
Role Bomber
Motto "Strike to Defend"
Squadron badge heraldry An attire, sable.The red deer's antler is in reference to the squadron's association with Scotland. The attire has six points commemorating an outstanding occasion in the First World War when six DFCs were awarded for one extremely valuable reconnaissance operation -successfully completed by six individuals in three aircraft during 14/15th June 1918. They were the only Allied aircraft in the air in weather which had grounded all others. The antler in black affords reference to night flying and the three top points stand for the crown of success met with by the squadron.[1]
Squadron codes QQ Allocated Nov 1938 - Sep 1939
OL Sep 1939 - Apr 1951
AS To be used for visit to Chile in 1946, changed to GB
GB Used on aircraft for visit to Chile - October 1946
Aircraft flown
Bomber FE2b, FE2d (1917–1919)
Hawker Hind (1936–1938)
Handley Page Hampden (1938–1941)
Avro Manchester (1941–1942)
Avro Lancaster (1942–1945)
Avro Lincoln (1946–1955)
Avro Vulcan (1957–1969)

No. 83 Squadron RAF was a Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force squadron active from 1917 until 1969. It was operative during both World War I and World War II.

Establishment and early service

Founded on 7 January 1917 at Montrose,[2] the squadron trained at RAF Spitalgate and RAF Wyton, where it equipped with Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2bs and F.E.2ds for its role as a night bomber squadron. The squadron moved to France in March 1918, being initially used to carry out attacks on German troop concentrations to try and disrupt the German Spring Offensive,before operating for the remainder of the war in the night bombing (mainly against railway targets) and reconnaissance role. It disbanded on 31 December 1919.[2]

Reinstatement and World War II

File:Avro Lancaster B.I 83 Sqn in flight 1942.jpg
An 83 Sqn Lancaster B.I, in 1942.

The squadron re-formed at RAF Turnhouse in Scotland on 4 August 1936, equipped with Hawker Hinds in preparation for a day bomber role as part of 2 Group. On 14 March 1938 the squadron joined No 5 Group at Scampton and re-equipped with Handley Page Hampdens in October 1938.[2]

Unlike many Bomber Command squadrons, No. 83 Squadron went into action on the first day of the Second World War, carrying out a sweep over the North Sea looking for German warships. The squadron continued with ‘precision’ raids against German naval and coastal targets but, as the daylight operations became more costly, No 83, along with the majority of Bomber Command, switched to night operations. No. 83 flew against concentrations of Invasion shipping in the Channel Ports in the late summer/autumn of 1940, with a raid on Antwerp on the night of 15 September resulting in the award of a Victoria Cross to Flight Sergeant John Hannah, a Wireless Operator/Gunner for extinguishing a serious fire while receiving severe burns.[3] In December 1941, the squadron was re-equipped with Avro Manchesters but, due to their underpowered and unreliable engines, these were quickly replaced with Avro Lancasters.

In August 1942, the squadron was transferred to the No 8 Group Pathfinder Force at RAF Wyton, operating as a marker unit for the main force of Bomber Command. However, in April 1944, No 83 was returned to No 5 Group at RAF Coningsby, where it became the ‘Pathfinder’ unit for independent operations by the Group.[3]

File:83rd Pathfinder Memorial Heusenstamm.jpeg
Small Memorial Stone for the killed crew of a shot-down Lancaster of 83rd Pathfinder Sq. in Heusenstamm, Germany

In May 1946, the squadron re-equipped with Avro Lincolns, relocating in October to RAF Hemswell. It deployed to Singapore in September 1953, flying bombing missions against the supposed hiding places of Communist Terrorists during the Malayan Emergency, returning to Hemswell in January, where it remained until disbanding again in December 1955.[3]

Post-World War II and disbandment

In May 1957, the squadron re-formed at RAF Waddington as the RAF’s first Vulcan squadron. In August 1960, it handed over its Mk1 aircraft to No 44 Squadron and moved to RAF Scampton where it became the first squadron to receive the Mk2 Vulcan. Initially these were armed with Yellow Sun megaton weapons, later to be replaced by Blue Steel stand-off bombs. The squadron remained at Scampton in this role until finally disbanded in August 1969.


  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Rawlings 1961,p.236.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Rawlings 1961, p.237.


  • Rawlings, J.D.R. "Squadron Histories:No.83". Air Pictorial, August 1961. pp. 236–237, 250.

External links