207 SQUADRON ROYAL AIR FORCE HISTORY

A brief history of
No.7 Squadron RNAS
and No.207 Squadron RAF

World War I

No.7 Sqn RNAS formed in East Africa in 1916, flying Voisins for 7 months on reconnaissance and bombing. 

It re-formed in France in November 1916, becoming a specialist night bomber squadron, flying Handley Page O/100s and O/400s. 

On 1st April 1918 it became No.207 Sqn RAF.  'Darkness Shall Cover Me' by Humphrey Wynn was inspired by the account of a young 207 pilot of that time.

The Squadron in World War I - see the link on the left of your screen

In between the World Wars

After a brief spell with the Army of Occupation, 207 re-formed in 1920 under Sqn Ldr AW Tedder, later Eisenhower's deputy.  In 1922, 207 was despatched to Turkey with its DH9As, after fighting between Turks and Greeks. 

In 1923 it returned home, starring in many Hendon Air Pageants.  In 1935, equipped with Fairey Gordons, it was positioned in Sudan to meet an Italian threat.

Our Squadron Badge, authorised in 1936 (motto 'Always Prepared'), was one of the few signed by Edward VIII.

In 1936 207 Squadron returned home to Worthy Down and an expanding Air Force, joining Bomber Command.  Re-equipping with Vickers Wellesleys in 1937, 207 learned new techniques of navigation and bombing, and of maintaining aircraft with modern features such as a retractable undercarriage, flaps and a variable pitch airscrew.

Re-equipped with Fairey Battles in early 1938 and based at Cottesmore, 207 worked as an Operational Training Unit in the hectic post-Munich preparations for war.

In April 1939 it was 'adopted' by the City of Leicester.  In April 1940 its role was formally absorbed by 12 OTU and 207 Squadron re-formed in November 1940 in 5 Group, Bomber Command.

The squadron was stationed at RAF Cranfield Aug-Dec 1939 (and for a few days in 1940).

World War II

Initially at Waddington and then at Bottesford, 207's specially selected crews introduced the twin Vulture engined Avro Manchester into service, acting as a test and development unit and at the same time converting Hampden crews for other Manchester squadrons, whilst on active service.  Acute problems with the hydraulics and engines grounded the squadron four times during April-August 1941. 

F/O 'Kipper' Herring was awarded an immediate DSO for bringing back his aircraft on one engine from Berlin, as featured on the cover of  Avro Manchester - The Legend behind the Lancaster, by member Dr. Bob Kirby.

In March 1942 207 received the magnificent Avro Lancaster - basically the Manchester airframe with four Merlin engines - and operated with these from Bottesford, Langar and Spilsby for the rest of the war.

The famous BBC recording of a raid on Berlin, commentary by Wynford Vaughan-Thomas, was made on 3rd September 1943 with Flt Lt Ken Letford's crew in EM-F for Freddie. 

In 1944 Flt Lt Denys Street was one of those shot in aftermath of the 'Great Escape' from Stalag Luft III. 

207 Squadron flew on 540 operations, by both day and night for the loss of 154 crews killed or missing, with at least another 9 aircraft lost on non-operational flights. 

Of those killed nearly 20% were from Commonwealth Air Forces. 

The worst night was 21/22nd June 1944, on the Wesseling synthetic fuel plant, when 5 crews were lost and 32 men were killed. 

Squadron personnel were awarded 7 DSOs, 115 DFCs, 92 DFMs and 10 Mentions in Despatches.

Peacetime again

Lancasters were flown until 1949 from Spilsby, Methwold, Tuddenham, Stradishall and Mildenhall from where Avro Lincolns were flown until the Squadron disbanded in 1950.

Re-formed in 1951 at Marham as a B29 Washington squadron, 207 displayed this aircraft in the Queen's Coronation Review at Odiham. 

In 1954 the Washingtons were replaced by English Electric Canberras, one of which was lost that year after a night take-off. 

Deterrent years

The Marham Vickers Valiant years began in 1956 with the presentation of the Standard by HM The Queen.  Later that year 207 bombed in the Suez campaign. 

In May 1960, 207 Squadron won both the Laurence Minot and the Armament Officers' Trophies in the annual Bomber Command bombing competition.  It had one of the best records for completing its tasks and meeting standards both in the original high level and later low level role.

Metal fatigue, probably accelerated by use of the Valiant in the low-level role, was found to be the cause of a broken main spar in a Valiant on another squadron. In May 1964 a 148 Sqn Valiant flown by a 207 Sqn crew crashed at night; after intensive investigations suspicion fell on the tail plane actuator.

In 1965 the Valiant force was finally withdrawn and the Squadron disbanded.

Northolt and the Communications role

In 1969 the RAF's Southern Communications Squadron was renumbered as 207 Squadron and for the next 15 years flew mainly DH Devons as well as Beagle Bassets and Percival Pembrokes from Northolt.  There were detachments at Wyton and Turnhouse.

It covered the British Isles and much of NATO Europe, carrying VIPs and senior officers, and had a key support role with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

On retirement of the venerable Devons, on 30th June 1984, 207 Squadron once more disbanded and later that year the Squadron Standard was laid up in Leicester Cathedral.

Linton on Ouse and the Training role

In July 2002 one of the Flying Training Squadrons operating Tucanos at No.1 Flying Training School at RAF Linton on Ouse Squadron was renumbered as 207 (Reserve) Squadron, the other as 72 (Reserve) Squadron. Group Captain Dave Harrison, from Headquarters Personnel and Training Command, said:

"The award of reserve squadron status is a considerable honour that will serve to preserve the links of the present day RAF with its outstanding heritage. The new status of the Linton Squadrons will also develop an invaluable environment in which young student pilots can learn and absorb the history, and reinforce the ethos, of the Royal Air Force."

On 25th November 2003 HRH Prince Andrew presented 207 (Reserve) Squadron, OC Sqn Ldr AE Dolding RAF, with a new Standard.

In 2008, as part of his training with the Royal Air Force, Prince William (F/O William Wales) was at Linton in 207R Squadron.

In 2011 it was announced that as part of the Defence Cuts, 207R Squadron was to become a Flight of 72R Squadron at Linton.

On 13th January 2012 207R Squadron's Disbandment Parade took place at Linton and on 3rd October 2013 the Squadron Standard was Laid Up in Lincoln Cathedral.

More information

Via the links on the left of your screen: