No. 266 Squadron RAF


No. 266 (Rhodesia) Squadron RAF
Huggins visits No. 266 (Rhodesia) Squadron, May 1944 a.jpg
Godfrey Huggins, the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, visits No. 266 (Rhodesia) Squadron RAF in May 1944. The PM sits in a dinghy, surrounded by men of the unit.
Active27 September 1918 – 1 September 1919
30 October 1939 – 31 July 1945
1 September 1946 – 11 February 1949
14 July 1952 – 16 November 1957
1 December 1959 – 30 June 1964.
CountryUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
AllegianceFlag of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (1953–1963).svg Rhodesia
BranchEnsign of the Royal Air Force.svg Royal Air Force
Motto(s)Northern Ndebele: Hlabezulu
("The stabber of the sky")[1]
Squadron BadgeA bateleur eagle volant
Squadron CodesUO (Jan 1940 – Jul 1942)
ZH (Jul 1942 – Jul 1945)
FX (Sep 1946 – Feb 1949)
L (Jul 1952 – 1953)
A (1953–1955 )

No. 266 (Rhodesia) Squadron RAF was a squadron of the Royal Air Force.


World War I

The squadron was formed from No's 437 and 438 Flights at Mudros, Greece on 27 September 1918[2] to carry out anti-submarine patrols in that area, flying Short 184s and 320s along with Felixtowe F.3s.[3] In February 1919 it was transferred to the Caucasus on HMS Engadine. It operated from Petrovsk and from HMS Aladar Youssanoff and Orlionoch as part of the British Caspian Flotilla. It was withdrawn on 27 August 1919 and disbanded on 1 September 1919 at Novorossisk.[4]

World War II

The squadron was reformed on 30 October 1939 at RAF Sutton Bridge as a fighter squadron. The squadron was one of the Rhodesian gift squadrons and was named 266 (Rhodesia) Squadron in honour of the gift. Originally it was equipped with the Fairey Battle light bomber, but soon after in January 1940 it received the Supermarine Spitfire and became a fighter squadron. It was in action over Dunkirk in early June and fought in the Battle of Britain. To rest the squadron it was moved north to RAF Wittering to carry out patrols over France.

In January 1942 the squadron moved to RAF Duxford and re-equipped with the Hawker Typhoon. The squadron changed role to fighter-bomber in support of the Normandy invasion and flew also armed reconnaissance missions in support of the invasion forces. The squadron moved along with the fighting forces and was disbanded at Hildesheim, Germany on 31 July 1945.

In May 1944 the squadron was based at Needs Oar (Needs Ore) Advanced Landing Ground at Beaulieu in the New Forest, they were one of four such RAF British and Commonwealth squadrons flying Hawker Typhoons based here in the build-up to D-Day. A total of some 150 aircraft were based here in the build-up to D-Day, along with over 900 ground crew. During the spring and summer of 1944, it is estimated that the airfield was so busy that aircraft took off or landed every 45 seconds. As with many of the ALGs along the south coast, the airfield was totally vacant by July and would not be used as an airfield again. No. 266 Squadron were visited by the Rhodesian Prime Minister on 18 May 1944.[5]

On 27 August 1944 the squadron and No. 263 Squadron RAF Typhoons with Spitfire escort was mistakenly ordered to attack the Royal Navy 1st Minesweeping Flotilla off Cap d'Antifer, Le Havre, with the result that HMS Britomart and Hussar were sunk and Salamander was irreparably damaged, killing 117 sailors and wounding 153 more.[6]

Into the jet age

The squadron re-formed at RAF Boxted on 1 September 1946 when 234 Squadron was renumbered. It was now a fighter squadron operating the Meteor F.3 twin-jet fighter. After a move to RAF Tangmere, Sussex two years later the squadron converted to Meteor F.4s. The squadron was disbanded when it was re-numbered to 43 Squadron on 11 February 1949.

On 14 July 1952 the squadron was reformed at Wunstorf, flying the de Havilland Vampire and later the de Havilland Venom in the ground attack & Night battle role. The squadron moved on 16 October 1955 to RAF Fassberg, West-Germany for exactly one year before going back again to Wunstorf, where it was disbanded one year later on 16 November 1957.

On Bloodhound missiles

The last time the squadron reformed was on 1 December 1959 at Rattlesden to operate the Bristol Bloodhound anti-aircraft missile until it was finally disbanded on 30 June 1964.

Aircraft and missiles operated

From To Aircraft Version
Aug 1918 Sep 1919 Short 184
Aug 1918 Sep 1919 Short 320
Aug 1918 Sep 1919 Felixstowe F.3
Dec 1939 Apr 1940 Fairey Battle Mk.I
Jan 1940 Sep 1940 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I
Sep 1940 Oct 1940 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IIa
Oct 1940 Apr 1941 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I
Mar 1941 Sep 1941 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IIa
Sep 1941 May 1942 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb
Jan 1942 Jul 1945 Hawker Typhoon Ia, Ib
Sep 1946 Apr 1948 Gloster Meteor F.3
Feb 1948 Feb 1949 Gloster Meteor F.4
Jul 1952 Jun 1954 de Havilland Vampire FB.5, FB.9
Apr 1953 Sep 1955 de Havilland Venom NF.3
Jul 1955 Nov 1957 de Havilland Venom FB.4
Dec 1959 Jun 1964 Bristol Bloodhound I


In fiction

266 Squadron RFC is the squadron in which Captain James Bigglesworth serves in the Biggles stories that are set in the First World War.[7]

See also



  1. ^ Pine, L.G. (1983). A dictionary of mottoes (1 ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 98. ISBN 0-7100-9339-X.
  2. ^ a b Halley 1988, p. 333.
  3. ^ Rawlings 1982, p. 187.
  4. ^ a b Jefford 2001, p. 83.
  5. ^ Photos & memories from Grp Capt R.N.G Allen CBE, DFC.
  6. ^ "SINKING OF HMS BRITOMART AND HMS HUSSAR BY FRIENDLY FIRE". Halcyon Class. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  7. ^ Fan web-site


  • Halley, James J. The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth, 1918–88. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1988. ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
  • Jefford, C.G. RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
  • 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

  • Squadrons of the Battle of Britain. Aircraft, badges and history – 266 to 312 Squadrons
  • 266 sqn in the battle of Britain
  • squadron history
  • aircraft and markings