No. 603 Squadron RAF


603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron RAuxAF
603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force Crest.jpg
Active14 October 1925 – 26 December 1944
10 January – 15 August 1945
10 May 1946 – 10 March 1957
1 October 1999 – present
CountryUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
BranchRoyal Auxiliary Air Force
RoleForce Protection/RAF Police and RAF Regiment
Part ofNo. 5 Force Protection Wing
HeadquartersLearmonth Terrace, Edinburgh
Motto(s)Scots: Gin ye daur
("If you dare")[1][2]
Battle honoursHome Defence, 1940–42*
Battle of Britain, 1940*
Channel & North Sea, 1941*
Fortress Europe, 1941*
Malta, 1942*
Mediterranean, 1943*
Sicily, 1943*
South-East Europe, 1943–44*
France & Germany 1945
Honours marked with an asterisk* are those emblazoned on the Squadron Standard
Sqn Ldr Derek Read RAuxAF
Honorary Air Commodore-in-ChiefQueen Elizabeth II
George Douglas-Hamilton, 10th Earl of Selkirk
Lord David Douglas-Hamilton
Christopher Foxley-Norris
Squadron Badge heraldryOn a rock a triple-towered castle, flying therefrom to the sinister a pennon
The castle in the badge is similar to that in the Arms of the City of Edinburgh[1][2]
Squadron CodesRL (Apr 1939 – Sep 1939)[3]
XT (Sep 1939 – Apr 1942, Jan 1945 – Aug 1945, 1949 – Apr 1951)[4]
RAJ (May 1946 – 1949)[5]

No. 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron is a squadron of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, based in Edinburgh, Scotland. On reforming on 1 October 1999, the primary role of 603 Squadron, was as a Survive to Operate squadron, as well as providing Force Protection.

603 Sqn re-roled to become a reserve RAF Police unit from 1 April 2013. The Squadron retains a squadron's complement of RAF Regiment as part of its overall contribution to Force Protection and it still operates from a magnificent Victorian Town Mansion close to Edinburgh's city centre, as it has since the Town Headquarters was bought for the squadron in 1925.

Queen Elizabeth II is the Honorary Air Commodore to the Squadron, with those duties routinely carried out by Air Marshal Sir David Walker.[6]


Formation and early years

No. 603 Squadron was formed on 14 October 1925 at RAF Turnhouse as a day bomber unit of the Auxiliary Air Force. Originally equipped with DH.9As and using Avro 504Ks for flying training, the squadron re-equipped with Wapitis in March 1930, these being replaced by Harts in February 1934. On 24 October 1938, No. 603 was redesignated a fighter unit and flew Hinds until the arrival of Gladiators at the end of March 1939.

Second World War

In August 1939, the squadron began to transition to Spitfires.[7] As war approached the squadron was put on a full-time footing, and within two weeks of the outbreak of the Second World War, Brian Carbury was permanently attached and the squadron began to receive Spitfires, passing on its Gladiators to other squadrons during October.

On Spitfires

603 Sqn Spitfires and U.S. Navy Wildcats on USS Wasp (CV-7), 19 April 1942.

Scotland was in range of Nazi Germany's long-range bombers and reconnaissance aircraft. The Luftwaffe's main operations being mainly against the Royal Naval Home Fleet anchored in Scapa Flow. The squadron was operational with Spitfires in time to intercept the first German air raid on the British Isles on 16 October, when it shot down a Junkers Ju 88 bomber into the Firth of Forth north of Port Seton – the first enemy aircraft to be shot down over Great Britain since 1918, and the first RAF victory in the Second World War. It remained on defensive duties in Scotland until 27 August 1940, when it moved on rotation to Southern England, based with No 11 Group at RAF Hornchurch, where it was operational from 27 August 1940 for the remaining months of the Battle of Britain.

Two days after the squadron became operational in southern England, Carbury claimed the first of his 15½ victories, becoming the fifth highest scoring fighter ace of the battle. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar with 603 Squadron during the battle. P/O R. 'Rasp' Berry claimed some 9 (of an eventual total of 17) victories during this time, while P/O 'Sheep' Gilroy claimed over 6 victories. Plt Off Richard Hillary (5 victories) was shot down on 3 September in combat with Bf 109s of Jagdgeschwader 26 off Margate at 10:04hrs – rescued by the Margate lifeboat, he was severely burned and spent the next three years in hospital, during which time he wrote a book, The Last Enemy.[8] By the end of the Battle of Britain, according to more recent academic research including the scrutiny of German records, 603 Squadron were identified as the highest-scoring Battle of Britain fighter squadron.

Returning to Scotland at the end of December, Carbury damaged a Ju 88 on Christmas Day over St Abb's Head, before leaving squadron in January 1941 as an instructor at the Central Flying School. In May 1941, the squadron moved south again to take part in sweeps over France (termed "rhubarbs"), until the end of the year.

After a further spell in Scotland, No. 603 left in April 1942 for the Middle East where its ground echelon arrived early in June. Concurrently, Flt Sgt Joe Dalley moved from the squadron to PRU duties and flew a Spitfire PR direct from RAF Benson to Malta, joining No. 69 Squadron RAF to become one of four pilots known as the "Eyes and Ears" on the Island. The squadron's aircraft were embarked on the U.S. aircraft carrier Wasp and flown off to Malta on 20 April to reinforce the island's beleaguered fighters. After nearly four months defending Malta, the remaining pilots and aircraft were absorbed by 229 Squadron on 3 August 1942.

On Beaufighters

At the end of June 1942, No. 603's ground echelon had moved to Cyprus, where it spent six months as a servicing unit before returning to Egypt. In February 1943, Bristol Beaufighters and crews arrived to begin convoy patrols and escort missions along the North African coast and in August sweeps over German held islands in the Aegean and off Greece began. Attacks on enemy shipping continued until the lack of targets enabled the squadron to be returned to the UK in December 1944.

Spitfires again

On 10 January 1945, No. 603 reassembled at RAF Coltishall and by curious coincidence, took over the Spitfires of No. 229 Squadron RAF and some of its personnel, the same squadron which had absorbed No. 603 at Ta' Qali in 1942. Fighter-bomber sweeps began in February over the Netherlands and continued until April, when the squadron returned to its home base at Turnhouse for the last days of the war. On 15 August 1945, the squadron was disbanded.

Post war

603 Sqn reformed as a unit of the Auxiliary Air Force on 10 May 1946 and began recruiting personnel to man a Spitfire squadron during June at RAF Turnhouse. Receiving its first Spitfire in October, it flew this type until conversion to De Havilland Vampire FB.5s in May 1951. By July it was completely equipped and the type was flown until disbandment on 10 March 1957.

Present role

The new 603 Squadron was formed from No. 2 (City of Edinburgh) Maritime Headquarters Unit (MHU) in October 1999. It was used to provide the basis for the new No. 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron RAuxAF in 2006 while 603 remained in Edinburgh. To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the formation of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in 2007, for the next 2 seasons the Flight's Supermarine Spitfire IIa, P7350, which fought in 603 Sqn during the Battle of Britain carried the 603 Squadron letters XT-L, those of Gerald 'Stapme' Stapleton's personal aircraft.

For a number of years up until 2013 the primary trade available at 603 Sqn was RAF Regiment although the Squadron also supported small numbers in the Mission Support and Flight Operations trades, However, in late 2012 it was announced that during 2013 the squadron would begin recruiting for RAF Police and the Squadron is now primarily a RAF Police unit, with an embedded Flight of RAF Regiment.[9]

Aircraft operated

Aircraft operated by no. 603 Squadron RAuxAF, data from[10][11][12][13]
From To Aircraft Version
October 1925 March 1930 Airco DH.9 DH.9A
October 1925 March 1930 Avro 504 504.K (used for flying training)[14]
March 1930 March 1934 Westland Wapiti Mk.I
February 1934 February 1938 Hawker Hart
February 1938 March 1939 Hawker Hind
October 1938 August 1939 Gloster Gladiator Mk.II
August 1939 November 1940 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I
October 1940 May 1941 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IIa
May 1941 December 1941 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Va
August 1941 March 1942 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb
April 1942 August 1942 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vc
February 1943 November 1943 Bristol Beaufighter Mks.Ic and If
February 1943 October 1943 Bristol Beaufighter Mk.VIc
August 1943 October 1943 Bristol Beaufighter Mk.XI
October 1943 December 1944 Bristol Beaufighter Mk.TFX
January 1945 August 1945 Supermarine Spitfire LF.16e
1945 1945 Taylorcraft Auster Mk.I (Communications flight)[15]
June 1946 1953 North American Harvard T.2B[15]
October 1946 June 1948 Supermarine Spitfire LF.16e
February 1948 July 1951 Supermarine Spitfire F.22
1951 November 1955 De Havilland Vampire FB.3[15]
May 1951 March 1957 De Havilland Vampire FB.5
May 1951 March 1957 Gloster Meteor T.7 (used for flying training)[15]
1956 March 1957 De Havilland Vampire T.11 (used for flying training)[15]
June 1956 January 1957 De Havilland Vampire FB.9 (2 aircraft, WL518 and WG841)[15]}

Commanding officers

Officers commanding no. 603 Squadron RAF, data from[16][17]
From To Name
1 August 1925 14 April 1931 Sqn Ldr J.A. McKelvie, AFC
14 April 1931 1 April 1934 Sqn Ldr H. Murray-Philipson, MP
1 April 1934 1 April 1938 Sqn Ldr Lord G.N. Douglas-Hamilton, AFC
1 April 1938 4 June 1940 Sqn Ldr E.H. Stevens
4 June 1940 1 April 1941 Sqn Ldr G.L. Denholm, DFC
1 April 1941 25 July 1941 Sqn Ldr F.M. Smith
25 July 1941 17 October 1941 Sqn Ldr M.J. Loudon
17 October 1941 18 December 1941 Sqn Ldr R.G. Forshaw
18 December 1941 20 July 1942 Sqn Ldr Lord D. Douglas-Hamilton
20 July 1942 3 August 1942 Sqn Ldr W.A. Douglas
10 April 1942 4 June 1942 Sqn Ldr P. Illingworth (Officer commanding Ground Party)
3 August 1942 28 January 1943 Sqn Ldr F.W. Marshall
28 January 1943 1 December 1943 Wg Cdr H.A. Charter
1 December 1943 15 June 1944 Wg Cdr J.R.H. Lewis, DFC
15 June 1944 2 August 1944 Wg Cdr J.T.D. Revell
2 August 1944 23 September 1944 Sqn Ldr C.D. Paine (Acting)
23 September 1944 26 December 1944 Wg Cdr C.N. Foxley-Norris
10 January 1945 26 January 1945 Sqn Ldr E.H.M. Patterson, DFC
26 January 1945 1 April 1945 Sqn Ldr T.C. Rigler, DFC, DFM
1 April 1945 15 August 1945 Sqn Ldr H.R.P. Pertwee, DFC
11 June 1946 23 September 1949 Sqn Ldr G.K. Gilroy, DSO, DFC
23 September 1949 1 December 1950 Sqn Ldr J.W.E. Holmes, DFC, AFC
1 December 1950 22 March 1953 Sqn Ldr P.J. Anson, DFC
23 March 1953 25 August 1953 Sqn Ldr R.L.R. Davies, DFC
25 August 1953 9 May 1956 Sqn Ldr R. Schofield
9 May 1956 10 March 1957 Sqn Ldr M.E. Hobson, AFC
1 October 1999 2006 Wg Cdr A.J. Beaton
2006 1 March 2010 Sqn Ldr D Morrison QVRM AE
1 March 2010 29 February 2012 Sqn Ldr J D Rodgers
1 March 2012 14 October 2018 Sqn Ldr J J Riley
15 October 2018 30 June 2019 Sqn Ldr A Liggat
1 July 2019 1 March 2020 Flt Lt C Loughlin RAF (Acting)
2 March 2020 Present Sqn Ldr D Read RAuxAF

Notable personnel

Freedom of the City of Edinburgh

After a vote by the council in February 2018, Lord Provost of Edinburgh Frank Ross presented The Freedom of the City of Edinburgh to the Squadron at the City Chambers on Tuesday 3 July 2018.[18] The Parade was followed by a private reception in the Palace of HolyroodHouse where the Squadron was hosted by its HAC, Queen Elizabeth.

See also



  1. ^ a b Moyes 1976, p. 274.
  2. ^ a b Rawlings 1976, p. 480.
  3. ^ Bowyer & Rawlings 1979, p. 14.
  4. ^ Bowyer & Rawlings 1979, p. 115.
  5. ^ Bowyer & Rawlings 1979, p. 138.
  6. ^ David Walker (RAF administrative officer)
  7. ^ Bio - Brian Carbury Archived 14 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine New Zealand Fighter Pilots Museum
  8. ^ Bio of Richard Hillary
  9. ^ "Queen ends week of Scottish events". BBC News. 4 July 2015.
  10. ^ Moyes 1976, p. 275.
  11. ^ Rawlings 1976, p. 482.
  12. ^ Halley 1988, p. 421.
  13. ^ Jefford 2001, p. 99.
  14. ^ Halley 1980, p. 325.
  15. ^ a b c d e f Ross, Blanche & Simpson 2003b, p. 400
  16. ^ Ross, Blanche & Simpson 2003b, p. 385
  17. ^ Ross, Blanche & Simpson 2003a, p. 321
  18. ^ Freedom of Edinburgh for RAF squadron which shot down first Luftwaffe bomber of Second World War


  • Bowyer, Michael J.F.; Rawlings, John D.R. (1979). Squadron Codes, 1937–56. Cambridge, UK: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 0-85059-364-6.
  • 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 J. (1988). The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth, 1918–1988. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
  • Hunt, Leslie (1972). Twenty-One Squadrons: The History of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, 1925–1957. London: Garnstone Press. ISBN 0-85511-110-0.
  • Jefford, Wing Commander C.G. (2001). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912 (2nd ed.). Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-85310-053-6.
  • Moyes, Philip J.R. (1976). Bomber Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald and Jane's (Publishers) Ltd. ISBN 0-354-01027-1.
  • Rawlings, John (1976) [1969]. Fighter Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft (2nd ed.). London: Macdonald and Jane's Publishers Ltd. ISBN 0-354-01028-X.
  • Ross, David M.S.; Blanche, Bruce J. Sqn Ldr; Simpson, William (2003a). The Greatest Squadron of Them All: The Definitive History of 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron, RAuxAF. 1: Formation to 1941. London: Grub Street Publishing. ISBN 1-904010-49-0.
  • Ross, David M.S.; Blanche, Bruce J. Sqn Ldr; Simpson, William (2003b). The Greatest Squadron of Them All: The Definitive History of 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron, RAuxAF. 2: 1941 to Date. London: Grub Street Publishing. ISBN 1-904010-51-2.

External links

  • Official RAF 603 Sqn RAuxAF website
  • Second World War Ex-RAF website – Reuniting friends and lost pals
  • 603 Sqn website
  • Photographs of 603 Sqn during WW2
  • Aces High II game website – 603 Sqn
  • Battle of Britain Memorial Flight website
  • Details of Spitfire P7350