No. 71 Squadron RAF


No. 71 Squadron was a Royal Air Force aircraft squadron. The number has been used three times: once by the Royal Flying Corps for an Australian Flying Corps squadron; in the Second World War as the first of three Eagle Squadrons; and post-war as a fighter-bomber unit under the command of Royal Air Force Germany.

No. 71 (Eagle) Squadron RAF
No. 71 Squadron RAF.gif
Active27 March 1917 – 19 January 1918
19 September 1940 – 29 September 1942
16 September 1950 – 30 April 1957
CountryUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
AllegianceUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
 United States (September 1942)
BranchAir Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Air Force
Motto(s)First from the eyries[1]
Squadron Badge heraldryA bald-headed eagle displayed charged with three stars of nine points
Post 1950 Squadron RoundelRAF 71 Sqn.svg
Squadron CodesXR (November 1940 – September 1942, also used initially on transfer to USAAF)
L (September 1950 – October 1953)


First World WarEdit

The first unit known by the British military as "No. 71 Squadron" was No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps (AFC), during the First World War. The squadron was formed at Point Cook, Victoria, Australia on 16 October 1916, after which it travelled to England. From 27 March 1917, while based at Castle Bromwich, it was designated "No. 71 Squadron" by the Royal Flying Corps, to avoid confusion with No. 4 Squadron, RFC. This name was never officially adopted by the Australian Imperial Force.

4 Sqn AFC arrived in France on 18 December 1917. With Sopwith Camels, it performed fighter sweeps, provided close air support and raided German airfields. In spite of its relatively short service during the First World War, 11 of its pilots became aces, including Captain Harry Cobby, the AFC's leading ace of the war, who was credited with destroying 29 aircraft and 13 observation balloons. Besides Cobby, Elwyn King, Edgar McCloughry (later an air vice-marshal), Herbert Watson, Thomas Baker, Leonard Taplin, Thomas Barkell, George Jones (later Chief of the Australian Air Force), Norman Trescowthick, and Garnet Malley served in the unit.

On 19 January 1918, British usage of "No. 71 Squadron" for this unit also ceased, and it became No. 4 AFC at every level. The squadron spent some time with the Army of Occupation in Germany after the Armistice and was disbanded there at Bickendorf on 28 February 1919.[2]

American EaglesEdit

Pilot Officer C W "Red" McColpin of No 71 (Eagle) Squadron RAF, standing by his Supermarine Spitfire Mark VB at North Weald, Essex.

At the start of the Second World War before the US entered the war, there were a large number of American volunteers offering their services. No. 71 was formed at RAF Church Fenton on 19 September 1940 as the first of the Eagle Squadrons with Brewster Buffalos. Appraisal by Royal Air Force acceptance personnel criticised the Brewster Buffalo on numerous points, including lack of armament and pilot armour, poor high-altitude performance, engine overheating, unreliability and cockpit controls, while it was praised for its handling, roomy cockpit and visibility.[3] The aircraft were deemed unsuitable for European conditions and Hawker Hurricanes replaced them from November 1940. The squadron became operational at RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey on 5 February 1941 and moved in April to RAF Martlesham Heath in Suffolk for operations over Europe. During May, it suffered its first loss when Mike Kolendorski was killed during a fighter sweep over the Netherlands. The intensity of operations stepped up with a move into No 11 Group of Fighter Command, being based at RAF North Weald in Essex by June 1941. On 2 July, William I. Hall became the first Eagle Squadron pilot to become a Prisoner of War (POW) when he was shot down during an escort mission. The squadron's first confirmed victory came on 21 July 1941 during a bomber escort mission, when Pilot Officer William R. Dunn destroyed a Messerschmitt Bf 109F over Lille.[4] In August, the Spitfire Mk II replaced 71 Squadron's Hurricanes, before the squadron quickly re-equipped with the latest Spitfire Mk VB. The unit soon established a high reputation, and numerous air kill claims were made in RAF fighter sweeps over the continent during the summer and autumn of 1941. In December, the Squadron was rested back at Martlesham Heath, before a move to Debden in May 1942.[5] When informed of the attack on Pearl Harbor, most of the Eagle Squadron pilots wanted to immediately join the fight against Japan. Representatives from 71 and 121 Squadrons went to the American Embassy in London and offered their services to the United States. The pilots from 71 Squadron decided they wanted to go to Singapore to fight the Japanese and a proposal was put to RAF Fighter Command, but it was turned down. On 29 September 1942 the squadron, together with the other two Eagle squadrons, was transferred to the US Army Air Forces, becoming the 334th Fighter Squadron of the 4th Fighter Group.

Into the jet ageEdit

On 16 September 1950 a new 71 Squadron was formed at RAF Gütersloh with de Havilland Vampire fighter-bombers, joining the Second Tactical Air Force. In October 1953 it became a "day fighter" unit with the North American Sabre. The Sabres were replaced by Hawker Hunters in April 1956. The squadron moved to RAF Bruggen in May 1956 and disbanded on 30 April 1957.

Aircraft operatedEdit

Dates Aircraft[6] Variant Notes
June 1917 – October 1917 Various
October 1917 – January 1918 Sopwith Camel Australian Flying Corps
October 1940 – November 1940 Brewster Buffalo I
November 1940 – May 1941 Hawker Hurricane I
April 1941 – August 1941 Hawker Hurricane IIB
August 1941 – September 1941 Supermarine Spitfire IIA
September 1941 – September 1942 Supermarine Spitfire VB
October 1950 – October 1953 de Havilland Vampire FB.5
October 1953 – May 1956 North American Sabre F.4
April 1956 – April 1957 Hawker Hunter F.4

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Pine, L.G. (1983). A dictionary of mottoes (1 ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 80. ISBN 0-7100-9339-X.
  2. ^ Rawlings 1978, p. 173.
  3. ^ Ford, Dan, The Sorry Saga of the Brewster Buffalo (2008), Article
  4. ^ Rawlings 1978, p. 175.
  5. ^ 'Aces High', Shores and Williams, 1994
  6. ^ Halley 1988, p. 138.


  • Childers, James Saxon. War Eagles: The Story of the Eagle Squadron. Windmill Press, 1943.
    • Republished by Eagle Publishing in 1983, ISBN 0-941624-71-4. Same as the 1943 edition, except it has an epilogue of the members in 1982.
  • 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.
  • Rawlings, John D.R. Fighter Squadrons of the R.A.F. and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald an Jane's (Publishers) Ltd., 1978. ISBN 0-354-01028-X.

External linksEdit

  • Nos. 71–75 Squadron Histories
  • RAF Eagle Squadron (historic video)
  • Eagle Squadrons became the USAAF 4th Fighter Group. 4th Fighter Group Association Site