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No 208(R) Squadron is a unit of the Royal Air Force based at RAF Valleymarker, Angleseymarker, Walesmarker. It operates the BAe Hawk aircraft.


World War I

The squadron was established as part of the Royal Naval Air Service in October 1916 at Dunkirkmarker as No. 8 (Naval) Squadron. In its earlier days, the unit flew Sopwith Pups, 1½ Strutters and Nieuport Scouts. Later in World War I it re-equipped with Sopwith Camels and was assigned to artillery spotting. The squadron returned to the UKmarker briefly before being sent back to France to face the German offensive. While in France a significant number of Camels belonging to the squadron were destroyed by the RAF to stop the Germans capturing them during their advance. When the Royal Air Force was formed on 1 April 1918, the unit was renumbered to No. 208 Squadron RAF. After the war ended 208 Squadron remained with the occupying forces until August 1919, when it again returned to the UK for disbandment the following month.


The squadron reformed at Ismailiamarker in Egyptmarker on 1 February 1920 by the renumbering of No. 113 Squadron RAF. It was equipped with RE8 and from November 1920 till May 1930 with Bristol Fighters. The years between the wars were by no means quiet, in September 1922 the squadron was sent to Turkeymarker for a year during the Chanak crisis, being stationed at San Stefanomarker, a part of the Bakırköymarker district of Istanbulmarker, Turkey. After the conflict 208 sqadron went back to Egypt and in 1930 got Armstrong Whitworth Atlas aircraft to replace the old Bristol fighters. The Atlases in their turn were replaced five years later by Audaxes and for one flight by Demons. Just before the outbreak of World War II, in January 1939, these gave way for the Westland Lysander

World War II

208 Squadron was still stationed in Egypt at the outbreak of World War II. It joined the war effort in mid-1940 flying Westland Lysander reconnaissance aircraft and Hawker Hurricane fighters on army co-operation duties in the North African Campaign and the Greek Campaign of 1941. During the war it included a significant number of Royal Australian Air Force and South African Air Forcemarker personnel, along with other nationalities. Amongst members of the squadron at this time was Robert Leith-Macgregor, shot down on more than one occasion, once ending up taxiing through a minefield, but managed not to trigger any mines.

The unit was later stationed in Palestine, before returning to North Africa. It briefly converted to Curtiss Tomahawks, but received Supermarine Spitfires in late 1943 and flew them for the remainder of the war. From 1944, it took part in the Italian Campaign.

After World War II

Shortly after the war 208 Squadron moved back to Palestine where it was involved in operations against the Egyptian Air Force. In 1948, the squadron moved to the Egyptian Canal Zone. It saw action in the Israeli War of Independence, losing four Spitfires in combat with Israeli Air Force aircraft (which also included Spitfires).

The last officially recorded "Air to Air fighter pilot kill" (bullets only without guidance systems) occurred on 22 May 1948, at 0930 two Egyptian LF9s decided to stage a third attack on Ramat David. This time Fg Off Tim McElhaw and Fg Off Hully of 208 Squadron had taken over the standing patrol. Fg Off McElhaw, flying Spitfire FR18 TZ228, managed to intercept and shoot down both LF9s.

In 1951, the squadron relocated to RAF Fayid where its Spitfires were replaced with Gloster Meteor jets. From there it moved to RAF Abu Sueir, relocating to RAF Takali, Malta, in late 1956, with interim spells earlier in the year at RNAS Hal Far, Malta, and RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus. It disbanded at Takhali in January 1956. It reformed the same month in the UK at RAF Tangmere from a nucleus of No. 34 Squadron RAF. Two months later it returned to the Middle East with De Havilland Vampires and subsequently the Hawker Hunter FGA.9. In 1958 and early 1959 it operated from Nicosia and Akrotiri with a detachment at Amman. The squadron disbanded at RAF Akrotirimarker on 31 March 1959. The next day, 1 April 1959, it reformed at RAF Eastleighmarker, Nairobi, Kenya, by the re-numbering of No. 142 Squadron RAF under Squadron Leader R. Ramirez. It operated from Eastleigh from April 1959 to March 1960, being redeployed home to RAF Stradishallmarker from March to June 1960, but returning to Eastleigh in June, sending detachments to Kuwait and Bahrain during the period. It was moved to Khormaksar once again in November 1961, under Air Forces Arabian Peninsula, which became Air Forces Middle East the same year. In June 1964 it moved to Muharraq in Bahrainmarker.The squadron remained in the Middle East until September 1971 when it was disbanded as a consequence of British drawdown of the armed forces from East of Suez.

Flying Buccaneers

Buccaneer airbrake detail
208 Squadron reformed at RAF Honingtonmarker in 1974 with Blackburn Buccaneer S2s assigned to SACEUR operating in a low-level strike role. The squadron's twelve Buccaneers were declared operational to SACEUR from 1975 armed with twentyfour WE.177 nuclear weapons. The squadron was tasked with supporting land forces resisting an advance by the Warsaw Pact into western Europe, by striking at enemy forces, logistics and infrastructure beyond the forward edge of the battlefield, initially with conventional munitions, and with nuclear weapons in the event of escalation. The allocation of the British-owned WE.177 weapon freed the squadron from the time-consuming burden, at a critical time, of using US-owned nuclear weapons held in US custody at a central location. The squadron continued in this role based at RAF Honington until late 1983, when it moved base to RAF Lossiemouthmarker and was re-assigned to SACLANT for maritime strike duties. The squadron's allocation of WE.177 nuclear weapons was reduced to twelve, one per aircraft, although the Buccaneer was able to carry two in its internal bomb bay. The squadron continued in this role until late 1993 when it relinquished its nuclear weapons. The unit was one of the last squadrons to operate the Buccaneer before it went out of service in 1994, and after the type's retirement the squadron again disbanded on 31 March 1994.

Present role

208 Squadron was reformed on 1 April 1994 from 234 Squadron attached to No. 4 Flying Training School. It moved to RAF Valleymarker operating the BAe Hawk that it continues to fly to this day. No.4 FTSmarker is made up of two squadrons; 208 Squadron provides the advanced flying training, students then moving onto 19 Squadron to receive tactics and weapons training. The vast majority of sorties undertaken by 208 Squadron are flown to teach RAF ab-initio pilots the fundamental skills of flying a fast-jet, to prepare them for tactical weapons training and onwards towards front-line aircraft such as the Tornado, Harrier and Typhoon.A summary of 208 Squadron's present tasks:

Advanced flying training
  • To train RAF, RN and some foreign ab-initio pilots as per the Personnel Training Command (HQPTC) Training Task Programme to Tactical Weapons Unit (TWU) entry standard.
  • To re-train RAF and RN multi-engine and rotary pilots as per the HQPTC training Task Programme to TWU entry standard.
  • To refresh Short Tucano QFIs as per the HQPTC Training Task Programme to TWU entry standard.

Instructor training
  • To train Hawk QFIs as per the HQPTC Training Task Programme to B2 standard in accordance with the current Central Flying School (CFS) syllabuses.
  • To upgrade Hawk QFIs to B1, A2 and A1 standard in accordance with the 208 Squadron staff training requirements and CFS syllabuses.
  • To train Hawk IREs in accordance with the current CFS syllabuses.
  • To convert Qualified Flying Instructors (Tactical Sequences) and Qualified Pilot Navigation Instructors into Hawk QFIs as per the Headquarters HQPTC training Task Programme to B2 standard in accordance with the current CFS syllabuses.

Conversion training
  • To provide a common conversion course for all qualified pilots re-roling to the Hawk.
  • To provide United Kingdom Orientation training for Foreign and Commonwealth pilots destined for fast-jet appointments.
  • To provide conversion training for pilots destined for the Royal Air Force Aerobatics Teammarker.

On 20 April 2007, a BaE Hawk from the squadron crashed near RAF Monamarker. The pilot was taken to hospital and discharged soon after. The accident was caused by a solo student stalling the aircraft on an overshoot.

Aircraft operated

Oct 1916
Nov 1916
Sopwith 1½ Strutter
Oct 1916
Dec 1916
Nieuport Scout
Oct 1916
Feb 1917
Sopwith Pup
Feb 1917
Sep 1917
Sopwith Triplane
Sep 1917
Nov 1918
Sopwith Camel
Nov 1918
Sep 1919
Sopwith Snipe
Feb 1920
Nov 1920
Nov 1920
May 1930
Bristol F.2 Fighter
May 1930
Aug 1935
Armstrong Whitworth Atlas
Aug 1935
Jan 1939
Hawker Audax
Sep 1935
Mar 1936
Hawker Demon
Jan 1939
May 1942
Westland Lysander
Mks.I, II
Nov 1940
Sep 1942
Hawker Hurricane
May 1941
Jun 1941
Hawker Audax
May 1942
Sep 1942
Curtiss Tomahawk
May 1942
Dec 1943
Hawker Hurricane
Mks.IIa, IIb, IIc
Dec 1943
Jul 1944
Supermarine Spitfire
Mar 1944
Jun 1947
Supermarine Spitfire
Aug 1944
Oct 1944
Supermarine Spitfire
Aug 1946
Mar 1957
Supermarine Spitfire
Mar 1951
Jan 1958
Gloster Meteor
Jan 1958
Feb 1958
Hawker Hunter
Jan 1958
Mar 1959
Hawker Hunter
Apr 1959
Mar 1960
de Havilland Venom
Mar 1960
Sep 1971
Hawker Hunter
Oct 1974
Mar 1994
Blackburn Buccaneer
S.2A, S.2B
Apr 1994
BAe Hawk
T.1, T1A




  • Johnstone, E.G., DSC (Editor). Naval Eight: A history of No.8 Squadron R.N.A.S. - afterwards No. 208 Squadron R.A.F - from its formation in 1916 until the Armistice in 1918. Naval and Military Press, 2006 (Reprint of the 1931, The Signal Press (London) Original Edition). ISBN 1-84342-986-1.
  • 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.
  • Jefford, C.G., Wing Commander MBE, BA, RAF (Retd). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing Ltd., 1998 (second edition 2001). ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
  • Marr, D.S.B., BSc. A History of 208 Squadron. Southend-on-Sea, Essex, UK: RAF/Eden Fisher (Southend) Ltd., 1966.
  • Moyes, Philip J.R. Bomber Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald and Jane's (Publishers) Ltd., 1964 (new edition 1976). ISBN 0-354-01027-1.
  • Rawlings, John D.R. Fighter Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald & Jane's (Publishers) Ltd., 1969 (2nd edition 1976, republished 1978). ISBN 0-354-01028-X.
  • Rawlings, John D.R. The History of the Royal Air Force. Feltham, Middlesex, UK: Temple Press/Aerospace, 1984. ISBN 0-60034-990-X.
  • Styles, Dr. David G. 75 Years on - "The Flying Shuftis": Number 208 Squadron, Royal Air Force. Deerfield, Illinois: Dalton Watson, 1991. ISBN 1-85443-101-3.
  • Styles, Dr. David G. All the eights: Eight decades of Naval Eight/208. Loughborough, White Owl Press, 1996. ISBN 1-85443-131-5.

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