43 Squadron

Unit history

Number 43 Fighter Squadron was formed in April, 1916, at Stirling, in Scotland by Major Douglas (later to become Marshal of the Royal Air Force, Lord Douglas of Kirtleside). From a humble beginning of one officer, one senior NCO and no aeroplanes, the Squadron grew to gain an impressive record in both World Wars and after.

It was No. 43 Squadron, which in 1917, equipped with 100 mph Sopwith Strutters, first introduced “ground straffing”, now an accepted feature of air support, and the primary role of the present-day Squadron. Re-equipped later with Sopwith Camels, the Squadron in early 1918, shot down 12 enemy aircraft in one day, which was the First World War record “bag” in 24 hours. In total during the War, 43 Squadron claimed 110 enemy aircraft destroyed and 49 forced down.

Disbanded in 1919, the Squadron was re-formed at Henlow in July, 1925, and in 1926, equipped with Gamecocks, it became known as the “Fighting Cocks”, a name which has stayed with it ever since. In 1927 the Squadron became a household word due to their daring exhibitions of tied together formation aerobatics. For many years they gave outstanding displays at the annual Hendon Air Display, and by this the Squadron maintained its popularity
with the public during the inter-war years.

At the outbreak of war in 1939, No. 43 Squadron was equipped with Hawker Hurricanes, and claimed the first German aircraft destroyed over Britain. After helping over the evacuation of Dunkirk, the Squadron was plunged into the Battle of Britain. During this period, operating from Tangmere, it was so heavily engaged that, despite re-inforcements, it became non-operational on 8 September due to heavy losses, with a score of 45 Luftwaffe aircraft to its credit. During the remainder of the war the Squadron served in North Africa, Italy and France, taking part in the Anzio and Salerno landings.

The Squadron was disbanded in 1947, but in 1949 it was re-formed at Tangmere with Meteors, and in 1950 moved to Leuchars. It was at Leuchars, in July 1954, that 43 Squadron became the first in the Royal Air Force to be equipped with Hawker Hunters, its present-day aircraft. By 1955 the Squadron had become the official RAF aerobatic team, giving displays not only in Britain but all over Europe. Their displays were so impressive that during this period, the “Fighting Cocks” won the only ever international formation aerobatics competition at Rome, from eight nations including the French and American Air Forces. Their fame spread throughout the world and, in April, 1956, the Squadron had the honour to perform before and considerably impress Bulganin and Khruschev during their visit to Britain.

The Squadron was presented with its Standard on 5 June, 1957, by HM Queen Elizabeth II, during a ceremony at RAF Leuchars in Scotland. Having replaced its F.6 Hunters with the FGA.9 version in 1960, the Squadron was posted to Nicosia, Cyprus, on 20 June, 1961, and after a glorious eighteen months on the “island of love”, was once again moved, this time to Khormaksar, where it arrived in early 1963. Shortly before the cessation of operations in Aden in November 1967, the squadron disbanded.

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