Formed at Castle Bromwich on 5 May 1916, No 54 Squadron, like many others formed at the same time, was tasked with Home Defence duties flying BE2Cs. Four months later, however, it transferred to day fighter missions and moved to France escorting bombers and attacking observation balloons. The final months of the War were spent flying Camels in ground attack as well as fighter sorties. In February 1919, the Squadron returned to the UK, disbanding some ten months later.
The Squadron was reformed at Hornchurch on 15 January 1930 as a fighter squadron equipped initially with Siskins then subsequently Bulldogs, Gauntlets and Gladiators before the Squadron's first monoplane, the Spitfire, arrived in March 1939. The early days of the Second World War were spent patrolling the Kent coast, until, in May-June 1940; the unit provided air cover for the evacuation of Dunkirk. Following on from this, the Squadron was heavily engaged in the Battle of Britain until moving North to regroup prior to undertaking coastal patrols.
On 28 May 1942 British Prime Minister Winston Churchill agreed to an Australian Government request to dispatch three fully equipped Spitfire squadrons to Australia to reinforce the RAAF. The squadrons selected were the Australian No. 452 and No. 457 Squadrons as well as the British No. 54 Squadron RAF. On 20 June the squadron left England on board the MV Stirling Castle, which was also carrying the men of No. 452 and No. 457 Squadrons. In mid-1942, the Squadron left for Australia and joined the battle against the Japanese.
The anniversary of the first Darwin raid passed quietly. The Japanese were probably evaluating their intelligence to assess how many Spitfires the RAAF had in the Darwin area. On 2 March they made their move. This was Raid No. 52 in the Darwin area. According to noted historian, Christopher Shores, the attacking force consisted of nine Mitsubishi ‘Betty’ bombers escorted by some twenty Mitsubishi A6M Zero ‘Zeke’ fighters, although RAAF reports claim rather more bombers and also the presence of ‘Kate’ light bombers. The main force attacked the airstrip at Coomalie Creek where RAAF Beaufighters, which had been causing the Japanese considerable pain, were based. Nos. 54 and 457 Squadrons each scrambled twelve aircraft. They were led by the Wing Leader, Caldwell, who had as his No. 2 Group Captain Walters. No. 457 Squadron did not make contact with the enemy but Caldwell and elements of No. 54 Squadron did. In the ensuing fight Caldwell was to claim one ‘Kate’ and one ‘Zeke and, Squadron Leader Gibbs a ‘Zeke’.
The Japanese were to claim three fighters, which they identified as Buffalos and P-39s, shot down. In fact neither side had suffered any loss!
On 2 February a Japanese ‘Dinah’ reconnaissance aircraft was reported approaching Darwin. Several Spitfires from No. 54 Squadron scrambled, and Flight Lieutenant Bob Foster dispatched it into the Timor Sea just off Melville Island. No.1 Fighter Wing had its first victory and the Japanese had been denied photos of the presence of the Spitfires. It was somewhat in vain however, as the next day another ‘Dinah’ flew over the area unmolested.
No 54 Squadron RAF disbanded in October 1945.
Motto: Audax omnia perpeti - 'Boldness to endure anything'
Badge: Lion rampant semée de lys - approved by King George VI. The badge combines features of the arms of France and Flanders, commemorating the Squadron's battles on the Western Front.
• 1916 - Formed at Castle Bromwich.
• 1940 - Took part in the Battle of Britain.
• 1948 - Flew the first ever crossing of the Atlantic by a jet aircraft.
Western Front 1916-1918, Arras*, Ypres 1917, Cambrai 1917*, Amiens*, Home Defence 1940-1945, France and Low Countries 1940, Dunkirk*, Battle of Britain1940*, Fortress Europe 1941*, Eastern Waters 1943-1945*, Gulf 1991.
(Honours marked with an asterisk, are emblazoned on the Squadron Standard)