No. 617 Squadron RAF

No. 617 Squadron RAF

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No. 617 Squadron is a Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 aircraft squadron based at RAF Lossiemouth
RAF Lossiemouth
RAF Lossiemouth is a Royal Air Force station to the west of the town of Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland. It is one of the RAF's biggest bases and is currently Britain's main base for Tornado GR4s. From 2013 the Northern QRA force of Typhoon F2 will relocate to Lossiemouth following the closure of...

 in Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

. It currently operates the Tornado GR4 in the ground attack and reconnaissance role. It is commonly known as the "Dambusters", for its actions during Operation Chastise
Operation Chastise
Operation Chastise was an attack on German dams carried out on 16–17 May 1943 by Royal Air Force No. 617 Squadron, subsequently known as the "Dambusters", using a specially developed "bouncing bomb" invented and developed by Barnes Wallis...

 against German dams during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

.

Between the Wars


According to the squadron's entry in Flying units of the RAF by Alan Lake, 617 were allocated the unit identification code MZ for the period April to September 1939, even though the unit didn't actually exist at the time.

Second World War


The squadron was formed at RAF Scampton
RAF Scampton
Royal Air Force Station Scampton is a Royal Air Force station situated north of Lincoln in England, near the village of Scampton, on the site of an old First World War landing field.-First World War:...

 during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 on 21 March 1943. It included Royal Canadian Air Force
Royal Canadian Air Force
The history of the Royal Canadian Air Force begins in 1920, when the air force was created as the Canadian Air Force . In 1924 the CAF was renamed the Royal Canadian Air Force and granted royal sanction by King George V. The RCAF existed as an independent service until 1968...

, Royal Australian Air Force
Royal Australian Air Force
The Royal Australian Air Force is the air force branch of the Australian Defence Force. The RAAF was formed in March 1921. It continues the traditions of the Australian Flying Corps , which was formed on 22 October 1912. The RAAF has taken part in many of the 20th century's major conflicts...

 and Royal New Zealand Air Force
Royal New Zealand Air Force
The Royal New Zealand Air Force is the air arm of the New Zealand Defence Force...

 personnel. The squadron was formed for the specific task of attacking three major dams on the Ruhr in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

: the Möhne
Möhne Reservoir
The Möhne Reservoir is an artificial lake in North Rhine-Westphalia, some 45 km east of Dortmund. The dam was built between 1908 and 1913 to help control floods, regulate water levels on the Ruhr river downstream, and generate hydropower. Today, the lake is also a tourist attraction...

, Eder
Eder
The Eder is a 177 km long river in Germany, and a tributary of the Fulda River. It was first mentioned by the Roman historian Tacitus as the Adrana in the territory of the Chatti....

 and Sorpe
Sorpe
The Sorpe Dam is a dam near the small town of Sundern in the German district of Hochsauerland in North Rhine-Westphalia.Like the Biggesee, the Möhne Reservoir and the Verse reservoir, the Sorpe's reservoir is one of the major artificial lakes of the Sauerland's Ruhrverband reservoir association...

. The plan was given the codename Operation Chastise
Operation Chastise
Operation Chastise was an attack on German dams carried out on 16–17 May 1943 by Royal Air Force No. 617 Squadron, subsequently known as the "Dambusters", using a specially developed "bouncing bomb" invented and developed by Barnes Wallis...

 and was carried out on 17 May 1943. The squadron had to develop the tactics to deploy Barnes Wallis
Barnes Wallis
Sir Barnes Neville Wallis, CBE FRS, RDI, FRAeS , was an English scientist, engineer and inventor. He is best known for inventing the bouncing bomb used by the RAF in Operation Chastise to attack the dams of the Ruhr Valley during World War II...

's "Bouncing bomb
Bouncing bomb
A bouncing bomb is a bomb designed specifically to bounce to a target across water in a calculated manner, in order to avoid obstacles such as torpedo nets, and to allow both the bomb's speed on arrival at the target and the timing of its detonation to be pre-determined...

".

The Squadron's badge, approved by King George VI
George VI of the United Kingdom
George VI was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death...

, depicts the bursting of a dam in commemoration of Chastise. The squadron's chosen motto was "Après moi le Deluge" ("After me, the Flood"), a humorous double entendre
Double entendre
A double entendre or adianoeta is a figure of speech in which a spoken phrase is devised to be understood in either of two ways. Often the first meaning is straightforward, while the second meaning is less so: often risqué or ironic....

 on the supposed last words of King Louis XV of France. The original commander of 617 Squadron, Wing Commander
Wing Commander (rank)
Wing commander is a commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many other Commonwealth countries...

 Guy Gibson
Guy Gibson
Wing Commander Guy Penrose Gibson VC, DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar, RAF , was the first CO of the Royal Air Force's 617 Squadron, which he led in the "Dam Busters" raid in 1943, resulting in the destruction of two large dams in the Ruhr area...

, was awarded the Victoria Cross
Victoria Cross
The Victoria Cross is the highest military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories....

 for his part in the raid. Guy Gibson also owned a black Labrador named Nigger, who was the mascot of the squadron for some time.

After the raid, Gibson was withdrawn from flying (due to the high number of raids he had been on) and went on a publicity tour. George Holden became Commanding Officer (CO) in July, but he was shot down and killed on his fourth mission with the squadron in September 1943, an attack on the Dortmund-Ems Canal
Dortmund-Ems Canal
The Dortmund–Ems Canal is a 269 km long canal in Germany between the inland port of the city of Dortmund and the sea port of Emden. The artificial southern part of the canal ends after 215 km at the lock of Herbrum near Meppen. From there, the route goes over a length of 45 km over...

; he had four of Gibson's crew with him. H. B. "Mick" Martin
Harold Brownlow Martin
Air Marshal Sir Harold Brownlow Morgan "Micky" Martin, KCB, DSO & Bar, DFC & Two Bars, AFC was an Australian pilot in the Royal Air Force....

 took command temporarily, before Leonard Cheshire
Leonard Cheshire
Group Captain Geoffrey Leonard Cheshire, Baron Cheshire, VC, OM, DSO and Two Bars, DFC was a highly decorated British RAF pilot during the Second World War....

 took over as CO. Cheshire personally took part in the special target marking techniques required which went far beyond the precision delivered by the standard Pathfinder
Pathfinder (RAF)
The Pathfinders were elite squadrons in RAF Bomber Command during World War II. They located and marked targets with flares, which a main bomber force could aim at, increasing the accuracy of their bombing...

 units — by the end he was marking the targets from a Mustang fighter. He was awarded the VC.

On the 15 July 1943 twelve aircraft of this Squadron took off from Scampton to attack targets in Northern Italy. All aircraft attacked and proceeded to North Africa without loss. The targets were San Polo D'Enza and Aquata Scrivia power stations which it hoped would delay German troops who were travelling down into Italy on the electrified railway system to support the Italian front. The operation met little opposition but the targets were obscured by valley haze and they were not destroyed. The 12 crews returned to Scampton on the 25 July from North Africa after bombing Leghorn docks on the return journey. The raid on Leghorn docks was not a great success due to mist shrouding the target. On the 29 July 1943 nine aircraft took off from Scampton to drop leaflets on Milan, Bologna, Genoa and Turin in Italy. All aircraft completed the mission and landed safely in Blida North Africa. 7 of the aircraft returned to Scampton on the 1 August, one on the 5th and the last on the 8th.

Throughout the rest of the war, the Squadron continued the specialist and precision bombing role, including the use of the enormous "Tallboy"
Tallboy bomb
The Tallboy or Bomb, Medium Capacity, 12,000 lb, was an earthquake bomb developed by the British aeronautical engineer Barnes Wallis and deployed by the RAF in 1944...

 and "Grand Slam"
Grand Slam bomb
The Grand Slam was a 22,000 lb earthquake bomb used by RAF Bomber Command against strategic targets during the Second World War.Known officially as the Bomb, Medium Capacity, 22,000 lb, it was a scaled up version of the Tallboy bomb and closer to the original size that the bombs' inventor,...

 ground-penetrating earthquake bombs, on targets such as concrete U-boat shelters and bridges and the Dortmund-Ems Canal
Dortmund-Ems Canal
The Dortmund–Ems Canal is a 269 km long canal in Germany between the inland port of the city of Dortmund and the sea port of Emden. The artificial southern part of the canal ends after 215 km at the lock of Herbrum near Meppen. From there, the route goes over a length of 45 km over...

 was finally breached with Tallboys in September 1944.

A particularly notable attack was the sinking of the Tirpitz
German battleship Tirpitz
Tirpitz was the second of two s built for the German Kriegsmarine during World War II. Named after Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, the architect of the Imperial Navy, the ship was laid down at the Kriegsmarinewerft in Wilhelmshaven in November 1936 and launched two and a half years later in April...

. Tirpitz had been moved into a fjord in northern Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 where she threatened the Arctic convoys and was too far north to be attacked by air from the UK. She had already been damaged by an attack by Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 midget submarines
X class submarine
The X class was a World War II midget submarine class built for the Royal Navy during 1943–44.Known individually as X-Craft, the vessels were designed to be towed to their intended area of operations by a full-size 'mother' submarine - - with a passage crew on board, the operational crew...

 and a series of attacks from carrier-borne aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm
Fleet Air Arm
The Fleet Air Arm is the branch of the British Royal Navy responsible for the operation of naval aircraft. The Fleet Air Arm currently operates the AgustaWestland Merlin, Westland Sea King and Westland Lynx helicopters...

, but both attacks had failed to sink her. The task was given to No. 9 and No. 617 Squadrons, who operated from a staging base in Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 to attack Tirpitz with Tallboy bombs. They damaged her so extensively that she was forced to head south to Tromsø
Tromsø
Tromsø is a city and municipality in Troms county, Norway. The administrative centre of the municipality is the city of Tromsø.Tromsø city is the ninth largest urban area in Norway by population, and the seventh largest city in Norway by population...

 fjord to be repaired. This fjord was in range of bombers operating from Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 and from there, in October, she was attacked again, but cloud cover thwarted the attack. Finally on 12 November 1944, the two squadrons attacked Tirpitz. The first bombs missed their target, but following aircraft scored three direct hits in quick succession. Within ten minutes of the first bomb hitting the Tirpitz she turned turtle. Both squadrons claim that it was their bombs that actually sank the Tirpitz. All three RAF attacks on Tirpitz were led by Wing Commander J. B. "Willy" Tait
James Brian Tait
Group Captain James Brian Tait DSO and three bars, DFC and bar was an officer in the Royal Air Force during and after World War II. He conducted 101 bombing missions during the war, including those which finally sank the German battleship Tirpitz in 1944...

, who had succeeded Cheshire as CO of No. 617 Squadron in July 1944. Among those pilots participating in the raids was Flight Lieutenant
Flight Lieutenant
Flight lieutenant is a junior commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many Commonwealth countries. It ranks above flying officer and immediately below squadron leader. The name of the rank is the complete phrase; it is never shortened to "lieutenant"...

 John Leavitt, an American who piloted one of the 31 Lancasters. Leavitt's plane dropped one of the bombs that hit the Tirpitz dead centre.

The squadron carried out 1,599 operational sorties with the loss of 32 aircraft.


The World War II exploits of the squadron and Chastise in particular, were described in Paul Brickhill
Paul Brickhill
Paul Chester Jerome Brickhill was an Australian writer, whose World War II books were turned into popular movies.-Biography:...

's 1951 book The Dam Busters
The Dam Busters (book)
The Dam Busters is a 1951 book by Paul Brickhill about Royal Air Force Squadron 617, originally commanded by Wing Commander Guy Gibson V.C. during World War II...

 and a 1954 film
The Dam Busters (film)
The Dam Busters is a 1955 British Second World War war film starring Michael Redgrave and Richard Todd and directed by Michael Anderson. The film recreates the true story of Operation Chastise when in 1943 the RAF's 617 Squadron attacked the Möhne, Eder and Sorpe dams in Germany with Wallis's...

, though the accuracy and completeness of this account was compromised by many of the documents relating to the war years, still being secured by the Official Secrets legislation.

The definitive work however is considered "The Dambusters Raid" by John Sweetman. It is based on careful research and cross checking of original documents as well as interviews with survivors of the raid.

In 2006, it was announced that New Zealand film director Peter Jackson
Peter Jackson
Sir Peter Robert Jackson, KNZM is a New Zealand film director, producer, actor, and screenwriter, known for his The Lord of the Rings film trilogy , adapted from the novel by J. R. R...

 and David Frost
David Frost
Sir David Frost is a British broadcaster.David Frost may also refer to:*David Frost , South African golfer*David Frost , classical record producer*David Frost *Dave Frost, baseball pitcher...

 would co-produce a re-make of the film. It has been scripted by Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry
Stephen John Fry is an English actor, screenwriter, author, playwright, journalist, poet, comedian, television presenter and film director, and a director of Norwich City Football Club. He first came to attention in the 1981 Cambridge Footlights Revue presentation "The Cellar Tapes", which also...

 and will be directed by Christian Rivers
Christian Rivers
Christian Rivers is a New Zealand visual effects art director and filmmaker. He first met Peter Jackson as a 17 year old, and storyboarded all of Jackson's films since Braindead. He also cameos in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King as a Gondorian soldier. He is set to make his...

. The last living Dam Buster pilot, New Zealander Les Munro
Les Munro
Squadron Leader John Leslie Munro CNZM, DSO, QSO, DFC, JP is the last surviving pilot of the Dambusters Raid of May 1943....

, offered his services as a technical adviser.

In 2010 documents from the national archives were released that detail plans
Mussolini assassination plot involving 617 squadron
A Mussolini assassination plot involving Royal Air Force 617 Squadron has been revealed by documents released from the UK national archives in 2010.-Background:Hitler and Mussolini from '34 to '44 met seventeen times...

 made in early July 1943 for a second major mission for 617 squadron that would have taken place in July or August, just months after the Dam-buster raids. The plan was for the squadron to fly another extremely low level operation, this time over Rome and to assassinate Benito Mussolini by bombing his headquarters and his residence. The plan was devised by Air Marshal Harris and had the backing of Anthony Eden, the foreign secretary. In a memorandum to the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, dated 13 July 1943, Eden wrote: "Harris has asked permission to try to bomb Mussolini in his office in Rome and to bomb his residence simultaneously in case the Duce is late that morning. Eden reported that Mussolini's headquarters, the magnificent Palazzo Venezia in central Rome and his private residence, Villa Torlonia, were both "unmistakeable" and could easily be identified by British bombers. Importantly, neither was within 1,500 yards of the Vatican, which the Allies had promised not to damage. "I suggest that if Mussolini were killed or even badly shaken, at the present time this might greatly increase our chance of knocking Italy out (of the war) at an early date. And I therefore ask your permission to lay the operation on," Eden wrote.
But within two weeks, Mussolini was ousted by the Grand Council of Fascism and replaced by a caretaker government led by King Vittorio Emmanuele III and Pietro Badoglio
Pietro Badoglio
Pietro Badoglio, 1st Duke of Addis Abeba, 1st Marquess of Sabotino was an Italian soldier and politician...

, who negotiated a surrender to the Allies.

Post war


After the end of World War II, the squadron was given the Avro Lincoln
Avro Lincoln
The Avro Type 694, better known as the Avro Lincoln, was a British four-engined heavy bomber, which first flew on 9 June 1944. Developed from the Avro Lancaster, the first Lincoln variants were known initially as the Lancaster IV and V, but were renamed Lincoln I and II...

, following those in 1952 with the English Electric Canberra
English Electric Canberra
The English Electric Canberra is a first-generation jet-powered light bomber manufactured in large numbers through the 1950s. The Canberra could fly at a higher altitude than any other bomber through the 1950s and set a world altitude record of 70,310 ft in 1957...

 jet bomber. The squadron was deployed to Malaya
Federation of Malaya
The Federation of Malaya is the name given to a federation of 11 states that existed from 31 January 1948 until 16 September 1963. The Federation became independent on 31 August 1957...

 for four months in 1955, returning to RAF Binbrook
RAF Binbrook
RAF Binbrook was a Bomber Command station during World War II. After the war it was amongst others the home of the Central Fighter Establishment...

 to be disbanded on 15 December 1955.

Reformed at RAF Scampton
RAF Scampton
Royal Air Force Station Scampton is a Royal Air Force station situated north of Lincoln in England, near the village of Scampton, on the site of an old First World War landing field.-First World War:...

 on 1 May 1958 as part of RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command controlled the RAF's bomber forces from 1936 to 1968. During World War II the command destroyed a significant proportion of Nazi Germany's industries and many German cities, and in the 1960s stood at the peak of its postwar military power with the V bombers and a supplemental...

's V-bomber force maintaining the UK's strategic nuclear deterrent, the squadron was equipped with the Avro Vulcan B1
Avro Vulcan
The Avro Vulcan, sometimes referred to as the Hawker Siddeley Vulcan, was a jet-powered delta wing strategic bomber, operated by the Royal Air Force from 1956 until 1984. Aircraft manufacturer A V Roe & Co designed the Vulcan in response to Specification B.35/46. Of the three V bombers produced,...

 from Aug 1960. By 23 May 1961 its aircraft were the upgraded Vulcan B1A fitted with the ECM
Electronic countermeasures
An electronic countermeasure is an electrical or electronic device designed to trick or deceive radar, sonar or other detection systems, like infrared or lasers. It may be used both offensively and defensively to deny targeting information to an enemy...

 tailpod. The squadron's assigned role was high-level strategic bombing with a variety of free fall nuclear bombs. Both the B1 and B1A types were equipped with various free-fall nuclear weapons. These may have included Blue Danube
Blue Danube (nuclear weapon)
Blue Danube was the first operational British nuclear weapon. It also went by a variety of other names, including Smallboy, the Mk.1 Atom Bomb, Special Bomb and OR.1001, a reference to the Operational Requirement it was built to fill...

, Red Beard
Red Beard (nuclear weapon)
Red Beard was the first British tactical nuclear weapon. It was carried by the English Electric Canberra and the V bombers of the Royal Air Force, and by the Blackburn Buccaneers, Sea Vixens and Supermarine Scimitars of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm...

, Violet Club
Violet Club
Violet Club was a nuclear weapon deployed by the United Kingdom during the cold war. It was Britain's first operational "high yield" weapon, and was intended to provide an emergency capability until a thermonuclear weapon could be developed from the 1956-1958 Operation Grapple thermonuclear tests...

 the Interim Megaton Weapon, Yellow Sun Mk.1
Yellow Sun
Yellow Sun was the first British operational high-yield strategic nuclear weapon. The name actually refers only to the outer casing; the warhead was known as "Green Grass" and "Red Snow"...

 and certainly Yellow Sun Mk2
Yellow Sun
Yellow Sun was the first British operational high-yield strategic nuclear weapon. The name actually refers only to the outer casing; the warhead was known as "Green Grass" and "Red Snow"...

. American bombs were also supplied to the RAF V-bombers for a short period under the Project E
Project E
Project E was a joint project between the United States and the United Kingdom during the cold war to provide nuclear weapons to the British Royal Air Force prior to Britain's own nuclear weapons becoming available...

 arrangements.

The squadron began almost immediately to upgrade yet again to the Vulcan B2, taking delivery of the first on 1 September 1961, although its high-level strategic bombing role remained unchanged until the advent of effective Soviet Surface-to-Air Missile
Surface-to-air missile
A surface-to-air missile or ground-to-air missile is a missile designed to be launched from the ground to destroy aircraft or other missiles...

s forced Bomber Command to re-assign V-bombers from high-altitude operations to low-level penetration operations in March 1963, when the squadron's Vulcans adopted a mission profile that included a 'pop-up' manoeuvre from 500-1,000 ft to above 12,000 ft for safe release of Blue Steel.

The squadron's Vulcans were configured for the Blue Steel
Blue Steel missile
The Avro Blue Steel was a British air-launched, rocket-propelled nuclear stand-off missile, built to arm the V bomber force. It was the primary British nuclear deterrent weapon until the Royal Navy started operating Polaris missile armed nuclear submarines....

 stand-off bomb and 617 Squadron was the first to be declared operational with it in August 1962. until in January 1970 the squadron's eight Vulcan B2 aircraft were re-equipped with the new strategic laydown bomb, WE.177B
WE.177
WE.177 was the last air-delivered tactical nuclear weapon of the British Armed Forces. There were three versions; WE.177A was a boosted fission weapon, while WE.177B and WE.177C were thermonuclear weapons...

  which improved aircraft survivability by enabling aircraft to remain at low-level during weapon release.

Following the transfer of responsibility for the nuclear deterrent to the Royal Navy the squadron was re-assigned to SACEUR for tactical strike missions. In a high-intensity European war the squadron's role was to support land forces on the Continent by striking deep into enemy-held areas
beyond the forward edge of the battlefield, striking at enemy concentrations and infrastructure, with WE.177 tactical nuclear weapons, should a conflict escalate to that stage. The squadron's eight aircraft were allocated eight WE.177 nuclear bombs and as the Vulcan bomb bay was configured to carry only one and assuming that RAF staff planners had factored in their usual allowance for attrition in the early conventional phase of a Continental war, leaving sufficient surviving aircraft to deliver the full stockpile of nuclear weapons, it is a reasonable conclusion that the Vulcan force was held in reserve for nuclear strike duties only. The squadron's Vulcan B2s served mainly in that low-level penetration role until disbandment on 31 December 1981

The squadron reformed on 1 January 1983 at RAF Marham
RAF Marham
Royal Air Force Station Marham, more commonly known as RAF Marham, is a Royal Air Force station; a military airbase, near the village of Marham in the English county of Norfolk, East Anglia....

 re-equipped with twelve Tornado GR1
Panavia Tornado
The Panavia Tornado is a family of twin-engine, variable-sweep wing combat aircraft, which was jointly developed and manufactured by the United Kingdom, West Germany and Italy...

 aircraft and eighteen WE.177
WE.177
WE.177 was the last air-delivered tactical nuclear weapon of the British Armed Forces. There were three versions; WE.177A was a boosted fission weapon, while WE.177B and WE.177C were thermonuclear weapons...

 nuclear bombs, and the
squadron's role assigned to SACEUR remained one of support for land forces on the Continent. Their Tornado aircraft were each able to carry two WE.177 bombs and the ratio of weapons to aircraft at full strength increased to 1.5 : 1, with an allowance now made for attrition in the
conventional opening phase of a Continental war. The squadron continued in this role until the WE.177 weapons were retired and No. 617 Squadron relinquished its nuclear delivery capability.

In 1993 the squadron began the changeover to anti-shipping and by 1994 was operating from RAF Lossiemouth
RAF Lossiemouth
RAF Lossiemouth is a Royal Air Force station to the west of the town of Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland. It is one of the RAF's biggest bases and is currently Britain's main base for Tornado GR4s. From 2013 the Northern QRA force of Typhoon F2 will relocate to Lossiemouth following the closure of...

 assigned to SACLANT with the Tornado GR4B with the Sea Eagle
Sea Eagle
Sea eagle mainly refers to Sea eagle, birds of prey of the genus Haliaeetus.It may also refer to:-Aerospace:* Sea Eagle , British, anti-ship missile* Sea Eagle * Supermarine Sea Eagle, 1920s British passenger flying boat-Sports:...

 missile. 617 Sqn also routinely deployed in support Operation Resinate and Operation Bolton, the RAF contribution to Operation Southern Watch
Operation Southern Watch
Operation Southern Watch was an operation conducted by Joint Task Force Southwest Asia with the mission of monitoring and controlling airspace south of the 32nd Parallel in Iraq, following the 1991 Gulf War until the 2003 invasion of Iraq.-Summary:Operation Southern Watch began on 27 August 1992...

, the last time being in the spring and summer of 2000 to Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait.

617 Sqn continued its pioneering heritage by becoming the first RAF squadron to fire the MBDA
MBDA
MBDA is a missile developer and manufacturer with operations in France, Britain, Germany, Italy, and the United States. It was formed by a merger of Aérospatiale-Matra Missiles , Finmeccanica and Matra BAe Dynamics in December 2001. In 2003 the company had 10,000 employees...

 Storm Shadow
Storm Shadow
Storm Shadow is a British, French and Italian air-launched cruise missile, manufactured by MBDA. Storm Shadow is the British name for the weapon; in French service it is called SCALP EG...

 cruise-missile, during the 2003 invasion of Iraq
2003 invasion of Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...

. In 2011 the squadron's commanding officer is Wing Commander Keith Taylor who recently replaced Wing Commander David Cooper, since promoted to Group Captain and appointed to HQ Air Command.

Aircraft operated

From To Aircraft Version
March 1943 June 1945 Avro Lancaster
Avro Lancaster
The Avro Lancaster is a British four-engined Second World War heavy bomber made initially by Avro for the Royal Air Force . It first saw active service in 1942, and together with the Handley Page Halifax it was one of the main heavy bombers of the RAF, the RCAF, and squadrons from other...

I, III
June 1945 September 1946 Avro Lancaster
Avro Lancaster
The Avro Lancaster is a British four-engined Second World War heavy bomber made initially by Avro for the Royal Air Force . It first saw active service in 1942, and together with the Handley Page Halifax it was one of the main heavy bombers of the RAF, the RCAF, and squadrons from other...

VII (FE)
September 1946 January 1952 Avro Lincoln
Avro Lincoln
The Avro Type 694, better known as the Avro Lincoln, was a British four-engined heavy bomber, which first flew on 9 June 1944. Developed from the Avro Lancaster, the first Lincoln variants were known initially as the Lancaster IV and V, but were renamed Lincoln I and II...

B.2
January 1952 April 1955 English Electric Canberra
English Electric Canberra
The English Electric Canberra is a first-generation jet-powered light bomber manufactured in large numbers through the 1950s. The Canberra could fly at a higher altitude than any other bomber through the 1950s and set a world altitude record of 70,310 ft in 1957...

B.2
February 1955 December 1955 English Electric Canberra
English Electric Canberra
The English Electric Canberra is a first-generation jet-powered light bomber manufactured in large numbers through the 1950s. The Canberra could fly at a higher altitude than any other bomber through the 1950s and set a world altitude record of 70,310 ft in 1957...

B.6
May 1958 July 1961 Avro Vulcan
Avro Vulcan
The Avro Vulcan, sometimes referred to as the Hawker Siddeley Vulcan, was a jet-powered delta wing strategic bomber, operated by the Royal Air Force from 1956 until 1984. Aircraft manufacturer A V Roe & Co designed the Vulcan in response to Specification B.35/46. Of the three V bombers produced,...

B.1, B.1A
September 1961 December 1981 Avro Vulcan
Avro Vulcan
The Avro Vulcan, sometimes referred to as the Hawker Siddeley Vulcan, was a jet-powered delta wing strategic bomber, operated by the Royal Air Force from 1956 until 1984. Aircraft manufacturer A V Roe & Co designed the Vulcan in response to Specification B.35/46. Of the three V bombers produced,...

B.2, B.2A
January 1983 Present Panavia Tornado
Panavia Tornado
The Panavia Tornado is a family of twin-engine, variable-sweep wing combat aircraft, which was jointly developed and manufactured by the United Kingdom, West Germany and Italy...

GR.1, GR.1B, GR.4


1943 - 1955

  • March 1943, Wing Commander
    Wing Commander (rank)
    Wing commander is a commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many other Commonwealth countries...

     G P Gibson
    Guy Gibson
    Wing Commander Guy Penrose Gibson VC, DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar, RAF , was the first CO of the Royal Air Force's 617 Squadron, which he led in the "Dam Busters" raid in 1943, resulting in the destruction of two large dams in the Ruhr area...

  • August 1943, Wing Commander G W Holden
  • September 1943 Squadron Leader
    Squadron Leader
    Squadron Leader is a commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many countries which have historical British influence. It is also sometimes used as the English translation of an equivalent rank in countries which have a non-English air force-specific rank structure. In these...

     H B Martin
    Harold Brownlow Martin
    Air Marshal Sir Harold Brownlow Morgan "Micky" Martin, KCB, DSO & Bar, DFC & Two Bars, AFC was an Australian pilot in the Royal Air Force....

  • November 1943, Wing Commander G L Cheshire
    Leonard Cheshire
    Group Captain Geoffrey Leonard Cheshire, Baron Cheshire, VC, OM, DSO and Two Bars, DFC was a highly decorated British RAF pilot during the Second World War....

  • July 1944, Wing Commander J B Tait
    James Brian Tait
    Group Captain James Brian Tait DSO and three bars, DFC and bar was an officer in the Royal Air Force during and after World War II. He conducted 101 bombing missions during the war, including those which finally sank the German battleship Tirpitz in 1944...

  • December 1944, Wing Commander J E Fauquier
    John Emilius Fauquier
    John Emilius “Johnny” Fauquier DSO & Two Bars, DFC was a Canadian aviator and Second World War Bomber Command leader. He commanded No. 405 Squadron RCAF and later No. 617 Squadron RAF over the course of the war. A bush pilot, prior to the war, he joined the RCAF as a flight instructor in 1939. He...

  • April 1945, Wing Commander J E Grindon
  • June 1945, Wing Commander C Fothergill
  • April 1946, Squadron Leader C K Saxelby
  • May 1947, Wing Commander C D Milne (for goodwill visit to USA)
  • July 1947, Squadron Leader C K Saxelby
  • February 1948, Squadron Leader P G Brodie
  • May 1950, Squadron Leader W H Thallon
  • June 1952, Squadron Leader M J O'Bryen-Nichols
  • Dec 1952, Squadron Leader D Roberts
  • May 1954, Squadron Leader J A Ruck (Squadron disbanded December 1955)

1958 - 1981

  • May 1958, Wing Commander D Bower (Squadron reformed with Vulcans)
  • May 1960, Wing Commander L G A Bastard
  • December 1962, Wing Commander H G Currell
  • March 1965, Wing Commander D G L Heywood
  • March 1967, Wing Commander R C Allen
  • March 1969, Wing Commander C A Vasey
  • March 1971, Wing Commander F M A Hines
  • October 1973, Wing Commander V L Warrington
  • September 1975, Wing Commander R B Gilvary
  • July 1977, Wing Commander F Mason (brief tenure due to illness)
  • July 1977, Wing Commander J N Stephenson-Oliver
  • August 1979, Wing Commander J N Herbertson (Squadron disbanded December 1981)

1983 - present

  • January 1983, Wing Commander A J Harrison (Squadron reformed with Tornadoes)
  • June 1985, Wing Commander P J J Day
  • January 1988, Wing Commander N J Day
  • May 1990, Wing Commander R D Iveson
  • March 1993, Wing Commander J H Dickinson
  • July 1995, Wing Commander I L Dugmore
  • March 1998, Wing Commander G E Thwaites
  • September 2000, Wing Commander D G Robertson
  • July 2003, Wing Commander A Monkman
  • January 2006, Wing Commander S P Rochelle
  • January 2008, Wing Commander D J E Cooper
  • October 2010, Wing Commander K D Taylor

See also

  • List of Royal Air Force aircraft squadrons
  • Operation Chastise
    Operation Chastise
    Operation Chastise was an attack on German dams carried out on 16–17 May 1943 by Royal Air Force No. 617 Squadron, subsequently known as the "Dambusters", using a specially developed "bouncing bomb" invented and developed by Barnes Wallis...

    , the attack by 617 squadron on German dams in World War II
  • The Dam Busters (book)
    The Dam Busters (book)
    The Dam Busters is a 1951 book by Paul Brickhill about Royal Air Force Squadron 617, originally commanded by Wing Commander Guy Gibson V.C. during World War II...

    , a 1951 book by Paul Brickhill about the operation
  • The Dam Busters (film)
    The Dam Busters (film)
    The Dam Busters is a 1955 British Second World War war film starring Michael Redgrave and Richard Todd and directed by Michael Anderson. The film recreates the true story of Operation Chastise when in 1943 the RAF's 617 Squadron attacked the Möhne, Eder and Sorpe dams in Germany with Wallis's...

    , a 1954 film about the operation

External links