Formed at Larkhill in 1912 as No.2 (Aeroplane) Company, Air Battalion, Royal Engineers, the unit went on to be the very first flying unit to be equipped with heavier than air machines or aeroplanes. In 1915 they were renamed as No.3 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. both the other 2 initial squadrons, No 2 ( motto:'Second to None'and No 1( motto:'First and Foremost' ) Squadrons were equipped with balloons until they too took to the air (at the same exact time) in actual areoplanes, although both squadrons have since tussled as to which one actually lifted off the grass first. Such is the nature of friendly rivalry between all of these first Squadrons of the Royal Flying Corp, laterbecoming the Royal Air Force in 1918.
At the start of WWII, No 3 (F) Squadron were equiped with the Hawker Hurricane and as a day fighter squadron were sent to France during the latter part of the period of the German invasion of the Low Countries and France, in ten days of fighting the squadron was almost decimated and returned to Britain as the French defence started to crumble and the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) withdrew to Dunkirk.
They were sent to Scotland to re-equip and a nucleus of pilots formed 232 Squadon, 3(F) squadron took over the air defence of Scapa Flow, Britains largest Royal Naval base. In 1941 3(F) were designated as a Night Fighter Squadron and moved south to the newly built airfield of RAF Hunsdon where they joined another famous Hurricane squadron No 85, who were a day fighter squadron who also had seen intensive action in France. No85 had been similarily remustered as a Night Fighter Squadron, and now flying twin engine Douglas Boston night fighters from Hunsdon.
3(F) squadron were flying Hurricane MkIIC fighters in an overall nightfighter black paint scheme. These aircraft were armed with four 20mm Hispano Cannons and sometimes fitted with long range tanks, flew some of the early intruder raids into France in 1941 attacking road convoys , shipping and any other targets of opportunity. 3 Squadron also provided aircraft to accompany 1451 (Turbinlight) Flight also at Hunsdon on their early foray into their rather unusual method of night fighting (See Hunsdon History on this site for details)
3(F) remained at Hunsdon until early 1943, by this time now equipped with another Hawker design the Typhoon . Due to leave Hunsdon sometime on the 5th May 1943 to relocate to RAF West Malling in Kent, They had made descreet enquiries as to the upcoming visit of the Air Officer Commanding of No11 Group Fighter Command, Air Vice Marshall H.W.L 'Dingbat' Saunders who was also going to visit on the 5th May to present 85 Squadron with their official crest. The personnel of 85 Squadron were drawn up on parade and had formed on three sides with the AOC in the middle and about to give his speech.
From thier nearby dispersals and watching, 3(F) squadron fired their Kaufman cartridge starters, an apparently very raucus and shattering noise, even if you were prepared for it, and slowly taxied out to the runway where they took off one by one drowning out the speaking Air Officer Commanding, only his mouth could be seen moving and it is doubtful anyone heard his words over the noise of the squadrons 2200HP 24 cylinder Napier Sabre engines as they departed and then carried out a squadron strength low pass over the proceedings.
Please Note, these are RNZAF Official copyright photographs.
A group of No. 3 Squadron RAF, pilots standing in front of a Hawker Hurricane IIC at RAF Station Hunsdon.
L-R: Sergeant Jack Collins, RWG Emery, Squadron Leader RF Aitken, Commanding Officer, Flight Lieutenant Eddie Berry, Sergeant Johnnie Scholes, Sergeant Gill, Flight Sergeant Wigglesworth.