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501 Squadron RAuxAF

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501 Squadron is one of the oldest units in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, the volunteer reserve part of the British Royal Air Force. The squadron won seven battle honours flying Hurricane fighter aircraft during World War II, and was one of the most heavily engaged units in Fighter Command. In particular, the Squadron saw extensive action during the Battle of France and Battle of Britain.


The squadron was formed as No 501 (City of Bristol) Squadron as part of the Special Reserve squadrons in June 1929, made up of volunteers and regulars. In 1930 it became 'No 501 (County of Gloucester) Squadron'. On 1 May 1936 it was transferred to the Auxiliary Air Force.

When war was declared in September 1939, 501 Squadron was based at RAF Filton, near Bristol. On 10 May 1940, the Squadron moved to France where it saw extensive action. After the retreat from France, its battle-hardened pilots were stationed at Gravesend up to 10 September 1940. It subsequently served at RAF Kenley, South London, until 17 December 1940. At Kenley, the squadron was commanded by Harry Hogan and consisted of Hawker Hurricanes.

The squadron included several fighter aces of WWII: Ken Mackenzie, 'Ginger' Lacey, Stanisław Skalski, Robert Dafforn and Kenneth Lee. Ginger Lacey was one of the highest scoring pilots in the Battle of Britain. Robert Dafforn was the tallest man in Fighter Command, and had great difficulty in fitting into his Hurricane. The squadron included a number of Polish airmen, one of whom, Steve Woltanski, reputedly never spoke English.

In February 1957, Flt Lt John Crossley flew a Vampire jet beneath the Clifton Suspension Bridge, before a fatal crash into Leigh Woods. This was the last recorded flight, and only jet, under the bridge.

The Squadron was disbanded in 1957 along with all the Auxiliary units. However, it was reformed in the Force Protection role in 2001 at RAF Brize Norton. In 2003, its personnel deployed as part of Operation TELIC, the liberation of Iraq. The squadron continues to deploy personnel on Force Protection duties in this region.

Famous Members

  • Graham Targett (owner of dial-a-beer) - March 05 - October 08, obtaining many distinctions including best new recruit.


  • Spitfire Women of World War II by Giles Whittell (2007). Harper Perennial, p151. ISBN 978-0-00-723536.
  • Surrey at War by Bob Ogley
  • - Accessed 18 April 2007