top of page
Anchor 1

51 History

His Majesty King George VI approved a goose volant in December 1937. It was chosen as a play on the word 'Anson', which the Squadron was flying when the badge was being designed, as ‘Anser’ which is the Latin word for Goose. The goose is a fast day and night flyer and one of the heavier wild fowl, it was deemed appropriate for a Bomber Squadron.

Motto: Swift And Sure

Battle Honours:

Home Defence 1916-1918*                   Channel and North Sea 1940-1943

Norway 1940*                                        France and low Countries

Ruhr 1940-1945                                     Fortress Europe 1940-1944* 

German Ports 1940-1944                       Invasion Ports 1940

Biscay Ports 1940-1944                         Berlin 1940-1944

Baltic 1940-1944*                                  Italy 1943*

Biscay 1942                                            Normandy

France and Germany 1944-1945*          Rhine           

Walcheren (Berlin Air Lift)                    Gulf 1991

South Atlantic                                         Iraq 2003


Honours marked with an asterix* are those emblazoned on the Squadron Standard

Squadron Codes:

UT (Aug 1939 – Sep 1939)
MH (Sep 1939 – May 1945, Dec 1949 – Oct 1950)
LK (? – Jan 1944)
('C' Flt which became 578 Sqn)
C6 (Jan 1944 – May 1945)
('C' Flt)
TB (May 1945 – Dec 1949


51 Squadron was formed at Thetford on 15 May 1916 as a home defence unit flying BE2s and BE12s before specialising in night fighter duties with the first FE 2b, and later the Avro 504K, which was converted to a single seat night fighter. Using Hingham as Headquarters and with 'A' flight at Mattishall, 'B' flight at Harling Road and 'C' flight at Marham it defended the midlands against Zepplin attacks. Towards the end of the war the Sqaudron role reverted to training. It moved to Sutton Farm, Hornchurch in May 1919 and disbanded on 13 June 1919. 51 Squadron flying Virginias and Ansons reformed at Driffield on 15 March 1937 from 'B' flight of 58 Squadron, moving a week later to Boscombe Down to re-equip with Whitleys. As a unit in Bomber Command the Squadron made the first operational mission of the war on 3 September 1939 when 3 aircraft left Leconfield to drop leaflets over Hamburg, Bremen and the Rhur. The Squadron also made the first reconnaissance flights over Germany and took part in the first British air raid of the war on 19 March 1940 when the seaplane base at Hornum and Sylt were attacked.The Squadron was also involved in the first attack on Italy when, on the night of the 11 June 1940, the marshalling yards in Turin were the target. The Squadron was selected in 1941 to pioneer the dropping of troops by parachute and took part in the parachute attack at Trigino in Italy. In May 1942 the Squadron was transferred to Coastal Command for patrol duties against the U-Boats in the Bay Of Biscay retuning to Bomber Command in October 1942 preceded the re-equipment with the Halifax at Snaith.

The airfield was actually in the village of Pollington near the town of Selby some twenty miles south of York. Due to there being another bomber station in the Group named Pocklington, it was decided that the village of Snaith almost adjoining Pollington was to be the name of the station. This was done for operational and safety reasons, to prevent the call sign Pollington becoming mixed up with Pocklington. Snaith was built in the late 1930s as the threat of war loomed. The squadron at Snaith before the arrival of 51 was 150 Squadron. For the remainder of the war the Squadron flew as part of 4 Group Bomber Command.

In May 1945 the Squadron transferred to Transport Command and re-equipped with Stirlings and Yorks in January 1946. It under took long range operations from Stradishall, Waterbeach and Bassingbourne and took part in the Berlin Air Lift before disbanding on 30 October 1950.

On 21 August 1958, 192 Squadron at Watton was re-numbered 51 Squadron and in April 1963 moved to Wyton and operated as a Special Duties squadron for Signals Command flying Comets and Canberras. The Squadron flew this role
until the Nimrod R1 was introduced in 1974. The Squadron left Wyton in 1995 and continues its operations at RAF Waddington. In June 2011 the Nimrod R1 retired from service and in November of 2013 the first of three RC-135W was delivered.

 Thetford                  -      15 May 1916  

Hingham                  -      23 September 1916

Marham                    -     03 August 1917

Sutton's Farm            -     14 May 1919 - 13 June 1919

Driffield                    -     15 March 1937

Boscomb Down        -     24 March 1937

Linton-On-Ouse       -     20 April 1938

Dishforth                  -     09 December 1939

Chivenor                  -     06 May 1942

Snaith                      -      27 October 1942

 Leconfield              -      20 April 1945

Stradishall               -      21 August 1945

Waterbeach             -      20 August 1946

Abingdon                -      08 December 1947

Bassingbourne        -      25 June 1948 - 30 October 1950

Watton                    -      21 August 1948

Wyton                     -           April 1963

Waddington            -           Current

bottom of page