Squadron Aircraft - Early Jets

Dates Aircraft
(wikipedia links provided)
Comments/Quotes from Operational Record Books
Feb 1959
Jun 1966
Hawker Hunter T.7/T.7A Feb 59: First indication of Hunter T.7 hours.

Mar 59: "The Hunter T.7 has been utilised considerably throughout the month and it is hoped to use it with good effect for gunnery dual instruction at Acklington."

Mar 65: First indication of Hunter T.7A hours.

Jun 66: Last indication of Hunter T.7/T.7A hours.

Nov 1958
Apr 1961
Hawker Hunter Mk.6 Nov 58: "... the squadron has now settled down to its new quarters and with the Hunter 6s."; first indication of Hunter Mk.6 hours.

Apr 61: Last entry of Hunter Mk.6 hours; "The last but one Hunter 6, XG. 159, was delivered to Chivenor on 20th April."

16 May 1955
Dec 1958
Hawker Hunter Mk.5 May 55: "This month the squadron commenced re-equipping with Hunter V aircraft, the first Hunter arrived on 16th May... By the end of May sufficient Hunters had arrived to enable the Squadron to discontinue Meteor flying and divert all work to Hunters."; first indication of Hunter Mk.5 hours.

Jun 55: "The Squadron morale is extremely high.  The pilots because of the number of aircraft available each day and the pleasant handling characteristics of the Hunter"

Jul 55: "As this was the first time that the Squadron had put up a large formation [of Hunters], the high standard of the formation is a tribute to the ease of formation flying in Hunters (and of course the pilots!)"

Jul 55: "Although it is not possible to achieve a quarter attack of Meteor dimensions with a Hunter, ranging and tracking present no increased difficulty. Owing to the low velocity and high gravity drop of the 30 mm. cannon, the gunsight is noticeably "sloppier" than that set up for the 20 mm. cannon in the Meteor."

Jul 55: "The lack of spares backing continues to be a very serious drawback to our serviceability. Regrettably this appears to be a common failing in all the new Hunter squadrons.
"After the Swift, this aircraft [Hunter] really is a joy to fly and undoubtedly the pilots are in fine fettle.  Similarly, the ground crew are getting much better results from their servicing and rectification."

May 57: "As both Squadron, '56 and 63' were scrambled together, this was, almost a Wing Operation.  It proved the mixture of both Squadrons together inadvisable, as the better climbing rate of the "63" Hunter Mark "6" cannot be matched by our own."

Nov 58: Last indication of Hunter Mk.5 hours.

Dec 58: "The month started well with the disposal of the rest of the Hunter Mk. 5's to Colerne."

Aug 1954
15 Mar 1955
Supermarine Swift Mk.2 Aug 54: "Three new Swifts arrived during the month, a Mk.1 from West Raynham and two camouflaged Mk.II's from South Marston."Sep 54: " 'A' flight is equipped with Swifts only, and is becoming known as the 'Test Pilots Flight' "; first indication of Swift Mk.2 hours.

Oct 54: "... many snags keep more than half the number [of Swifts] in the hangars most of the time... The squadron is now equipped with 12 Swifts and 14 Meteors, two of which are still "Cat 3"."

Mar 55: Excerpt from Form 540 entitled Swift History
"The first of these aircraft arrived and was first flown by the squadron on 22nd February, 1954. Flying finally ceased on Swifts on 15th March, 1955.
"The various breaks in flying Swifts through groundings for Mods. etc. were 15-20 Mar. 54 - 14 May-23 July. 54 - 1-14 Oct. 54.
"One fatal accident occurred on 13th May, 1954, when Fg. Off. Thornton crashed 72 seconds after take off. Two pilots baled out successfully; Sqn. Ldr. Storey on 7th May, 1954 and Fg. Off. Hobbs on 25th August, 1954. Approximately half a dozen close incidents were experienced by various pilots during the 1086 sorties flown for 781.23 hrs.
"During the Swift period a great number of demonstrations were flown in various number from one to six for displays and fly-pasts.
"The following table [not shown here] is breakdown of aircraft flying achievement [aircraft on strength; hours - not shown here]. The serviceability figure and weather factor are not introduced in this analysis but with a new type of aircraft such as the Swift these two factors played a majo[r] part in the achievement.  The experience level of pilots was only average and therefore the weather and serviceability factor included high limits."
[Ed note: Meteor hours consistently outstripped Swift hours.  In Oct 54, when the Meteor/Swift split was approx 50/50, the Squadron flew 619 Meteor hours and only 64 Swift hours.]

20 Feb 1954
15 Mar 1955
Supermarine Swift Mk.I Feb 1954: "The first Swift was flown on 20th February ... By the end of the month three aircraft had been delivered" 
Feb 1954
Jul 59
de Havilland Vampire T.11 Feb 1954: "Several Q.F.Is from Oakington have visited the Squadron to fly with pilots converting onto the Vampire T11, which has replaced the Meteor 7."

Jul 59: Last entry of Vampire T.11 hours.

Dec 1950
Jun 1955/ Jun 1960
Gloster Meteor Mk.8 Dec 50: "During the month most of the pilots familiarised on the Meteor 8's, 13 of which have now been received in the Squadron. The re-equipping with Meteor 8's resulted in a high number of Air Test hours".

Jan 51: "The Squadron was concerned with two trials during the month. The first was a relighting trial and consisted of relights at heights and airspeeds varying from 360 kts at 10000' to 140 kts at 25000' in two stages; the first stage was a simple relight, the second a relight after the engine had been wetted for 10 seconds.  The trials were generally successful, [though] on two occassions single engine landings had to be made.  The second trial was of high altitude firing. It would have been a boring business but for the occasion when at .8m the C.O's aircraft flicked onto its back into cloud when the guns fired. On another occasion Fg. Off. Remfry's hood blew out at 38,000' when the guns were firing, he descended rapidly and broke cloud at 800' many miles out to sea, eventually crossing the coast and landing at a disused airfield near Beecles with his fuel guages registering nothing."

Jun 55: "The four Meteors, retained by the Squadron as an assurance to keep junior pilots in flying practice, were in little demand because of the good serviceability of the Hunter ..."

There is no indication of when the last 56 Squadron Meteor Mk.8s were taken away. Jan/Feb 1956 Operations Records entries indicate Meteor Mk.8s were 'borrowed' from No. 63 Squadron and Station Flight, so one would assume they were gone by then. Meteor Mk. 8 flying hours persisted, on and off until Jun 1960.

Aug 1949
Jul 1955; and
Jul 1957
Apr 1960
Gloster Meteor Mk.7 Aug 49: "During the month the squadron acquired a Meteor VII aircraft for I/F and Armament Training.  Most of the ground crew have now "had a go" in the back seat."

Dec 49: "The Squadron Meteor VII has been used throughout the month to its greatest advantage, both for instrument tests by Flight Lieutenant Lewis and for general i/f practice by the Squadron."Jul 55: Last indication of Meteor Mk.7 hours.

Jul 57: "On the 19th a Meteor Mk.7 V.W. 473 was delivered to the Squadron from the Station Flight, R.A.F. Wattisham. As yet the aircraft is not in use pending acceptance checks. From initial appearances of the aircraft these look as though they might be quite extensive."

Sep 57: First renewed indication of Meteor Mk.7 hours.

Apr 60: Last entry of Meteor Mk.7 hours.

Jul 1948
Dec 1950(?)
Gloster Meteor Mk.4 Jul 48: "Very little flying was done this month due to the Squadron converting to Meteor IV's and as the Squadron was on leave for 16 days."

Jul 48: First indication of Meteor Mk.4 hours.

No specific mention of when the last Meteor Mk.4 flight took place, as flying hours were not reported during this period, or when the last one left the Squadron.

Dec 1947
Jun 1949(?)
Airspeed Oxford Not actually assigned to 56 Squadron, but flown regularly by pilots for training.

Dec 47: "The two Oxfords which have replaced the two Harvards on the station flight were flown at every opportunity."

Feb 48: Last indication of Oxford hours. Squadron moved from Duxford the next month.

Aug 48: First indication of Oxford hours at Thorney Island.

Jun 49: Last indication of Oxford hours.

Apr 1947
Dec 1947
North American Aviation

Not actually assigned to 56 Squadron, but this Station Flight aircraft was flown regularly by pilots for training.

Apr 47: "A Harvard is available at Duxford shared between ourselves and the other two Squadrons, 92 and 66, and a good deal of instrument flying can be undertaken in future."

Dec 47: Last indication of Harvard hours.

Aug 1947
Percival Proctor No indication that this aircraft was actually assigned to 56 Squadron, but Operations Records indicate Proctor was flown regularly by pilots for training.

Apr 47: Operation Records start listing flying hours.  Proctor and Harvard listed, along with Meteor.

Aug 47: Last indication of Proctor hours.

1 Apr 1946
Aug 1948
Gloster Meteor Mk.3 Apr 46: 124 Squadron, equipped with Meteor Mk.3 aircraft, takes over 56 Squadron name plate.

Oct 46: "The Squadron has now been cut to eight aircraft and so we must bid farewell to the days of large Squadron "balbos" with which to impress our neighbours."

Aug 48: Last specific mention of Meteor Mk.3 hours.

Information taken from raf.mod.uk website, National Archives and, with kind permission, the 56(R) Squadron archives.  UK Crown copyright.