Inter-War Years

The years immediately following the war were turbulent ones, as the Squadron was disbanded and reformed several times.  Ten days after the post-war disbandment, the 56 number-plate was reactivated on 1 February 1920 at Aboukir, Egypt, with the renumbering of No 80 Squadron, who were equipped with Sopwith Snipes and under the command of Squadron Leader Philip Babington, MC, AFC. The unit was officially disbanded again on 23 September 1922.  However, elements were hastily formed into a Flight and moved to Turkey for the Chanak Crisis (Affair), where they were attached to No 208 Squadron at Constantinople whilst maintaining the 56 Squadron identity.  The pilots that headed to Turkey were:

Flight Lieutenant JP Coleman, AFC Flying Officer VS Parker
Flying Officer GHD Gossip (Australia)* Flying Officer RT Shepherd
Flying Officer CL Cox Flying Officer JL Wingate
*Flying Officer Gossip, a WW1 Sopwith Camel ace born in Australia, was killed 24 April 1923.

Less than two months after their second disbandment, No 56 Squadron reformed with two flights at RAF Hawkinge on 1 November 1922, equipped with Snipes and the following officers:

Flight Lieutenant JST Fall, DSC, AFC (Canada)
Flight Lieutenant TC Luke, MC (Adjutant)
Flight Lieutanant CMcM Laing, MC, AFC (New Zealand) Flying Officer A Jerrard, VC
Flying Officer JT PaineFlying Officer FH Ronksley, MC
Flying Officer RS Higgins, AFCFlying Officer BA Davy, DSO, DFC
Flying Officer GRC SpencerFlying Officer HG Brookman
Flying Officer GAF BucknallFlying Officer MV Ward
Flying Officer AT Shaw (Stores Officer)Flying Officer RE Steggall (Accountant Officer)

Temporary command was held by WW1 ace Flight Lieutenant Joseph Stewart Temple Fall, DSC, AFC, until the arrival of Squadron Leader Ivor Thomas Lloyd on 22 November.  The third flight would return from Turkey August 1923, rejoining the Squadron at RAF Biggin Hill.  In October 1927, the Squadron would settle at RAF North Weald, where it would remain for the years leading up to World War II and participate in the initial phases of the Battle of Britain.  On 14 November 1928, the Squadron was allowed to have a phoenix as its crest with the motto "Quid Si Caelum Ruat".  This was officially awarded to the Squadron by the King in 1936, and presented to the Squadron on 13 October by Air Marshal Sir HCT Dowding, KCB, CMG.  The phoenix commemorated the ability of the Squadron to keep coming back.

Unsurprisingly, much of the inter-war years was spent training, and participating in competitions and displays.  In this, much work was done in support of Great Britain's anti-aircraft searchlight operations, with 56 Squadron conducting fairly regular exercises with Essex Territorial Searchlight Companies. Furthermore, annual 2-3 week trips to No. 3 Armament Training Camp, Sutton Bridge, were made for Air Firing training.  1929 was a banner year, as the Squadron won the Sassoon Cup Race (Flight Lieutenant CL Lea-Cox won the race "by a few yards"), the Map Reading Cup and the Air Gunnery Cup.  As part of the Air Gunnery win, Flying Officer PG Thomson won Brooke Phopham Cup with average of 88%; Flying Officer LR Stokes came 2nd with 83%.  The Squadron would again win the Map Reading Cup in 1932, the team consisting of Flight Lieutenant LG Nixon, Pilot Oficer HE Mayes, and Flying Officer R Smith (Reserve Sgt Bastin).

Between 1922 and 1938, the Squadron flew a variety of bi-planes. In February 1924, the Gloucester Grebe and Hawker Woodcock underwent "Type Trials" with the Squadron.  In September, the Squadron began its conversion from the Snipe to the Grebe. Type Trials were conducted on the Hawker Hedgehog in October 1924. The Grebe was followed by the Armstrong Whitworth Siskin IIIA in 1927, the Bristol Bulldog in 1932, the Gloster Gauntlet in 1936 and the Gloster Gladiator in 1937. These years also saw the introduction of a number of 'new' aviation technologies and techniques:

- March 1924: four Snipes fitted with "two-way R/T" [radio telephone] from the Royal Aircraft Establishment Farnborough.

- February 1925: Inland Area Aircraft Depot, Henlow, started R/T installation into Grebes.

- March 1928: "The Squadron gave a display of Formation Drill by R/T (aerobatics) at the Air Force Display for King Amanullah at Hendon."

- April 1928: "Flying Officer V.C. EYRE fell from his machine and descended by parachute" and, hence, was the first Squadron member of the Caterpillar Club.  Sergeant Pilot S. Trout followed days later "his engine having 'cut out' while night flying."

- April 1929: two aircraft fitted with new "combined R/T Transmitting and Receiving apparatus [transceiver] for service trials."

- February 1930: two aircraft fitted with "TRX1A combined R/T" for service trials.

- February 1931: "high pressure oxygen system fitted to one aircraft and used/tested.  All aircraft to be fitted."

- January 1934: "S/L. G.E. WILSON proceeded to Central Flying School for Instrument Flying Course", which had just been introduced to the RAF by a Flight Lieutenant WEP Johnson.  Flt Lt AE Taylor proceeded to the course 14 February.

In 1936, the Squadron re-organised into two flights vice three.  Later that year, in August, "Personnel of "B" flight [were] posted to form No. 151 (F) Squadron. P/O.J.M.THOMPSON, P/O.D.M.H.CRAVEN, A/P/O.K.H.SAVAGE posted to No.151 Squadron."

Continue to: World War II

Information taken from Operations Records available at the National Archives, the website and, with kind permission, the 56(R) Squadron archives. UK Crown copyright.