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Webmatters : The Royal Flying Corps at Saint Omer

Saint Omer Aerodrome

St Omer connections

No 3 Squadron RAF

3 Squadron RAF

No 3 Squadron was the first Squadron to be based at Saint Omer arriving on 12th October 1914 in their Bristol Scout and SE2 aircraft.

They had been formed at Larkhill on 13th May 1912 from No 2 (Aeroplane) Company and were initially sent to France as a scouting unit.

Their motto ‘Tertius primus erit – The third shall be the first refers to the fact that they were the first unit to be given aeroplanes.

At the end of 1917, they were re-equipped with Sopwith Camels and became a fighter/scout unit.

Today No 3 Squadron fly the Eurofighter Typhoon.

In 1944 No 3 Squadron was equipped with Tempest aircraft with which it destroyed 288 V1 flying bombs (Buzz-bombs) launched from the coastal area of France. There are a number of historical sites connected to Hitler’s missile war in the Saint Omer area.

IX Squadron RAF

9 Squadron RAF

No 9 Squadron was the first Squadron to be formed at Saint Omer (indeed outside the UK) on 8th December 1914 and were initially equipped with BE2, Longhorn and Blériot aircraft.

Born out of the necessity of better co-operation with the artillery the squadron had been created by renaming the Wireless Flight of the RFC Headquarters. Three months later in March 1915 the squadron was absorbed into other RFC Squadrons only to be reformed a month later at Brooklands. They then returned to France with BE2Cs on reconnaissance and bombing tasks and subsequently with RE8s.

Their continued bombing role is reflected in their badge showing a bat and the motto ‘Per noctum volamus – Throughout the night we fly.

Today they fly Tornado GR4s.

No. 16 Squadron

16 Squadron RAF

No. 16 Squadron was formed from elements of Nos. 2, 5 and 6 Squadrons at Saint Omer on 10th February 1915. The unit flew more than its fair share of types including Voisins, BE2As, Bs, and Shorthorns, using them to pioneer the use of wireless to report enemy troop movements during the Battle of Aubers Ridge in May 1915.

During 1916, the Squadron standardised on the BE2C.

During the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the Squadron formed an association with the Canadian Corps that lasted until the Armistice. Along with so many other RAF Squadrons, No. 16 was disbanded in 1919.

Although the Squadron has been reformed a number of times it was finally disbanded in 2005.

Its motto ‘Operta aperta – Hidden things are revealed refers to its reconnaissance work and liaison with the Army.

The Squadron Standard was laid up in Notre-Dame Cathedral Saint Omer on 20th March 2005 where it remains today.

XLI Squadron RAF

41 Squadron RAF

XLI Squadron was formed on 14th July 1916 at Gosport. In September they arrived in France as a fighter squadron equipped with FE8s.

The aircraft were not up to the task and the squadron were re-deployed on ground attack missions.

In 1917 the Squadron received SE5As which were much more adept for the fighter role, though they continued to be used for ground attack tasks as well, explaining their motto of ‘Seek and Destroy’.

With close ties to the town of Saint Omer the squadron badge contains the cross from the town’s coat of arms.

Today they fly Tornado GR4s.

The Patriarchal Cross is an old symbol often connected to bishops. Saint Omer has been a significant ecclesiastical town for centuries eventually being elevated to the rank of Bishopric. The famous Cross of Lorraine is a variant.