As part of the on-going site update, the Lightning Squadrons page has been rewritten and nine new pages added, one for each squadron. Only the Nos. 5 and 11 Squadron pages has any text, it is hoped that the remaining seven pages will be completed in the future.
Nine front-line squadrons operated the Lightning; these were Nos. 5, 11, 19, 23, 29, 56, 74, 92 and 111 Squadrons. Although all these units had long and distinguished histories involving many types of aircraft and many different roles, the only parts of their histories described on these pages refer to the specific time that they flew the Lightning. These are, of course, only brief snapshots of events which happened over many years. For a fuller version of events, one must refer to specialist books written on the subject, many of which can be found in the Reference Library section of this site.
Following each unit history, there is a description of its badge and motto. The first squadron badges were issued in 1936 and often depicted designs that the squadron aircraft had carried unofficially for many years. Although not many people are aware of it, many badges have changed over the years. Initially, badges usually carried the squadron designation, such as Fighter, Bomber, Torpedo Bomber, Army Co-operation, Flying Boat etc. During the Second World War, however, these were omitted from all badges in case they gave the enemy any information on a unit’s purpose. Today, no designations are allowed, and all squadron badges say simply ‘Squadron’. In addition, Roman numerals are not allowed, although many badges used them at first. For further information on RAF badges, click on the link to the RAF Heraldry Trust in the Aviation Links page of this site.
There then follows a section on the markings carried by each squadron on its aircraft. On the Lightning, there were usually two places for the squadron markings, on the nose below the cockpit and on the tailfin. The nose markings took the form of rectangular bars on each side of the RAF roundel, while the fin markings featured a version of the squadron badge. However, over the years, these markings frequently changed, and it is impossible to cover every variation of marking, especially as many of them were only applied to a few aircraft or for a special occasion. Other changes occurred when the aircraft camouflage scheme was changed and the markings did not show up as well in the new scheme. It is often possible to tell roughly in what period a photograph was taken by studying the type of markings on the aircraft.
The most dramatic change of all came for a totally different reason. In 1966, after seeing how 56 Squadron had painted their famous red and white chequerboard markings over the entire fin area of their aircraft, the Defence Council decided that they could be seen too easily by the enemy and ordered that they be replaced by low-visibility markings, one officer remarking that they looked ‘more like a bunch of flying GCA huts than a front-line fighter squadron.’ However, for further and more detailed information on aircraft markings, the best source of information is a specialist book.