112 (Shark) Squadron
A Short History
Courtesy of Fred Heath

112 Home

Formation and WWI
With the commencement of bombing by German airships and later the much more deadly Gotha bombers the defences of the UK were found to be sadly lacking.  Existing fighter aircraft squadrons were fully committed at the Western Front and could be ill spared for home defence.
It was out of this need for home defence that 112 Squadron was formed in July 1917, first at Detling then shortly after at Throwley to defend the London area using Sopwith Pups. The Squadron pilots had to quickly learn about night as well as day fighter operations as the German bombers soon found that flying at night was much safer.  112 achieved greater success in the home defence role when Sopwith Camels were flown against enemy bombers from 1918.  Although re-equipped with Sopwith Snipes in early 1919 the Squadron suffered its first disbandment in June of that year.

112 Reforms and WWII
112 Squadron reformed on the aircraft carrier HMS Argus in May 1939 in Portsmouth harbour while en-route to Egypt. When Italy joined the war in 1940 112 Squadron, flying Gloster Gladiators (Mk2), flew fighter patrols over the Western Desert and the Sudan. January 1941 saw 112 Squadron moved to Greece to provide air support against the Italians and flew patrols over Albania.  During the German invasion of Greece the Squadron flew fighter cover for the Athens area but were later evacuated, first to Crete, before returning to Egypt. In July 1941 112 Squadron received Curtis Tomahawks (P40B) for fighter sweeps over the Western Desert (it was at this time that the shark mouth was first used by 112 although it was also used by German bf110 ‘Destroyer’ units and copied by P40D/E Warhawks in China amongst others).  The Squadron received Kittyhawks (P40D) in December 1941 and carried out fighter-bomber missions from May 1942.  The Squadron badge, a black Helwan cat emblem, (cat sejant) was designed over this period and presented to the Squadron in April 1942, probably reflecting the Squadron’s service at Helwan, Egypt at this time.

112 Squadron provided air and ground support for the ‘Desert Rats’ during the desert campaign advancing and retreating with the fortunes of the Allies.  After the Allied victory at El Alamein 112 Squadron advanced to Tunisia still providing air and ground support as required.  July 1943 found the Squadron in Sicily and, by September, in Italy.  Despite improved versions of the Kittyhawk (P40E) being delivered, the Squadron aircraft were obsolescent for the European theatre and the Squadron received the much superior North American Mustang MkIII (P51C) in June 1944.  112 Squadron provided air support for the Allied armies in Italy and Yugoslavia for the rest of the war with deliveries of the Mustang MkIV (P51D) from early 1945.  After a period of occupation duties in northern Italy, the Squadron disbanded again in December 1946.

112 Post WWII
112 Squadron was reformed and operated from May 1951, until disbanded yet again, in May 1957.  During this period 112 operated in Germany out of Fassberg, Jever and Bruggen.  The Squadron was again a fighter-bomber unit but using De-Havilland Vampires (FB5) complete with shark teeth markings (as were all the other later aircraft).  A conversion to the Canadair Sabre Mk4 (F86) (Licence built from North American) took place in January 1954 and a further conversion to Hawker Hunters (Mk4) occurred in May 1956, the Hunters being used until squadron disbandment.

112 Bloodhound
In August 1960 112 Squadron was reformed again at RAF Church Fenton as a Bristol Bloodhound Mk1 ground-to-air missile unit, later moving to its operational base at RAF Breighton, Yorkshire in November although RAF Church Fenton remained the Squadron administrative base.  Although disbanded in March 1964 when RAF Breighton closed, the Squadron was reformed in November of that year with Bloodhound MkIIs and was established at RAF Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire before moving to Cyprus in October 1967.

Although the whole Bloodhound system was supposed to be air transportable, being put together like a large Meccano set, they took all the units out by sea. The Squadron was initially set up at RAF Episkopi on the parade square and became operational by January 1968.  This state of affairs lasted for about three months before the Squadron was moved to a prepared site at Paramali West, about five miles West of Episkopi, becoming operational in June 1968.

Despite having its own site, 112 Squadron was administered from Episkopi for pay, messing, stores, medical services and accommodation for the single men.  Because of the uncertain political situation the Squadron was called upon to provide air defence cover several times when required, the continuing Arab/Israeli conflict and Turkish invasion of Northern Cyprus in 1974 being the most notable episodes.

Having been trained at RAF Newton in the past few months, a detachment of RAAF arrived in November 1970 to gain experience with the Bloodhound system.  They remained on site for some months, the single men being billeted with 112 Squadron personnel at Episkopi although they were not too happy with the conditions.  They departed after some three months for Singapore where they were to form the nucleus of a new Bloodhound deployment at Seletar, taking over the ex 65 Squadron equipment for SEATO and the Singapore Air Force.

25 years of service by 112 Squadron was finally achieved in 1969 although the request for a Squadron standard was not made until April 1971.  The presentation parade for the Squadron standard was on 29th September 1972 on a parade ground specially prepared in ‘Happy Valley’.  The Squadron dummy missile, often used during NEAF open days, was present together with its shark mouth markings and the 112 Squadron Helwan cat emblem. Up to this time the missiles in Cyprus had been painted white and, in full sun, could be seen for miles.  From 1974 a tasteful matt sand replaced the white as each missile became due for servicing so by 1975 all the missiles were sand to match the radar/LCP.
By 1975 it was all over for 112 Squadron, a disbandment parade was held on 1st July 1975 before the Squadron personnel were dispersed to other duties.  The Squadron standard was laid up in Ely Cathedral.
Fred Heath