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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Squadron Mottos


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Odd question I know but when the first RFC squadrons came into being, who came up with the motto for each individual unit and who designed the squadron insignias?



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A fascinating topic!

Most of the squadron badges were not formalised until the 1920s, and the badges worn by the squadrons today are often totally unrelated to those drawn-up shortly after the squadrons formed. The Chester Herald was quite "sniffy" about many of the badges submitted for Royal approval, and many interesting suggestions were deemed "inappropriate". Some of these unofficial badges continued in use throughout the 30's despite lack of official approval.

As to their origins, some badges/mottos were imposed by the CO, and other units had a more democratic process.

Some examples:

80 sqn has a bell - after the CO who took the squadron to France - Maj. V D Bell

22 sqn - Pi, because their landing approach was over VII Wing HQ

5 Sqn has the maple leaf because of its close association with the Canadian Corps

etc. etc.

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Who designed the squadron insignias?


The geometric shapes that distinguished RFC units (usually white on PC 10-doped aircraft and black on clear doped aeroplanes) were allocated by RFC Headquarters. They were originally used by BE 2 units, but the scheme was widened in August 1917 when a proposed system for all RFC and RNAS units on the Western Front was adopted.

The squadron markings for two-seater units were painted out after 22 March 1918, as it was believed that the Germans could trace the movements of Army formations by the presence of aeroplanes from the squadron assigned to them, eg No 5 Sqn operated with the Canadian Corps. At the same time, single seater units were allocated new markings.

I hope that this helps.


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For Number 6 squadron (then) captains Lanoe Hawker and Louis Strange came up with the idea in 1915 of an eagle gripping a snake in the shape of the number 6 but they had some degree of difficulty in getting the design officially approved. The motto "Oculi Exercitus" (the Eyes of the Army) was an obvious choice as Number 6 was a Corps squadron working closely with the army.

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