No. 12 Squadron Royal Flying Corps was formed in February 1915 from a flight of No. 1 Squadron RFC at Netheravon. The squadron moved to France in September 1915 and operated a variety of aircraft on operations over the Western Front. In March 1918 the squadron was re-equipped with the Bristol F2b Fighter just before the squadron became part of the newly formed Royal Air Force. The squadron then based at Bickendorf in Germany was disbanded in 1922.
The squadron reformed at RAF Northolt on the 1 April 1923 to operate the de Havilland DH.9A. In 1924 it moved to RAF Andover and converted to the Fairey Fawn a single-engined biplane bomber. The Fawns were replaced in 1926 with the Fairey Fox, which influenced the adoption of the fox's head as part of the squadron badge.This is because No 12 Squadron was the only RAF user of the Fairey Fox and its performance was superior to other types i.e. it led the field. In 1931 the squadron re-equipped with the Sydney Camm designed Hawker Hart. In October 1935 the squadron moved to the Middle East, but returned to Andover in August 1936. The Harts were replaced by the Hawker Hind in 1936 and in 1938 the squadron was equipped with Fairey Battles.
On the first day of the Second World War the squadron moved to France to begin operations. On 12 May 1940, over the Albert Canal, Belgium, one bridge in particular was being used by the invading German army, with protection from fighter aircraft, anti-aircraft and machine-guns. The RAF was ordered to demolish this vital bridge, and five Fairey Battles from the squadron were dispatched. They met an inferno of anti-aircraft fire, but the mission was accomplished, much of the success being due to the coolness and resource of the pilot Flying Officer Garland of the leading aircraft and the navigation of Sergeant Gray. Unfortunately the leading aircraft and three others did not return. Flying Officer Garland and Sergeant Gray were both posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
The squadron returned to England in November 1940 and re-equipped with the Vickers Wellington at RAF Binbrook. The squadron moved again in 1942 to operate the Avro Lancaster. In 1946 the squadron re-equipped with the Avro Lincoln until in 1952 it joined the jet-age and re-equipped with the Canberra jet bomber. After 44 years continuous service the squadron was again disbanded in July 1961.
In 1962 the squadron was reformed to operate eight Avro Vulcan V-bombers, initially from RAF Coningsby then RAF Cottesmore equipped with Yellow Sun one megaton free-fall strategic nuclear bombs for medium to high altitude release. The advent of effective Soviet SAMs made high-flying bombers vulnerable, and in late 1966 the squadron took delivery of eight WE.177B strategic nuclear laydown bombs for low-level penetration missions, and still based at Cottesmore were assigned to SACEUR as part of the UK strategic nuclear forces deployed with that 450 kt weapon, that was intended as a temporary stop-gap until the UK Polaris force began to take over the strategic nuclear delivery role. The squadron stood down from this role at the end of 1967. and from 1974 with Martel missiles for non-nuclear strike. The squadron moved to RAF Lossiemouth in 1980, still in the same anti-shipping role. In 1993 it was disbanded once more.
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