Unit History: RN Air Station Filton
RAF Filton was a World War II, Royal Air Force Sector Airfield situated at Filton Aerodrome about 8km (5mi) north of the city centre of Bristol, England.
RFC/RAF Squadrons at Filton during the First World War.
In Jan 1916 No. 33 Squadron was formed at Filton, from elements of 12 Squadron, flying Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2 aircraft.
In April 1916 No. 42 Squadron was formed at Filton from crews of 19 Squadron Royal Flying Corps also equipped with the B.E.2 biplane.
No. 66 (Fighter) Squadron was formed at Filton in June 1916 with Sopwith Pup biplanes; the squadron moved on to France in March 1917.
August 1916 saw No. 62 Squadron (Training) Squadron formed from elements of No.7 Training Squadron - equipped with the Bristol F.2 Fighter from May 1917.
One of the Squadron Leaders was Montgomery Victor Murray Clube.
Between the Wars
101 Squadron was disbanded at Filton following its return from France in March 1919 where it had flown the Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2 as a night bomber squadron.
In June 1929 501 (Special Reserve) Squadron was formed at Filton as a day bomber squadron flying Airco DH.9A biplanes. Initially named ’City of Bristol’ it was renamed ’County of Gloucester’ Squadron in May 1930. It became part of the Auxiliary Air Force in 1936. The Squadron flew Hawker Harts and then the Hawker Hind light bomber from 1938.
World War 2
During WW2 RAF Filton was home to the Filton Sector (Part of No 10 Group RAF) Operations Room and Staff.
No. 935 (County of Glamorgan) Barrage Balloon Unit (Auxiliary Air Force) was at Filton from January 1939 with 2 Flights of 8 barrage balloons, and responsible for the defence of the Naval Yard at Plymouth as well as the airfield at Filton. The unit’s allocation was increased to 24 Balloons during August 1940 as RAF Filton did not have a defensive fighter squadron attached to defend the airfield. The No 11 Balloon Centre at Pucklechurch, north of Bristol, also came under the command of the RAF Filton station commander.
Squadrons stationed at RAF Filton from the beginning of WW2 included 501 (County of Gloucester) Sqdn (Auxiliary Air Force), now flying Hawker Hurricane Ic fighters, until 10 May 1940 when that Squadron moved to France; and 263 Squadron (reformed on 20 October 1939 at Filton) taking over some of the Gloster Gladiator I biplane fighters previously with 605 Squadron and still wearing that squadron’s code letter (HE). The Squadron went on to Norway in April 1940 operating from a frozen lake.
Between May and July 1940, No. 236 Squadron were based at Filton with Bristol Blenheim twin-engined fighters, flying defensive sweeps over the Channel.
In February 1941 118 Sqdn was formed at Filton flying Spitfire IIs on convoy patrols until January 1943.
Also in February 1941, Bristol University Air Squadron (UAS) was formed at Filton as part of 54 Group (along with Birmingham UAS). Initially flying DH Moth and later Tiger Moth and Harvard trainers. It continued at Filton until it was disbanded in 1946.
No 528 Squadron was formed at Filton in June 1943, flying the Bristol Blenheim and de Havilland Hornet Moth in the radar calibration role.
During the Second World War the Station Warrant Officer at Filton was Alec (Tubby) Kerr. Described in the Bristol Evening World in 1957 as one of the best-known Station Warrant Officers the RAF has ever known. SWO Kerr was awarded the MBE on the 13th of June 1946.
The Filton ’Blitz’
The airfield was attacked on 25 September 1940 just before mid-day by 57 Heinkel 111 bombers with Messerschmitt Bf 110 fighter escort. The Luftwaffe raid was primarily aimed at the Bristol Aeroplane Company’s works on the south side of the airfield. One of the air raid shelters on the airfield received a direct hit, five others seriously damaged and during the raid over 200 people were killed. Luftwaffe reconnaissance planes had determined that there were no fighter aircraft stationed at Filton prior to the attack but 504 (County of Nottingham) Squadron (Auxiliary Air Force) was moved in from 26 September 1940, flying Hawker Hurricane Mk1 fighters, as a result of this raid.
Post War Years
After the war years Filton again became home to 501 Squadron, which was reformed in May 1946 as a Royal Auxiliary Air Force day-fighter squadron equipped with Spitfire XVI (LF)s. These were followed in 1948 by de Havilland Vampire F1s, and the FB5 from Spring 1951. 501 Squadron continued at Filton until it was disbanded in March 1957, when the remaining Royal Auxiliary Air Force flying units were stood down.
Filton was also once again home to the Bristol University Air Squadron reformed in November 1950 as part of 62 Group. Initially flying de Havilland Tiger Moth T2s, these were replaced with Chipmunk T10 trainers; and also No 3 Air Experience Flight RAFVR (Formed 8 September 1958, moving to Hullavington in June 1989) also with de Havilland Chipmunk trainers.
Operating out of Filton from December 1947 was No12 Reserve Flying School equipped with six de Havilland Tiger Moths for RAF Reserve Pilot training and (from 1949) initially two (later three) Avro Ansons for Navigator training. This school was operated under special contract to the Air Ministry by the Bristol Aeroplane Company as part of the Volunteer Reserve Pilot training scheme. This continued until March 1953 when No. 12 RFS closed.
In the 1950s and early ’60s, Filton was designated as a V-bomber dispersal base. During the Cuban Missile Crisis (October 1962) Avro Vulcan V-bombers were at Filton and kept at ’immediate readiness’ status with engines idling.