The Black Arrows, one of the predecessors of the current Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows, were an aerobatic demonstration team formed in 1956 by Squadron Leader Roger L.Topp, then Commanding Officer 111 Squadron ("treble-one"). One of the many memorable feats accomplished by the Black Arrows was the execution of a World record loop 22 Hawker Hunter formation in 1958 at the Society of British Aircraft Constructors' show at Farnborough This was a world record for the greatest number of aircraft looped in formation, and remains unbroken to this day. After the loop the Black Arrows performed the world's first 16 aircraft barrel roll. Roger Topp handed over the lead of the Black Arrows to Squadron Leader Peter Latham in late 1958. Latham expanded the size of the team to 9 aircraft and led the Squadron for two years.
No. 111 Squadron were formed at RAF North Weald where they received the Hunter before transfer to RAF Wattisham in Suffolk. Until 1961, the Black Arrows were the RAF's premier team. In the early years of the 1960s the "Blue Diamonds" of No. 92 Squadron RAF and "The Tigers" of No. 74 Squadron RAF, equipped with the new English Electric Lightning, started flying. The large number of squadron display teams led to their replacement by a single unit from the Central Flying School.
111 SQN HISTORY Key Dates:
1917 - Formed at Dier-el-Belah, Palestine.
1940 - Flew Hurricanes during the Battle of Britain.
1958 - Looped 22 Hunters at the Farnborough Airshow.
Palestine 1917-1918*, Megiddo, Home Defence 1940-1942*, France and Low Countries 1940, Dunkirk*, Battle of Britain 1940*, Fortress Europe 1941-1942*, Dieppe, North Africa 1942-1943*, Sicily 1943, Italy 1943-1945*, Salerno, Anzio and Nettuno, Gustav Line, France and Germany 1944. Gulf 1991 and Iraq 2003 (No right to emblazon).
History of CXI Squadron:
Formed at Dier-el-Belah, Palestine on 1 August 1917 as the first dedicated fighter squadron in the region, its two main tasks were to restrict enemy reconnaissance flights and counter the increasing German fighter threat over the Suez. The Squadron flew a variety of types available including Bristol Scouts, Monoplanes and Fighters, DH2s and SE5s until standardising on the latter type in 1918. As the tide of the War turned, the unit started ground-attack patrols and such was the pilot's skill, that the Squadron was able to turn the Turkish retreat into a rout. 'Treble One' withdrew to Egypt after the end of the War and was renumbered No 14 Squadron in February 1920. 1 October 1923, saw 111 Squadron reform, this time at Duxford, but again with a variety of types namely Grebes, Snipes and Siskins, the latter eventually equipping the whole Squadron until the arrival of Bulldogs in 1931.
Five years later, No 111 received Gladiators, and in January 1938 the unit had the distinction of becoming the first Hurricane squadron. The Squadron flew as part of both Nos 11 and 12 Groups during the Battle of Britain and replaced its Hurricanes with Spitfires in April 1942. In November the unit moved to Gibraltar in preparation for Operation Torch - the invasion of North Africa - where it supported the 1st Army through Algeria and Tunisia before moving to Malta in June 1943 to cover the invasion of Sicily. With the Allies advancing through Italy, No 111 moved with them, remaining there until after the cessation of hostilities when it moved to Austria. It was disbanded May 1947 and did not rejoin the RAF's order of battle until December 1953 when it was reformed with Meteors at North Weald.
In 1955 the first Hunters had arrived, and two years later No 111 Squadron was nominated as the official RAF aerobatic team. At first the team, known as the 'Black Arrows', flew five and then nine aircraft until, at the 1958 Farnborough airshow, the Squadron, aided by No 56 Squadron, entered the record books when it successfully looped twenty-two aircraft! In 1961, the unit converted to Lightnings, successive marks staying until 1974 when Phantoms arrived. Following a move from Coningsby to Leuchars, the Squadron re-equipped with ex-Royal Navy Phantoms and these survived until the early 1990s when Tornado F3s became the Squadron mount.