56 Squadron

Squadron Motto: “Quid Si Coelum Ruat” (What if Heaven Falls)

Squadron Nickname: “The Firebirds”

56 Squadron probably have one of the longest associations with RAF Wattisham of any RAF squadron. They were formed at Gosport on 8th June 1916 as part of the Royal Flying Corps and have been awarded numerous Battle Honours for their exploits in both World Wars.

On 20th December 1946 56 Squadron arrived at Wattisham for the first time, with Meteor F3s from Acklington. However, the airfield was found to be not really suitable for jet fighter operations, so 56 Squadron left for Duxford on 17th April 1947.

56 Squadron returned to an upgraded Wattisham on 10th July 1958 when they arrived from Waterbeach flying Hunter F5s, which they traded in for improved Hunter F6s in November 1958.

In December 1960 56 Squadron started converting from Hunters to supersonic Lightning F1As, and in 1963 and 1964 a 9 aircraft display team called “The Firebirds” flew aerobatic displays for the RAF.

After upgrading to Lightning F3s in 1965, 56 Squadron departed Wattisham again on 11th May 1967, this time to be stationed at Akrotiri in Cyprus.

56 Squadron returned to Wattisham on 21st January 1975, equipped with the latest version of the Lightning, the F6.

In 1976 56 Squadron converted to the Phantom FGR2, which they flew from Wattisham until July 1992 when they handed over the Squadron Standard to the Tornado F3 OCU at Coningsby.

56 Squadron Phantom FGR2