No. 103 Squadron (RAF) "Noli me tangere" ("Touch me not")

About This Unit

No.103  Squadron (RAF) is included as one of the many RAF units to which a majority of Australian aircrew whoserved in Europe were posted during WW2, under the Empire Air Training Scheme, and in which they served fought and often died.

From the RAF Museum Website - link HERE (


Badge: A swan, wings elevated and addorsed. A swan was chosen because it is very strong on the wing and well able to defend itself.
Authority: King George VI, December 1937.

Having been formed in WW1 as No 103 Squadron, RFC, and after incorporation in the RAF it was disbanded in 1919.

It was re-formed in August 1936, as No 103 (Bomber) Squadron with Hawker Hind single engined two seat biplanes. During the Second World War No 103 Squadron made short-range day- and night-bombing attacks in 1940 with Fairey Battles (including attacks on the Meuse bridges and the "invasion ports") and suffered fearsome casulaties as did all of the Battle Squadrons.  

It successively re-equipped with longer-range aircraft such as Wellingtons, then Halifaxes and, finally, Lancasters.  In August 1943, it contributed 24 Lancasters to the force of 600-odd Bomber Command "heavies" which was sent to make the first-ever raid on the German V-weapons experimental station at Peenemunde.

The most distinguished Lancaster of them all, Lancaster III ED888 "M2" ("Mike Squared"), was resident for part of its career with No. 103 Squadron. The aircraft made its first operational sortie - to Dortmund on 4/5th May 1943, and on retirement in December 1944, had logged 140 trips (the first 66 with No 103 Squadron, then 65 with No 576 Squadron and then 9 more with No 103 Squadron) totalling 974 operational hours. This was a Bomber Command record and it is sad to reflect that "Mike Squared" was not selected for preservation after the war.



Mid Air Collision Elsham Wolds - 103 and 576 Squadrons 16th December 1943

An extract from

A Day I Never Forget by Marie Harris.

I was posted to the Ack Ack Site at Goxhill Haven as a driver in 1943. My duties were to drive all vehicles and any vehicle wherever needed. There were 3 of us girl drivers, Moira Turnbull, Nan Caulfield and myself. Although I say it myself I think we did a darned good job (must have done for they never gave us the sack!). It was quite a good site really, ATS and soldiers all got on well together, taking the good with the bad, no luxuries as such and not many "Passes Out".

Occasionally, when there had been a good night of shooting the enemy planes down, the Major and Officers would put on a dance and social night for us in the NAAFI. They would invite so many RAF and so many Yanks. It all helped to make a great night and lift our spirits and to mix or meet others who were doing what we were trying to do, keep old Hitler out. Most of the RAF were Air Crew and you would dance with one or two, get to know them a bit and have a great night, but knowing when you saw the Bombers taking off the following night they were up there doing the BIG BIT and come the next evening you would ask "where's Alec, Bob and Bill?" Just a shrug of the shoulders from their mates and you knew and felt sad, very sad.

As I drove around the lanes to wherever my duties took me at a certain time of the day you would see the Bombers going off and up into the clouds and away, you got used to it, up into one circle, two circles and third circle away on their mission and you would say to yourself and often loudly "Good luck lads, come back for that Tango."

It was one afternoon in December 1943 around 4.30 as I was driving a load of stores to another site in the Guy Truck, which had an open front and canvas covered back, going along this lane just wide enough for the truck and a ditch each side. Coming up to a farm on my right, it was very low cloud and the Lancasters were taking off into the circles, up and away, as I looked up and raised my right arm in a salute. They were so low and so near I felt I could nearly touch them.

One went into this low cloud and I was thinking it's a wonder they don't crash they are so close together, when in a split second as it came out of the cloud, God, it was a head on crash with another Lancaster, one almighty explosion and all Hell was let loose. It was awful, I couldn't believe what had happened practically over my head, just over the farmer's field. I was so stunned, streaks of fire shooting all over the road and my truck. I pulled on the brakes and jumped in the ditch but only for a few seconds thinking some of the crew could be saved, so I ran up past the farmer's house, bits and pieces lying all over, just passing a barn and someone caught hold of me from behind and wouldn't let go, kept saying "NO LASS, NO LASS there'll be nothing". It was the old farmer. In no time at all the fire engines etc. were arriving. I pulled myself together and went back to my truck in a daze and drove onto the site, still couldn't believe what had happened. When I pulled up at the Guard House I was just rooted to my seat and couldn't stop crying, thinking of the Bobs, Alecs and Bills whoever just blown to bits. It was awful and still is. The guard called the Sergeant who took one look at my truck with all the bits and pieces, burns on the canvas and said "she must have been under it." They took me into the Mess and gave me a cup of hot strong tea and 20 minutes by the round stove (they were really kind.) I felt better and had to get on with it, so back to Goxhill. On arriving our MT Officer was concerned; did I need to go to the MO? No Sir, I'll be OK but when I went to bed I couldn't shut my eyes, this terrific explosion flashed before me every time. I was like this for quite a few nights. Another thing I can't bear even to this day to watch a film with planes crashing. I'd shut my eyes or go out of the cinema.

Later in life I often used to think and wish I had gone back to see that farmer and I used to wonder if the families knew where their sons were lying. I was very pleased to hear that a Plaque is being dedicated in Remembrance to those poor souls. I can never forget them or what happened to them..
Driver Marie Harris W/44133 ATS.

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