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No 3 Squadron

Formed at Point Cook, Victoria, in September 1916, No 3 Squadron moved to England for training before deploying to France the following year. Squadron aircraft were used for bombing and reconnaissance missions in support of British, Canadian and ANZAC forces and, by the end of hostilities, the unit was regarded as the best allied reconnaissance squadron in the war.

One of the most unusual incidents of World War I occurred in December 1917 when a No 3 Squadron RE8 was attacked by six Albatross scouts. After bringing down one enemy aircraft, the gunner was mortally wounded by a bullet which passed through his chest before striking the pilot in the head, killing him instantly. Although damaged, the RE8 continued to fly by itself until it ran out of fuel and landed relatively intact in a snow drift some fifty miles from the scene of the combat. The Albatross bought down in this engagement was presented to Australia as a war trophy and is now on display at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

No 3 Squadron was involved in another unusual event on 21 April 1918 when two of its aircraft on a photographic mission were attacked by four German fighters led by Baron von Richthofen, the famous Red Baron. Despite the fact that these German pilots were the elite of the German Air Service, the lumbering Australian reconnaissance machines drove them off. Looking for easier pickings, the Red Baron made the mistake of descending to low level over the ANZAC front line, where he was shot down and killed. The Red Baron's body was subsequently recovered by No 3 Squadron and buried with full military honours. No 3 Squadron held the remains of his crimson red tri-plane in custody until they could be handed over to the authorities. Several components from the Red Baron's aircraft are now on display at the RAAF Museum.

After the commencement of World War II, No 3 Squadron sailed for Egypt, where, despite being heavily outnumbered, they provided air support to the 8th Army during the ebb and flow of the desert campaign. No 3 Squadron later participated in the liberation of Italy and Yugoslavia where the squadron was well regarded for its highly accurate attacks against enemy shipping. With a score of 217 enemy aircraft destroyed, No 3 Squadron remains the highest scoring fighter squadron of the Air Force.

After deploying to Malaya in 1958, No 3 Squadron Sabres and, later, Mirage jet fighters, operating from the Butterworth air base as part of the five-power defence arrangement.

Following its return to Australia in 1986, No 3 Squadron received its first Hornets and, with these state-of-the-art aircraft, the squadron continues its role as one of the nation's most vital defence assets. In early 2002, No 3 Squadron performed air defence operations from Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean as part of the coalition in the International War Against Terrorism.

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