The creation of the Royal Flying Corps on 13 May 1912 saw the founding of the first three squadrons, numbers 1, 2, and 3. And although its numbering forever places it second, the early history of No. 2 Squadron is one of heroic firsts and bears out the Squadron’s informal motto, 'Second to None'.
No. 1 Squadron, using technology that had been in practice for decades, was a balloon and kite unit. From its inception, No. 2 Squadron flew fixed-wing aeroplanes, making it the first and oldest fixed-wing squadron in the world.
Flying BE, Maurice Farman, Breguet, and Cody aeroplanes, No. 2 Squadron developed expertise in long-distance flying and reconnaissance. With war on the horizon, the squadron was ordered to France. Lt H D Harvey-Kelly landed the first Royal Flying Corps aeroplane in France in 1914 and within a month became the first RFC pilot to down an enemy aircraft.
The 'firsts' continued for No. 2 Squadron in 1915. In an early bombing mission on Courtrai, Lieutenant William Rhodes-Moorhouse came under heavy fire from ground forces after releasing a 100lb bomb on a railway target.
Shot in the thigh, he turned back to base and sustained further wounds en route. Grievously injured, he insisted on reporting on his sortie before receiving medical treatment. He died the following day, 27 April 1915, and for his gallantry became the first member of the air corps to receive the Victoria Cross.
A second Victoria Cross was awarded to Lieutenant A A McLeod in 1918, after he and his observer, Lieutenant A W Hammond shot down three enemy aircraft. When the plane's fuel was set alight, McLeod piloted the fiery plane while Hammond shot down a fourth enemy aircraft.
Crashing in No Man's Land, McLeod pulled injured Hammond back to the trenches despite being injured himself by a bomb. McLeod survived his injuries and won the second Victoria Cross presented to a member of No. 2 Squadron.
In the more than 100 years since its inception, No. 2 Squadron has served valiantly around the world in both times of peace and trouble, and continues to live up to its reputation as 'Second to None'.