The official notification of the formation of No 6 Squadron appeared in the Royal Flying Corps (Military Wing) Orders for January 30th 1914 in the following terms.
“Captain JHW Becke will carry out the formation of No 6 Squadron commencing tomorrow. No 6 Squadron will be based at South Farnborough”
The Squadron deployed to France on the 6th of October, with the aircraft being flown via Dover to Bruges where they all arrived safely. When the first battle of Ypres commenced on the 19th October, the Squadron was based at Poperinghe.
A continuous thread throughout the life of No 6 Squadron is co-operation with the Army. The earliest recorded act of co-operation occurred on the 20th October 1914 near Lille, when the pilot of a 6 Squadron aircraft, having observed shells fall on a German battery, dropped a message to gunners of the 87th Royal Field Artillery. The message, believed to have been dropped in a bottle, read:
“You hit them. We must go home. No Petrol”
During the winter months of 1915 when no effective operations were possible, the squadrons of the Royal Flying Corps were engaged in developing the various means of air co-operation which the lessons of 1914 had taught them. In the domain of wireless telegraphy great progress was made. Experience had shown that the best method of signalling from an aeroplane was by wireless, and by the beginning of 1915 most of the initial difficulties had been overcome. Reconnaissance duties also extended to the aerial photography of trench systems, and for the March offensive on Neuve Chapelle, the whole trench system of the enemy had been carefully photographed from the air.
On the 10th of March, a notable operation was carried out by Captain Strange of 6 Squadron. His aircraft had been fitted with rudimentary bomb racks of Captain Strange’s own design, under the wings that were operated by pulling a rope in the cockpit. They flew to Courtrai and Menin respectively where they dropped bombs on railway junctions of strategical importance to the German reinforcement of Neuve Chapelle.
The summer of 1915 saw a marked development of aerial fighting. Reconnaissance machines had to fight hard to gain information. In the spring of 1915 they rarely flew above 6000 feet, but by the summer they were forced up to 12000 feet. Further, they were soon compelled to work in pairs, one doing the work the other acting as escort. On the 25th July, Captain Hawker of 6 Squadron was on patrol in a Bristol scout. After engaging two enemy aircraft, he successfully shot down a third. As a recognition of his determined attacks on enemy machines culminating in the above mentioned exploit, Captain Hawker was awarded the Victoria Cross, the second to be gained by the Royal Flying Corps and the first for success in air combat.
Six Squadron’s work continued with observation for the artillery engaged on counter battery work, registration, and corps reconnaissance. The great value of the work of No. 6 Squadron had a unique recognition. The squadron was specifically mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig’s first Despatch dated 19th May,1916. At the same time No. 2 Squadron was awarded a similar honour and these appear to be the only cases in which flying squadrons on the Western Front were so mentioned. Another important duty of Corps squadrons was contact patrol. This consisted of keeping in close touch with and reporting the position of troops in the front line during active operations. Throughout the Third Battle of Ypres each flight of the squadron maintained, weather permitting, two machines in the air continuously from dawn to dark doing artillery work.
The Squadron finished up the war with more contact patrols, ground strafing.and bombing.
The last war casualty of the Squadron occurred on the 5th November, 1918, when Second Lieutenants H.J. Berry (pilot) and H.A. Hamlet (observer) failed to return. These officers rejoined the squadron on the 12th November, having been well treated by the enemy who did not bother to send them to a prisoner of war camp!