The Royal Air Force During World War 2
40 to 49 Squadrons

No. 40 Squadron

Squadron Codes: OX, BL

Motto: HOSTEM A COELO EXPELLERE (Drive the enemy from the sky)

The squadron formed on 26 February 1916 at Gosport in Hampshire, going to France in August as a fighter squadron. Heavily engaged while flying FE8 pusher aircraft on the western front, the obsolescence of its aircraft showed in March 1917, when nine squadron FE8s were shot down while on patrol by Jasta 11 under Manfred von Richthofen, the famed ‘Red Baron’. The unit immediately re-equipped with the Nieuport Scouts and even more Formidable SE5As arrived in October. With these, the squadron went on to become an outstanding fighter squadron, staffed by many bright and capable pilots including the then Lt ‘Mick’ Mannock, the RAF’s greatest ace of World War I who scored six kills while with the unit. The Mannock link would be continued in the 1930’s when the squadron adopted a broom as its squadron insignia to echo Mannock’s famous saying: ‘Sweep the Huns from the sky’. By the end of the war, the squadron had destroyed 130 enemy planes and 30 balloons.

 

After the start of the Second World War In September 1939, the unit went to France with the Advanced Air Striking Force (AASF). At the time, it was equipped with obsolete Fairy Battles, but the unit returned to England in December to reequip with Bristol Blenheims.

 

Subsequently posted to No 2 (Light Bomber) Group, the unit continued operations over France, flying from RAF Wyton. In the summer and early autumn months of 1940, while the Battle of Britain raged overhead, the squadron struck at German invasion barges assembling off the French coast. In any case, the barges were never used and in November, the unit became a night-bombing squadron, receiving Wellington heavy bombers. It soon transferred to No 3 Group.

For some time, the squadron operated as a regular night bombing unit with 3 Group, but from October 1941, began sending detachments to Malta on a rotational basis. On 14 February 1942, one such detachment at Malta became 40 Squadron. The other 40 Squadron in England renumbered to 156 Squadron. Moving to Egypt as the aerial siege in Malta intensified, the squadron re-equipped with new Wellingtons and operated from the Canal Zone against enemy-held targets in Libya. Over a year passed in this manner. Then in early 1943, following the capture of Tunisian airfields, No 40 moved forward and in December, relocated to Italy, from where it was able to hit targets north of the Appenines and in the Balkans. Remaining in Italy for the rest of the war, the squadron returned to Egypt in October 1945, where it disbanded on 1 April 1947.

​Aircraft

Battle – Jul 1938 to Dec 1939

Blenheim Mk IV – Dec 1939 to Nov 1940

Wellington – Nov 1940 to Mar 1945

Liberator B Mk VI – Mar 1945 to Jan 1946

Squadron Commanders

S/L HC Parker – Feb 1938 to Jun 1940

W/C DHF Barnett – Jun to Dec 1940

W/C EJP Davey – Dec 1940 to Aug 1941

W/C LG Strickley – Aug to Nov 1941

W/C PG Heath – Nov 1941 to May 1942

W/C RE Ridgeway – May 1942 to N/A

Airfields

Abingdon, UK – 8 Oct 1932

Betheniville, France – 2 Sept 1939

Wyton, UK – 3 Dec 1939
Alconbury – 2 to 14 Feb 1941
Luqa, Malta – 14 Feb 1941
Shallufa, Egypt – 1 May 1942
Kabrit – 20 Aug 1942

LG.222A, North Africa – 7 Nov 1942

LG.104 – 12 Nov 1942

Luqa, Malta – 25 Nov 1942

LG237, North Africa – 20 Jan 1943
Gardabia East, Tunisia – 15 Feb 1943

Gardabia South – 13 Mar 1943
Kairouan – 26 May 1943

Hani – 25 Jun 1943

Oudna I – 18 Nov to 4 Dec 1943
Cerignola, Italy – 16 Dec 1943
Foggia Main – 30 Dec 1943 to 21 Oct 1945

Operational Performance (While with Bomber Command)

 

Raids Flown

2 Group Blenheims – 93 bombing, 13 reconnaissance, 3 sweeps
3 Group Wellingtons – 90 bombing

Totals: 186 bombing and sweeps, 13 reconnaissance = 199 raids

 

Sorties and Losses

2 Group Blenheims – 526 sorties, 53 aircraft lost (4.2 percent)
3 Group Wellingtons – 730 sorties, 31 aircraft lost (4.2 percent)

Totals: 1,256 sorties, 52 aircraft lost (4.2 percent)

An additional 3 Blenheims were destroyed in crashes.

Bristol Blenheim Mk IV, RAF Alconbury, Late-1940 Despite being an improved version of the earlier Blenheim Mk I, the Mark IV nevertheless did not enjoy much success as a daylight bomber. Heavy losses over Europe prompted a change to night operations or withdrawal to second line units. 

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