The Royal Air Force During World War 2
30 to 39 Squadrons
No. 30 Squadron
Squadron Code: RS
Motto: VENTRE A TERRE (All out)
Thus unit first formed at Farnborough in October 1914, but not actually as 30 Squadron. This, it became on 23 March 1915 at Ismalia in Egypt. At the end of World War I, it was one of the few squadrons which were not disbanded.
By August 1939, it was found in Egypt and following Italy’s entry into the war in June 1940, it was placed on standby with nine of its Blenheims converted to the Mk IF (fighter) standard. Soon enough, they had flown their first scramble on the 16th, but victory in the air eluded them until the following month when Flying Officer Le Dieu in Blenheim K7177 shot down a Savoi-Marchetti SM.79 bomber raiding British warships near the great port city of Alexandria.
The unit was subsequently posted to carry out escort missions over the western desert and defend Alexandria until November 1940, when it went to Greece which was being invaded by Nazi Germany. There, its large Blenheims became sitting ducks for enemy fighters. Nevertheless, the unit soldiers on, and in March, was found guarding Athens. However, mile by mile, the British were forced out of Greece and the squadron began to fall back, ending up on Crete. By mid-April, the squadron had just four planes left and with conditions on Crete bordering on the intolerable, No 30 pulled back to Egypt. Here, headquarters rearmed it with Hawker Hurricanes and redeployed it into the defense of Alexandria. But the changing military conditions in North Africa, prompted the unit to leave Alexandria in December in favor of frontal airfields in the Western Desert.
By 1942, conditions in the Far East were deteriorating rapidly. No 30 embarked on the carrier HMS Indomitable in February and moved to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to defend Royal Naval interests in Colombo and Trincomalee. The unit arrived on 6 March, just as an attack by the Japanese 2nd Naval Air Division began to take shape. The Japanese struck on Easter Sunday, 5 April. In combat against a Japanese force numbering about 125 aircraft (including 36 Aichi Val dive-bombers, 53 Kate attack bombers with an escort of 36 Zeros), the squadron was soon in a fight for its life. There had been little advance warning of the raid.
Pilot Officer Don MacDonald later remembered spending the night in ‘readiness from about 2 am in bright, brilliant moonlight’. At first light, two Hurricanes lifted off to patrol and reported the most of the island was covered with some thick storm clouds. At 7 am, the clouds began to clear a little and some time later, half of the squadron headed for breakfast in the mess. They had just arrived back at 7.50 am, when they heard aircraft engines in the skies overhead. Looking up they spotted the Japanese air group. As pilots ran for their planes, a group of Val’s dived towards Ratmalana and bombed the airfield just as some of the Hurricanes took off.
It was a fiasco. Of the squadron's 24 Hurricanes, most had taken off. However, twelve planes were shot down and five pilots killed. In return they claimed eleven kills with seven probables and five damaged, but a majority of the wrecks were never found and indeed, the Japanese only conceded five losses.
Thankfully, no more attacks materialized. Finally, in February 1944, the squadron moved to eastern India to escort allied bombers over Burma and attack ground targets. In May, it withdrew to reequip with American-made Republic P-47 Thunderbolts, which it took back into action in October – this time as a dedicated fighter-bomber unit, supporting the British Indian Army's XV Corps. Operations of this type continued until May 1945, after which the Japanese surrender brought all future operational plans to a halt. The squadron disbanded on 1 December 1946.
Blenheim Mk I – 1938 to Mar 1941
Blenheim Mk IF – Jun 1940 to May 1941
Hurricane Mk I – Jun 1941 to Aug 1942
Hurricane Mk IIB – Mar 1941 to Aug 1942
Hurricane Mk IIC – Aug 1942 to Sept 1944
Thunderbolt Mk I – Jul 1944 to Jan 1945
Thunderbolt Mk II – Sept 1944 to Dec 1945
S/L UY Shannon, DFC – Jun 1940 to Jan 1941
S/L RA Milward – Jan to Jun 1941
S/L FA Marlow – Jun 1941 to Feb 1942
S/L GF Chater, DFC – Feb to May 1942
S/L AWA Bayne, DFC – May 1942 to Feb 1943
S/L SR Peacock-Edwards, DFC – Feb 1943 to May 1944
S/L TA Stevens – May 1944 to May 1945
S/L TH Meyer – Jul 1945 to Dec 1946
Ismalia, Egypt – 25 Aug 1939
Ikingi Maryut – 8 Jul 1940
Eleusis, Greece – 3 Nov 1940
Maleme, Crete – 17 Apr 1941
Amriya, Egypt – 16 May 1941
Idku – 14 Jun 1941
LG.102 – 25 Oct 1941
LG. 05 – 16 Nov 1941
LG.121 – 25 Jan 1942
Embarked on HMS Indomitable – 25 Feb 1942
Ratmalana, Ceylon – 6 Mar 1942
Dambulla – 31 Aug 1942
Colombo – 15 Feb 1943
Dambulla – 3 Aug 1943
Feni, India – 23 Jan 1944
Fazilpur – 12 Feb 1944
Comilla – 9 Apr 1944
Yelahanka – 25 Apr 1944
Arkonam – 13 Sept 1944
Chittagong – 5 Oct 1944
Jumchar – 10 Dec 1944
Akyab Main, Arakan Peninsula – 24 Apr 1945
Chakulia – 18 May 1945
Vizagaputnam, India – 3 Jul 1945
Zayatkwin, Burma ( Air echelon ) – 24 to 29 Sept 1945
World War II Aces
F/Sgt. Thomas G. ‘Tom’ Paxton – Aust. (5½ Victories; 4 with this unit) Summer 1941 to 5 Apr 1942 (WIA, DOW 7 Apr)
F/O Alan D. Wagner (10 Victories; 2 with this unit) May 1941 to Mid-1942 →605Sq
P/O James H. ‘Jimmy’ Whalen – Canada (6 Victories; 3 with this unit) Feb to Dec 1942 →101MU, 17Sq, 34Sq (KIA 18 Apr 1944, DFC)
Hawker Hurricane Mk IIB, Ratmalana, Ceylon, April 1942 Tropicalised desert-camouflage still adorned the unit’s aircraft when it arrived in Ceylon in March 1942 to defend the island against Japanese strikes. On April 5, Pilot Officer Jimmy Whalen in ‘RS-W’ was flying a patrol at 15,000 ft, when, in a few minutes he spotted an incoming raid of Aichi Val dive-bombers. He knocked down two bombers in his first pass and claimed another before Zeros forced him to break-off. In August 1943, Whalen transferred to 34 Squadron in India, flying combat patrols over Burma, frequently strafing and bombing targets. On one of these sorties on 18 April 1944, while leading six Hurricanes against Japanese ground forces in Kohima, his Hurricane was hit by AA fire and he crashed to his death. The squadron insignia, composed of a date palm tree is displayed on the top left-hand corner.
No. 31 Squadron
Squadron Codes: EE, 5D
Motto: IN CELUM INDICUM PRIMUS (First into Indian skies)
Formed on 11 October 1915 at Farnborough, the squadron transferred to India in November, arriving on 26 December, operating for the entirety of the First World War in Imperial India’s harsh northwest frontier.
Retained in the post-First World War Royal Air Force, No 31 continued its Northwest Frontier operations and in April 1939 converted to the bomber-transport role, equipped with Vickers Valentias to accommodate the squadron’s bomber-transport flight at Lahore. Douglas DC-2s arrived in April 1941 to augment the aging Valentias, and together, these supported the RAF station at Habbaniya during the axis-support Iraqi revolt that year. By September, DC-2s completely supplanted the Valentias and following the Japanese invasions in December 1941, No 31 relocated east to carry out casualty evacuation and resupply sorties in Burma. Heavy casualties and a lack of maintenance, prompted the unit to withdraw to Lahore to refit and requip in April, and it returned to the front the following month, dropping supplies to far-flung army units in the jungle. It pioneered tactics of flying over densely packed jungle, dropping with near accuracy, packets of supplies to ground forces operating behind enemy lines. It maintained frontline and rear echelon VIP flights for much of the year, with one squadron DC-2 even being placed on standby for the benefit of the Duke of Gloucestershire.
By January 1943, operations had hit 335 sorties that month, with 376,000 lbs of supplies dropped in the process. The arrival of military C-47 Dakotas in March greatly aided these efforts and in May, the unit even maintained a mail service to Imphal until the onset of the monsoon. By October, with the passing of the monsoon, sorties rose to a thousand a month; this rate being maintained until May 1944. By now, a Hurricane escort accompanied many of the supply drops, especially from January onward, when the squadron had begun flying the dangerous ‘Hump’ route over the Himalaya into China - an area patrolled by Japanese fighters. In Feb 1944, the squadron diverted its attention south and supported the Allied forces in Arakan, dropping supplies to the British ‘Admin Box’ and other strongpoints. Then in March, the unit dropped supplies to Maj-General Charles Orde Wingate’s Second Chindit Expedition (Operation ‘Thursday’), a task that the unit was all too familiar with, having undertaken similar missions during Wingate’s first expedition in mid-1943.
A respite came in July, when the unit relinquished its aircraft to Nos 52 and 353 Squadrons, and the crews and personnel went on leave. Deployed for second echelon duties at Calcutta, the squadron few several mail runs and experimented with glider-towing. In November, it returned to the front, flying the occasional night flight, dropping propaganda leaflets on the enemy. The year 1945 began with hectic pacing as the squadron flew 906 flights in those early months, supporting the British Indian Army's IV Corps in its relentless advance down Burma. Squadron activity became particularly focused on the advance on Rangoon, but the cadence of air operations mitigated as the Japanese fell back and eventually capitulated. With the end of the war, the unit moved to Singapore later that year and then to Java to support the Dutch in their fight against local nationalists. The squadron disbanded in Java on 30 September 1946.
Valentia Mk I – Jun 1939 to Feb 1942
Douglas DC-2 – Apr 1942 to Nov 1943
Douglas DC-3 – Apr 1942 to Apr 1943
Hudson Mk IIIA – Sept to Dec 1942
Dakota Mk I – Mar 1943 to 1944
Dakota Mk III – May 1943 to 1945
Dakota Mk IV – Feb 1945 to Sept 1946
W/C Reid, DFC – N/A 1939 to Dec 1940
W/C Nicholls – Dec 1940 to Jun 1941
W/C SE Ubee, AFC – Jun to Oct 1941
W/C HP Jenkins – Oct 1941 to Jun 1942
W/C WH Burbury, DFC, AFC – Jun 1942 to May 1943
W/C HA Oliver – May 1943 to Jan 1944
W/C WH Burbury, DFC, AFC – Jan 1944 to Jun 1945
W/C RO Altmann, DFC – Jun to Sept 1945
W/C BR MacNamara, DSO – Sept 1945 to Jul 1946
Lahore, India – 27 Oct 1938
Peshawar – Dec 1939
Lahore – Feb 1941
Drigh Road – 26 Mar 1941
Lahore – Sept 1941
Dinjan – Apr 1942 (Det, shared with No. 5 Squadron)
Dhubalia – 18 Feb 1943
Khargpur – 21 May 1943
Agartala – 21 Jun 1943 (Chindit support)
Basal – 11 Jul 1944 (For glider-tow training)
Agartala – 1 Nov 1944
Comilla – 1 Jan 1945
Hathazri – 6 Feb 1945
Kyaukpyu, Burma – 15 May 1945
Mingaladon (Air echelon) – Aug to 1 Oct 1945
No. 32 Squadron
Squadron Codes: KT, GZ
Motto: ADESTE COMITES (Rally around, comrades)
No 32 Squadron formed on 12 January 1916 at Netheravon and moved to France as a fighter squadron in May 1916.
Receiving Hurricanes in October 1938, it flew these on defensive patrols when war broke out in September 1939. Scrambles became routine, but no enemy planes were brought down by any of these sorties. Indeed on 12 January 1940, when a promising interception began against a Do17, the squadron found itself attacking friendly fire which forced it to break away. By May, the squadron was in France – flying patrols over northern France. Uninterrupted combat now broke out resulting the squadron’s haul of 16 enemy planes by the end of May.
When France fell, the unit returned to Britain and became attached to No 11 Group for the defense of Southeast England. Present for the opening blows of the Battle of Britain, the squadron mounted scramble after scramble, flying off planes which then returned from en engagement to refuel and take-off again. Often the planes never came back at all as was the case on August 15, when the squadron shot down one Me109 but lost two planes. Later that day, combating a raid of Selsey Bill, Flight Lt Michael Crossley shot down two Ju88s, Pilot Officer Humpherson shot down a Ju88 and Sergeant Henson claimed one Do17 and this time, all of the Hurricanes returned safely. A third scramble later over Croydon resulted in squadron pilots destroying three Do17s, one Ju88 and four Me109s.
Due to the scale of days like this, No 32 found itself relieved on August 28 and it went to the Newcastle area in Scotland for some well-deserved rest, its scorecard reading 71 planes shot down during the battle. Its lasting legacy of the battle, however, would remain in its pioneering of the head-on attack on German bombers – an unnerving tactic later copied by the Luftwaffe in 1943 for use against American heavy bombers.
In December, No 32 returned to the south, to continue defensive sorties for the next fifteen months, and began training for night intruder missions in May 1942 – while still equipped with Hurricanes. On August 19, it used its night-fighting experience over the Dieppe beachhead, operating under darkened conditions from 4:45 am to 6:50 pm. Then on 25 November, the unit began preparations to transfer to North Africa and arrived in Algeria on 7 December. Stationed at Phillipeville, No 32 flew air cover sorties in the protection of convoys and port facilities in the area, starting from the 20th. Its first kill over North Africa would not occur until two months later, but unit performed as best it could and gave up its aging Hurricanes for Spitfires in April 1943. The Hurricane operations wrapped up on July 27, but by now the North African campaign had already ended.
Moving to Italy in October, No 32 soon returned to Algeria, not going back to Italy until January 1944. Posted to Adriatic bases, the unit operated on the Dalmatian coast until October when it left for Greece following the German withdrawal from that country. In 1945, the squadron transferred again, this time to British Palestine in February, ending the war there on a non-operational basis, as an internal security squadron. Remaining in the Mediterranean after the war, the squadron disbanded at Akrotiri in Cyprus on 3 March 1969.
Gauntlet Mk II – Jul 1936
Hurricane Mk I – Oct 1938 to Jul 1941
Hurricane Mk IIB – Jul 1941 to Nov 1942
Hurricane Mk IIC – Nov 1941 to Aug 1943
Spitfire Mk Vc – Apr 1943 to Nov 1943
Spitfire Mk IX – Jun 1943 to Jul 1944
Spitfire Mk VIII – Dec 1943 to Jul 1944
Spitfire Mk Vc – May 1944 to Sept 1945
Spitfire Mk IX – Aug 1945 to May 1947
S/L RA Chignell – Oct 1939 to May 1940
S/L J Worrall – May to Aug 1940
S/L MN Crossley, DSO, DFC – 16 Aug 1940 to Apr 1941
S/L RAB Russell – Apr to Oct 1941
S/L T Grier, DFC – Oct to Dec 1941 (MIA)
S/L KL Smith – Dec 1941 to Apr 1942
S/L ER Thorn, DFC, DFM« – Apr to Sept 1942
S/L EJ Gracie, DFC – Sept 1942
S/L JT Shaw, DFC – Sept 1942 to Aug 1943
S/L D Carlson, DFC – Aug to Dec 1943
S/L MS Lewis – Dec 1943 to May 1944
S/L ND Harrison – May to Aug 1944
S/L GF Silvester, DFC – Aug 1944 to 1945
Kenley, UK – 1 Apr 1923
Gravesned – 3 Jan 1940
Manston – 8 Mar 1940
Gravesend – 22 Mar 1940
Biggin Hill – 27 Mar 1940
Wittering – 26 May 1940
Biggin Hill – 4 Jun 1940
Acklington – 27 Aug 1940
Middle Wallop – 15 Dec 1940
Ibsley – 16 Feb 1941
Pembrey – 17 Apr 1941 (Det at Carew Cheriton)
Angle – 1 Jun 1941
Manston – 27 Nov 1941
West Malling – 5 May 1942
Friston – 14 Jun 1942
West Malling – 7 Jul 1942
Honiley – 10 Sept 1942
Baginton – 19 Oct 1942
Phillipeville, Algeria – 7 Dec 1942 (Det at Maison Blanche)
Maison Blanche – 10 Jan 1943 (Det at Souk el Khemis ‘Paddington’)
Tingley – 21 May 1943
La Sebala, Tunisia – 19 Aug 1943
Montecorvino, Italy – 18 Oct 1943
Reghaia, Algeria – 17 Nov 1943 (Dets at Tafaroui, La Senia, Merrakesh & Foggia)
Foggia Main, Italy – 28 Feb 1944
Canne – 16 Jul 1944 (Dets at Leverano & Metokhi)
Brindisi – 26 Sept 1944 (Dets at Metokhi & Araxox)
Kalamaki, Mediterranean – 17 Oct 1944
Sedes – 13 Nov 1944
Ramat David, Palestine – 25 Feb 1945
Petah Tiqva – 27 Sept 1945 to 15 Mar 1946
World War II Aces
P/O Anthony R.H. Barton (6 Victories; 5 with this unit) 5 Aug to 10 Sept 1940 →126Sq
F/L Peter M. Brothers, DFC (16 Victories, 10 with this unit) Oct 1936 to 9 Sept 1940 →257Sq
S/L Michael N. ‘Red Knight’ Crossley, DSO, DFC (21½ Victories†) 1939 to Apr 1941 →USA, Detling Wing
P/O Victor G. ‘Jack’ Daw, DFC (6 Victories†) 1939 to Late-1940 →145, 242Sqs, NCD. Later AFC.
F/O Alan F. ‘Shag’ Eckford (9.1 Victories, 3 with this unit) Nov 1938 to Jun 1940 →242Sq → & Jul to Sept 1940 →253Sq
F/O Jan P. Falkowski – Pol. (9 Victories; 1 with this unit) Sept 1940 to Jul 1941 →315Sq
P/O John L. ‘Polly’ Flinders (5.33 Victories, all in 1940) 1940 to 1941
F/O Peter M. Gardner, DFC (8.33 Victories, 4.33 with this unit) Sept 1938 to Jun 1941 →54Sq
F/O Douglas H. ‘Grubby’ Grice, DFC (5 Victories†) Aug 1938 to 4 Jul 1940 (WIA) →Biggen Hill GC, Northolt GC, Boarscroft GC, North Weald GC, Tangmere GC, HQ 11Gp
S/L Thomas Grier, DFC (9.36 Victories) Early 1941 to 5 Dec 1941 (MIA)
P/O Rodolphe G.C. de Hemicourt de Grunne – Belgium (11½ Victories; 1½ with this unit) Jul to 18 Aug 1940 (WIA) →NCD, 609Sq (KIA 21 May 1941) Later CDG.
P/O John B.W. Humpherson, DFC (5 Victories; 4 with this unit) Jun to 23 Aug 1940 →607Sq
Sgt. Gareth L. ‘Garry’ Nowell, DFM« (10½ Victories; 1 with this unit) 20 to 23 May 1940 (WIA) →124Sq
P/O John F. Pain – Aust. (7.3 Victories; 2 with this unit) Jul to 18 Aug 1940 (WIA) →261Sq
P/O Karol Pniak – Pol. (7.8 Victories; 5.3 with this unit, 2 with PAF) 8 to 25 Aug 1940 (WIA) →257Sq
F/L John E. Proctor, DFC (9½ Victories, 2½ with this unit) 10 Jul 1940 to Apr 1941 →CO 33, 352Sqs (« to DFC)
S/L John T. Shaw, DSO, DFC (6¼ Victories; 2 with this unit) Sept 1942 to Aug 1943 →CO 122Sq, N/A
P/O Rupert F. Smythe – Ireland (6 Victories†) May to 24 Aug 1940 (WIA, DFC) →RFO
No. 33 Squadron
Squadron Codes: TN, NW, RS, SR, 5R
When No 12 Squadron left Filton airfield for overseas service, it left behind its auxiliary men who numbered so many that they were formed into a new 33 Squadron on 12 January 1916.
From October to March 1939, the unit operated out of Palestine but with Italy’s entry into the Second World War on 10 June 1940, it began flying patrols over the western desert the day after.
Three days later on the 14th, when two strafing Italian Fiat CR42s and a single Caproni Ca310 bomber hit the squadron's dispersal at Sidi Aziez in Libya, the squadron found itself under siege. The Fiats were more than a match for the squadron's Gloster Gladiator biplanes. Despite this, Flying officer ‘Dixie’ Dean downed one of the Fiats after shooting the pilot through the heart with a bullet. Another man, Sergeant J. Craig in N5768 and Pilot officer Vernon Woodward blasted the Caproni, setting the engines on fire and then watching it crash-land among British tanks from the 11th Hussars Regiment at Fort Capuzzo.
Retired to the Nile Delta by the end of July, the squadron patrolled Alexandria, while ‘A’ Fligth converted to Hurricanes in September at Amriya. Returning to the Western Desert with their new fighters in October, the squadron shot down three Savoi-Marchetti SM79 bombers on the 31st with another CR42 and two SM79s claimed as being probably destroyed. Completely outfitted with Hurricanes before the month was out, the unit operated out of Fuka, strafing ground targets until its withdrawal to Greece in January 1841 to combat an ill-conceived Italian offensive there which later drew in the Germans.
In February, it often escorted allied bombers raiding Albania, but things took a turn for the worst when German ground forces outmaneuvered the Greek Army by attacking from Bulgaria. Hopelessly outnumbered and soon fighting for its life, the squadron’s tally gives a graphic account of the upturn in combat. having settled at Eleusis and later Larissa, the squadron destroyed seven planes, probably destroyed another seven and damaged two in March. On April 7 alone, however, with the appearance of the first Germans, they shot down five Messerschmitt Me109 fighters, with more falling before the month was out. Indeed, the situation had become so overwhelming the squadron evacuated to Crete that April with its last four Hurricanes. Left behind were several seasoned RAF aces and regulars, who had died needlessly with little to show for it, including the squadron commander, the great South African ace, Marmaduke St. John Pattle who had been killed in action.
On Crete, the unit amalgamated with 80 Squadron to form the ‘Hurricane Unit, Crete’. But the German airborne invasion in May wreaked havoc. With the airfields captured and the island tottering on the brink of capitulation, the squadron broke up. A few survivors got away by ship and only one surviving Hurricane returned to Egypt on 19 May. Most of the ground crews had been captured when the airfields fell, but many escaped on the 28th, getting away on the Royal Navy’s last evacuation runs before the island surrendered.
Brought back to operational strength in Egypt by being attached to 30 Squadron at Amriya, No 33 resumed operations over the Western Desert in June. On the 17th, it reopened its account by shooting down three enemy planes for the loss of one hurricane. In July, working with the Royal Navy’s 806 Squadron equipped with Sea Hurricanes, it maintained the air defense of Heliopolis, seeing occasionally combat against raiding Ju88s. In September though, it returned to the desert to escort reconnaissance aircraft ranging over the battlefield from Sidi Barrani. Twice bounced by enemy fighters during this time, the unit suffered terrific casualties.
In February 1942, the squadron received US-made P-40 Tomhawks and Kittyhawks, but replaced them with Hurricane Mk IIBs almost immediately. As 1942 proved the decisive year for the North African campaign, the squadron spent the next busy months, moving and retreating from airbase to airbase as the ground situation changed. By September, it claimed its 200th kill of the war when the Flight Lt Lance Wade, an American volunteer shot down an Me109 on September 2 over the El Alamein battle. After the Allied victory at El Alemein in November, No 33 flew air cover for convoys and protected coastal assets in recaptured Libya. It remained in North Africa until January 1944, after which it moved back to Britain to equip with Spitfire Mk IXs. Here, the squadron joined the North Weald Wing on 1 May and began escort missions and fighter sweeps from the 19th.
On D-Day it patrolled the beachhead and escorted glider reinforcements destined for the British 6th Airborne Division fighting near Caen. In August, ti deployed to continental bases, staying there until December when it returned to England to reequip with Hawker Tempests. With these, No 33 went back to the continent in February 1945, and went into the fight to maintain air supremacy over enemy territory, scoring its first kills on the 25th by shooting down four Me109s and damaging another four. In all, the squadron claimed eight German aircraft shot down in this phase before the war ended.
Ending the war in Germany, No 33, in 1951, remained the last RAF squadron still equipped with Tempests. It later gave them for Hornets and disbanded four years later on 31 March 1955 at Butterworth in Malaya.
Gladiator Mk I – Feb 1938 to Jun 1940
Gauntlet Mk II – Feb to Mar 1940
Gladiator Mk II – Mar to Oct 1940
Hurricane Mk I – Sept 1940 to Feb 1942
Hurricane IIB – Mar to Jun 1942
Hurricane Mk IIC – Jun 1942 to Dec 1943
Spitfire Mk Vb – Feb to Jun 1943
Spitfire Mk Vb – Nov 1943 to Feb 1944
Spitfire Mk Vc – Dec 1943 to Apr 1944
Spitfire Mk LF.IXe – Dec 1943 to Dec 1944
Tempest Mk V – 20 Dec 1944 to Nov 1946
S/L HD McGregor – Sept 1938 to Dec 1939
S/L DV Johnson – Dec 1939 to Aug 1940
S/L C Ryley – Aug 1940 to Mar 1941
S/L MT St.J Pattle, DFC« – Mar to Apr 1941 (KIA)
S/L JW Marsden – Jul to Dec 1941
S/L DL Gould – Dec 1941 to May 1942
S/L J Proctor, DFC« – May to Jul 1942
S/L JFF Finnis – Jul to Nov 1942
S/L SC Norris, DFC« – Nov 1942 to Feb 1943
S/L G May – Feb to Sept 1943
S/L RR Mitchell, DFC – Sept 1943 to Sept 1944
S/L IGS Matthews, DFC – Sept 1944 to Mar 1945
S/L AW Bower – Mar 1945 to Jun 1946
Mersah Matruh, Egypt – 1 Sept 1939
Qasaba – 23 Oct 1939
Mersah Matruh – 28 Oct 1939 (Det at Sidi Barrani)
Qasaba – 17 Jun 1940 (Dets at Gerawala & Sidi Barrani)
Helwan – 25 Jun 1940
Fuka – 2 Sept 1940
Amiriya – 15 Jan 1941
Eleusis, Greece – 1 Feb 1941 (Det at Paramythia)
Larissa – 4 Mar 1941
Eleusis – 18 Apr 1941
Argos – 22 Apr 1941
Maleme, Crete – 24 Apr 1941
Amiriya, Egypt – 1 Jun 1941 (Dets at Heliopolis, Gerawala, El Gamil & Fuka)
Sidi Haneish – 1 Sept 1941
Gerawala – 10 Sept 1941
Giarabub – 8 Nov 1941
LG.125, North Africa – 20 Nov 1941
Msus – 1 Jan 1942
Antelat – 15 Jan 1942
Msus – 22 Jan 1942
Mechili – 24 Jan 1942
Gazala No.1 Airfield – 28 Jan 1942
Gambut – 3 Feb 1942
LG.101 – 10 Feb 1942
Gambut – 30 Mar 1942
Sidi Azeiz – 17 May 1942
LG.75 – 18 May 1942
LG.76 – 20 Jun 1942
LG.12 – 23 Jun 1942
El Daba – 6 Jun 1942
LG.154 – 27 Jun 1942
LG.172 – 24 Jul 1942
LG.85 – 27 Jul 1942
Idku – 5 Aug 1942
LG.85 – 31 Aug 1942
LG.154 – 3 Oct 1942
LG.172 – 23 Oct 1942
LG.101 – 12 Nov 1942
El Adem – 18 Nov 1942
Benina – 28 Nov 1942
Bersis – 11 Feb 1943
Misurata West – 24 Jun 1943
Bersis – 9 Sept 1943 (Det at Benina)
Mersah Matruh – 17 Jan 1944
North Weald, UK – 23 Apr 1944
Lympne – 17 May 1944
Tangmere – 3 Jul 1944
Funtingdon – 17 Jul 1944
Selsey Bill – 6 Aug 1944
Fairwood Common – 10 Aug 1944
Selsey Bill – 18 Aug 1944
B.10 Plumetot, France – 19 Aug 1944
Tangmere, UK – 20 Aug 1944
B.17 Carpiquet, France – 31 Aug 1944
Lympne, UK – 7 Sept 1944
B.35 Godelmesnil, France – 10 Sept 1944
B.53 Merville – 12 Sept 1944
B.65 Maldeghem, Belgium – 2 Nov 1944
Lasham, UK – 15 Dec 1944
Predannack – 15 Dec 1944
B.77 Gilze-Rijen, Holland – 21 Feb 1945
B.91 Kluis, Germany – 7 Apr 1945
B.109 Quackenbruck – 20 Apr 1945
B.155 Dedelsdorf – 19 Aug to 14 Sept 1945
World War II Aces
W/O Leonard ‘Len’ Cottingham, DFC (11½ Victories†) Dec 1938 to Sept 1941 (WIA) → OTU, NCD
F/L Ernest H. ‘Dixie’ Dean (5 Victories†) Apr 1940 to Jul 1941 →274Sq, N/A
F/O Charles H. Dyson, DFC* (9 Victories†) 1938 to 1941→NCD
F/Sgt. George E.C. ‘Jumbo’ Genders, DFM (9 Victories; 7½ with this unit) Earlt 1941 to Mar 1942 →103MU (last 1½ kills with this unit)
F/L James C.F. Hayter, DFC – NZ (7 Victories; 1 with this unit) Mar to Jul 1942 →274Sq
F/O Francis Holman (3½ or 8½ Victories†) 1940 to 19 Apr 1941 (KIA)
F/O John F. MacKie – Canada (7 Victories†) 1940 to 15 Apr 1941 (KIA)
S/L Marmaduke T.S. ‘Tom/Pat’ Pattle, DFC* – SA (50.6 Victories, 26.3 with this unit) Mar to 20 Apr 1941 (KIA)
F/O Perry R. St. Quinten – Rhod. (9 Victories; 7 with this unit) 1939 to May 1941 →56Sq
F/L Henry J. ‘Harry’ Starrett – SA (5 Victories†) 1940 to 20 Apr 1941 (WIA, DOW 22 Apr)
Sgt. William ‘Cherry’ Vale (31½ Victories; 1½ with this unit) Jul 1937 to Jul 1940 →80Sq
F/L Lance C. ‘Wildcat’ Wade, DFC – US (23 Victories, 13 with this unit) Sept 1941 to Sept 1942 →145Sq
F/O Peter R. Wickham, DFC* (10 Victories) Jun 1940 (Attached, 3 kills) →112Sq & Dec 1940 to Apr 1941 (5 kills) →122Sq
F/L Vernon C. ‘Woody’ Woodward, DFC – Canada (19.8 Victories†) May 1939 to 11 Sept 1941 →Training Rhodesia, CO 213Sq (* to DFC), NCD, AHQ Levant, HQ ME, ME Comm Sq
No. 34 Squadron
Squadron Codes: LB, EG, 6J, 8Q
Motto: LUPUS VULT, LUPUS VOLANT (Wolf wishes, wolf flies)
The squadron first came into being at Bromwich in Warwickshire on 7 January 1916 from a nucleus provided by 19 Squadron.
Posted to Singapore in August 1939, the squadron’s ground echelon left on August 12, with the air echelon following four days later. Following the Japanese attack in December 1941, No 34 (under the command of Wing Commander G.P. Longfield) fought against overwhelming odds, but since there were no reinforcements, was worn down and decimated. In February 1942 the ground echelon escaped Singapore and made it to India.
Reformed at Chakrata, India on 1 April 1942, No 34 took on Blenheim Mk IVs light bombers. Operations began on Imperial India’s rugged northwest frontier, but the main thrust against the Japanese quickly became a priority and the squadron began operating from Palel outside Imphal from November 2, strafing Japanese boats on the Irrawaddy and Chindwin Rivers. By April 1943, equipped with single-seat Hurricanes, the squadron became a fighter-bomber unit, beginning these sorties in November. In the following year, 1944, the unit was heavily committed over the battlefields at Imphal and Kohima, running ground attack sorties to weaken aggressive and well-entrenched Japanese concentrations. When the Japanese finally broke and withdraw back across the border to Burma, the army pursued, with the squadron in front providing top cover at Tiddim Front.
In November, the squadron left operations to take part in anti-malaria spraying in certain parts of India, but rejoined operations in mid-December. Serviceability now proved problematic and the squadron was operating at half-strength by March 1945. Thankfully, tough US-built Thunderbolts began to replace the Hurricanes this month, and these went into action in April with devastating effect. When bad weather began to affect operations, No 34 flew leaflet flights. Although the value of these flights is debatable, there does exist one famous wartime photo showing a resigned Japanese soldier approaching British troops clutching a leaflet extolling him to surrender.
With victory in Burma and elsewhere in August, No 34 found itself a casualty of the accountants and disbanded on 15 October 1945 at Zayatkwin, taking its consolation in that its dissolution had come upon in the very country that it had campaigned hard for.
Blenheim Mk I – Jul 1938 to Jul 1943
Blenheim Mk IV – 1941 to Jul 1943
Hurricane Mk IIC – Aug 1943 to Apr 1945
Hurricane Mk IIB – Dec 1943 to 1944
Thunderbolt Mk II – Mar to 15 Oct 1945
W/C GP Longfield - 1941
S/L CPA Newman, DFC* – Aug 1943 to Jun 1944
S/L JA Bushbridge – Jun 1944 to Apr 1945
S/L GTA Douglas – May to Oct 1945
In Transit to Singapore (Air ech) – 12 Aug 1939
(Grnd ech) – 16 Aug 1939
Tengah, Singapore – 10 Sept 1939
Palembang, Java – 18 Jan 1942
Lahat – 15 Februray 1942
Batavia – 18 to 20 Feb 1942
Chakrata, India – 1 Apr 1942
Allahabad – 15 Apr 1942
Ondal – 17 Jun 1942
Jessore – 30 Jan 1943
Silchar – 7 Mar 1943
Kumbhirgram – 18 Mar 1943
St. Thomas Mount – 3 May 1943
Cholvarum – 15 Sept 1943
Alipore – 15 Oct 1943
Palel – 1 Nov 1943
Deragon – 10 Apr 1944
Palel – 15 Jul 1944
Yazagyo, Burma – 20 Dec 1944
Onbauk – 23 Jan 1945
Ondaw – 15 Mar 1945
Kwetnge – 20 Apr 1945
Kinmagan – 1 Jun 1945
Meiktila – 1 Jul 1945
Zayatkwin – 18 Aug to 15 Oct 1945
No. 35 (Madras Presidency) Squadron
Squadron Codes: WT, TL
Motto: UNO ANIMO AGIMUS (We act with one accord)
The squadron formed on 1 February 1916 at Thetford, Norfolk from a nucleus flight provided by 9 (Reserve) Squadron. I
During the Abyssinian crisis in 1935, the unit moved to the Sudan before returning to England. It employed the usual pre-war fare of antiquated machines, such as Wellesleys and later Fairy Battles. At the outbreak of war in September 1939, the unit did not initially go to France as did the other Battle squadrons. Remaining in England as a training unit, it mixed with 207 Squadron to become the No 1 Group Pool, a force which later became the 17 Operational Training Unit on 8 April 1940.
Virtually disbanded by this last move, a new 35 Squadron formed on 5 November in No 4 Group with the express purpose of introducing the new Handley-Page Halifax bomber into service. The Halifax, touted as the next generation of British bombers, flew its first combat sortie on the night of 11/12 March 1941. The target: Le Havre. Of the six aircraft dispatched, four attacked the primary target while another, unable to see either the primary or the alternative target (Boulogne), bombed Dieppe instead. The sixth aircraft, failing to see the target even after repeated circuits and having insufficient fuel reach the secondary target, jettisoned its bombs in the Channel. Unfortunately, one of the aircraft that had bombed Le Havre was mistaken for an enemy aircraft on its return and was shot down by a British nightfighter over the Surrey town of Normandy. Only two of the crew – the pilot and the flight engineer – escaped.
In 1942, the unit became one of the first five trial pathfinder squadrons and on 30/31 May 1942, participated in the first thousand-bomber raid on Cologne. Transferred to No 8 (Pathfinder Force) Group on 15 August, the unit became a dedicated pathfinder unit and introduced (along with 7 squadron) H2S, the revolutionary British ground mapping radar into operational service.
The rest of 35 Squadron’s war was spent in historic raids, such as the raid on Le Cruesot (19/20 June 1943), the Peenemünde attack (17/18 August 1943) and others. In March 1944, the unit replaced its Halifaxes with more capable Avro Lancasters, and on D-Day (6 June 1944), attacked two German coastal batteries – one at Maisey and the other at Longues. The squadron also took part in hammering German gun batteries on Walchern Island, guarding the entrance to Antwerp harbor and it bombed German lines of communication during the Battle of the Bulge in the winter in late 1944 and early 1945.
Following the end of the war, the squadron flew a goodwill tour of the United States in July and August 1946 before disbanding on 23 September. The wartime awards gained by squadron members amount to: 19 DSOs, six bars to DSOs, 1 MC (Military Cross), 295 DFCs, 27 bars to DFCs, 4 CGMs (Conspicious Gallantry Medal), 173 DFMs and two bars to DFMs.
Battle Mk I – Apr 1938 to Feb 1940
Anson – Jul 1939 to Apr 1940
Blenheim Mk IV – Nov 1939 to Apr 1940
Halifax Mk I – Nov 1940 to Oct 1941
Halifax Mk II – Oct 1941 to Oct 1943
Halifax Mk III – Oct 1943 to Mar 1944
Lancaster Mk I & III – Mar 1944 to Oct 1949
W/C RWP Collings – Nov 1940 to Aug 1941
W/C BC Robinson – Aug 1941 to Mar 1942
W/C JH Marks – Mar 1942 to May 1943
W/C DFFC Dean – May to Nov 1943
W/C SP Daniels – Nov 1943 to Jul 1944
G/C DFFC Dean – Jul 1944 to feb 1945
W/C HJ Legood – Feb 1945 to 1946
Cranfield, UK – Aug 1939
Bassingbourn – 7 Dec 1939
Upwood – 1 Feb 1940
Boscombe Down – 5 Nov 1940
Leeming – 20 Nov 1940
Linton-on-Ouse – 5 Dec 1940
Graveley – 15 Aug 1942 to 18 Sept 1946
4 Group Halifaxes – 109 bombing, 6 leaflet
8 Group Halifaxes – 146 bombing, 5 minelaying
8 Group Lancasters – 202 bombing
Totals: 457 bombing, 6 leaflet, 5 minelaying = 468 raids
Sorties and Losses
4 Group Halifaxes – 717 sorties, 35 aircraft lost (4.9 percent)
8 Group Halifaxes – 1,776 sorties, 65 aircraft lost (3.7 percent)
8 Group Lancasters –2,216 sorties, 27 aircraft lost (1.2 percent)
Totals: 4,709 sorties, 127 aircraft lost (2.7 percent)
An additional 6 Lancasters were destroyed in crashes.
Handley-Page Halifax Mk II Series I, RAF Gravely, 1942 The Halifax was first British aircraft capable of striking deep into Germany with a satisfying payload, and it soon replaced the earlier generation Manchesters and Stirlings bombers. No 35 Squadron was the first to be equipped with the type, and took deliveries of the Mk I version on 23 November 1940.
No. 36 Squadron
Squadron Code: RW
Motto: ‘RAJAWALI RAJA LANGIT’ (Eagle, King of the sky)
This squadron formed on 1 February 1916 as Britain’s first home defense squadron. It came into being by expanding the Home Defense Flight at Cramlington to full squadron status.
Deployed to India in the 1930s, the squadron's Hawker Horsleys were flown to Singapore via Burma and Malaya, arriving in December. Initial activity centered on reconnaissance over Malaya, searching for decent landing grounds, but by March 1931, the unit began conducting exercised with the navy. Vildebeests replaced the Horsleys in July 1935; this obsolete aircraft still on squadron lists when the Japanese attacked in December 1941.
Heavy losses saw the unit pool its surviving craft with those of 100 Squadron, and eventually withdraw to Java and Sumatra, where the Japanese destroyed the last two surviving Vildebeests on 7 March 1942. At that, No 36 ceased to exist and when Java was overrun by the Japanese, the survivors were captured.
Reformed at Tanjore, India on 22 October 1942, the squadron took on several Wellingtons and began flying anti-submarine patrols off the East Indian coast for a time. The scarcity of Japanese submarine activity in this part of the world, however, ensured that both time and effort were wasted. It was therefore, a welcome relief then, when in June 1943, the squadron left India for Algeria. But here, once again, action was slim as the enemy had been run out of the Mediterranean. On 31 August 1943, Flying Officer Keady, piloting a Wellington spotted a U-boat and made a quick attack but the submarine seemingly escaped. In an effort to garner up some targets, the squadron began flying at night, but no contacts were made except for nightfighter German Ju88s. Then on 3 November, Sgt. Gallagher hit a spotted U-boat with depth charges, damaging it. Soon after, the following year, five more attacks were made on submarines, but with little concrete results.
Participating in the Anzio landings at Italy in February 1944, the squadron blundered upon three U-boats, but eager to make sure that their quarry did not escape at this time, they led the Royal Navy into the area. All three U-boats were reported sunk. Transferred again, this time to England, the unit conducted anti-sub flights near the Channel Islands. Moving to the Hebrides in March 1945, the squadron operated here until the war ended, disbanding at Benbecula on 4 June 1945.
Vildebeest Mk III – Jun 1935 to Mar 1942
Wellington Mk IC – Dec 1942 to Oct 1943
Wellington Mk VIII – Dec 1942 to Oct 1943
Wellington Mk X – Jun 1943 to Oct 1943
Wellington Mk XI & XII – Jun to Nov 1943
Wellington Mk XIII – Jun 1943 to Jan 1944
Wellington Mk XIV – Oct 1943 to Jun 1945
S/L RL Wallace – Oct 1938 to Dec 1939
S/L DSE Vines – Dec 1939 to Feb 1941
S/L RC Gaskell – Feb to Nov 1941
S/L GF Witney – Nov 1941 to 1942
F/O TS Percival – Oct to Dec 1942 (Acting)
F/L DE Hawkins, DFC – Dec 1942 to Jan 1943
W/C KJ Mellor, DFC – Jan to May 1943
W/C EK Piercy – May to Sept 1943
W/C DP Marvin, DFC – Sept 1943 to May 1944
W/C G Williams – Jun 1944 to Jun 1945
Seletar, Malaya – Dec 1941 (Det at Gong Kedah)
Tanjore, India – 22 Oct 1942 (Dets at Cholavarum & Vizagapatnam)
Dhubalia, India – Mar 1943
Blida, Algeria – Jun 1943 (Dets at Ghisoniacca, Protville, Tafaroui, Bone, Bo Rizzo, Gibralter & Montecorvino)
Reghaia, Algeria – Apr 1944 (Dets at Blida & Alghero)
Alghero, Italy – Sept 1944
Tarquinia, Italy – 15 Sept 1944
Thorney Island, UK – 20 Sept 1944
Chivenor – 30 Sept 1944
Benbecula – 1 Mar to 4 Jun 1945
No. 37 Squadron
Squadron Codes: FJ, LF
Motto: WISE WITHOUT EYES
Originally formed on 15 April 1916 at Oxfordness in Sufflok, the unit lasted barely a month when it was absorbed by an experimental unit at the base. Consequently, a new No 37 Squadron formed on 15 September as a home defense flight, charged with covering southeast Britain.
By May 1939, the unit was a bomber squadron equipped with Vickers Wellingtons and six of these immediately went into action on the first day of the war in September, carrying out anti-shipping sweeps over the North Sea. In November 1940, however, the unit transferred to the Mediterranean and started operations from the island of Malta. It moved to Egypt by mid-month. Its time with Bomber Command in England had been terse. Across a mere 688 sorties comprising 80 bombing missions and anti-shipping sweeps, plus eight leaflet raids, the unit had lost fifteen aircraft. From Egypt, meantime, No 37 began flights over Libya and a detachment even operated from Greece (before it was invaded), flying over Albania and Bulgaria.
In May 1941, the squadron’s Wellingtons were involved in British actions around Iraq’s Habbaniya airfield, during the axis-inspired revolt, and following the quelling of these uprisings, returned to Egypt for operations over the Western Desert and Italy.
Following British victory in El Alamein in November 1942, No 37 accompanied the victorious British Eighth Army in its advance to western Libya and Tunisia. In December 1943, the squadron moved to Italy, where in October the following year, it began to take on lend-lease Liberator heavy bombers. The Liberators became operational in December and bombed targets in Northern Italy, Yugoslavia, Hungary and Albania. Aside from these conventional bombing affairs, the squadron also mined the Danube River and flew aerial resupply sorties in support Marshal Tito’s Yugoslav partisans.
Remaining in Italy after VE-Day, the squadron moved to Palestine in October 1945, and back again to Egypt in December, disbanding there on 31 March 1946 at Shallufa airfield.
Wellington Mk IC – May 1939 to Dec 1944
Wellington Mk. III – Mar to Apr 1943
Wellington Mk. X – Mar 1943 to Dec 1944
Liberator Mk VI – Oct 1944 to Mar 1946
W/C FJ Fogarty – Sept 1938 to Jun 1940
W/C WH Merton – Jun 1940 to N/A
Feltwell, UK – 26 Apr 1937
Fayid, Egypt – 30 Nov 1940
Shalluffa – 17 Dec 1940
Menidi, Greece – Apr 1941 (Det.)
LG.09, North Africa – 25 Apr 1942
LG.224 – 27 Jun 1942
Abu Suier – 29 Jan 1942
LG.224 – 6 Nov 1942
LG.106 – 13 Nov 1942
LG.140 – 30 Nov 1942
El Magrun – 23 Jan 1943
Gardabia East – 14 Feb 1943
Gardabia West – 25 Feb 1943
Kairouan-Temmar – 30 May 1943
Djedeida – 15 Nov 1943
Cerignola, Italy – 14 Dec 1943
Tortorella – 29 Dec 1943 to 2 Oct 1945
No. 38 Squadron
Squadron Codes: NH, HD, RL
Motto: ANTE LUCEM (Before the dawn)
The squadron originally formed on 1 April 1916 at Thetford in Norfolk.
In the tense mid-war period, with the threat of hostilities looming, the unit reformed at Mildenhall on 16 September 1935 from the ‘B’ Fight of 99 Squadron. It was the first RAF squadron to be equipped with monoplane bombers (Fairy Hendons in November 1936). Wellingtons were received in November 1938, and the unit was operational with No 3 Group at the declaration of war in September 1939.
The early months of the war proved hazardous for day-flying bombers, but No 38 was fortunate not to have suffered terribly. In all, by the time the squadron left Bomber Command for the Middle East in November 1940, it had flown 659 sorties in 88 bombing and anti-shipping raids, but lost only seven aircraft on operations. Next based in Egypt, the unit carried out attacks against the Germans and Italians in Libya, Italy and the Balkans, but in January 1942, became a night torpedo bomber role. This was done largely to increase the British torpedo force in Egypt, and upon transferring to 201 Group, the squadron flew exclusively against naval targets. In January 1943, anti-submarine reconnaissance and minelaying duties were added to squadron duties. In a notable incident on 19 February, Flying Officer Butler, while escorting a convoy, chanced upon a German U-boat and quickly directed a British destroyer which sank it.
In Nov 1944, the unit moved to Greece, and began resupply missions to Yugoslav partisans in addition to its regular maritime duties. In July 1945, with the end of war in Europe, the unit moved to Malta and from September 1946 to March 1948, was based in Palestine. It returned to Malta after that, disbanding at Luqa airfield on 31 March 1967.
Wellington Mk IA – Dec 1938 to Jan 1942
Wellington Mk IC – Nov 1940 to Mar 1942
Wellington Mk VIII – Mar 1942 to Aug 1943
Wellington Mk XI – Jul 1943 to Apr 1944
Wellington Mk XIII – Jul 1943 to Jan 1945
Wellington Mk XIV – Jan 1945 to Jun 1946
Warwick Mk I – Jul 1945 to November 1946
W/C CD Adams – Feb to Dec 1939
W/C JEW Bowles – Dec 1939 to Aug 1940
W/C WPJ Thompson – Aug 1940 to N/A 1942
W/C Gosnell – N/A 1942 to Jun 1942
W/C JH Chaplin, DSO – Jun to Jul 1942
W/C CVJ Pratt – Jul to Dec 1942
W/C BG Mehard, AFC – Dec 1942 to Jun 1943
W/C FR Worthington – Jun to Aug 1943
W/C WWT Ritchie, AFC – Aug 1943 to Jan 1944
W/C Appleby-Brown, DFC – Jan 1944 to Jan 1945
W/C RR Banker, DSO, DFC – Jan to May 1945
W/C JH Simpson – May 1945 to N/A
Marham, UK – 5 May 1937
Ismalia, Egypt – 24 Nov 1940 (Air Ech)
Fayid – 30 Nov 1940 (Ground Ech)
Fuka – Apr 1941
Shallufa – 18 Dec 1940
Gambut, Libya – 1 Apr 1940
Shallufa, Egypt – 12 Apr 1941 (Dets at St.Jean & LG.05 Sidi Barrani)
Luqa, Malta – 9 Aug to 26 Oct 1941 (Det)
LG.226 Gianclis, Mediterranean – 1 Aug to 18 Nov 1942 (Det)
LG.101 Gambut, Libya – 18 Nov 1942 (Dets at Berka III)
Berka III, Mediterranean – 1 Mar 1943
Kalamaki, Greece – 11 Nov 1944
Grottaglie, Italy – 10 Dec 1944
Foggia Main – 2 Feb 1945 (Dets at Rosigano & Hal Far)
Falconara – 21 Apr 1945
Luqa, Malta –11 Jul to 15 Sept 1945 (Dets at Elmas & Benina)
No. 39 Squadron
Squadron Codes: XZ, SF
Motto: DIE NOCTUQUE (By day and night)
The squadron formed at Hounslow on 15 April 1916 as a Home defence Squadron.
The squadron transferred to India in December 1928, to patrol the Northwest provinces, but in August 1939, it left this dreary landscape for Singapore. Returning to India in April 1940, plans were made to move the squadron to Egypt. But the relocation was cut short when 39 Squadron diverted to Aden instead. From here, the squadron flew bombing raids against the Italians in East Africa until November 1940, when it finally moved to Egypt.
In January 1941, No 39 Squadron acquired some American Martin Maryland aircraft and became a Photographic-reconnaissance unit for the first time in its history.
The Maryland was a fast aircraft, with a top speed of 510 km/h (316 mph) at 12,000 ft, a ceiling of 26,000 ft, a range over 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles). In the air, it could hold its own reasonably, with a defensive armament of eight machine guns strung out over of its small body. By May 1941, the Squadron was carrying out armed reconnaissance sorties over the Western Desert, southern Greece and Crete. During one patrol over Crete, a squadron pilot, Flight Lieutenant Lenton was shot down by enemy fighter, but took this as an opportunity to stay behind and work with guerrillas on the island. He was later awarded the Military Cross for his courage. The squadron then moved to Shandur, by now composed of personnel from 18 countries.
Early in 1942, the unit posted a detachment in Malta and on 20 August, this detachment amalgamated with similar detachments from 86 and 217 Squadrons to form a new 39 Squadron. No 47 Squadron, meantime, absorbed the remnants of the old 39 Squadron in Egypt. On 1 June 1943, while at Malta, No 39 received its first Beaufighter Mk Xs. Soon relocating to Protville II, northwest of Tunis to form 328 Wing (together with 47 and 144 squadrons), the unit then flew to Sidi Amor on 21 October 1943 with a detachment at Grottaglie, near Taranto, Italy. With this, the partnership with the other squadrons under the 328 Wing broke and the squadron’s area of operations switched from the Mediterranean to the Adriatic. Anti-shipping sorties had become a squadron staple by this point.
On 20 November, the squadron moved to Reghaia in Algeria, trading its torpedoes for rockets. It flew for a time as a ground attack unit but in January 1944, changed its role again to that of convoy escort, protecting allied merchantmen from attack by marauding German Ju188’s – a vital role because of convoys transporting supplies and troops through the Mediterranean in support of the British 8th and the American 5th Armies in Italy. In February 1944, the squadron moved to Alghero, Sardinia to form the basis of a Strike Wing along with 272 Squadron. In May 1944, a few sorties were carried out with RP (Rocket Projectile) Beaufighters firing pairs of 25 lb (55-kg) rockets strapped together with metal brackets. Their primary mission was to search out and destroy German radar installations and that month, the squadron conducted its first rocket strike by destroying the radar station on Cape Camarat. The following month, night intruder attacks commenced over the Italian coast. Enemy shipping in the Aegean and Adriatic were attacked and strafing operations flown around Salonika.
On 13 July, the squadron moved to Biferno, Italy to fly offensive sweeps over Yugoslavia, primarily in support of the partisans. Here, they were on the active roster of the Balkan Air Force, RAF (comprising of sixteen squadrons and two Flights from five countries). Despite these far way commitments, targets in Italian waters still held a priority, as demonstrated during on 9 September raid, when the 51,000 ton Italian liner MV Rex, was sunk south of Treiste.
In December, when civil war had broken out in recently-freed Greece, following the German withdrawal, No 39 detached to Athens to operate against Communist ELAS positions in and around the city. In one operation, Beaufighters breached the walls of the Averoff Prison, allowing men of the British 2nd Parachute Brigade to enter and capture the stronghold. A ceasefire on 12 January 1945 stopped the fighting, and the squadron returned to Biferno, where it disposed of its Beaufighters and joined RAF Bomber Command. Missions now included the pummeling of targets in the Balkans and Italy. The squadron disbanded on 8 September 1946 in Sudan.
Blenheim Mk I – 1939 to Jan 1941
Maryland Mk I – Jan 1941 to Jan 1942
Beaufort Mk I – Aug 1941 to Dec 1942
Beaufort Mk II – Jul 1942 to Jun 1943
Beaufighter Mk X – Jun 1943 to Jan 1945
Marauder Mk III – Dec 1944 to Sept 1946
S/L AMJ Bouman, DFC* – Apr 1931 to Sept 1941
W/C RB Cox – Sept to Dec 1941
W/C AJ Mason, DFC – Dec 1941 to Sept 1942
W/C RPM Gibbs, DSO, DFC* – Sept 1942
W/C ML Gaine, AFC – Sept 1942 to Jun 1943
W/C NB Harvey – Jun 1943 to Jun 1944
W/C AR de L Innis – Jun 1944 to Jan 1945
Tengah, Singapore – 12 Aug 1939
Kallang – 9 Sept 1939
Lahore, India – 19 Apr 1940
Heliopolis, Egypt – 7 May 1940
Shiek Othman, Aden – 31 May 1940
Helwan, Egypt – 1 Dec 1940
Heliopolis – 23 Jan 1941
Shandur – 21 Mar 1941
Wadi Natrun – 8 May 1941(Dets at LG.39 Burg-el-Arab & Idku)
Mariut – 10 Oct 1941 (Det at Maaten Bagush)
Aboukir – 27 Dec 1941 (Dets at Luqa, Bu Amud & LG.05 Sidi Barraini)
LG.86 – 30 May 1942 (Det at LG.05 Sidi Barrani)
Shandur – 1 Jul 1942 (Det at Luqa)
Luqa, Malta – 20 Aug 1942
Shallufa, Egypt – 9 Dec 1942 (Dets at Berka, LG.101 & Luqa)
Luqa, Malta – 21 Jan 1943
Gianaclis, Medierranean – 27 Feb to 20 Jun 1943 (Det)
Protville II, Tunisia – 1 Jun 1943
Protville I – 17 Oct 1943
Sidi Amor, Tunisia – 21 Oct 1943 (Det at Grottaglie)
Reghaia, Algeria – 20 Nov 1943
Alghero, Italy – 19 Feb 1944
Biferno – 13 Jul 1944 (Dets at Hassani & Reghaia)
Athens, Greece – Nov 1944 to 18 Jan 1945 (Dets)
Rivolto, Italy – 8 Jun to 16 Oct 1945
World War II Aces
F/L Derek White, DFC (5 or 6 Victories; 1-2 with this unit, rest previously with special unit called Beaufighter Coastal Recce Flt) Aug 1943 to 1944 →N/A