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. 

No. 41 Squadron

Squadron Codes: PN, EB

Motto: SEEK AND DESTROY

No 41 Squadron formed in June 1916, but almost immediately renumbered as 27 (Reserve) Squadron, and it was only on 14 July that the squadron came into proper existence, at Gosport airfield.

 

In January 1939, the unit became a Spitfires squadron and entered the Second World War that September with one flight in complete readiness. Their first combat action ensued on December 17 when Flight Lt John Webster attempted to shoot down a He115 - albeit without luck.  Finally on 3 April 1940, Flight Lt Norman Ryder downed a He111 near Whitbey, near the very place where Webster had tried his hand and failed some three months before. Hit by return fire Ryder nearly drowned when his ditched his Spitfire into the Channel and it sank before he could get out. He later recalled watching the water turn ‘from green to black.’ Several taut seconds passed before he could free himself and swim to to the surface.

Relieving 54 Squadron at Hornchurch on May 28, No 41 then flew patrols over the Dunkirk beaches, fighting it out with the Luftwaffe in brief skirmishes. Two weeks later, back in Yorkshire, the squadron awaited the beginning of the Battle of Britain, returning south only at the end of July. Those of its pilots who had not seen any action yet became bloodied in the next weeks of heavy fighting with the enemy. On August 15, its most jarring day, the squadron ran into 90 incoming raiders, but sweeping in, shot down four, probably destroyed four more and damaged four others. By the end of September, its tally for that month stood at 39 victories and the squadron’s total for the battle stood at 92 before the official end of the campaign that month.

When the Germans broke off the battle, the unit remained in the south, flying fighter sweeps over France in 1941. Tasked with the air superiority role, it escorted light bombers to raids on Western Europe regularly and mounted standing patrols. In June 1942, it moved to the east coast for coastal patrols and ad hoc night-fighter missions, although the Spitfire was completely unsuitable for this. On August 19, it participated in the Dieppe raid, but like so many other Spitfire Mark V squadrons, it suffered badly at the hands of the new Focke-Wulf Fw190s, evenly losing its commanding officer. Morale dropped precipitously and a deployment to remote coastal patrols off the Irish Sea was sanctioned for the unit to recover. However, in December, the squadron went to Tangmere in the south and equipped with specialized Spitfire Mk XII from February 1943. At this point, its fortunes began to pick up and soon it was in a second run of good scoring, with its Spitfire Mk XII’s positioned on runways at full readiness, ready to engage low-flying Fw190s conducting hit-and-run attacks on British towns and cities. On April 17, it scored off the first of these scrambles when Flying officer Hogarth shot down a Ju88 into the sea. By September, its tally had reached 150 kills with the destruction of an Me109 carrying Italian Regia Aeronautica markings.

Aside from this, the squadron also flew shipping recce sorties, offensive sweeps over France and even escorted American B-17 Flying Fortresses on daylight raids. On one of these routine operations, an Dutchman in the squadron, Flight Lt Bram van der Stok was shot down and captured. Interned at the Stalag Luft III POW camp at Sagan, van der Sok was one of over 50 allied airmen to make a break from their captors in the famous "Great escape" of 24 March 1944. While nearly all of his comrades were captured, van der Stok was one of three men who actually got away to England.

From April 1944, the unit began sweeps over Brittany, but went on readiness in June, when the German V-1 Flying Bomb menace began. A major part of Operation Crossbow, the offensive against the V-1s and their bases, the squadron was predominantly charged with the defense of south England.

In September, by now equipped with Spitfire Mk XIVs, the squadron moved to mainland Europe to join the 2nd Tactical Air Force in October. Assigned to 125 Wing from 4 December, the squadron began armed recce flights, a task it performed until the end of the war. Special birds now began to fall to the squadron’s guns including an Arado Ar234 jet bomber shot down Flight Lt Reid in March 1945. Next on April 14, Squadron Leader J.B. Shepherd came across an Messerschmitt Me110 heavy fighter towing a Me163 rocket-fighter and blew both up. 

Operations ceased on May 4, although the squadron continued to patrol the Hamburg to Boisenburg sector before moving to Denmark to oversee its liberatrion. Later station in Germany after VE-Day, the squadron disbanded at Wünstorf on 1 April 1946, by renumbering as 26 Squadron.

​Aircraft

Spitfire Mk I – Jan 1939 to Nov 1940

Spitfire Mk IIa – Nov 1940 to Aug 1941

Spitfire Mk I – Mar to Apr 1941

Spitfire Mk III – Mid 1941

Spitfire Mk Vb – Aug 1941 to Mar 1943

Spitfire Mk XII – Feb 1943 to Sept 1944

Spitfire Mk XIV – Sept 1944 to Sept 1945

Squadron Commanders

S/L GAG Johnston – Aug 1939 to 22 Apr 1940

S/L HRL Hood – 20 Apr to 5 Sept 1940 (KIFA)

S/L RCF Lister – 8 Sept to 14 Septemebr 1940

S/L DO Finlay – 14 Sept 1940 May 1941

S/L PE Meagher – May to Jun 1941

S/L LM Gaunce – Jun to 21 Sept 1941

S/L RJ Abrahams – 21 Sept to 27 Sept 1941

S/L LM Gaunce – 27 Sept to 19 Nov 1941 (KIA)

S/L PH Hugo – 20 Nov 1941 to 12 Apr 1942

S/L JC Fee – 12 Apr to 28 Jul 1942

S/L GC Hyde – 28 Jul to 19 Aug 1942 (KIA)

S/L TF Neil – 1 Sept 1942 to 25 Jul 1943

S/L B Ingham – 25 Jul to 20 Nov 1943

S/L IGS Mathew – 20 Nov 1943 to 25 Jan 1944

S/L AA Glen – 26 Jan to 26 May 1944

S/L RH Chapman – 28 May to 28 Aug 1944

S/L DI Benham, DFC, AFC – 28 Aug 1944 to 24 Mar 1945

S/L JB Shepherd, DFC«« – 31 Mar 1945 to 22 Jan 1946 (KIFA)

Airfields

Catterick, UK –25 Sept 1936

Wick – 19 Oct 1939
Catterick – 25 Oct 1939
Hornchurch – 28 May 1940

Rochford – Jun 1940

Catterick – 8 Jun 1940
Hornchurch – 26 Jul 1940
Catterick – 8 Aug 1940
Hornchurch – 3 Sept 1940
Manston – 10 Jul to 3 Sept 1940 (Det)

Catterick – 23 Feb 1941
Merston – 28 Jul 1941
Westhampnett – 16 Dec 1941
Merston – 1 Apr 1942
Martlesham Heath – 15 May 1942
Hawkinge – 30 Jun 1942
Debden – 8 Jul 1942
Longtown – 1 Aug 1942
Llanbedr – 11 Aug 1942
Tangmere – 17 Aug 1942
Llanbedr – 20 Aug 1942
Eglinton – 22 Sept 1942
Llanbedr – 30 Sept 1942
High Ercall – 25 Feb 1943

Hawkinge – 12 Apr 1943
Biggin Hill – 21 May 1943

Friston – 28 May 1943
Westhampnett – 21 Jun 1943
Tangmere – 4 Oct 1943
Southend – 6 Feb 1944
Tangemere – 20 Feb 1944
Friston – 11 Mar 1944
Bolt Head – 29 Apr 1944
Fairwood Common – 16 May 1944
Bolt Head – 24 May 1944
West Malling – 19 Jun 1944
Westhampnett – 28 Jun 1944
Friston – 3 Jul 1944
Lympne – 11 Jul 1944
B.64 Diest, Belgium – 5 Sept 1944
Y.32 Ophoven, Germany – 31 Dec 1944
B.80 Volkel, Holland – 27 Jan 1945
Warmwell, UK – 7 Mar 1945
B.78 Eindhoven, Holland – 18 Mar 1945
B.106 Twente, Germany – 8 Apr 1945
B.118 Celle – 16 Apr 1945
B.160 Kastrup – 9 May 1945
B.158 Lubeck – 11 Jul 1945 to 30 Jan 1946

World War II Aces

  1. F/L Cyril F. Babbage, DFM (7¼ Victories; 1 with this unit) Jun 1941 to 1943 →?, W/C

  2. P/O Henry C. Baker (5 Victories; 1½ with this unit) Aug to Oct 1940 →421Flt (91Sq)

  3. Sgt. Cyril S. ‘Bam’ Bamberger (5 Victories; 1 with this unit) 17 Sept to Oct 1940 →261Sq

  4. S/L Douglas I. Benham, DFC*, AFC (9 Victories; 2 with this unit) Apr 1942 to Febr 1942

  5. F/O George H. ‘Cyclops’ Bennions, DFC (12 Victories†) 1935 to 1 Oct 1940 (WIA) →Liason officer, US Forces, NCD

  6. F/L John G. Boyle (5.58 Victories†) May 1940 to 28 Sept 1940 (KIA)

  7. F/O Howard ‘Cowboy’ Blatchford – Can. (6 Victories; ¼ with this unit) 1937 to 20 Apr 1940 →17Sq

  8. P/O George A.F. ‘Buck’ Buchanan – Rhod. (6½ Victories; ½ with this unit) Late 1941 →249Sq

  9. F/Sgt. George F. Beurling – Can. (31.3 Victories, 2 with this unit) Early to Jun 1942 →249Sq

  10. F/O Patrick T. Coleman, DFC (5¾ Victories†) 7 Jun 1944 to 8 Aug 1945 →TC

  11. P/O Edward V. ‘Mitzi’ Darling (5½ Victories†) Jun 1940 to Jun 1941 →616, 602Sqs, OTU, 403 Sq (POW 2 Jun 1942) Later wartime awards: DFC.

  12. S/L Donald O. Finlay, DFC (5 Victories, 4 with this unit) Sept 1940 to Jun 1941 →11Gp (Last one kill here), 608Sq, 210Gp, 906Wing. Later DFC and AFC.

  13. F/L Fredrick A.O. ‘Tony’ Gaze, DFC** – Aust. (12½ Victories; 3 with this unit) 6 Apr to 1 May 1945 →616, 263Sq

  14. S/L Arthur A. ‘Pinkie’ Glen, DFC« (9 Victories) Jan 1941 to Jun 1942 (P/O, 3 kills) →603Sq & 20 Jul 1943 to May 1944 (2 kills) →FLS

  15. F/O Colin F. Gray, DFC – NZ (27.7 Victories, 1 with this unit) Aug 1941 (Unofficial) →81Sq 

  16. S/L Petrus H. ‘Piet/Dutch’ Hugo, DFC* – SA (22 Victories, 3 with this unit) Nov 1941 to Apr 1942 →Tangmere Wing (DSO), Hornchurch Wing, 322Wing (last 10½ victories with this unit, * to DFC), MAAF

  17. P/O Eric S. ‘Sawn Off’ Lock, DFC* (26 Victories, 23 with this unit) Aug to 17 Nov 1940 (WIA, H, DSO) →611Sq

  18. F/O Anthony D.J. Lovell, DFC (18½ Victories; 8¾ with this unit) Late 1938 to 23 May 1941 →145Sq

  19. F/L John N. MacKenzie, DFC – NZ (6 Victories†) Sept 1938 to Jan 1941 →NCD, 488Sq, RNZAF

  20. S/L Patrick E. Meagher – Ire. (10 Victories; 1 with this unit, 1 previous kill with a Sp Duties Flt) May to Jun 1941 →602Sq

  21. Sgt. John K. ‘Jock’ Norwell (5 Victories; 1 with this unit) Sept 1940 →Malta, Egypt, ADU Takoradi, Test Flying Egypt-Sudan-Kenya, 527Sq (AFC)

  22. P/O Geoffrey H. Ranger (5.3 Victories; 1.3 with this unit) Summer to Late 1941 →250Sq

  23. F/L Edgar N. ‘Norman’ Ryder, DFC (8¼ Victories†) Jun 1937 to Jan 1941 →56Sq, Kenley Wing (« to DFC, POW 31 Oct 1941, escaped, Recaptured 1943)

  24. S/L John B. Shepherd, DFC** (10¼ Victories; 7 with this unit) Mar 1945 to 22 Jan 1946 (KIFA)

  25. F/L Donald H. Smith – Aust. (5.3 Victories; 1 with this unit) May to Late 1943 →453Sq

  26. F/L John T. Webster, DFC (12 Victories†) Apr 1938 to 5 Sept 1940 (Collided with S/L HRH Hood, died)

  27. F/O Edward P. ‘Hawkeye’ Wells – NZ (12 Victories; 3 with this unit) Oct 1940 to Mar 1941 →485Sq

 

V-1 Flying Bomb ‘Diver’ Ace

 

  1. F/O M.A.L. Balasse – Belg. (7 Kills†) N/A to 23 Jan 1945 (KIA)

  2. F/L Terence Spencer (7 Kills, 1 aircraft†) Spring 1944 to Apr 1945 →CO 350Sq (POW 26 Feb 1945, Escaped Mar 1945, Rejoined 350Sq, ShD 19 Apr 1945, POW)

Supermarine Spitfire Mk XII, RAF Westhampnett, 1943 A hundred Spitfire Mk XII’s were built by Supermarine in 1943, using existing Mk Vc and IX airframes, modified to incorporate stronger longerons and a single-stage supercharged 1,730 hp Griffon Mk III or IV engine. They served as low-level interceptors and equipped two squadrons (the other being 91 Squadron). At sea level, the aircraft’s speed was 346 mph, rising to 386 mph at 18,000 ft. The service ceiling was 39,000 ft, but the aircraft was rarely used above 20,000 ft. Its excellent rate of climb (4,750 ft/min) also ensured that it was capable of reaching sufficient height to deal with fast, fighter raiders in as little time as possible. The aircraft also had clipped wings, which optimized maneuverability below 15,000 ft. Two 20 mm Hispano cannons and four 0.303-in. machine guns constituted the weapon compliment.

No. 42 Squadron

Squadron Codes: QO, AW, I2, QM, VZ

Motto: FORTITER IN RE (Bravely in action)

This squadron first formed on 1 April 1916 at Filton in Gloucestershire as an army cooperation squadron.

 

By June 1940, the squadron was operating Bristol Beauforts and flying anti-shipping and mine-laying missions. The primary area of operations was Norway. It first major target was the German pocket battleship Scharnhorst which was dive-bombed on 21 June - a raid which cost the unit three aircraft. Finally, on October 26 the squadron blew up its first naval target, a transport, at Asofjord. Two aircraft were shot down but the attackers had also destroyed a German Messerschmitt Me109 fighter. Soon maintaining a brisk 90 sorties a month, the unit began ranging over the English Channel. In February 1941, its torpedo attacks damaged two enemy destroyers and a merchant ship. In June, the unit went after another behemoth, the pocket battleship Lutzow, inflicting heavy damage. However, the British losses had themselves been heavy and the squadron was known to the press as being a hard-luck unit. The Daily Mirror knew it as “Death Squadron." The heavy casualties prompted the RAF to send Bristol Beaufighter heavy fighters to escort the squadron. Losses mitigated substantially.

On 23 February 1942, during a six-aircraft attack on the German battleship Tirpitz, a Beaufort flown by Squadron Leader W.H. Cliff, found no Tirpitz at its assumed location and upon turning back for home, lost an engine to a fire. Ditching in the sea, the crew took their dinghy, but had the frame of mind to rescue a carrier pigeon that they had carried onboard the Beaufort. Attaching a message to its leg, they sent the pigeon away. Eventually, the oil-stained pigeon arrived at Broughty Ferry. Quick-think rescuers deduced that the pigeon had landed on a tanker enroute to rest, and by plotting the tanker, extrapolating other factors such as flight time and the information in the message itself, found the crew.

On 17 May 1942, another German capital ship came under siege by the squadron, this time the Prinz Eugen, which was hit twice by torpedoes. Then, abruptly in June the unit received orders to transfer to the Far East. Arriving on Malta, the squadron was told to leave behind its aircraft on Malta for 39 and 47 Squadrons. But when German forces under General Erin Rommel advanced into Egypt, No 42 was handed new orders: get to Egypt and join 47 Squadron in bombing the Germans. Only when Rommel was beaten off in November did the unit set off for the Far East. It arrived at Ceylon in December.

Initially equipped with Bristol Blenheims in February, the unit converted to single-seat Hurricanes in August and became a fighter-bomber squadron. Operations began over Burma in December 1943, lasting until May 1945. During this time, No 42’s activities had involved operating using 40 mm cannons against tanks and vehicles and RP (Rocket Projectile) against ground targets, plus anti-malaria sweeps within India. The squadron disbanded on 30 June 1945, but reformed the next day when the Thunderbolt-equipped 146 squadron renumbered. Ground attack and anti-malarial work continued until the end of the war and until it disbanded again on 20 December 1945.

​Aircraft

Vildebeest Mk III – Dec 1936 to 1940

Vildebeest Mk IV – Mar 1937 to Apr 1940

Beaufort Mk I – Apr 1940 to Jan 1942

Beaufort Mk II – Jan 1942 to Jun 1942

Beaufighter Mk X – Jun 1942

Blenheim Mk V – Feb to Oct 1943

Hurricane Mk IV – Oct 1943 to Jun 1945

Hurricane Mk IIC – Sept to Dec 1944

Hurricane Mk IIC – Apr to Jun 1945

Thunderbolt Mk II – Jul to Dec 1945

Squadron Commanders

S/L H Waring – Dec 1938 to Dec 1940

S/L R Faville – Dec 1940 to Oct 1941

W/C Gibson – Oct 1941 to Jan 1942

W/C MFD Williams – Jan to Apr 1942

S/L WH Cliff, DSO- Apr to May 1942

W/C M McLoughlin – May to Nov 1942

S/L G May, DFC – Oct 1943 to Sept 1944

S/L JG Fogg, DFC – Sept 1944 to Feb 1945

S/L RE Stout – Feb to Jun 1945

S/L WM Souter – Jul to Dec 1945

Airfields

Bircham Newton, UK – 12 Aug 1939

Carew Cheriton – 23 Feb 1940 (Det)

Gosport – 7 Apr 1940

Thorney Island – 27 Apr 1940

St. Eval – 19 May 1940 (Det)

Wick – 19 Jun 1940 (Det at Sumburgh)

Thorney Island – 26 Sept 1940 (Det)

Abbotsinch – 2 Oct 1940 (Det)

Leuchars – 1 Mar 1941 (Det at Wick)

North Coates – 4 Apr 1941 (Det)

Thorney Island – 3 Jun 1942

Portreath – 10 Jun 1942 (Det at Sumburgh)

Left for Egypt – 18 Jun 1942

Egypt – Jul 1942

Ratmalana, Ceylon (Grnd ech) – 14 Oct 1942

Jalahalli, India (Grnd ech) – 10 Nov 1942

Yelahanka – 7 Dec 1942

Rajyeswarpur – 12 Mar 1943

Kumbhrigram – 1 May 1943

Yelehanka (Air ech) – Oct 1943

Palel (Grnd echelon) – Oct 1943

St. Thomas Mount – 10 Nov 1943

Palel – 7 Dec 1943

Kangla – 2 May 1944

Tuhila – 15 Jul 1944

Kangla – 15 Nov 1944

Onbauk, Burma – 16 Jan 1945

Ondaw – 14 Mar 1945

Magwe – 30 Apr 1945

Chakulia – 18 May 1945

Dalbumgarh – 22 May 1945

Meiktila – 1 Jul to 30 Dec 1945

Hawker Hurricane Mk IV, Burma, 1945 The Hurricane Mark IV was the final production variant of the famous Hurricane. The Mark IV incorporated a ‘universal wing’, capable of accepting weapon combinations. The normal armament was two 0.303-in machine guns, with the option of a variety of ground attack weapons, including: two 40 mm Vickers cannons; eight 60 lb rockets (which the above aircraft is seen carrying).

No. 43 (China-British) Squadron

Squadron Codes: NQ, FT, SW

Motto: GLORIA FINIS (Glory the aim)

No 43 Squadron, the famed ‘Fighting Cocks’, originally formed at Stirling on 15 April 1916, equipped with various types, serving as a training squadron.

By the onset of the Second World War in September 1939, No 43 was a veteran fighter squadron flying Hawker Hurricanes. It moved north to 13 Group in Scotland for defensive duties, but returned to Tangmere at the end of May 1940 for patrols over the besieged Dunkirk beaches. Its first kill had been made on January 30, when Flight Lt Caesar Hull and Sergeant Frank Carey shot down a He111 while on a convoy patrol. Two more Heinkels fell a few weeks later and when the squadron posted to the air defense of Scapa Flow in spring, they claimed three He111s shot down on April 8 and two damaged with one of crippled Heinkels landing at Wick airfield.

By the second week of June, following the flurry of activity over Dunkirk, the squadron scoreboard looked moderately decent, numbering in the double digits, but casualties had also been high. In fact, losses had been so grievous that the squadron was placed on temporary retirement as it replenished its ranks. The new pilots needed time to adjust to the aerial situation and No 43 could only enter the Battle of Britain in August. Soon in fighting it out with the German Luftwaffe, its scoring soared. By when it left the south for Scotland on September 8, it held 70 confirmed victories in its books.

Becoming a training squadron in Scotland, the unit did not return to the south until June 1942, to a virtually a different era of air combat when the potent Focke-Wulf Fw190 fighter was starting to enter service in the Luftwaffe, and the British had new equipment and tactics far removed from the Battle of Britain.

Deploying to Tangmere airfield, the squadron began fighter sweeps over France, but in September, prepared to move to the Mediterranean. Arriving in Gibraltar in November, the unit flew on to Algeria, landing at Maison Blanche on the 8th, uncertain whether they would be welcome by ex-Vichy-French forces or met with gunfire. It proved to be the former and the squadron flew its first North African operation on the following day, defending Algiers harbor. Soon enough when the harbor came under attack from German bombers, the squadron claimed one Heinkel and a Ju88 destroyed with two other planes damaged. Remaining in the Algiers area until March 1943, the squadron by now equipped with Spitfires, advanced with the ground forces, taking up airfields newly-captured Sicily in July, followed by a move to Italy in September to provide cover for the British 8th Army. In Italy, the squadron operated over the Naples beachhead and over the battlefields at Cassino and Anzio.

In July 1944, they next deployed to Corsica to cover allied landings in Southern France as part of Operation ‘Dragoon/Anvil’, staying on for the next six weeks before returning to Italy, adding a haul of 51 motor vehicles, 3 trains, 3 wagons, 1 howitzer and a miscellany of ground targets to its bag before it left. Taking up station at Florence, it joined 324 Wing in November and became a fighter-bomber outfit, bombing its first target, a bridge southeast of Faenza on the 21st. Later that year, the unit moved to the newly formed Balkan Air Force and flying from Italian bases, operated over Yugoslavia and Greece equipped with rocket-firing Hurricanes. Joining Allied occupation forces in Austria and Italy after the war, No 43 disbanded on 16 May 1947 at Trevsio, Italy.

​Aircraft

Hurricane Mk I – Nov 1938 to Jul 1941

Hurricane Mk IIA & IIB – Apr 1941 to Sept 1942

Hurricane Mk I – Sept to Nov 1942

Hurricane Mk IIC – Nov 1942 to Mar 1943

Spitfire Mk Vc – Mar 1943 to Jan 1944

Hurricane Mk IV – Oct 1943

Spitfire Mk IXc – Aug 1943 to May 1947

Squadron Commanders

S/L RE Bain – Feb 1937 to Nov 1939

S/L CG Lott, DSO – Nov 1939 to Jul 1940

S/L JVCW Badger, DFC – Jul to 30 Aug 1940 (WIA)

S/L CB Hull (Rhodesia) – 1 to 7 Sept 1940 (KIA)

S/L TF Dalton-Morgan, DFC* – Sept 1940 to Jan 1942

S/L DARG Le Roy du Vivier, DFC (Belg.) – Jan to Sept 1942

S/L RM Rook – Sept 1942 to Aug 1943

S/L E Horbaczewski (Poland) – Aug to Nov 1943

S/L PL Parrott, DFC – Nov 1943 to Feb 1944

S/L TB Laing-Meason – Feb to Jun 1944

S/L AH Jupp – Jun 1944 to Mar 1945

S/L JA Hemingway, DFC – Mar to Dec 1945

Airfields

Tangmere, UK – 3 Sept 1939

Acklington – 18 Nov 1939

Wick – 26 Feb 1940

Tangmere – 31 May 1940
Northolt – 23 Jul 1940

Tangmere – 1 Aug 1940
Usworth – 8 Sept 1940

Drem – 12 Dec 1940

Acklington – 4 Oct 1941

Tangmere – 16 Jun 1942

Kirton-in-Lindsey – 1 Sept 1942

Left for Gibraltar – 28 Oct 1942

North Front, Gibraltar – 5 Oct 1942

Maison Blanche, Algeria – 8 Nov 1942

Jemappes, Tunisia – 13 Mar 1943

Tingley – 19 Apr 1943

Nefza – 2 May 1943

Mateur – 26 May 1943

Hal Far, Malta (Grnd ech) – 9 Jun 1943

                         (Air ech) – 11 Jun 1943

Comisio, Sicily – 14 Jul 1943

Pachino – 30 Jul 1943

Panebianco – 29 Aug 1943

Catania – 30 Aug 1943

Cassala – 2 Sept 1943

Falcone – 6 Sept 1943

Tusciano, Italy – 16 Sept 1943

Capodichino – 11 Oct 1943

Lago – 16 Jan 1944

Nettuno – 21 May 1944

Tre Cancelli – 5 Jun 1944

Tarquinia – 14 Jun 1944

Grossetto – 25 Jun 1944

Piombino – 5 Jul 1944

Calvi Main – 20 Jul 1944

Ramatuelle – 20 Aug 1944

Sisteron – 25 Aug 1944

Lyon/Bron, France – 7 Sept 1944

LaJasse – 27 Sept 1944

Peretola, Italy (Air ech) – 2 Oct 1944

                        (Grnd ech) – 13 Oct 1944

Rimini – 16 Nov 1944

Ravenna – 17 Feb 1944

Rivolto – 5 May 1945

Klagenfurt, Austria – 11 May 1945

Zeltweg – 10 Sept 1945 to 23 Sept 1946

World War II Aces

  1. S/L John V.C.W. ‘Tubby’ Badger, DFC (8 Victories†) 10 Jun 1940 to 30 Aug 1940 (WIA) (DOW 30 Jun 1941)

  2. F/O Frank H.R. Carey, DFM, DFC* (27½ Victories; 7½ with this unit) Sept 1936 to May 1940 (Sgt.) →3Sq & Jul to 18 Aug 1940 (WIA) & Sept 1940 to Feb 1941 →135Sq

  3. F/L Graham J. ‘Cocky’ Cox, DFC (9.3 Victories; 1 with this unit) May to 5 Jul 1943 →229Sq

  4. S/L Thomas F. Dalton-Morgan, DFC* (15.3 Victories, 14.3 with this unit) Jun 1940 to Jan 1942 →Middle Wallop Wing, Ibsley Wing (1 last kill with this unit on 5 Apr 1943. Later DSO)

  5. S/L Daniel A.R.G. ‘Boy’ Le Roy du Vivier, DFC* –Belg. (5 Victories†) 4 Aug 1940 (WIA) & Dec 1940 to Sept 1942 →HQ 13Gp, 239Wing, NCD Palestine & UK

  6. F/O Herbert J.L. ‘Darkie’ Hallowes, DFM* (17.8 Victories, 16.8 with this unit) 1936 to Nov 1940 →165Sq

  7. S/L Eugeniuz ‘Dziubek’ Horbaczewski, DFC, VM, CV** – Pol. (16½ Victories; 3 with this unit) Jul to Oct 1943 →315Sq

  8. S/L Caesar B. Hull, DFC – Rhod. (5.2 Victories; 1.9 with this unit) Aug 1936 to May 1940 →263Sq & 31 Aug to 7 Sept 1940 (KIA)

  9. F/L John I. ‘Killy/Iggie’ Kilmartin, DFC – Ire. (10½ Victories, 2 with this unit) 1937 to Nov 1939 & Aug 1940 to Apr 1941 →CO 602Sq, 313Sq, CO 128Sq, 504Sq, 2TAF, CO 136Wing, HQ 2TAF, 910Wing

  10. P/O Harold L. ‘Knockers’ North – NZ (5 Victories; 2 with this unit) Nov 1939 to Dec 1940 →457Sq

  11. Sgt. Peter G. Ottewill, DFM (5 Victories†) 1938 to 7 Jun 1940 (ShD, WIA) →NCD

  12. S/L Peter L. Parrott, DFC (6.6 Victories; 0.16 with this unit) Nov 1943 to Feb 1944 →NCD Egypt, CO 72Sq, HQ DAF (« to DFC)

  13. F/L John W.C. Simpson, DFC (9½ Victories; 6½ with this unit) Oct 1936 to Dec 1940 →245Sq

  14. F/L Peter W. Townsend, DFC (9.6 Victories; 2.6 with this unit) 1937 & Sept 1939 to 23 May 1940 →85Sq

  15. F/L Robert W. ‘Paddy’ Turkington, DFC (9.16 Victories; 5.16 with this unit) Apr 1942 to Jan 1944 →241Sq

  16. F/O Hamilton C. ‘Derek’ Upton – Can. (10¼ Victories†) Feb to Sept 1940 →607Sq, OTU (DFC), Spitfire OTU

  17. P/O Charles A. ‘Tony/Wombat’ Woods-Scawen, DFC (7 Victories†) Dec 1938 to 2 Sept 1940 (KIA)

No. 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron

Squadron Codes: JW, KM

Motto: FULMINA REGIS IUSTA (The king’s thunderbolts are righteous)

Formed as a Home Defense unit on 15 April 1916 at Cattrick, the squadron later equipped with Sopwith Camels. Interestingly, one of its future commanding officers in 1917 would be Major Arthur T. Harris (of World War II Bomber Command fame).

In the months before World War II, the squadron was flying Bristol Blenheims in December and Handley-Page Hampdens. Its initial role was that of a 5 Group conversion unit, training pilots from single-engined craft to twin-engined types for other squadrons within the group but it became a frontline unit on 1 June 1939, and following the beginning of the war, carried out sweeps over the North Sea and leaflet dropping raids.

Regular bombing operations began in April 1940, but the unit became non-operational at the end of 1941, when earmarked to equip with a new bomber. This, the Avro Lancaster, began arriving from December, and No 44 began operations with the type in March as the first squadron equipped with the craft. Losses were heavy in the following months, but the unit built a reputation for dogged bravery. On 17 April 1942, Squadron Leader John Nettleton won the Victoria Cross during a daring daylight raid on Augsberg. Another squadron officer, Wing Commander Learoyd had won the VC while serving earlier with 49 Squadron in 1940.

The Augsberg raid was a remarkably bold raid, engineered by the Bomber Command Headquarters. With a week of low-flying practice behind them, six Lancasters with six more from 97 Squadron carried out the raid. A diversionary attack elsewhere had not been completely successful. The raiders lost seven aircraft and although the mission achieved its objective, the heavy losses precluded further attacks of same type from being launched.

By May 1945, at the close of the war in Europe, the squadron had suffered the highest overall losses in Bomber Command, sharing this with 78 and 102 Squadrons, and it had suffered the highest Lancaster losses in Bomber Command and 5 Group. It was also only one of two squadrons to have unbroken service with the Command (the other being 149 Squadron). No 44 disbanded on 16 July 1957, following a reduction of the RAF’s bomber fleet.

​Aircraft

Hampden Mk I – Feb 1939 to Dec 1941
Lancaster Mk I & III – Dec 1941 to Sept 1947

Airfields

Waddington, UK – 16 Jun 1937
Lossiemouth – Feb 1939 (Det)
Lossiemouth, Nutts Corner – Dec 1941 (Det)
Dunholme Lodge – 31 May 1943
Spilsby – 30 Sept 1944
Mepal – 21 Jul 1945
Mildenhall – 25 Aug 1945 to 29 Aug 1946

Squadron Commanders

W/C JN Boothman – Sept to Dec 1939

W/C WJM Ackerman – Dec 1939 to Mar 1940

W/C DW Reid – Mar 1940 to Mar 1941

W/C ST Misselbrook – Mar to Dec 1941

W/C RAB Learoyd, VC – Dec 1941 to May 1942

W/C PW Lynch-Blosse – May 1942

W/C KP Smales – May 1942 to Jul 1943

W/C EA Williams – Jul to Aug 1943

W/C RL Bowes – Aug 1943 to Feb 1944

W/C FW Thompson – Feb to Nov 1944

W/C RA Newmarch – Nov 1944 to Apr 1945

W/C SE Flett – Apr 1945 to 1946

Operational Performance

 

Raids Flown

5 Group Hampdens – 246 bombing, 81 minelaying, 7 leaflet, 4 ‘night-fighter’ over English cities.
5 Group Lancasters – 272 bombing, 27 minelaying.

Totals: 518 bombing, 108 minelaying, 7 leaflet, 4 ‘night-fighter’ = 637 raids

 

Sorties and Losses

5 Group Hampdens – 2,043 sorties, 43 aircraft lost (2.1 percent)
5 Group Lancasters – 4,362 sorties, 149 aircraft lost (3.4 percent)

Total: 6,405 sorties, 192 aircraft lost (3.0 percent)

21 Lancasters were destroyed in crashes.

The Victoria Cross
Squadron Leader John Dering Nettleton, Rhodesia,  Survived. Age 24

On the morning of 17 April 1942, John Nettleton was the leader of one of two formations of six Lancaster bombers each detailed to fly a low-level daylight raid on the Maschinenfabrik Augsberg-Nürnberg Aktiengesellschaft (MAN) Diesel engine factory at Augsberg in Bavaria. Although daring in its inception, the raid was arguably unnecessary as the bomber chiefs had planned the attack purely as a means to display the potential prowess of the new Lancaster bomber on daylight strikes.

Some time after crossing into enemy-held France, the formation blundered onto a German fighter airfield at Beaumont-le-Roger in Normandy. About 20 to 30 German Focke-Wulf Fw190s and Messerschmitt Me109s of II/JG 2 under the command of Hauptmann Karl-Heinz Greisert of II/JG2, had been landing following a fighter sortie, but now surprised by the low-flying raiders, began to retract their landing gears and speed in pursuit. They shot down four Lancasters, but the rest escaped. At Augsberg Nettelton led his and the remaining squadron Lancaster on course, over rooftops, braving Anti-aircraft fire.

Approaching the factory, they dropped their bombs on the target area. Then, hit by gunfire, the second Lancaster burst into flames and crash landed within the city. Nettleton, however, returned home, his Lancaster riddled with bullet holes.

Of the 85 aircrews that participated in the raid, roughly 50 died, including the 97 Squadron element leader, S/L J.S. Sherwood. Remembered for its daring, the Augsburg raid was strategically a failure. Of the thirty-six bombs dropped, only twelve hit the factory. Within six months, it had returned to full operationality, churning out U-boat engines to its quota. Nettleton later married a WAAF, but died during a raid on Turin the following year, on 13 July 1943, as a Wing Commander. (Photo: Getty)

Handley-Page Hampden Mk I, RAF Waddington, Mid-1941 Nicknamed the ‘Flying Panhandle’ because of its shape, the Hp.52 or Hampden incorporated a main fuselage where the crew resided and had a single narrow central boom with twin tail-planes. Faster than the Wellington, the Hampden had better range and greater bomb load capability than the Blenheim – which, at the time, were the principle RAF bombers.

No. 45 Squadron

Squadron Codes: DD, OB

Motto: PER ARDUA SURGO (Through difficulties I arise)

This squadron formed on 1 March 1916 at Gosport in Hampshire as a fighter squadron. By the time of the Second World War, the squadron had Bristol Blenheims was operating a light-bomber force in Egypt.

 

After the Italian declaration of war on Britian in June 1940, sent a detachment to Sudan to hit Italian Somaliland. The rest of the squadron followed into Sudan only in September, staying on until December. Returning to Egypt, the squadron participated in the allied operation against the Vichy French in Syria in June 1941 – all the while continuing its activities in the western desert.

 

By February 1942, however, the situation in the Far East had reached volatile proportions with the Japanese attacking into Burma. Order came for the squadron to move to Burma, and it arrived here just as the British Army was withdrawing him from the country. Almost destroyed, the squadron just made it back into India. Out of the fight until June, the squadron became operational on the 27th and opened its account by attacking Japanese lines of communications. Soon American-made Vultee Vengeance dive-bombers had arrived in December 1942, but these aircraft were themselves replaced in February 1944 by Mosquitoes, although problems with the latter aircraft’s specialized glue caused serious operational problems. Largely inactive until the glue problem was resolved, No 45 became operational on 28 September 1944. In May 1945, after having taken part in the allied advance down Burma, No 45 returned to India. Remaining in the Far East after the war, the squadron flew Bristol Brigands and other attack aircraft until its disbandment in Malaya on 1 November 1957.

​Aircraft

Blenheim – Jun 1939 to Jan 1942

Vengeance – Dec 1942 to Feb 1944

Mosquito FB Mk VI – Feb 1944 to May 1946

Squadron Commanders

Uknown

W/C CB Wallis, DSO – Jan to Feb 1942

Unknown

Airfields

Fuka, Egypt – 4 Aug 1939

Helwan – 20 Jun 1940

Erkoweit, Sudan – 29 Jul to 30 Aug 1940 (Det.)

Wadi Gazouza – 27 Sept 1940

Helwan, Egypt – 4 Dec 1940

Qotafiya – 8 Dec 1940

LG.81 – 30 Dec 1940

Menastir – 31 Dec 1940

Helwan – 9 Feb 1941

Gambut – 7 Apr 1941

Fuka – 10 Apr 1941

Wadi Natrun – 1 Jun 1941

Aqir – 22 Jun 1941

Habbaniya, Iraq – 10 Aug 1941

LG.16, Egypt – 27 Sept 1941

LG.75 – 14 Nov 1941

Gambut – 19 Dec 1941

Helwan – 3 Jan 1942

Left for Burma (Grnd ech) – 17 Feb 1942

Magwe, Burma (Air ech) – 21 Feb 1942

Dum Dum, India (Grnd ech) – 18 Mar 1942

Lashio, Burma (Air ech) – 23 Mar 1942

Asanol – 28 May to 16 Aug 1942 (Det.)

Asanol, India – 16 Aug 1942

Cholavarum – 8 Nov 1942

Asanol – 12 Mar 1943

Digri (Air ech) – 17 may 1943

          (Grnd ech) – 20 May 1943

Kumbhirgram – 11 Oct 1943

Yelehanka – 11 Feb 1944

Dalbumgarh – 26 May 1944

Ranchi – 27 Aug 1944

Kumbhirhram, Burma – 29 Sept 1944

Joari, India – 27 Apr 1945

Cholavarum – 4 Jun to 12 Oct 1945

No. 46 (Uganda) Squadron

Squadron Codes: RJ, PO, FH

Motto: WE RISE TO CONQUER

No. 46 Squadron formed at Wyton on 19 April 1916 from a nucleus supplied by 2 Reserve Squadron. It trained as a reconnaissance unit by the Second World War, it was a fighter squadron.

For the first months of the war, the squadron flew defensive patrols, covering vulnerable naval convoys off the East Coast. On October 21, while on one of these patrols, they stumbled upon eight or nine He115 seaplanes near a British convoy. Going in with guns blazing, the squadron shot down three and so severely damaged a fourth that it landed in the sea. The tenor of operations changed with the German invasion of Norway in April 1940. The squadron soon found itself preparing for deployment to northern Norway to back a handful of British Gladiators operating from ad hoc airfields. Consequently, on 14 May, No 46 departed from Clyde onboard HMS Glorious for an airfield near the Norwegian town of Harstad. Action seemed close at hand, but the landing ground at Harstad was found to be unsuitable, so the squadron returned to the naval base at Scapa Flow with Glorious.

 

A second attempt, this time on May 26, involved ten aircraft flying off for Skaanland. Soft ground caused two crashes and forced the rest of the flight to divert to Bardufoss, sixty miles north. In action two days later, the squadron attempted to provided cover for township of Narvik and the surrounding area. In the course of these duties, they shot down a marauding Ju88 (credited to Flying Officer Lydall), adding two Dornier Do26’s before night descended. More action seemed set to follow but in view of the allied debacle in France, the squadron made preparations to leave Norway.

On 7 June, the squadron, after having shot down 14 enemy aircraft over Norway, flew onto Glorious, landing intact, despite the lack of arrestor hooks on their Hurricanes. Ground crews, meantime, having embarked on HMS Vindictive and the SS Monarch of Bermuda, sailed to England where they regrouped at Digby days later. The air element, however, never arrived. Glorious and her destroyer escort had encountered German battlecruisers on the 9th had been sunk. Of the eight squadron pilots to survive Norway, only two survived the sinking: Squadron Leader Kenneth B.B. ‘Bing’ Cross and Flight Lt (later Air Commodore) Patrick ‘Jamie’ Jameson.

Rebuilt in England, the unit became operational at the end of June, and in early September moved south to 11 Group to relieve another squadron badly depleted by continuous action in the first stages of the Battle of Britain. Equipped with a special Hurricane V7360, armed with four 20mm cannons in place of the machine guns, this aircraft was meant for trails only. Nevertheless, on September 5, Flight Lt Sandy Rabagliati took it upon a scramble and demonstrated the value of the cannons by blowing a Messerschmitt Me109 out of the skies near Sheppey. Using it on several subsequent occasions, he damaged an additional four planes during interceptions. The battles continued past September and into November. On the 11th, Italian Fiat BR20s and Fiat CR42s appeared, satisfying Italy’s late decision to enter the campaign.

 

Attacking, No 46 shot down three CR42s and two Br20s, aside from other British squadrons who shot down two more CR42s and nine Br20s – losses which contributed to the premature termination of the Regia Aeronautica’s participation in the battle, which dropped significantly before ending altogether in December. Altogether, the squadron’s scorecard read 27½ confirmed victories during the Battle of Britain, but its air combat days were far from over even though action over Western Europe dropped significantly as the Luftwaffe deployed for the invasion of Russia.

Declared non-operational in April 1941 to transfer to the Mediterranean, the squadron’s ground personnel boarded SS Almanzora on May 1 to sail for Egypt. Meantime, the unit’s pilots and fighters had flown to Malta to reinforce the hard-pressed 126 Squadron already based there. On Malta, the squadron initially fought as 46 Squadron, but then became 126 Squadron. Malta operations saw the squadron shoot down 40 enemy aircraft (ten of them German). Meantime, the squadron’s ground crews had arrived in Egypt in July and began operating from Kilo 17 on Fayoum Road with several maintenance, salvage and repair teams already there. With no aircraft or pilots it could do little else for almost a year and was used at one point to form 108 Maintenance Unit. Finally in May 1942, the squadron appropriated a flight from 89 Squadron stationed at Idku and with the flight’s Beaufighters and crews became a night-fighter squadron assigned to the defense of the Canal Zone.

 

On June 16, Flight Lt Charles Clegg and Sergeant Taylor in Beaufighter X7746 shot an enemy plane into the sea in what was the squadron’s first night kill. In July, nine more planes with three other credited to Clegg and Taylor. Enemy contacts dropped off after the allied victory at El Alamein in November and No 46 then accompanied the British 8th Army in its advance west, hammering retreating enemy columns, transforming later that same month into a coastal command squadron.

 

Once again, it returned to its old task of convoy escort. Operating detachments from Bengazi and Malta, the squadron covered the convoys but also struck at targets in enemy-held Tunisia, Sicily and Libya. In January 1943, the squadron resumed its night-fighting role, and on September 1944 achieved something remarkable that paid dues to its nocturnal fighting skills. Guided by the Ground-Control ship Ulster Queen, a flight operating out of Gambut intercepted and shot down eleven planes in five days over the Aegean. Following this, enemy air activity over the Aegean dwindled. With the squadron encountering little "trade," it received orders to return to England.

Assembled at Stoney Cross, No 46 now became something it could have scarcely conceived for itself – that of a transport squadron equipped with Shorts Stirling C.5 cargo planes. Its time as a fighter and attack squadron had been profitable, resulting in the destruction of more than 150 enemy planes in air combat. With Transport Command, the squadron operated a service between Stoney Cross and Pune and Dum Dum in India. Flying this route until the end of the war, the squadron eventually disbanded on 20 February 1950 at Oakington.

​Aircraft

Hurricane Mk I – Mar 1939 to May 1941

Beaufighter Mk IF – May 1941 to Sept 1943

Beaufighter Mk VIF – Sept 1943 to Dec 1944

Beaufighter Mk IVc – Oct 1943

Beaufighter Mk X & XI – Mar to May 1944

Mosquito Mk XII – Aug to Dec 1944

Stirling Mk V – Jan 1945 to May 1946

Squadron Commanders

S/L KBB Cross, DFC – Oct 1939 to Jun 1940

S/L JR Maclachlan – Jun to Oct 1940

S/L AR Collins – Oct 1940

S/L LM Gaunce, DFC – Oct to Dec 1940

S/L AC Rabagliati, DFC – Dec 1940 to Feb 1942

S/L JAV Read – May to Jul 1942

W/C GA Reid – May 1942 to Oct 1943

W/C TPK Scade – Oct 1943 to Jun 1944

W/C RW Denison – Jun to Aug 1944

S/L CE Robertson – Aug to Nov 1944 (Acting)

W/C RW Denison – Nov to Dec 1944

W/C B. A. Coventry – Jan to Dec 1945

Airfields

Digby, UK – 15 Nov 1937

Acklington – 10 Dec 1939

Digby – 17 Jan 1940

Skaanland, Norway – 26 May to 8 Jun 1940

Bardufoss – 26 May 1940

Digby, UK – 13 Jun 1940
Duxford – 18 Aug 1940
Digby – 19 Aug 1940
Stapleford Abbots – 1 Sept 1940

North Weald – 8 Nov 1940

Digby – 14 Dec 1940

Church Fenton – 28 Feb 1941

Sherburn-in-Elmet – 1 Mar 1941

Abu Sueir, Egypt – 23 May 1941

Luqa, Malta – 6 Jun 1941

Hal Far – 30 Jun 1941

Kasfreet, Egypt – 10 Jul 1941

Abu Sueir – 16 Jul 1941

Kilo 17 – 9 Sept 1941

Idku – 8 May 1942

El Khanka – 2 Jul 1942

Idku – 19 Jul 1942

Benghazi & Malta – Nov to Dec 1942 (Dets)

Tobruk & Abu Sueir – 2 Jan 1943 (Det)

St. Jean & Bu Amud – 2 Apr 1943 (Det)

Cyprus – Aug 1943 (Det)

Cos, Aegean Sea – 14 Sept to Oct 1943 (Det)

Abu Sueir, St. Jean & Tocra, Mediterrean – Early 1944 (Dets)

Stoney Cross, UK – 9 Jan 1945 to 11 Oct 1946

World War II Aces

  1. W/C The Honorable John W. M. ‘Max’ Aitken, DSO, DFC – Can/UK (14.2 Victories; 2 with this unit, both Ju52s) 5/6 Mar 1944 (Unofficial flight) →Banff Wing

  2. W/O Roy T. Butler, DFC (5 Victories†) 1944 to 1945 →N/A

  3. F/O John M.V. ‘Chip’ Carpenter (8 Victories; 1 with this unit) May to Jun 1941 →Sq renumbered to 126Sq

  4. P/O Michael M. Davison (13 Victories; 3 with this unit) Early to Nov 1942 →108Sq

  5. P/O John F. Drummond, DFC (8.3 Victories; 4 with this unit) Jan 1939 to Sept 1940 →92Sq

  6. S/L Lionel M. ‘Elmer’ Gaunce, DFC – Can. (5½ Victories; 1½ with this unit) Oct to Dec 1940 →41Sq (KIA 19 Nov 1941)

  7. F/L Patrick G. ‘Pat’ Jameson, DFC (9 Victories, 1 with this unit) Jan 1937 to 17 Sept 1940 →266Sq

  8. F/O Peter W. ‘Pip’ Lefevre (6¾ Victories; 3¼ with this unit) Dec 1938 to May 1941 →unit became 126Sq

  9. S/L Alexander C. ‘Sandy/Ragbags’ Rabagliati, DFC (16¼ Victories; 10¼ with this unit) Jun 1940 to Jun 1942 →unit became 126Sq

  10. W/C James A.V. ‘Jasper’ Read (10 Victories; 1 with this unit) May to Jul 1942 →108Sq

  11. F/O Paul C.W. Sage, DFC (5 Victories, 4 with this unit) 9 May 1942 to Nov 1943 →487Sq (KIA 22 Feb 1945)

Bristol Beaufighter Mk IF ‘The Benghazi Bus’, Idku, Egypt, July 1943 This aircraft is seen with a C1 type roundel, but without the customary yellow border. No 46 Squadron was equipped with Beaufighter I’s just before it moved to Malta in June 1941, and continued to use them until late 1943 – by which time improved variants of the aircraft were already in widespread service.

No. 47 Squadron

Squadron Codes: EW, KW

Motto: NIU NOMEN ROBORIS OMEN (The name of the Nile is an omen of our strength)

No 47 Squadron formed on 1 March 1916 at Beverley in Yorkshire as a Home Defense unit.

 

At the outbreak of the Second World War, the squadron was a bomber unit with Wellesleys. Taking part in the Eritrean campaign of 1941, the squadron moved to Egypt in January 1942 where it was absorbed by 201 Group. Requipping with Bristol Beauforts, it trained with torpedoes and went into action in October. Its first serious operation, against enemy-held Tobruk, was a bitter failure that came with a heavy loss of life. Relegating its activities from port attack to convoy escort and coastal recce, the squadron waited until 1943 to resume any attacks with torpedoes. With the arrival of Bristol Beaufighters in June 1943, the squadron moved to Protville, destroying a 3,000 ton ship with torpedoes on 21 June, followed by an enemy tanker two days later. In August, four ships went to the bottom in exchange for four Beaufighters, but in September, the squadron found itself in air combat against German resupply flights operating between Corsica and the Italian mainland.

In 1944, the squadron operated predominantly in the Aegean, but in March, moved to the Far East, where it entered into a lean period with virtually no Japanese shipping to attack in the Indian Ocean. Despite a contant state of readiness, no operations came their way and in October, took delivery of Mosquitos. However, when the Mosquitos' wooden manufacturing welted in the humidity, the unit cut short its operations and returned to Beaufighters in January 1945. Joining 98 Wing, the squadron now began operating over Burma, attacking ground targets with devastating result. Attacking oil rigs and making a general nuisance of themselves over enemy airfields, shooting up both men and machines, the squadron later supported the advance of the ground forces over the Irrawaddy River in February. Requipping with Mosquitos again that month, the squadron tried to make do with this aircraft, but continuing deterioration of the the machines, and by May, the unit had been all but grounded. The unit only returned to some semblance of full operationality in August, but by that point, the war was already over.

Moving to the Dutch East Indies, the unit fought on against guerilla independence fighters until its disbandment on 21 March 1946.

​Aircraft

Vincent Mk I – Jul 1936 to 1941

Wellesly Mk I – Jan 1942 to Mar 1943

Beaufort Mk I – Sept 1942 to Jun 1943

Beaufighter Mk X – Jun 1943 to Oct 1944

Mosquito Mk VI – Oct to Dec 1944

Beaufighter Mk X – Dec 1944 to Apr 1945

Mosquito Mk VI – Feb 1945 to Mar 1946

Squadron Commanders

S/L EB Grace – Nov 1941 to Sept 1942

S/L RLB Carr – Sept to Oct 1942

W/C RA Sprague, DFC – 24 Oct to Dec 1942

W/C AM Taylor, DFC – Jun to Jul 1943

W/C JA Lee-Evans, DFC – 24 Jul to Nov 1943

W/C WDL Filson-Young, DFC – Nov 1943 to May 1945

F/L JH Ethrington, DFC – May to Jun 1945 (Acting)

W/C VSH Ductor – Jun to Oct 1945

Airfields

Khartoum, Sudan – 21 Oct 1927

Erkowit – 28 Jun 1940

Carthago, Africa – 7 Jul 1940

Sennar – 27 Nov 1940

Gordon’s Tree – 14 Dec 1940

Asmara – 29 May 1941

LG.39 Burg-el-Arab, Egypt – 25 Jan 1942

LG.87 – 9 Feb 1942

Kasfareet – 18 Mar 1942 (Dets at Shandur, Burg-el-Mair, St. Jean & LG.89)

LG.89 – 16 Apr 1942

St. Jean, Palestine – 16 Junl 1942

Shandur, Egypt – 8 Sept 1942 (Dets at LG.08, LG.227 & Gianaclis)

Gianaclis, Tunisia – 29 Jan 1943 (Det at LG.07)

Misurata West – 3 Mar 1943

Protville II – 14 Jun 1943

Sidi Amor, Libya – 16 Oct 1943

El Adem – 22 Oct 1943

Gambut III – 24 Nov 1943

Cholavarum, Far East – 30 Mar 1944 (Det at Vavuyina)

Yelehanka, India – 7 Oct 1944

Ranchi – 12 Nov 1944

Kumbhirgram, Burma – 10 Jan 1945

Kinmagon – 26 Apr 1945

Hmawbi – 16 Aug 1945 to 15 Jan 1946

No. 48 Squadron

Squadron Codes: ZW, OY

Motto: FORTE ET FIDELE (By strength and faithfulness)

The squadron formed on 15 April 1916 at Netheravon as a scouting unit.

 

By 1937, the unit was committed to coastal recce, but often using Avro Ansons as a transports, ferrying VIPs around the country. The outbreak of war in September 1939 found the squadron operating from Thorney Island, flying coastal reconnaissance and escorting convoys over the English Channel. Especially active during the Dunkirk evacuation in May 1940, the squadron attacked nine German minesweepers on the 19th. Ten days later, nine Messerchmitt Me109s attacked three squadron Ansons. Raising a fiery defense, the Ansons drove away the attackers, shooting down one German. Operations rose in tempo, with 16 June enduring 32 operations by the unit, including convoy escort, French coastal patrol and three night searches.

 

By the end of the month, however, the squadron withdrew from operations, having received Bristol Beauforts to replace the Ansons. But the Beauforts transferred to 217 Squadron, and the squadron resumed its coastal work with Ansons. The next aircraft to arrive were US-supplied Lockheed Hudsons which finally replaced the Ansons in 1941. Moving north in 1942 to cover the North Sea, the squadron squadron experienced some degree of success, bombing an oil dump, attacking several U-Boats and damaging surface shipping. On 23 December, the squadron moved to the Mediterranean, where its encounters rose. At least one U-Boat attack each month became a regular, expected event. In the air, long-range German Fw200 Condors were encountered, although heavy aircraft versus heavier aircraft combats rarely panned out victorious for either side. On this occasion, both planes got away with holes in their fuselage but without critical damage.

 

By 1944, with the Mediterranean largely secured, the squadron returned to England, assembling at Down Ampney on 26 February to become a transport squadron. Training on the C-47 Dakota, the unit practiced paratroop dropping, flying the occasional leaflet-dropping sortie over occupied France. On D-Day in June, the squadron, now over thirty-aircraft strong, carried 517 British Paras to their drop zones in Normandy. Also carrying 20lb bombs to disrupt German troops below, the unit dropped the bombs as the Paras jumped. Altogether, 514 men jumped that night and none of the aircraft were lost. That same day, as dusk descended on the eventful day, the squadron's 22 Dakotas returned to Normandy, towing gliders carrying reinforcements and supplies. On Dakota was lost now, but the squadron maintained its para-supporting duties well into the month. It then joined the 2nd Tactical Air Force on French airfields, flying out casualties in July.

 

In September, the large allied airborne invasion ‘Market-Garden’, in Holland, included 23 aircraft from the squadron towing Horsa gliders. No casualties were suffered and a second lift mounted that same day also went according to plan. The two days later, two aircraft were shot down under intense flak and fighter attack, and six more in the next four days of operations over Holland. Badly scarred, the squadron withdrew to shuttle missions over the continent, but a major allied airborne assault over the Rhine in March 1945 saw the unit committed into action again. On 24 March, twelve Dakotas towed Horsas over the Rhine, losing two gliders enroute. When the war in Europe ended in May, the unit transferred to India, flying food and supplies to the army and civilians in Burma and returning with army casualties. When the war finally ended, the squadron remained in the Far East, disbanding at Patenga on 16 January 1946. 

​Aircraft

Anson Mk I – Mar 1936 to Oct 1941

Beaufort Mk I – Jun to Oct 1940

Hudson Mk III & V – Sept 1941 to Nov 1942

Hudson Mk VI – Nov 1942 to Feb 1944

Dakota Mk III – Feb 1944 to Feb 1946

Dakota Mk IV – Apr 1945 to Jan 1946

Squadron Commanders

W/C JL Findlay – 1938 to Nov 1940

S/L RH Harris – Nov 1940 to May 1941

W/C C Broughton – May 1941 to Mar 1942

W/C A de V Leach – Mar to Jul 1942

W/C DJ Devitt – Jul 1942 to Sept 1943

W/C TFU Lang, AFC – Sept 1943 to Jul 1944

W/C JA Sproule – Jul to Sept 1944

W/C M Hallam, DFC – Sept 1944 to Feb 1945

W/C PD Squires, DFC – Feb 1946 to Jan 1946

Airfields

Thorney Island, UK – 25 Aug 1939 (Dets at Detling, St. Eval & Guernsey)

Bircham Newton – 31 Mar 1940 (Det)

Detling – 11 May 1940 (Det)

Hooton Park – 16 Jul 1940 (Dets at Carew Cheriton & Aldergrove)

Port Ellen – 1 Sept 1940 (Det)

Sydenham – 18 Nov 1940 (Det)

Stornoway – 2 Dec 1940 (Det)

Stornoway – 24 Jul 1941

Skitten – 20 Oct 1941

Wick – 6 Jan 142

Sumburgh – 23 Sept 1942 (Det at Reykjavik)

Gosport – 19 Nov 1942

North Front, Gibralter – 23 Dec 1942 (Det at Agadir)

Bircham Newton, UK – 21 Feb 1944

Down Ampney – 24 Feb 1944

Patenga, Far East – Aug 1945 to 16 Jan 1946

Lockheed Hudson Mk IIIA, RAF Gosport, 1943 The Hudson Mk III was the most widely used variant of the series by the RAF. It saw prolonged service with Coastal Command during the war, and 429 were taken on charge by the RAF. The Mark IIIA was powered by two 1,200 hp, Wright GR-1820-G-205A engines and had a ventral 0.303-in. machine gun. The squadron badge was of a Petrel on a triangle.

No. 49 Squadron

Squadron Codes: XU, EA

Motto: BEWARE OF THE DOG

The squadron formed on 15 April 1916 at Dover in Kent. Equipped with DH4s, it unit went to France in 1917 as a light bomber squadron. Immediately thrown into action at Cambrai, the unit fought the famed ‘Richthofen Circus’, later moving to bases near the coast. Following victory, the unit went to Germany with the Army of Occupation. It later disbanded in July 1919.

Reformed at Bircham Newton in 1936 as a bomber squadron with Hawker Hinds, the unit was completely operational by the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 with 5 Group. The squadron’s war began that very first day with three Hampdens sent to find and attack German ships in the English Channel. The unit also opened the RAF’s sea-mining campaign in April 1940. This same year, Flight Lt R.A.B. Learoyd won the VC while on a low-level raid on the Dortmund-Elms Canal on the night of 12/13 August by 49 and 83 Squadrons.

In 1942, a new aircraft, the Avro Manchester replaced the Hampdens, which were then supplanted by Lancasters. In October, with the Lancasters, the squadron conducted a daring, highly-succesful low-altitude raid against the Schneider arms and locomotive factory in Le Creusot. Led by the 49 Squadron CO, Wing Commander Slee, the 88-strong force of Lancasters thundered over occupied France, luckily encountering no enemy fighters. Suffering only one loss (a Lancaster from 61 Squadron) the force dropped 140 bombs, largely hitting the factory but also hitting nearby worker’s apartments.

In 1943, the unit, by now known as ‘Sheffield’s Own’ shuttled bombed Friedrichshafen and Spezia, attacking Peenemunde later that year. The following year, coastal batteries along the French coast were bombed in preparation for D-Day, including several ops against V-1 bases. In December, it flew against the German Baltic fleet docked at Gydnia, and in March 1945, bombed the German town of Wesel, just before it was assaulted by British commandos, who took just 36 casualties as a result. At the end of the war, the squadron remained with Bomber Command, flying well into the postwar period, disbanding on 1 August 1955.

​Aircraft

Anson Mk I – Sept 1939

Hampden Mk I – Sept 1938 to Apr 1942

Manchester Mk I – Apr to Jun 1942

Lancaster Mk I & III – Jun 1942 to Mar 1950

Squadron Commanders

W/C JS Chick – Feb to Dec 1939

W/C WC Sheen – Dec 1939 to Apr 1940

W/C JW Gillan – Apr to Dec 1940

W/C JN Jefferson – Dec 1940 to Jul 1941

W/C RD Stubbs – Jul 1941 to May 1942

W/C LC Slee – May 1942 to Apr 1943

W/C PW Johnson – Apr to Oct 1943

W/C AA Adams – Oct 1943 to May 1944

W/C M Crocker – May to Jun 1944

W/C LE Botting – Jun 1944 to Sept 1945

Airfields

Scampton, UK – 3 Sept 1939

Fiskerton – 2 Jan 1943

Fulbeck – 16 Oct 1944

Syerston – 22 Apr to 28 Sept 1945

Operational Performance

 

Raids Flown

Hampdens – 241 bombing, 82 minelaying, 19 leaflet
Manchesters – 4 bombing, 2 minelaying, 4 leaflet
Lancasters – 298 bombing, 21 minelaying, 3 leaflet

Totals: 543 bombing, 105 minelaying, 26 leaflet = 674 raids

 

Sorties and Losses

Hampdens – 2,636 sorties, 55 aircraft lost (2.1 percent)
Manchesters – 47 sorties, 6 aircraft lost (12.8 percent)
Lancasters – 3,818 sorties, 102 aircraft lost (2.7 percent)

Totals: 6,501 sorties, 163 aircraft lost (2.5 percent)

An additional 18 Lancasters were destroyed in crashes.

The Victoria Cross
Flight Lt. Roderick A.B. Learoyd, England,  Survived. Age 27

On the night of 12 August 1940, Learoyd was one of the pilots briefed to bomb the Dortmund-Ems Canal in Germany. Of the four other aircraft already dispatched towards the target, two had been destroyed and two others badly hit. Learoyd flew into the target at 150 feet, in the full glare of the searchlights and the flak. Although badly damaged by anti-aircraft fire, Learoyd dropped the bombs in the target zone and managed to get his crippled Hampden back to England. Attempting to land at base, he found the landing flaps and the undercarriage inoperable. Deciding that it would be better to wait for dawn before attempting to land, Learoyd flew the aircraft in a circuit around the field until first light. He set the aircraft down safely.

Learoyd flew for the rest of the war, surviving to reaching the rank of Wing Commander. He passed away in January 1996. (IWM ART LD412)

Handley-Page Hampden Mk I, RAF Scampton, 1940 Britiain’s Bomber Command went to war primarily with the Hampden. Although its makers claimed that it could be capable of serving as a fighter-bomber, this expectation was shot by combat experience. Heavy losses to enemy fighters in the first two years of the war forced the type into withdrawal or service in second-line units. 

HAVE YOUR SAY

© 2020 by AKHIL KADIDAL

  • WordPress-logo
  • To Instagram

Find my other work here. The art displayed on this site can be downloaded from my blog.

The obligatory Instagram profile