The Royal Air Force During World War 2
50 to 59 Squadrons

No. 50 Squadron

Squadron Codes: QX, VN

Motto: FROM DEFENSE TO ATTACK

The squadron formed on 15 May 1916 at Dover in Kent, serving as a Home Defense unit.

By the Second World War, the unit had Handley-Page Hamdens, dropping its first combat bombs in March 1940 against the German seaplane base at Hornum – the RAF’s first bombing raid against a land target. In December, the squadron took part in the first area bombing raid of the war, against Mannheim, following this , a year later, with a combined operations raid against the Norwegian island of Vaagsõ, dropping smoke bombs to cover landing British commandos.

 

The year 1942, brought the onset of the Avro Manchester and Lancaster bombers. With one of these aircraft, Flying Officer Manser won a posthumous Victoria Cross during the famous ‘Thousand Bomber’ raid on Cologne on the night of 30/31 May. The month of October saw the unit contribute twelve Lancasters to the raid against the Schneider works at Le Creusot. It also took part in the shuttle raids against Freidrichshafen and Le Spezia in 1943. The German resreach base on the lonely Baltic island of Peenemunde also enduring squadron bombs that year. With 1944, the unti attacked V-1 storage sites located in the caves of St. Leu d’Esserent, then bombing dykes at Flushing in the Dutch island of Walcheren. In December, it attacked the German Baltic Fleet at Gydnia and in March 1945, helped British commandos capture the Rhine town of Wesel, by first pulverizing the defenders.

 

In April 1945, the unit flew its last combat operation, attacking a German-held oil refinery at Vallo in Norway. Aside from Manser’s Victoria Cross, squadron pilots and crews won six DSOs, 70 DFCs and 114 DFMs. Also, by the war’s end, the unit had forged some records: the most bomber raids in 5 Group and in Bomber Command’s heavy squadrons, the most Lancaster sorties in 5 Group, the most overall sorties in the group and the third highest number of sorties in Bomber Command. In addition, the unit also dropped the greatest tonnage of bombs (approximately 21,000 tons) within 5 Group – a number believed to be fourth highest tonnage in Bomber Command. Serving for a period in the post-war RAF, the squadron disbanded in 31 January 1951.

​Aircraft

Hampden Mk I – Dec 1938 to Apr 1942

Master Mk I – 1939

Manchester Mk I – Apr to Jun 1942

Lancaster Mk I & III – May 1942 to Oct 1946

Squadron Commanders

W/C L Young – Jul 1938 to Apr 1940

W/C RT Taafe – Apr to Jun 1940

W/C ND Crockart – Jun 1940

W/C GW Golledge – Jun to Dec 1940

W/C G Walker – Dec 1940 to Oct 1941

W/C RJ Oxley – Oct 1941 to Oct 1942

W/C WM Russell – Oct 1942 to Aug 1943

W/C R McFarlane – Aug to Dec 1943

W/C F Pullen – Dec 1943 to Jun 1944

W/C AW Heward – Jun 1944

W/C RT Frogley – Jun 1944 to Mar 1945

W/C J Flint – March 1945 to N/A 1946

Airfields

Waddington, UK – 3 May 1937

Windholme – 10 Jul 1940

Swinderby – 19 Jul 1941

Skellinthorpe – 26 Nov 1941

Swinderby – 20 Jun 1942

Skellingthorpe – 17 Oct 1942

Sturgate – 15 Jun 1945 to 25 Jan 1946

Operational Performance (While with Bomber Command)

 

Raids Flown

Hampdens – 266, bombing, 88 minelaying, 14 leaflet
Manchesters – 15 bombing, 10 minelaying, 9 leaflet
Lancasters – 339 bombing, 26 minelaying

Totals: 620 bombing, 124 minelaying, 23 leaflet = 767 raids

 

Sorties and Losses

Hampdens – 2,299 sorties, 57 aircraft lost (2.5 percent)
Manchesters – 126 sorties, 7 aircraft lost (5.6 percent)
Lancasters – 4,710 sorties, 112 aircraft lost (2.4 percent)

Totals: 7,135 sorties, 176 aircraft lost (2.5 percent)

An additional 26 Hampdens and 27 Lancasters were destroyed in crashes.

The Victoria Cross
Flying Officer Leslie T Manser, England,  Killed in Action. Age 20

On 30 May 1942 over Germany, Manser, the commander and first pilot of an Avro Manchester bomber, was participating in the RAF's first thousand-bomber raid on Cologne. As he approached the target, several searchlights locked onto him, prompting a violent anti-aircraft barrage to bracket his aircraft.

 

Holding his course, Manser and his crew bombed the target successfully from 7,000 feet. However, moments later, his aircraft was hit by gunfire. Manser turned the Manchester in violent evasive action to avoid further strikes, even descending to 1,000 feet in a bid to avoid the ack-ack, but to little success. Enemy flak and searchlights followed him until the outskirts of Cologne, damaging the aircraft again and wounding the rear gunner. The front cabin filled with smoke and the port engine began to overheat. Determined to save the aircraft and prevent the crew from falling into enemy hands, Manser climbed to 2,000 feet. Over France, the port engine burst into flames. Ten minutes passed before the flames were smothered.

With part of the port wing burnt away and the loss of the engine, the aircraft began to approach stall speed. Manser considered parachuting to safety with his crew, but instead set course for England, not giving the crew permission to jump until a crash became inevitable.

 

With the end near and still over France, one of his sergeants handed him a parachute but he waved it away, telling the NCO to bale out as he could only hold the aircraft steady for a few more seconds. Then, as the crew took to their chutes, they saw the bomber, still carrying Manser, crash in flames. All but one of crew were picked up by the resistance and by various stages returned to England.

No. 51 Squadron

Squadron Codes: MB, MH, UT, TB, LK (‘C’ Flight), C6

Motto: SWIFT AND SURE

Unofficially known as the "York’s own" Squadron, the unit formed on 15 May 1916 at Norfolk from a nucleus provided by 9 (Reserve) Squadron.

 

The squadron’s Second World War operation took place on 3/4 September and involved three of the squadron’s Whitley’s flying the first operational sorties on the first night of the war, dropping leaflets over Hamburg and other locations. In 1940, the unit pioneered the dropping of airborne forces and in February 1941, the crews piloting the aircraft of 78 Squadron dropped British commandos into enemy territory during a raid on a southern Italian aqueduct in February 1941. A second airborne ferry, this time involving 51 Squadron Whitleys led by famed Wing Commander Percy Pickard opened the famed Bruneval raid of 27/28 February 1942, from which the raiding Commandos brought back the first concrete information on German Würzburg radar sets.

 

Other pioneering operations in 1940 included the first attack on a land target (the Hornum seaplane base, 19/20 March), bombing of Monchengladbach in what was first major attack on Germany (11/12 May), first attack on Italy (Fiat works at Turin, 11/12 June), the first area bombing attack (Mannheim, 16/17 December).

 

Then from May to October 1942, the unit went to Coastal Command, flying anti-submarine flights from Devonshire. It, however, soon returned to Bomber Command, equipping with Halifaxes for the remainder of the war. The Halifax, not quite a popular aircraft as its contemporary, the Lancaster, earned a grudging respect by the squadron. On 13/14 January 1945, a Halifax Mk III (MZ456 ‘Y’ for Yorker), piloted by Flight Lt A.L. Wilson was badly damaged during a raid on Saarbrücken.  Nine feet of the nose had been lopped by in a collision with another bomber, but Wilson and the crew, braving string winds from the open front and nearly freezing to death, nursed the aircraft back to England on three engines, making a perfect landing at base. The navigator and the bombardier, however, were not so fortunate, having fallen out of the aircraft without parachutes during the collision.

 

On 8 May 1945, just days after the end of the European war, the unit transferred to Transport Command, trading its Halifaxes for old Stirlings, and began to ferry troops from England to the Far East for an impending all out assault to eject the Japanese. The end of the war there in August, stopped the troop assembling, but the squadron continued to operate until disbandment on 30 October 1950 at Bassingbourn.

​Aircraft

 

Whitley Mk II – Feb 1938 to Dec 1939
Whitley Mk III – Aug 1938 to Mar 1940
Whitley Mk IV – Nov 1939 to May 1940
Whitley Mk V – Jan 1940 to Oct 1942
Halifax Mk II – Nov 1942 to Jan 1944
Halifax Mk III – Jan 1944 to May 1945
Stirling Mk V – Jun 1945 to Apr 1946
Stirling Mk IV – Nov 1945 to Jan 1946

Squadron Commanders

W/C J Silvester – Apr 1938 to Mar 1940

W/C AH Owen, DFC – Mar to Oct 1940

W/C NH Freeson – Oct to Dec 1940

W/C JB Tait, DFC – Dec 1940 to Jan 1941

W/C RC Wilson – Jan to May 1941

W/C BK Burnett – May to Nov 1941

W/C PC Pickard, DSO, DFC – Nov 1941 to May 1942

W/C JAH Tuck, DSO – May to Oct 1942

W/C AV Sawyer, DFC – Oct 1942 to Apr 1943

W/C AD Frank, DSO, DFC – Apr to Nov 1943

W/C DSS Wilkerson – Nov 1943 to Feb 1944

W/C RC Ayling – Feb to Apr 1944

W/C CWM Ling – Apr to Nov 1944

W/C HAR Holford – Nov 1944 to Apr 1945

W/C EFE Barnard – Apr to Dec 1945

Airfields

Linton-on-Ouse, UK – 20 Apr 1938
Kinloss – Nov 1939 (Det)
Dishforth – 9 Dec 1939
Andover – Jan 1940 (Det)
Chivenor – 6 May 1942
Snaith – 27 Oct 1942
Leconfield – 20 Apr 1945
Stradishall – 21 Aug 1945 to Aug 1946

Operational Performance (While with Bomber Command)

 

Raids Flown

Whitleys – 221 bombing, 10 leaflet, 2 parachute dropping
Halifaxes – 255 bombing, 9 minelaying

Totals: 476 bombing 10 leaflet, 9 minelaying 2 parachute = 497 raids

 

Sorties and Losses

Whitleys – 1,806 sorties, 50 aircraft lost (2.8 percent)
Halifaxes – 4,153 sorties, 108 aircraft lost (2.6 percent)

Totals: 5,959 sorties, 158 aircraft lost (2.7 percent)

No. 52 Squadron

Squadron Code: MB

Motto: SUDORE QUAM SNAGUINE (By sweat other than through blood)

The squadron formed on 15 May 1916 at Hounslow Heath in Middlesex, as an army cooperation squadron.

In the years leading up to the Second World War, the squadron was a light bomber unit equipped with Hawker Harts, moving to Fairy Battles soon after. When war broke out, the unit was turned to a training squadron and then subsequently disbanded on 8 April 1940. Reformed for the third time in its history, this time at Habbaniya in Iraq, the unit took on the role of a maintenance force equipped with completely obsolete Hawker Audaxes. In November, the Audaxes were withdrawn, leaving the unit without any aircraft until October 1942. At this point, Bristol Blenheims and Martin Baltimores arrived and the unit began general recce flights. By 1943, much of its area included the sprawling North African coastline with detachments operating out of Malta and other locations in the Mediterranean. A few flights in this general area paid high dividends occasionally, usually in form of rich, easy targets such as German Ju52 transports, a few of which were shot down by the unit. In February 1944, with the Mediterranean largely secured, the unit moved to Gibraltar for anti-submarine work, disbanding there on 31 March.

Reformed yet again, this time in India by combining the ‘B’ and ‘C’ Flights of 353 Squadron on 1 July, the unit became a transport formation, flying immediately over the Himalayan ‘Hump route to China. Opening up mail routes to Bombay, Colombo and Ranchi, the squadron in effect became a postal service for 221 and 224 Groups. Meantime, one flight was indefinitely deployed to Kunming in December, to evacuate British citizens from the city should the need ever arise.

 

Long-range Liberators arrived that month to augment the ‘Hump’ flights, and in January 1945, the squadron strength rose to 50 crews with added aircraft. A few evacuation flights were made out of China, with other commitments in Burma. By April 1945 squadron strength had shrunk to 26 Dakotas and seven other small aircraft and losses in both aircrews and aircraft mitigated the squadron’s services in the theater. By August, one 50 percent of the squadron’s were airworthy, but the end of the war compensated for the declining flights. Serviceability rose immediately following the surrender of the Japanese and the unit served on in the Far East in the post-war period. It later disbanded at Singapore on 25 April 1966. 

​Aircraft

 

Battle Mk I – Jul 1937 to Apr 1940

Anson Mk I – Feb 1939 to Apr 1940

Audax Mk I – Aug to Nov 1941

Blenheim Mk IV – Oct 1942 to Jan 1943

Baltimore Mk IIIA – Jan 1943 to Mar 1944

Baltimore Mk IV & V – Sept 1943 to Mar 1944

Dakota Mk III – Jul 1944 to 1945

Dakota Mk IV – Sept 1944 to 1951

Liberator Mk VI – Dec 1944 to Dec 1945

Squadron Commanders

P/O F Kerr – Jul to Sept 1941

F/L P Geary – Sept to Nov 1941

F/L RB Whittington – Nov to Dec 1941

S/L FL Newall – Dec 1941 to Sept 1942

S/L KHO Young, DFC – Sept 1941 to Feb 1943

W/C CDR McDonald – Feb 1943 to Feb 1944

W/C HS Grimsey – Feb to Mar 1944

W/C RE la F Wyatt – Jul 1944 to Feb 1945

W/C WH Barbery, DFC, AFC – Feb to Mar 1945

W/C JTS Horsfall – Mar to Sept 1945

W/C KR Slater, AFC – Sept 1945 to Jan 1947

Airfields

Alconbury, UK – 1 Sept 1939

Upwood – 7 Sept 1939

Kidlington – 9 Sept 1939

Benson – 18 Sept 1939

Habbaniya, Iraq – 1 Jul 1941

Mosul, Iraq – 17 Aug 1942

Kasfareet, Mediterranean – 11 Feb 1943

LG.43, Libya – 20 Feb 1943

Protville, Tunisia – 14 Jun 1943

Bo Rizzo, Sicily – 1 Nov 1943 (Det. at Luqa)

North Front, Gibraltar – 20 Feb to 31 Mar 1944

Dum Dum, India – 1 Jul 1944 to 7 Oct 1946

No. 53 Squadron

Squadron Codes: PZ, TE, FH (Liberator)

Motto: UNITED IN EFFORT

The squadron formed on 15 May 1916 at Catterick, initially as a training unit, but went to France in December as a Corps reconnaissance squadron.

Equipped with Blenheims in January 1939, the squadron went to France at the outbreak of war in September, beginning operations on the 28th. It spent much of the Phony War period in relative calm, but at the opening of the German Blitzkrieg in May 1940, returned to England after a mere ten days of combat. Moving to the southeast corner of England, it flew reconnaissance sorties over the coast, beginning night bombing flights in July. By February 1941, these had given way to anti-shipping sorties off the Cornwall and French coasts, with anti-submarine work becoming its primary concern.

In early 1942, in what was a remarkable move, the squadron deployed to the United States, to Rhode Island, to augment inexperienced American anti-submarine forces combating increased U-Boat activity against the eastern seaboard after the American entry into the war. When the action switched to the Caribbean, the unit moved to Trinidad in August.  By November, however, the squadron left these warm water for English seas, gathering at Davidstow Moor in the full charm of December winter. Flying Whitelys, the squadron operated from East Anglia in early 1943, but soon equipped with Liberators, which it flew on long-range sweeps over the Bay of Biscay and the Western Approaches. Transferring to Iceland in September 1944, it spent the rest of the war over the North Sea.

In June 1945, with the war in Europe over, it switched to the Far Eastern theater, flying troops to India from England. When the war against Japan ended, the squadron remained in the Far East, disbanding on 28 February 1946.

​Aircraft

 

Blenheim Mk IVF – Jan 1939 to Jul 1941

Hudson Mk III & V – Jul to Dec 1941

Whitley Mk VII – Feb to May 1943

Liberator Mk VA – May 1943 to Jul 1944

Liberator Mk VI – Jul 1944 to Jun 1946

Liberator Mk VIII – Jan 1945 to Jun 1946

Squadron Commanders

S/L WB Murray – Apr 1939 to Jun 1940

W/C ECT Edwards – Jun to Sept 1940

S/L WB Murray, DFC – Sept 1940 to May 1941

W/C GWP Grant – Mar 1941 to Feb 1942

W/C JR Leggate – Feb 1942 to Feb 1943

W/C HRA Edwards, AFC – Feb to Nov 1943

W/C RTF Gates, AFC – Nov 1943 to Aug 1944

W/C NB Littlejohn, OBE – Aug to Nov 1944

W/C AR Holmes – Nov 1944 to Jun 1945

W/C D McKenzie – Jun to Dec 1945

Airfields

Odiham, UK – 8 Apr 1938

Plivot, France – 17 Sept 1939

Poix – 11 Oct 1939 (Det at Vitry)

Crecy – 19 May 1940

Lympne, UK – 19 May 1940

Andover – 20 May 1940 (Det at Coulmmier & Hawkinge)

Eastchurch – 31 May 1940 (Det at Rouen)

Gatwick – 13 Jun 1940

Detling – 3 Jul 1940 (Det at Bircham Newton)

Thorney Island – 20 Nov 1940 (Det at Manston)

St. Eval – Feb 1941

Bircham Newton – Jul 1941

St. Eval – Oct 1941

Limavady, North Ireland – Dec 1941

North Coates – 1 Feb 1942

St. Eval – May 1942

Quonset Point, United States – 3 Jul 1942 (Dets at St. Eval & Limvady)

Waller Field, Trinidad – 1 Aug 1942

Edinburgh Field – 15 Aug 1942 (Det at Zandery)

Norfolk, United States – Nov 1942

Davidstow Moor, UK – Feb 1943

Docking – 15 Feb 1943

Bircham Newton – Mar 1943

Thorney Island – Apr 1943 (Det at St. Eval)

Beaulieu – Sept 1943

St. Eval – 3 Jan 1944 (Det at Ballykelly)

Reykjavik, Iceland – 13 Sept 1944

St. Davids – 1 Jun to 17 Sept 1945

No. 54 Squadron

Squadron Codes: DL, KL, HF

Motto: AUDAX OMNIA PERPETI (Boldness endures everything)

No 54 Squadron first formed on 16 May 1916 at Castle Bromwich as a Home Defence squadron. Then it was decided that 38 Squadron would fit this bill and 54 Squadron subsequently wound up transferring to Flanders, France as a fighter squadron in December. Service here would allow the basis for the squadron’s future emblem to be born, incorporating the Arms of France and Flanders.

In World War II, the squadron, armed with Supermarine Spitfires (which had arrived in March 1939), mounted defensive flight after defensive flight from Hornchurch. Its first scramble happened on September 6, but it proved to be a false alarm. In fact, war action would elude them until 13 February 1940 when a flight of three Spitfires led by Flight Lt James Leathart came across a solitary Heinkel He111 from the elite Kampfgruppe 100 off the Kent coast. The Heinkel was shot down from the sky. Leathart himself did not score on this occasion (that honor would fall to Pilot Officer Basil Way and another pilot). However, Leathart, a former electrical engineer graduate from the University of Liverpool, affably nicknamed ‘The Prof’ by his peers would come into his own glory in May.

With the Dunkirk evacuations in full stretch by late May, Leathart and a handful of his squadron-mates attempted a daring rescue on the 23rd that deserves mention. Flying the squadron Miles Master communications plane, Leathart flew to Calais to pick up the stranded CO of 74 Squadron, Squadron leader F.L. White. As Leathart landed the unarmed Master, two of his men, Flying Officers Alan Deere and Johnny Allen circled overhead in Spitfires as top cover. Leathart, with White in the passenger seat beside him, throttled up the Master and had just taken off when their worst fears transpired in the form of German Me109s. Deere and Allen, soon in brisk, desperate combat, shot down three of the Messerschmitts and damaged the other three so badly that they and Master were all able to escape. Out of the three confirmed kills borne out of this remarkable action, Deere had accounted for two.

A participant of successive operations in aid of the Dunkirk evacuations, No 54 Squadron operated sorties over the Belgian coast to stop German attacks on the port and beaches. A few victories were scored but losses were heavy for the RAF in general. Next, followed the Battle of Britain. On July 9, just one day before the official start of the battle, the squadron came across a Heinkel He59 flying-boat carrying Red Cross markings but reconnoitering the south coast. Outraged, the squadron shot it down. More combat came in droves over the next following days. On one memorable day, 24 June, the squadron, scrambled against an incoming raid over the Thames Estuary.

Intercepted over the town of Margate, German Dorniers dived low, pulling out at sea level to evade the Spitfires, many nearly crashing into the rooftops of the seaside hotels as they went. As the Dorniers slipped away, the squadron turned on the escorting Me109s. From the first which was shot down, its pilot baled out, but his parachute failed to open and he fell to his death (his pilotless aircraft crashed in a quiet road in residential Margate). A second struck Me109 from III/JG26 force-landed outside the town and the seriously injured pilot was taken prisoner. Meantime, Me109s had hit a 54 Squadron Spitfire which seemed ready to fall into Margate’s town center when the pilot managed to gain a little altitude and crashed in a ball of flame at nearby Cliftonville. Two other Spitfires fell, but as the dogfight moved towards Dover, four Me109s were downed, including that of Adolf Galland the famous Luftwaffe ace, although he managed to get away to France on a Luftwaffe flying boat.

By when the squadron left the arena for Yorkshire on September 3, it had shot down 60 enemy aircraft during the Battle of Britain. It later returned to the south in February 1941 to fly sweeps over western France. On April 17, it claimed its 100th kill of the war while escorting bombers over Northern France. European operations continued for the rest of the year and until June 1942, when the squadron received orders to move to Australia. It embarked on ships on the 19th, reaching Richmond in New South Wales on September 7 as the first British squadron to take up defensive station in Australia.

Joining the 1st (Churchill) Fighter Wing, with the RAAF’s 79, 452, 453 and 457 Squadrons, all intended to augment Australia’s poorly-defended Northwest territories against a Japanese threat from New Guinea and the Dutch Wast Indies. The squadron spent the rest of the year adapting to its new location. Not operational until January 1943, they found few targets by this time. Still, several scrambles were announced on February 6, Fight Lt Robert Foster in Spifire BS181 shot down a Japanese ‘Dinah’ bomber into the sea. In March, more dogfights followed with the squadron shooting down six planes, probably shooting down a seventh and damaging two for the loss of two Spitfires and their pilots.

More fighting occurred in April and May with the months of June and July proving especially heavy. The ubiquitous Foster, the sole squadron ace to emerge during this time, added two Betty bombers to his total in June with another on July 6. Only difficulties in maintaining serviceable aircraft mitigated squadron operations during this time, but as things stood, the rising casualties prompted the Japanese to operate by night. No 54 attempted a few night interceptions but proved unsuccessful.

In January 1944, the 1st Wing went on the offensive and in May, after being equipped with the excellent Spitfire Mk VIII, raided Tepa, while a detachment at Exmouth Gulf backed up land offensives in the area for three weeks. The rest of the squadron, still stationed at Darwin, awaited more Japanese raiders. A handful appeared, falling to Flight Lieutenants Meakin and Grossland in July.

After this, no more targets appeared. Squadron morale began to erode. Appealing to headquarters for action, the squadron received clearance to attack Japanese-held Seloroe Island, which, in the end, yielded little. It spent another year in what many squadron veterans regarded as the backwaters of the war. In the summer of 1945, it attempted more fighter sweeps over enemy airfields in the South Pacific, strafing a few vehicles and near non-operational Japanese airplanes, and with this, its last hurrah accomplished, it returned to Melbourne where it relinquishing its aircraft following the Japanese capitulation. The pilots and personnel embarked on ships to return to England and the squadron officially disbanded on 31 October 1945.

​Aircraft

 

Spitfire Mk I – Mar 1939 to Feb 1941

Spitfire Mk IIa – Feb to May 1941

Spitfire Mk Va – May to Aug 1941

Spitfire Mk Vb – Jul 1941 to Nov 1941

Spitfire Mk IIa – Aug 1941

Spitfire Mk IIb – Nov 1941 to Mar 1942

Spitfire Mk Vb – Mar to Jue 1942

Spitfire Mk Vc – Sept 1942 to May 1944

Spitfire Mk VIII – Apr 1944 to Sept 1945

Squadron Commanders

S/L HM Pearson – Apr 1938 to May 1940

S/L EA Douglas-Jones – May 1940

S/L JA Leathart, DSO – May to Aug 1940

S/L DO Finlay – 26 to 28 Aug 1940

S/L TPR Dunworth – Sept to Dec 1940

S/L RF Boyd, DFC* – Dec 1940 to Jul 1941

S/L N Orton DFC* – Jul to Sept 1941 (KIA)

S/L FDS Scott-Malden – Sept to Dec 1941

S/L PW Hartley – Dec 1941 to Apr 1942

S/L EM Gibbs – Apr 1942 to 11 Jan 1944

S/L RB Newton, DFC – 11 Jan to Jul 1944

S/L S Linnard, DFC – Jul 1944 to Jul 1945

S/L JBH Nicholas, DFC – Jul to Oct 1945

Airfields

Hornchurch, UK – 20 Jun 1931

Rochford – 28 Oct 1939

Hornchurch – 3 Nov 1939

Rochford – 17 Nov 1939

Hornchurch – 2 Dec 1939

Rochford – 16 Dec 1939

Hornchurch – 29 Dec 1939

Rochford – 16 Jan 1940

Hornchurch – 14 Feb 1940

Rochford – 23 Mar 1940

Hornchurch – 20 Apr 1940

Catterick – 28 May 1940

Hornchurch – 4 Jun 1940

Rochford – 25 Jun 1940
Hornchurch – 24 Jul 1940
Catterick – 28 Jul 1940
Hornchurch – 8 Aug 1940

Catterick – 3 Sept 1940

Hornchurch – 23 Feb 1941

Rochford – 31 Mar 1941

Hornchurch – 20 May 1941

Debden – 11 Jun 1941

Hornchurch – 13 Jun 1941

Martlesham Heath – 4 Aug 1941

Hornchurch – 25 Aug 1941

Castletown – 17 Nov 1941

Wellingore – 2 Jun 1942

Ascot Vale, Australia – 13 Aug 1942

Richmond – 24 Aug 1942

Sydney – 13 Jan 1943

Parap, Darwin – 25 Jan 1943

Potshot – 9 May 1944

Livingstone – 19 May 1944

Parap – 21 Oct 1944

Melbourne – 23 Sept to 31 Oct 1945

World War II Aces

  1. F/O John L. ‘Johnny’ Allen, DFC (8.3 Victories†) 1937 to 24 Jul 1940 (KIA/KIFA)

  2. S/L Robert F. Boyd (16¼ Victories; 5 with this unit) Dec 1940 to Jul 1941 →Kenley Wing, Far East

  3. F/O Edward F.J. ‘Jack’ Charles, DFC (15½ Victories; 6½ with this unit) Sept 1940 to Oct 1941 →611Sq

  4. F/L Alan C. Deere, DFC« – NZ (18.3 Victories, 14.3 with this unit) Sept 1938 to Dec 1940 → 602Sq

  5. F/L Robert W. Foster, DFC (6½ Victories; 5 with this unit) Apr 1942 to Feb 1944 →NCD UK

  6. F/L Peter M. Gardner, DFC (8.33 Victories; 1 with this unit) Jun 1941 to 11 Jul 1941 (POW)

  7. S/L Eric M. Gibbs, DFC (5½ Victories†) Apr 1942 to 11 Jan 1944 →N/A

  8. F/O Colin F. Gray, DFC – NZ (27.7 Victories, 16.2 with this unit) 20 Nov 1939 to Dec 1940 & Jan to Jun 1941 → 1Sq

  9. F/L Dorian G. Gribble, DFC (6½ Victories†) Mar 1938 to 4 Jun 1941 (MIA)

  10. P/O William P. ‘John Willie’ Hopkin (5 Victories, 3 with this unit) Jul to Sept 1940 →602Sq

  11. S/L James A. ‘The Prof’ Leathart, DSO (7.3 Victories; 6.3 with this unit) Nov 1937 to 18 Oct 1940 →89Sq

  12. P/O Desmond A.P. McMullen (19 Victories; 6.8 with this unit) Sept 1939 to 11 Sept 1940 →222Sq

  13. Sgt. John K. ‘Jock’ Norwell (5 Victories; 4 with this unit) Sept 1939 to Sept 1940 →41Sq

  14. S/L Newell ‘Fanny’ Orton, DFC« (17 Victories; 2 with this unit) Jul to 17 Sept 1941 (KIA)

  15. S/L Frederick S. Stapleton (7 Victories; 1 with this unit) Apr to May 1941 (Spny) →CO 611Sq, Hornchurch Wing (last 6 kills here, Jun-Sept 1941, DSO, DFC), G/C, N/A

  16. F/L Basil H. ‘Wonky’ Way (2.8 or 6.8 Victories) Jan 1939 to 29 Jul 1940 (KIA)

Supermarine Spitfire Mk I ‘Kiwi’, RAF Hornchurch, Mid-1940 This Spitfire embodies the color and spirit of the Battle of Britain. Flight Lieutenant Alan Deere, perhaps the best known of all the New Zealand aces few this particular craft, P9398. Under the cockpit is his personal insignia, a Kiwi, the national bird of New Zealand. He flew P9398 during the Dunkirk evacuations where he was credited with seven victories in just five days, but later lost the aircraft while fighting Me109s from II/JG51 on 9 July 1940. Badly-burnt, Deere crash-landed near Manston, living to fight another day. (Photo: IWM)

No. 55 Squadron

Squadron Code: GM

Motto: NIL NOS TREMEFACIT (Nothing makes us afraid)

The unit came into being on 24 April 1916 at Castle Bromwich in Warwickshire, as a training formation.

Operating primarily in the Middle East (including Turkey) in the interwar years, the unit formed constituted a part of the peace-keeping force in Iraq for nearly the next twenty years. In March 1939, Bristol Blenheims began to replace the antiquated mid-war types that the squadron was a familiar with, but the Blenheim itself was no modern aircraft compared to its contemporaries on the German side. Vulnerable in the presence of enemy fighters, the squadron and their Blenheims nevertheless went into action in North Africa against Italian-held Libya in June 1940. Operations continued here for the next year, but by March 1941, No 55 was the sole light bomber squadron left in North Africa (with everyone else having left for Greece).

 

By September, following a short respite from operations, the unit began anti-shipping flights, until deployment to the Egyptian interior in March 1942. Converting to Baltimores in May, it participated in the battles for El Alamein, later harassing the Germans as they lost the battle and retreated westwards. When the Germans surrendered North Africa in 1943, the squadron took up bases in Tunisia, to support the allied invasion of Sicily. Once airfields were secured on Sicily, the squadron moved in August, preparing for the next stage of operations against the Italian mainland.

When southern Italy fell to allied forces, No 55 took up station there, committed to air support for the troops until the end of the war. Following victory in Europe, the squadron moved to Greece in September 1945. It converted to Mosquitos here in 1946. But disbandment soon came on 1 November 1946.

​Aircraft

 

Blenheim Mk I – May 1939 to Mar 1942

Blenheim Mk IV – Dec 1940 to Mar 1942

Baltimore – May 1942 to Oct 1944

Boston – Oct 1944 to Jul 1946

Squadron Commanders

Unknown

Airfields

Ismalia, Egypt – 25 Aug 1939

Fuka – 11 Jun 1940

LG.79 – 10 Jan 1941

Amseat – 16 Jan 1941

Bu Amud – 4 Feb 1941

Heliopolis – 25 Feb 1941

Maraua – 10 Mar 1941

Derna, Libya – 4 Apr 1941

Gazala North – 6 Apr 1941

Great Gambut – 6 Apr 1941

Maaten Bagush – 9 Apr 1941

LH.95 – 2 May 1941

Helwan, Egypt – 2 Jun 1941

LG.100 Wadi Natrun – 1 Jul 1941

Aqir, Palestine – 9 Aug 1941

Bu Amud, Egypt – 8 Jan 1942

Benina – 12 Jan 1942

Berka Main – 20 Jan 1942

El Gubbi, Libya – 26 Jan 1942

Gambut – 31 Jan 1942

Fuka, Egypt – 3 Feb 1942

Helwan – 25 Mar 1942

Luxor – 3 Apr 1942

LG.99 Amriya – 10 May 1942

Ismalia – 1 Jul 1942

LG.98 – 16 Jul 1942

LG.86, Libya – 28 Aug 1942

El Sirtan – 7 Mar 1943

Marsa Gardane – 13 Mar 1943

Medenine Main, Tunisia – 4 Apr 1943

La Fauconnerie South – 15 Apr 1943

Enfidaville – 1 Jun 1943

Reyville – 21 Jun 1943

Gela West, Sicily – 9 Aug 1943

Gerbini 3 /Sigonella – 22 Aug 1943

Brindisi, Italy – 27 Sept 1943

Foggia 1/Celone – 28 Oct 1943

Kabrit – 4 Jan 1944

Biferno – 24 Mar 1944

San Severo – 2 May 1944

Tarquinia – 23 Jun 1944

Cecina – 18 Jul 1944

Perugia (Air ech) – 18 Oct 1944

Marcianise (Air ech) – 29 Oct 1944 to 11 Jan 1945

Ancona (HQ) – 25 Oct 1944

Porto Potenzo (HQ) – 2 Nov 1944

Falconara – 10 Dec 1944

Forli – 7 Mar 1945

Aviano – 12 May to 20 Sept 1945

No. 56 (Punjab) Squadron

Squadron Codes: LR, US, NN

Motto: QUID SI COELUM RUAT (What if heaven falls)

No 56 Squadron first formed on 9 June 1916 at Gosport from elements supplied by 28 Squadron, destined to become one of the greatest British fighter squadrons in history, earning glory for itself in World War I.

During World War II, the squadron's first scramble occurred at 3 am on September 4, but it did not find the aircraft it was sent after. Worse, two days later, on a second scramble, it lost two Hurricanes to a friendly fire attack by 74 Squadron. Only in November would the squadron encounter a bonifide enemy aircraft, when it came upon several German bombers and flying-boats. Two Do18s and a Blohm & Voss flying-boat were damaged that month.

In May 1940, sent to operate over the Dunkirk beaches, ‘B’ Flight detached to Vitry in France to back the squadrons already fighting in France. It then spent the next four days fighting off Luftwaffe forces intent on destroying Vitry. Meantime ‘A’ Flight near Lille had a slightly better time, operating from Norrent Fontes airfield by day while flying to North Weald when dark came. In all, the combined efforts of both flights, although costly to the squadron, resulted in the destruction of one Ju88, five He111s, one Do7, one Me109, five Me109s and Henschel Hs126. When France became beyond saving, the squadron left for England.

In June, No 56 escorted British Blenheims in forays over Northern France, but in July prepared for the Battle of Britain. Assigned to the 11 Group in South England throughout the Battle of Britain, the squadron was often scrambled two or three times a day and this kept until 1 September when they were finally relieved and proclaimed non-operational to afford them a few days of rest. By this point, they had already shot down 59½ enemy planes during the battle before they went to 10 Group in Southwest England where they encountered a slightly reduced pace of operations.

Remaining on the defensive into 1941, the squadron became responsible for testing the new Hawker Typhoon Mk Ia fighter in operational circumstances, receiving the first two aircraft on September 11. More aircraft arrived later that month but a crash owing to carbon-monoxide poisoning halted flights until the problem was fixed. Other problems with the aircraft soon manifested themselves, including structural weaknesses and engine unreliability – problems that were never really weeded out in the Typhoon’s long combat service.

Operational only in May 1942, No 56 began ‘anti-Rhubarb’ patrols along the line from Manston to Tangmere, but its first combat engagement proved tragic when a 401 Squadron Spitfire unfamiliar with the Typhoon mistook it for a German Focke-Wulf Fw190 and shot it down, resulting in the death of the pilot. When a similar incident repeated itself in July, the squadron painted yellow bands across the upper wings and black and white wings in the lower wing to identify themselves as friendly.

Fighter sweeps began in August and on September 14, Flight Lt Ingle-Finch and Pilot officer Coombes shot down a Ju88 to give the Typhoon its first kill of the war. But problems with the aircraft persisted. On 17 January 1943, Sergeant Sullivan in Typhoon R7854 died when the tail separated from the fuselage and problems with the Napier engine continued to dog operations well into the year. Consequently, morale was low until November when the squadron reinvented itself as a low-level fighter-bomber unit. Soon shooting up and bombing German bases and airfields across the Channel, the squadron, in April1944, abandoned the Typhoons for Supermarine Spitfires, pending the arrival of Hawker Tempests, a refinement of the Typhoon.

With the Tempests, the squadron took to engaging German V-1 Flying bombs landing on English soil. Starting first with Flight Lt Bateman-Jones who shot down the first V-1 on June 18 (with a stalwart Typhoon coded US-P MK517), the squadron went on to destroy 70½ to 77 bombs (including one by a squadron Spitfire) before moving on to continental bases in September to intercept the remnants of the German Luftwaffe in air combat. Altogether they shot down 59 enemy aircraft between this and the end of the war, becoming top-scoring Tempest squadron of the war (in conjunction with 486 Squadron).

The squadron remained in Europe after the war but disbanded on 1 April 1946 by renumbering as 16 Squadron.

​Aircraft

 

Hurricane Mk I – Apr 1938 to Feb 1941

Hurricane Mk IIB – Feb 1941 to Mar 1942

Typhoon Mk IA – Sept 1941 to Dec 1942

Typhoon Mk IB – Mar 1942 to May 1944

Spitfire Mk IX – Apr to Jun 1944

Tempest Mk V – 25 Jun 1944 to Apr 1946

Squadron Commanders

S/L EV Knowles – Jun 1939 to Jul 1940

S/L GAL Manton – Jul to Aug 1940

S/L HM Pinfold – Sept 1940 to Jan 1941

S/L EN Ryder, DFC – Jan to Jun 1941

S/L PP Hanks, DFC, AFC – Jun to Dec 1941

S/L HSL Dundas, DFC – Dec 1941 to Nov 1942

S/L AC Johnstone – Dec 1942 to Jun 1943

S/L THV Pheloung – Jun to Sept 1943

S/L GL Sinclair, DFC* - Sept 1943 to May 1944

S/L AR Hall, DFC – May to Sept 1944

S/L DVC Coates-Preddy, GM, DFC*« – Sept 1944 to Feb 1945

Airfields

North Weald, UK – 12 Oct 1937

Martlesham Heath – 22 Oct 1939

North Weald – 22 Feb 1940 (Det at Manston)

Norrent Fontes, France – May 1940 (Det at Vitry-en-Artois & Biggen Hill)

Digby – 31 May 1940

North Weald – 4 Jun 1940

Boscombe Down – 1 Sept 1940

Middle Wallop – 29 Nov 1940

North Weald – 17 Dec 1940

Martlesham Heath – 23 Jun 1941
Duxford – 26 Jun 1941

Snailwell – 30 Mar 1942

Manston – 29 May 1942

Snailwell – 1 Jun 1942

Matlaske – 24 Aug 1942

Manston – 22 Jul 1943

Martlesham Heath – 6 Aug 1943

Manston – 15 Aug 1943

Bradwell Bay – 23 Aug 1943

Martlesham Heath – 4 Oct 1943

Scorton – 15 Feb 1944

Acklington – 23 Feb 1944

Scorton – 7 Mar 1944

Ayr – 30 Mar 1944

Scorton – 7 Apr 1944

Newchurch – 28 Apr 1944

Matlaske – 28 Sept 1944

B.60 Grimbergen, Belgium – 28 Sept 1944

B.80 Volkel, Holland – 1 Oct 1944

B.112 Hopsten, Germany – 12 Apr 1945

B.152 Fassberg – 27 Apr 1945

Warmwell, UK – 8 May 1945

B.152 Fassberg, Germany – 23 May 1945

B.160 Kastrup – 22 Jun 1945

B.164 Schleswig – 22 Aug 1945

B.155 Dedelstorf – 5 Sept to 23 Oct 1945

World War II Aces

  1. F/O Richard E.P. Brooker (8 Victories, 2 with this unit) Feb 1938 to Late 1940 →1Sq

  2. F/L Pierre H. Clostermann, DFC – Fr. (11 Victories, 2 with this unit) Mid Mar to 8 Apr 1945 →3Sq

  3. F/L John H. Coghlan, DFC (6 Victories†) Sept 1939 to 7 Aug 1940 →Para Training Unit (KIA 17 Aug 1940)

  4. P/O Michael H. Constable-Maxwell (6½ Victories; 1½ with this unit) Apr 1940 to Feb 1941 →604Sq

  5. F/L Edward J. ‘Jumbo’ Gracie, DFC (8 Victories, 5½ with this unit) Jun to 30 Aug 1940 (WIA) & Oct 1940 to Jan 1941 →126Sq

  6. F/O Ronald A. Hagger (7 Victories; 1 with this unit) Feb 1941 to Oct 1942 →81Sq

  7. F/L Frederick W. ‘Taffy’ Higginson, DFC, DFM (12 Victories†) Oct 1937 to 17 Jun 1941 (shot down but evaded, later captured in France but escaped from prison 1942) & 6 Oct 1942 to Jul 1943 →NCD

  8. F/O David E. Ness, DFC – Can. (5½ Victories & 2½ V-1 Kills†) Apr 1944 to 1 May 1945 →UK, Canada

  9. P/O Alan Geoffrey Page, DSO (12 Victories, 2.3 with this unit) Jun to 12 Aug 1940 (WIA) →AFDU (2½ here, DFC), 132Sq

  10. F/L James J. ‘Joe’ Payton, DFC (6 Victories & 1 V-1 Kill†) Oct 1943 to 24 Apr 1945 (WIA, POW, Released 2 May)

  11. S/L Perry R. St. Quinten – Rhod. (9 Victories; 2 with this unit) Nov 1944 to May 1945 (Spny) →NCD

  12. F/Sgt. George Smythe, DFM (5 Victories†) Sept 1939 to Feb 1941 →25Sq, Ceylon

  13. F/L Ian S. Soden (5.3 Victories†) Early 1940 to 18 May 1940 (KIA)

  14. P/O Jack Stokoe (8.6 Victories, 3 with this unit) 11 Feb to 20 Apr 1941 (ShD) →74Sq, 59, 60 & 132OTU, 1692Flt (DFC), CGS, HQ TC

  15. F/L Percy S. ‘Squeak’ Weaver (7.83 Victories†) Sept 1937 to 31 Aug 1940 (KIA, DFC)

  16. F/Sgt. Clifford ‘Kim’ Whitehead, DFM (6 Victories†) 1939 to Late-1940 →4EFTS (KIFA on 4 Apr 1942)

V-1 Flying Bomb 'Diver' Aces

  1.  S/L Archibald R. ‘Archie’ Hall, DFC (5½ Kills†, 1 Me109 with 260Sq in Jan ‘42, 2 Fw190s with 167Sq in Dec ‘42) May to Sept 1944 →CO 91Sq

  2. F/Sgt. H. ‘Artie’ Shaw, DFC (9½ kills & 3½ aircraft victories†) Summer 1944 to 16 Jan 1945 (POW)

  3. F/Sgt. H.G. Wylde (5½ Victories†) N/A to Aug 1944 →501Sq

Hawker Tempest Mk V, B.112 Hopsten, Germany, April 1945 This aircraft was flown by the fifth highest-scoring Tempest ace of the war, Flying Officer David E. Ness from Westmount in Quebec, Canada. An electrician, machinist, surveyor and salesman before the war, Ness joined the RCAF in October 1941 and emerged from training as a Sergeant, before going to Britain in November 1942. Shuffled through a prolonged course at various training organizations, he became an instructor until March 1944. Commissioned that January, he joined 56 Squadron in April and had soon claimed three V-1s. It was only after the squadron was posting to the continent that Ness truly came into his own against enemy planes, shooting two Fw190s on September 29, followed by three more before the European war ended in May. Its tally of ground targets remains unknown despite his virulent strafing of vehicles and trains in 1945.

No. 57 Squadron

Squadron Codes: EQ, DX, DJ, QT

Motto: ‘CORPUS NON ANIMUM MUTO’ (I change my body not my spirit)

The squadron formed on 8 June 1916 at Copmanthorpe near York from elements supplied by 33 Squadron.

 

It began the Second World War with Bristol Blenheims, and went to France in September 1939 with the Advanced Air Striking Force (AASF). When the Blitzkrieg opened in May 1940, the unit found itself scouting and then bombing enemy motorized forces advancing through Belgium. But suffering heavy losses, the unit withdrew to join 2 Group in Britain after just eight days on the line. It continued to fly reconnaissance sorties from English bases until France fell in June, and in July, moved north to Scotland, having suffered the highest percentage loss rate with 2 Group in that short span from 21 May to 24 June.

Transferred to Coastal Command in Scotland, it flew anti-shipping operations over the North Sea, but returned to Bomber Command on 20 November, being equipped with Wellingtons and posted to 3 Group. The Wellingtons, it flew until September 1942. Then Avro Lancasters arrived. By now, transferred to 5 Group from 4 September, it contributed ten of its Lancasters on a daring low-altitude raid against the Schneider works at Le Creusot the following month. In November, the honor the squadron, HM King George VI visited, this being followed by another visit by the King and Queen in 1943.

 

In 1944, the unit attacked the V-1 storage sites at St. Leu d'Esserent caves, followed by the Mondeville steelworks at Caen, situated only two thousand yards ahead of the advancing British troops. In December, the squadron bombed the German Baltic Fleet at Gdynia and in March 1945, pulverized the German Rhine town of Wesel just it was to be assault by British Commandos. Their effort was so measured that British Field-Marshal Montgomery deemed fit to say that: “The bombing of Wesel was a masterpiece, and was a decisive factor in making possible our entry into the town before midnight.” The squadron disbanded after the war on 25 November 1945

​Aircraft

 

Blenheim Mk I – Mar 1938 to Nov 1940

Blenheim Mk IV – Mar to Nov 1940

Wellington Mk IC – Nov 1940 to Feb 1942

Wellington Mk II – Jul 1941 to Sept 1942

Wellington Mk III – Jan to Sept 1942

Lancaster Mk I & III – Sept 1942 to May 1946

Squadron Commanders

W/C HMA Day – Aug to Oct 1939

W/C AH Garland – Oct to Dec 1939

W/C RH Haworth-Booth – Dec 1939 to Feb 1940

W/C AH Garland – Feb 1940 to Feb 1941

W/C SS Bertram – Feb to May 1941

W/C JM Southwell – May 1941 to Mar 1942

W/C MV Petters-Smith – Mar to Jul 1942

W/C EJ laine – Jul to Sept 1942

W/C FC Hopcroft – Sept 1942 to Jul 1943

W/C WR Haskell – Jul to Aug 1943

W/C HWH Fisher – Aug 1943 to Apr 1944

W/C HY Humphreys – Apr 1944 to Jan 1945

W/C JN Tomes – Jan to Nov 1945

Airfields

Upper Heyford, UK – 5 Sept 1932

Roye-Amy, France – 24 Sept 1939

Rosieres-en-Santerre – 18 Oct 1939

Poix – 17 May 1940

Crecy-en-Ponthieu – 19 May 1940

Wyton, UK – 21 May 1940

Gatwick – 27 May 1940

Wyton – 11 Jun 1940

Lossiemouth – 24 Jun 1940

Elgin – 13 Aug 1940

Wyton – 1 Nov 1940

Feltwell – 20 Nov 1940

Scampton – 4 Sept 1942

East Kirby – 28 Aug 1943 to 25 Nov 1945

Operational Performance (While with Bomber Command)

 

Raids Flown

2 Group Blenheims – 34 offensive sweeps, 3 bombing
3 Group Wellingtons – 166 bombing, 7 minelaying
5 Group Lancasters – 313 bombing, 35 minelaying

Totals: 482 bombing, 42 minelaying, 34 sweeps

 

Sorties and Losses

2 Group Blenheims – 58 sorties, 10 aircraft lost (17.2 percent)
3 Group Wellingtons – 1,056 sorties, 54 aircraft lost (5.1 percent)
5 Group Lancasters – 4,037 sorties, 108 aircraft lost (2.7 percent)

Totals: 5,151 bombing, 172 aircraft lost (3.3 percent)

An additional 31 Lancasters were destroyed in crashes.

No. 58 Squadron

Squadron Codes: BW, GE, BY

Motto: ALIS NOCTURNIS (On the wings of the night)

The squadron formed on 10 January 1916 at Cramlington in Northumberland, becoming a bomber unit in August.

 

At the outbreak of the Second World War, the squadron was operational with 4 Group. On the first night of the war, seven squadron Whitleys dropped leaflets over Hamburg and other cities. The leaflet raids continued for some time, and in all, 58 Squadron flew 219 bombing and 8 leaflet raids in 1,757 sorties, losing 49 aircraft in the process. This stopped when the unit temporarily transferring to Coastal Command during the winter of 1939-1940. It returned to Bomber Command on 14 February 1940 as a ground reconnaissance unit, by equipping its Whitleys with photographic equipment. When the ‘Phony War’ turned to a shooting war, the squadron bombed German forces in Norway and France. On 10 February 1941, it participated in the RAF’s first parachute operation of the war (Operation ‘Colossus’), when six Whitleys flew off from Malta and dropped 38 men to attack two aqueducts at Trevisio in southern Italy.

Transferred back to Coastal Command on 5 April 1942, No 58 constituted the first of two squadrons (the other being 502 Squadron) to be transferred permanently to Coastal Command from Bomber Command. Flying out of St. Eval, No 58 flew anti-submarine and general reconnaissance sorties over the Bay of Biscay, its later Halifax Mk IIs equipped with ASV Mk III radar, and a fixed forward-firing 0.50 caliber gun to suppress a U-Boat’s flak guns. The Halifaxes were effectively in hindering U-boat activities by forcing them to dive, but actual sinkings were rare. For example, the squadron sighted fifteen U-boats in May 1943 alone and made 13 attacks, but was credited with just three sinkings (U-528, U-266 and U-463), aside from one Italian submarine sunk for the whole of 1943.

In October 1943, it went on night operations using flares, but attacks were sporadic. In January 1944, four attacks were made, and as the year gradually wore on, declining U-Boat contacts gave way to rising surface vessel attacks. In June, with the Normandy operation in full swing, the squadron concentrated on the Brest peninsula to keep the submarine contained to port and prevent them from interfering with allied naval forces of the Normandy coastline. Three submarines were attacked during this time, but the squadron lost two Halifaxes in July to the flak gunners aboard the U-Boats.

By 1945, the squadron’s area was largely limited to Norway, with 55 attacks on March and 44 in April. When the European war ended in May, the squadron remained in the theater, disbanding that same month on the 25th.

​Aircraft

 

Whitley Mk III – Oct 1937 to 1941

Whitley Mk V – Mar 1940 to May 1942

Whitley Mk VII – May 1942 to Jan 1943

Halifax Mk II – Jan 1943 to Apr 1945

Halifax Mk III – Apr to May 1945

Squadron Commanders

W/C RB Harvey – Mar to May 1942

W/C RWM Clark, OBE, DFC – May to Aug 1942

W/C AGF Stewart – Aug 1942 to Mar 1943

W/C WE Oulton, DFC – Mar to Sept 1943

W/C JMD Ker – Sept 1943 to Apr 1944

W/C JB Grant – Apr 1944 to Mar 1945

W/C WH ingle – Mar to May 1945

Airfields

Linton-on-Ouse, UK – 20 Apr 1938

Boscombe Down – 6 Oct 1939

Linton-on-Ouse – 14 Feb 1940

St. Eval – 5 Apr 1942

Stornoway – 30 Aug 1942

Holmsley South – 2 Dec 1942 (Det at St. Eval)

St. Davids – 6 Dec 1943

Stornoway – 28 Aug 1944 to 25 May 1945

No. 59 Squadron

Squadron Codes: PJ, TR, AE, BY, WE

Motto: AB UNO DISCE OMNES (From one learn all)

No. 59 Squadron formed on 1 August 1916 at Narborough, Norfolk as an army cooperation unit.

 

Largely equipped with Bristol Blenheims by the opening of the Second World War, the unit went to France in October, keeping two crews on standby for night reconnaissance. Still, the first combat operation was not sanctioned until the night of 30 April 1940, when Flight Lt Hallmark flew a recce over Cologne and Dusseldorf.

 

When the German Blitz broke on 10 May, the squadron found itself overwhelmed by requests for reconnaissance. Taking heavy losses on operations, the unit deftly withdrew to England on the 20th. From here, the unit attempted to maintain at least two recce sorties over the battle area each day, occasionally attacking enemy shipping in the waters off northern France.

When the Battle of France ended in June and a German invasion of England seemed to loom on the horizon, the unit flew at night, pinpointing the locations of the invasion barges at their moorings in French ports. When the invasion did not materialize, the squadron flew reconnaissance flights over Brittany, followed by actual attack raids from March 1941. When American-made Lockheed Hudsons equipped the unit in July, they were used for dawn and dusk attacks on shipping on the Ostend to Cherbourg line.  By the end of the year, however, the squadron had lost many of its crews to the Far East and was virtually non-operational. Rebuilt by March 1942, No 59 supported British commandos in their famous raid against St. Nazaire. By June, operating mainly by night, the unit ventured as far as Bremen in Germany, attacking ships and conducting reconnaissance.

Converting to Liberators in August, it resumed operations only in November, sinking one submarine and attacking two others. Five surface vessels were also attacked and as these successes seemed set to rise, the squadron withdrew to equip with Boeing Fortresses. Returning to combat flying in February 1943, they fought sporadic brushes with German Focke-Wulf Fw200 Condors operating in the same anti-shipping role on the other side. Two separate Fortresses, seemingly outmatched on two individual encounters by the Fw200s were shot down. By Mid-1943, the squadron was committed in the battle for the Atlantic, providing cover for convoys. In June 1944, the unit joined 19 Group and patrolled the Normandy coast. Using Sonabuoys from July, the unit found four U-boats and directed allied naval destroyers towards them. Sorties rose until the war in Europe ended and the squadron transferred to Transport Command, for operations in the Far East. The squadron later disbanded on 15 June 1946.

​Aircraft

 

Hector – Jun 1937 to Sept 1939

Blenheim Mk IVF – May 1939 to Sept 1941

Hudson Mk IIIA, V & VI – Aug 1941 to Sept 1942

Liberator Mk V – Apr 1943 to Mar 1945

Liberator Mk VIII – Mar 1945 to Jun 1946

Squadron Commanders

S/L JB Fyfe, DFC – Dec 1937 to Jun 1940

S/L RGS Morgan Weld-Smith – Jun to Aug 1940

W/C JAC Stratton – Aug 1940 to Sept 1941

W/C CMM Grece, DFC – Sept 1941 to Apr 1942

W/C RH Niven, DFC – Apr to May 1942

W/C GCC Bartlett – Jun 1942 to Jul 1943

W/C PA Gilchrist, DFC – Jul 1943 to Jul 1944

W/C AA de Gruyther, DFC – Jul 1944 to Mar 1945

W/C NB Littlejohn, CBE – Mar to Jun 1945

W/C SR Hanks, AFC – Jun 1945 to Jun 1946

Airfields

Andover, UK – 11 May 1939

Poix, France – 3 Oct 1939

Crecy – 19 May 1940

Andover, UK – 20 May 1940

Eastchurch – 30 May 1940

Odiham – 9 Jun 1940

Thorney Island – 5 Jul 1940 (Det at St. Eval)

Manston, St. Eval, Bircham Newton and Detling – 1 Feb 1941 (Dets)

Detling – 23 Jun 1941

Thorney Island – 22 Jul 1941 (Dets at Detling & Bircham Newton)

North Coates – 17 Jan 1942

Thorney Island – 28 Aug 1942 (Dets at St. Eval & Chivenor)

Chivenor – 6 Feb 1943

Thorney Island – 27 Mar 1943

Aldergrove, North Ireland – 11 May 1943 (Dets at St. Eval & Gibralter)

Ballykelly – 14 Sept 1943 (Det at Reykjavik)

Geck (Keflavik), Iceland – 4 Aug 1944 (Det)

Waterbeach, UK – 14 Sept 1945 to 15 Jun 1946

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