No. 36 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

No. 36 Squadron (RAF) during the Second World War

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At the outbreak of the Second World War No.36 Squadron was based in Singapore, and equipped with the Vickers Vildebeest, the only torpedo bomber available to the RAF in September 1939. Unfortunately for No.36 Squadron it was still operating it's by now obsolete Vildebeests at the end of 1941 when Japan entered the war, as was No.100 Squadron.

The two squadrons suffered devastating losses during the fighting in Malaya, and only two of No.36 Squadron's aircraft escaped to Java. When it became clear that Java was about to fall an attempt was made to fly these aircraft to Burma, but both were lost on 7 March 1942, and on the following day the squadron was disbanded.

No.36 reformed on 22 October 1942 in India, although without aircraft. The first Vickers Wellingtons arrived in December, for use on anti-submarine patrols. The squadron would continue to operate its Wellingtons on this duty until the end of the war.

The squadron changed theatres twice in the remaining years of the war. It flew its first anti-submarine patrols off the Indian coast from Madras on 13 January 1943, but the expected threat never developed, and in the summer the squadron was moved to Algeria. The first aircraft flew into Blida on 7 June 1943, but the ground echelon didn't arrive until the end of July. The squadron was then scattered around a number of bases in North Africa, from where it continued to fly on anti-submarine patrols.

The final major move came in September 1944 when the squadron returned to the United Kingdom where it continued to fly anti-submarine patrols, at first from Chivenor, and then from Benbecula. It was disbanded on 4 June 1945.

July 1935-March 1942: Vickers Vildebeest III
December 1942-November 1943: Vickers Wellington IC
January 1943-November 1943: Vickers Wellington VIII
June-November 1943: Vickers Wellington X, XI and XIII
July-November 1943: Vickers Wellington: XII
September 1943-June 1945: Vickers Wellington XIV

November 1930-August 1941: Seletar
August 1941: Kuantan
August 1941-February 1942: Seletar
February 1942: Kalidjati
February-March 1942: Tjikampeh
March 1942: Tjikamber

October 1942-March 1943: Tanjore
March-June 1943: Dhubalia
June 1943-April 1944: Blida
April-September 1944: Reghaia
September 1944: Tarquinia
September 1944-March 1945: Chivenor
March-June 1945: Benbecula

Squadron Codes: VU, RW, Q

1935-March 1942: Torpedo Bomber, Singapore
January-June 1943: Anti-submarine patrols, India
July 1943-September 1944: Anti-submarine patrols, North Africa
September 1944-June 1945: Anti-submarine patrols, UK


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Aviation Trails

In the second part of RAF Stradishall, we carry on from part 1, looking at the terrible circumstances around 214 Squadron’s worst night. The developments of Stradishall in the later war years and the post war development with the arrival of the Cold War and the jet age.

The raid would be to Hanau railways yards located 25 km east of Frankfurt am Main. During the raid thirty-five Wellingtons and fourteen Hampdens from both 57 Squadron (RAF Feltwell) and 214 Sqn (RAF Stradishall) would be dispatched. Take off was between 20:00 and 21:00 hrs and the attack by 214 Sqn would be carried out at heights as low as 400 feet using a mix of 250 lb and 500 lb bombs with impact fuses and some 3 hour delay fuses. During the attack, railway lines, bridges and carriages were hit, explosions were seen and the gunners strafed stationary trains and gun positions. The bomb aiming and shooting was reported as ‘good’.* 3

However, of the fourteen 214 Sqn Wellingtons that left, seven were lost and a further Wellington was hit in both engines by light flak the pilot nursing it back to England. Of those seven lost, one airman, Sgt. C. Davidson was taken prisoner of war, four have no known grave and the remaining thirty-seven all died, and remain buried in graves across Belgium and Germany. Truly a terrible night for 214 Sqn. 57 Squadron fared little better, losing five aircraft with the deaths of twenty-five airmen, the remaining five being taken prisoner.

Further losses that month were restricted to just odd aircraft with the last loss being recorded on the night of 28th/29th April, with all crewmen being lost. Before the month would be out, 214 would begin the conversion to Stirlings, a new start and a new challenge.

The Stirling would prove to be a robust but under performing aircraft, its short wingspan and subsequent lack of lift, proving to be its biggest downfall. 214 Sqn would, during the conversion programme, write off nine aircraft, much of this though being as a result of operational activity, some however, due to pilot error or accidents. The first incident occurring on May 5th, 1942, approximately one week into the programme, when Stirling N6092 piloted by F/O. Gasper and Sgt. M Savage, swung on take off resulting in its undercarriage collapsing.

In the October 1942, 214 Sqn would leave for the final time, moving off to Stradishall’s satellite airfield, RAF Chedburgh, where they remained until December 1943. Following this they transferred to RAF Downham Market. The last loss of a 214 aircraft at Stradishall being on the night of September 19th/20th with the loss of Stirling ‘BU-U’ R9356 along with four of the seven crew, the remaining three being taken prisoners. By the end of 1942, 214 Sqn would have lost thirty-three Stirlings, twice that of the Wellington, all-in-all a huge loss of life.

Former Married quarters are now private dwellings, but still retain that feel they had when they were first built.

The December of 1944 not only saw the departure, for the last time, of the Stirling as a heavy bomber, but it heralded the arrival of the Lancaster, the remarkable four-engined bomber that became the backbone of Bomber Command. In total 7,377 of the bombers were produced, including 430 that were constructed in Canada. A remarkable aircraft born out of the much under-powered and disliked Avro Manchester, it went on to fly over 156,000 sorties, dropping over 50 million incendiary bombs and over 608,000 tons of HE bombs.

186 Sqn would be the first unit here with the Lancaster both the MK.I and the MK.III, operating them in a number of missions over occupied Europe.

One of the saddest ends to the war and the operations of 186 Squadron was on the night of April 134th/14th. Whilst returning from bombing the U-boat yards at Kiel, two Lancasters: P8483 ‘X’ and P8488 ‘J’ collided at 02:26. Five of the crew from AP-X were killed, either instantly or as a result of injuries sustained, whilst all seven of AP-J lost their lives. This loss would account for a high proportion of the squadron’s losses, 186 Sqn only losing nine Lancasters in the six months of residency – a considerable change to the carnage suffered at Stradishall earlier on in the war. 186 Sqn would finally be disbanded here in July 1945.

Over the next four years, there would be a return of both the Stirling and the Lancaster, but this time in the transport role, as Stradishall was passed over to Transport Command. No. 51 Sqn, and No. 158 Sqn both flying Stirlings (158 Sqn being disbanded at Stradishall) 35 Sqn, 115 Sqn, 149 Sqn and 207 Sqn all operating various models of the Lancaster until February 1949.

There would then be a lull in operations at Stradishall between April and July 1949 whilst the airfield was put into care and maintenance. Following this 203 Advanced Flying School (AFS) moved in with a range of aircraft types, including the Meteor and the Vampire. Also thrown into the mix were a number of piston engined aircraft, notably the Spitfire XIV, XVI and XVIII, along with Tempests, Beaufighters and Mosquito T3s. Other training aircraft also came along covering everything from the Tiger Moth to the modern jet fighter. A new age was dawning.

On the night of August 31st and September 1st 1949, 203 AFS and 226 Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) at Driffield, would both disband and reopen under each other’s titles, the new 226 OCU now operating as the training unit converting pilots to jet aircraft.

To the left was the main airfield now covered by a solar farm, to the right would have been the hangars, the original apron concrete still visible.

The post war years of the 1950s would see Stradishall thrown back into front line operations once more, this time there would be no heavy bombers though, but there would be plenty of front line fighters.

First along were the night fighter variants of the Meteor (NF.11) and Venom (NF.3) between March 1955 and March 1957, a residency for a reformed 125 Squadron that coincided with 245 Squadron only 3 months behind them. No. 245 swapping the Meteor for the Hunter before being disbanded in June that year.

No. 89 Squadron (another unit reformed in December 1955) saw the arrival of the new delta wing Javelins FAW6 & FAW2 working alongside the ageing Venom Night Fighters. They flew these aircraft for thirteen months before being disbanded once more, and then renamed as 85 Squadron whilst here at Stradishall. After this re-branding they continued to fly the Javelins. In 1959 they too departed Stradishall for RAF West Malling and then onto RAF West Raynham, where they too disbanded once more.

1957 saw more of the same, 152 Squadron yo-yoing between Stradishall and Wattisham, finally disbanding here in July 1958 with 263 Squadron following a similar pattern, also disbanding here in the same month with their Hunter F.6s.

In July 1958, No. 1 Squadron were yet another unit to reform here, carrying on from where 263 Sqn left off. After replacing the F.6s of 263 Sqn with FGA.9s in the fighter / strike role, they finally departed to Waterbeach, eventually becoming a front line Harrier unit at Cottesmore.

Gradually operations at Stradishall were beginning to wind down. In June 1959 No. 54 Squadron also replaced the Hunter F.6s with FGA.9s before they too departed for Waterbeach in Cambridgeshire. 54 Sqn went on to fly both the Phantom and the Jaguar as front line operational units, all iconic aircraft of the Cold War. A very short spell by three Hunter squadrons led to the eventual closure of Stradishall in 1960 as a front line fighter station 208, 111 and 43 Sqns all playing a minor part in the final operations at this famous airfield. The last flying unit No.1 Air Navigation School (ANS) finally closing the station doors as they too disbanded on August 26th 1970, being absorbed by No. 6 Flying Training School.

Some older buildings can still be found outside the grounds of the Prison.

A considerable number of non-operational units would also operate from Stradishall throughout its operational life such as 21 Blind Approach Training Flight, meaning just short of 50 flying units would use the facilities at Stradishall, all helping to train and prepare aircrews for the RAF and the defence of Britain.

Stradishall’s long and distinguished aviation history finally came to a close when it was sold off and handed over to HM Prison Service, becoming as it is today, HMP Highpoint Prison (North) and HMP Highpoint Prison (South). A rather ungainly ending to a remarkably historic airfield.

Stradishall is located a few miles south-west of Chedburgh, the main A143 dissects the two prison blocks, the north side being the former accommodation area, with the south block being the technical area and main airfield site. Access to the site is therefore limited, however, the former officers mess and associated buildings are available to view, as are a number of former technical buildings. A large memorial is currently displayed outside the officer’s mess building, named Stirling House in memory of the aircraft type that flew from here, and it is open to the public. The foyer of the building, now a Prison Officer Training facility, is opened, and holds a roll of Honour, for those lost at the airfield.

The current Prison Officers Training facility is named after the ill-fated Stirling that flew from RAF Stradishall. The Memorial being well sign posted.

Through the high security fencing, and around the site a number of buildings can still be seen, the familiar layout and design being standard of wartime and post war airfields. By turning off the A143 prior to reaching the memorial site, a small back access road allows public access to the airfield site. This is now, in part, a conservation area where the runways have all been removed, parts of the perimeter track do still remain and public access is permitted. The runways have been replaced by a solar farm, large panels cover the entire area and all are encased in high security fencing with closed circuit TV preventing you from wandering too close to the high-tech plant.

Walking along the northern side of the airfield, views can be seen of the accommodation area, again a number of former buildings can be seen through the fencing, their style typical of the expansion period design.

The dilapidated gateway hides many original buildings and a layout that reflects airfield design of the expansion period.

Back on the main road, turning left passing the prison, a turn off gives access to the aforementioned officers mess and memorial, it is well signposted, and continuing on, brings you to the former married quarters, now private housing, again typical of airfield design. Across the road from here, a farm track still has a small number of buildings now in a very poor state, this would have been an entrance to the accommodation area behind the current north side Prison. They are both quite well hidden by undergrowth but they are visible with a little effort.

Stradishall, like many of the early expansion period airfields, with its neo-Georgian style architecture and well designed layout, lasted well into the cold war period. These early examples which set the standard for future designs, proved to be long-lasting and robust, unlike many of their later counterparts hastily built with temporary accommodation. Whilst a rather unfitting end to a long and distinguished life, the transformation into a prison has in part, been its saviour, and one that has preserved many of its fine buildings for the foreseeable future at least.

Sources and Further Reading.

* 1 419 (Special Duties) Flight were initially formed at North Weald on 21st August 1940, being disbanded and re designated 1419 (Special Duties ) Flight on 1st March 1941 at Stradishall. They in turn were disbanded on 25th August 1941 to be reformed at Newmarket as 138 Sqn. they moved back to Stradishall on 16th December 1941. In February 1942, the nucleus of 138 Sqn formed 161 Sqn at Newmarket continuing the role of SOE operations from there.

* 2 Grehan, J., Mace, M., “ Unearthing Churchill’s Secret Army: The Official List of SOE Casualties and Their Stories “, Pen and Sword Military, 2012

RAF 602 Squadron. (1 Viewer)

I would like to know if any of you got more info on history of the 602 "City Of Glasgow" Squadron. The only infos I have are about their role in BoB. Here is what I have :

Motto: Cave leonem cruciatum - 'Beware the tormented lion'
Badge: In front of a saltire, a lion rampant. The lion was adopted in view of the squadron's association with Scotland and the saltire to represent the cross of St Andrew, being fimbriated to show it as a white saltire on a blue background.

No 602 Squadron was formed on 12 September 1925 at Renfrew as a day bomber unit of the Auxiliary Air Force. Initially equipped with DH9As it began to replace these with Fawns in September 1927, though the latter were in turn replace by Wapitis in 1929. Harts began to arrive in February 1934 and the squadron re-equipped with Hinds in June 1936. On 1 November 1938 No 602 was redesignated an army co-operation squadron, but on 14 January 1939 this was changed to become a fighter unit, Gauntlets being received. These were replaced by Spitfires in May 1939 and during the early months of the war the squadron was engaged in intercepting German bombing raids on Scotland. When the Battle of Britain began, No 602 was still in Scotland, moving south in mid-August.


The lancaster kicks ass

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2nd Lieutenant

just a quick search on Google:

No 602 Squadron, the first Auxiliary Air Force Squadron, was formed on 12 September 1925 with its Headquarters at Renfrew Aerodrome. In 1933 they moved to Abbotsinch. In April 1939 the Squadron was re-equipped with Spitfire's. At the start of the war they moved first to Grangemouth and then to Drem. It was from this station that Spitfire's from No 602 Squadron flew to attack enemy aircraft near the Forth Bridge on the 16th October 1939. That afternoon they shot down a Junkers Ju 88 over the sea near Crail (this may well have been the first enemy aircraft to be shot down over Britain in the Second World War). The pilot was Flight Lieutenant George Pinkerton from Millerston, Glasgow.
No 602 Squadron moved from the Drem Satellite Station to Westhampnett, in the Tangmere Sector to exchange with No 145 Squadron on the 13th of August 1940.

No 602 Squadron was formed on 12 September 1925 at Renfrew as a day bomber unit of the Auxiliary Air Force. Initially equipped with DH9As it began to replace these with Fawns in September 1927, though the latter were in turn replace by Wapitis in 1929. Harts began to arrive in February 1934 and the squadron re-equipped with Hinds in June 1936. On 1 November 1938 No 602 was redesignated an army co-operation squadron, but on 14 January 1939 this was changed to become a fighter unit, Gauntlets being received. These were replaced by Spitfires in May 1939 and during the early months of the war the squadron was engaged in intercepting German bombing raids on Scotland. When the Battle of Britain began, No 602 was still in Scotland, moving south in mid-August and returning in December. In July 1941 it arrived in south-east England to take part in sweeps over France for a year before moving back to Scotland. In January 1943 the squadron moved to south-west England for convoy protection and escort missions and in April was part of the first group of squadrons which were to form the new Second TAF. After taking part in sweeps over France, it moved back to Scotland for defensive duties in January 1944, coming south again in March to begin fighter-bomber missions in preparation for the invasion. By the end of June, No.602 was operating from airstrips in Normandy and moved forward with the Army to Belgium before returning to the UK in September to fly sweeps over the Netherlands against V-2 rocket launching sites and their transport. It remained in East Anglia until disbanded on 15 July 1945.

On 10 May 1946, No.602 reformed as a fighter squadron of the Auxiliary Air Force and assembled at Abbotsinch on 11 June. Spitfires began to arrive in October and these were replaced by Vampires from January 1951. Flying was carried out from Renfrew for a period from July 1949 while maintenance was based on Abbotsinch until July 1951, when the squadron was fully established at Renfrew. Increasing civil traffic resulted in a final move to Abbotsinch in June 1954, where No.602 disbanded on 10 March 1957.

The 602 Squadron Museum was officially opened on 22 October 1983 by Marshal of the Royal Air Force, The Lord Cameron of Balhousie. It was built to commemorate the outstanding achievements of No. 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron, Royal Auxiliary Air Force from its formation in 1925 until its disbandment in 1957.

The museum is in the process of moving to it's new location in the Royal Highland Fusiliers Regimental Museum, 518 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, G2 3LW. The museum will be re-opening at this location shortly.

602 was the first of 21 auxiliary squadrons to be formed within the Royal Air Force and began flying from Moorpark Aerodrome at Renfrew. It was originally a bomber squadron but converted to fighters in May 1939. Two of its pilots, The Maquis of Douglas Clydesdale (later The Duke of Hamilton) and Flight Lieutenant David MacIntyre, were the first men ever to fly over Mount Everest. Such was the confidence of the Air Ministry in this unit that 602 was the first Auxiliary Squadron to be equipped with Spitfires - and, indeed, 7th in the whole Royal Air Force. With these Spitfires it was involved in the shooting down of the first German aircraft in UK skies in the Second World War. Later, the Squadron moved south into the thick of the Battle of Britain where it soon established itself as one of the leaders finishing the conflict with the second highest total of "kills", the lowest pilot loss rate and the longest serving squadron in the front line. The roll of honour, proudly displayed in the museum, records this momentous time in our nation's history.

After a spell at Prestwick and Ayr in early 1941, 602 returned south flying strike sorties into Europe from Kenley and Redhill and later provided fighter cover during the dieppe Raid in August 1942. In September the squadron moved north to the Orkney and Shetland Islands to intercept the high level German reconnaissance raiders over Scapa Flow. It flew from bases in the south of England from January 1943 and transferred to the Second Tactical Air Force in November flying offensive sweeps over France and providing fighter escorts. Involved in the "D" Day Invasion, 602 later flew from airfields in Europe before returning to England in September 1944 to concentrate on strikes against V2 rocket sites and other prime targets. The squadron disbanded on 15 May 1945 by which time it was credited with the destruction of 150 enemy aircraft.

After the war, 602 squadron was reformed in its auxiliary status flying spitfires from Abbots inch (now Glasgow airport) and, for a time, from Renfrew. The Spitfire gave way to Vampire jets in January 1951 which were flown until final disbandment in January 1957.

In 1941, Sir Patrick Dollan, then Lord Provost of Glasgow, wrote "Some day the City should provide a suitable memorial to the gallantry of the pilots of 602 Squadron". Some 40 years later, on learning of this statement and that nothing had been done, the cadets of 2175 (Rolls Royce) Squadron of the Air Training Corps accepted it as a challenge and within 18 months, with the help of many friends, established the Museum as a fitting tribute to the memory of the elite band of men.

Although not having any aircraft exhibits at present, the Museum houses many priceless artefacts and memorabilia including the Squadron silverware, a Rolls Royce merlin Engine, uniforms and decorations, original drawings of 602 pilots by Orde, the Battle of Britain Memorial book, a photo gallery, maps, paintings and reference books.

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