No. 40 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

No. 40 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No. 40 Squadron (RAF) during the Second World War

Aircraft - Location - Group and Duty - Books

No. 40 Squadron began the war as part of the Advanced Air Striking Force, making it one of the first squadrons to be sent to France. The Fairey Battle suffered very heavy loses during the Battle of France, but by then No. 40 Squadron had returned to Britain to re-equip with the Blenheim.

When the German onslaught in the west began on 10 May 1940 No.40 Squadron's Blenheims were thrown into the battle, attacking German troops until the fall of France. The squadron then took part in the attacks on the German invasion barges during the period when that invasion was expected at any time.

In November 1940 the squadron converted to the Wellington, and spent the next year operating as a night bomber squadron with Bomber Command. In October 1941 the squadron's aircraft were flown to Malta, where they operated against targets in Italy and North Africa until May 1942, when the surviving aircraft were transferred to Egypt. Those parts of the squadron that had remained in the UK became No. 156 squadron on 14 February 1942

Once the squadron had recovered from its battering on Malta, it began to fly operations against the Axis forces in North Africa, moving west as the Allies advanced into Tunisia and Cyrenaica, before finally moving to Italy in December 1943. From there the unit carried out raids on targets in northern Italy and the Balkans.

July 1938-December 1939: Fairey Battle
December 1939-November 1940: Bristol Blenheim IV
November 1940-May 1942: Vickers Wellington IC
May 1942-July 1943: Vickers Wellington III
May 1943-March 1945: Vickers Wellington X
March 1945-January 1945: Consolidated Liberator VI

8 October 1932-2 September 1939: Abingdon
2 September-2 December 1939: Betheniville (France)
2 December 1939-2 February 1941: Wyton
2-14 February 1941: Alconbury
31 October 1941-May 1942: Luqa
1 May-23 June 1942: Abu Sueir
23 June-20 August 1942: Shallufa
20 August-7 November 1942: Kabrit
7-12 November 1942: LG.222A
12-25 November 1942: LG.104
25 November 1942-20 January 1943: Luqa
20 January-15 February 1943: LG. 237
15 February-13 March 1943: Gardabia East
13 March-26 May 1943: Gardabia South
26 May-25 June 1943: Kairouan/ Cheria
25 June-18 November 1943: Hani West
18 November 1943-4 December 1943: Oudna 1
16-30 December 1943: Cerignola (Italy)
30 December 1943-21 October 1945: Foggia Main

Squadron Codes:

Group and Duty
26 September 1939-December 1939: Bomber squadron with No.1 Group, 71 Wing, Advanced Air Striking Force
December 1939-November 1940: Blenheim bomber squadron
November 1940-October 1941: Wellington night bomber squadron, UK
October 1941-May 1942: Bomber Squadron, Malta
May 1942-December 1943: Bomber Squadron, North Africa
December 1943-end of war: Bomber Squadron, Italy


File:Bristol Blenheim Mk IV of No. 40 Squadron RAF, July 1940. CH787.jpg

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No. 40 Squadron (RAF): Second World War - History

An overview of the men from the Caribbean who flew for the RAF and their experiences as captured by Captain Mark Johnson. A beautifully designed presentation delivered at the RAF Museum and for Black History Month. Various aspects of this often forgotten part of British history are highlighted by the experiences of individual men.

Britain’s first black pilot
Caribbean Volunteers at War now available
Now available in e-book format For King & Country – The Service and Sacrifice of the British West Indian Military
The Motherland Calls – Britain’s Black Servicemen & Women 1939-1945
The Caribbean Connection

In 2006 the RAF-magazine Spirit of the Air published an article titled ‘The Caribbean Connection’ written by Val Simpson. The article features some interesting pictures and mentions the careers of Squadron Leader Ulric Cross and Flight Lieutenants Arthur Wint, Vincent Bunting and John Ebanks. Link to the article

Under One Flag
They also flew
Heroes Of The Caribbean (WW2 Documentary) | Timeline

A Channel 4 film about West Indian ex-servicemen and women who served in the British forces in both world wars. The personalities include a soldier who fought for the English regiment in WWII, a pilot who joined the ATS, plus other individuals who were in the ground crew in the RAF. The film traces the story of these individuals from those early war years through to Enoch Powell’s era in 1968 when he requested these servicemen return to their home country.

The Black RAF by Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson talks about his great-uncle John Jellicoe Blair, one of almost 500 Black Caribbean air crew in the RAF during the Second World War

Caribbean Spitfire-pilots

Pilots of No. 132 City of Bombay Squadron (Detling, 1943-1944), featuring three Caribbean Spitfire-pilots:

F/Sgt James Joseph Hyde (from Trinidad) – front row, third from left.

F/Sgt Arthur O. Weeks (or Weekes, from Barbados) – back row, fourth from left.

F/Sgt Collins Alwyin Joseph (from Trinidad) – back row, sixth from right.

Other identified pilots are:

Commanding Officer S/Ldr Count Franz Ferdinand Colloredo-Mansfeld DFC (1910-1944, born in Italy from an Austrian father and an American mother) – front row, center.

F/Lt Harold Edward ‘Harry’ Walmsley (British) – front row, eight from left.

F/O John Jeremy Caulton (from New Zealand) – front row, fifth from right.

Henry Lacey Smith (Australian) – front row, fourth from right.

Kenneth Langley Charney (Argentinian) – back row, sitting on starboard wing next to cockpit

(click on photo to enlarge)

[picture: copyright John Caulton, grandson of F/O J.J. Caulton ]

[Copyright Imperial War Museum courtesy John Caulton]

Blue Plaque to commemorate RAF-veteran Cy Grant

On November 11, Rememberance Day 2017 a Blue Plaque was unveiled at the former Highgate home of the initiator of this archive, the actor, singer and writer Cy Grant. Read more about it here.

West Indian Aircrew in East Yorkshire during WW2

Researcher – and highly valued contributor to this archive – Mrs. Audrey Dewjee has published an article about West Indians who served as aircrew in the RAF in the East Yorkshire area during the war. The article highlights well-known Jamaicans Billy Strachan, Lincoln Lynch, Arthur Wint, John Blair, Godfrey Petgrave as well as Vivian Florent, whose father was from St. Lucia. It is published on the website of the Africans in Yorkshire Project.
The website also remembers the 4,000 Caribbean ground crew men who trained in the area at RAF Hunmanby Moor, Filey. For more about them, click here.

E.R. Braithwaite, former RAF pilot and author of To Sir, With Love dies at 104

Edward Ricardo Braithwaite was born from university-educated parents in Georgetown, British Guiana in 1912. He was one of the first Caribbeans to join the RAF during the Second World War. After the war he got his doctorate in physics from Cambridge University but failed to find work as an engineer in post-war Britain. Instead he landed a job as a teacher in London’s East End. His acclaimed book ‘To Sir, With Love’ (1959) is based on his experiences there. After publication of the book he worked for the World Veterans Organisation, Unesco and as a diplomat for his native Guyana. He passed away on 12 December 2016.
Read his obituary in the Guardian and more about his life and career.

Digital Archive Project – International Bomber Command Centre: Looking for surviving veteran Caribbean Aircrew that flew for Bomber Command

The International Bomber Command Digital Archive Project is pulling resources together from all over the world to form the definitive central source of information on Bomber Command. Incorporating oral histories and videographies, never before digitized documents held by museums and institutions worldwide and those in private ownership. These will include log books, photographs, letters and service citations all pulled together in an indexed and searchable archive before the story is lost forever. Therefore preserving the rich heritage of the Command and ensuring the memory of those who served is available for generations to come.

For the oral-history section of the digital archive the curators would like to interview any veterans from the West-Indies that flew for Bomber Command that are still with us. Please contact Mr. Peter Jones of the project or the administrator of this website.

Here is a link to the International Bomber Command Centre website: And the digital archive:

‘Pilots of the Caribbean’ online now

The online version of the exhibition ‘Pilots of the Caribbean’: Volunteers of African Heritage in the Royal Air Force is now available at . The original exhibition has been curated by the RAF Museum in partnership with the Black Cultural Archives. It has been on display in various venues throughout the UK and received much acclaim (see below). On Saturday 31 October 2015 the Black History Month Event will be held in the RAF Museum. There will be talks about RAF’s African-Caribbean volunteers and performances by storyteller Winston Nzinga. Also documents and artefacts relating to Black personnel will be on display. Read more:

Exhibition ‘Pilots of the Caribbean’ awarded for Excellence

Pilots of the Caribbean: Volunteers of African Heritage in the RAF was given a Highly Commended Award in the ‘Best Temporary Exhibition’ category at the Museums and Heritage Awards 2015 held in London on 29th April. The exhibition had been shortlisted for this year’s Museums and Heritage Awards for Excellence. The exhibition about the contribution of volunteers of African Heritage to the Royal Air Force was nominated in the category ‘Temporary or Touring Exhibitions’. The touring tribute to West Indian flyers was initiated by the RAF-museum London in cooperation with the Black Cultural Archives. Read the Press-release of the RAF-museum here.

Flt. Lt. Clifton Norman Rhys Pinks (1923-2014)

We have been informed by his family that F/Lt Clifton Norman Rhys Pinks passed away on September 7, 2014. In 1941, he volunteered to train as an officer in the Royal Air Force, based in Canada, and came to England in 1943 as a Signalman Air Gunner. After the war, he went to Aberdeen University to study medicine and was involved in top level athletics. The press alluded to Clifton as the ‘Dark Flash’. In 1950 he returned to the RAF and served with distinction till 1978. Untill 1988 he worked for the Ministry of Defence. Read more here

Exhibition ‘Pilots of the Caribbean’ opens in Cosford

The exhibition ‘Pilots of the Caribbean: Volunteers of African Heritage in the Royal Air Force’ will open at the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford on October 6th 2014. The exhibition opening will coincide with Black History Month, a national event celebrating the achievements of black men and women throughout history. Curated in partnership with the Black Cultural Archives, the exhibition will tell the inspirational story of these volunteers, commemorating and celebrating their vital contribution to the defence of Britain, her Empire and Commonwealth. Accompanying video footage and artefacts will bring to life the stories of these brave volunteers. Read more here.

Exhibition ‘RAF and the Commonwealth – Stories from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean’ opening in Glasgow on 21 July 2014

The exhibition will tell the story of the important role that African, Asian and Caribbean airmen and women have played throughout the history of the RAF, from its inception in 1918 until the present day. The WW2 history of 602 Squadron (City of Glasgow) – ‘Glasgow’s Own’ will also be part of the presentation that underlines the critical role that volunteers from across the Empire, the Dominions, the Commonwealth and Allied nations played in defeating the scourge of fascism. The exhibition also provides information on the importance of equality and diversity as core values in today’s RAF. At the Mitchell Library Exhibition Space, 22 July – 27 September 2014, admission is free. Download the poster here. View a TV-report of the opening here.

The Passing of Squadron Leader Phillip Louis Ulric Cross, DSO, DFC

We received the sad news that Phillip Louis Ulric Cross has died in Port of Spain, Trinidad at the age of 96 on October 4, 2013. Cross was the highest ranking West Indian World War II veteran still alive and one of the few officers left of the legendary 139 Pathfinder Squadron of RAF Bomber Command. Cross later became Attorney General of Cameroon, and an esteemed judge in Ghana and Tanzania. After his return to Trinidad he served as a High Court Judge and from 1979 as a member of the Court of Appeal. In 1990 he became High Commissioner for Trinidad and Tobago to the UK and Ambassador to Germany and France. Watch the video “On Target – A Tribute to RAF Squadron Leader Phillip Louis Cross, DSO, DFC” on YouTube [Proclamations by Ethiopian Crown Council and Maryland General Assembly click on images for lager version] Read the obituary in the Trinidad & Tobago Newsday here. More: Trinidad Guardian, Trinidad Express [Courtesy Jerome Lee]

Pilots of the Caribbean: Volunteers of African Heritage in the Royal Air Force

The RAF Museum London and subsequently the RAF Museum Cosford will celebrate the Afro-Caribbean contribution to the RAF – the first service to instigate an equal ops policy. Beginning with WWI through to WWII and The Cold War to currently serving members, the exhibition will include personal recollections, photos and more. The exhibition will open in London 1st November 2013 and run for six months, after which it will transfer to Cosford for a further six months. In the press: The Times, The Jamaica Gleaner, Blacknet, RAF-MOD,

West Indians in Britain (1944)

In this film, made during the Second World War by the Ministry of Information, a group of West Indians, led by Una Marson and Learie Constantine, assemble at Broadcasting House in London. They describe to listeners of a popular BBC radio series, ‘Calling the West Indies’, how people from the Caribbean are supporting the war effort. Constantine speaks about factory workers, and introduces some war-workers, including Ulric Cross, a bomber navigator from Trinidad. Cross speaks of West Indian volunteers in the armed forces and Spitfire-pilot James Hyde (killed in action later in the war) is portrayed briefly.

[Adaptation of the original caption by Stephen Bourne You-tube link courtesy Peter Devitt, RAF Museum London]

No. 149 Squadron

Motto: “Fortis nocte” (“Strong by night”).
Badge: A horseshoe and a flash of lightning interlaced. The horseshoe is indicative of good fortune in the First World War when the squadron flew extensive operations with the loss of only one pilot and observer. A further reason for the horseshoe is that much of the squadron’s work was in connection with the cavalry. The flash of lightning is symbolic of the speed with which work was done during a comparatively brief history.
Authority: King George VI, February 1938.

No. 149 Squadron, RFC, was formed at Yapton, Sussex, on 3rd March 1918, as a night-bomber unit and three months later went to France equipped with FE2b’s. Engaged in bombing enemy communications, airfields, etc., as well as on reconnaissance duties on the Second Army Front, it dropped more than 80 tons of bombs and made 161 reconnaissances.

Two interesting details worthy of mention concern the squadron’s equipment. All the FEs were fitted with a “flame reducer” designed by an officer of the squadron – Captain CES RusseIl. This successfully damped all exhaust flame, an important requirement for night-flying aircraft. All aircraft were fitted with special racks, designed by one of the squadron’s mechanics which could carry either Michelin flares or bombs without modification. The FEs were thus instantly adaptable for either bombing or reconnaissance. Of the squadron’s original 18 FEs which flew to France in June 1918, seven were still in service on Armistice Day.

After the Armistice No. 149 was the only FE squadron chosen to accompany the Army of Occupation into Germany. It returned to the United Kingdom in March 1919, and was disbanded at Tallaght, Co. Dublin, the following August.

The squadron was re-formed in 1937 at Mildenhall – again as a night-bomber unit – and now equipped with Heyford aircraft. Wellingtons were received early in 1939 and on 4th September that year No. 149 shared with No. 9 Squadron the distinction of making the RAF’s second bombing raid of World War 2 the targets were German warships at Brunsbüttel.

The squadron played a prominent part in the early offensive against Germany, Italy and enemy-occupied territory and, after having re-equipped with Stirlings, took part in the first 1,000-bomber raids. In 1943 it made a significant contribution to the Battle of the Ruhr, and also took part in the Battle of Hamburg and the famous raid against the German V-weapons experimental station at Peenemunde. Between February and July 1944 – and in addition to dropping high explosives on the enemy – the squadron helped supply the French Maquis with supplies, arms and ammunition by parachute.

Towards the end of 1944 the Stirlings were replaced by Lancasters and with these the squadron continued its offensive until late April 1945. It then dropped food to the starving people of Holland and later, after the German surrender, ferried many ex-POWs back to England from the Continent.

During December 1943 the squadron was responsible for introducing a new technique of high-level mining. Among the many decorations won by its members was a Victoria Cross awarded posthumously to Flight Sergeant RH Middleton, RAAF, for his part in a raid on Turin on the night of 28/29th November 1942.

Bomber Command WWII Bases:

  • Mildenhall : Apr 1937-Apr 1942
  • Detachment in southern France (Salon) in Jun 1940.
  • Detachment at Lakenheath in Jan/Feb 1942.
  • Lakenheath : Apr 1942-May 1944
  • Detachment at Tempsford in Jan/Feb 1944.
  • Methwold : May 1944 onwards

Bomber Command WWII Aircraft:

  • Vickers Wellington I, IC and II : Jan 1939-Dec 1941
  • Short Stirling I and III : Nov 1941-Sep 1944
  • Avro Lancaster B.I and B.III : Aug 1944-Nov 1949

Code Letters:

WW2 its a/c were coded “OJ” or, in the case of certain Lancasters and possibly Stirlings, “TK”.

First Operational Mission in WWII:

First Bombing Mission in WWII:

Brunsbüttel. 1 claimed to have released bombs over target area and rest jettisoned bombs in sea elsewhere.

Last Operational Mission in WWII:

Last Mission before VE Day:

John Johnson (Author of Air Britain book – 149 Squadron. This is the Methwold )

RAF METHWOLD – 149 SQUADRON – 6.2.1945

No.149 “East India” Squadron was a mainstay of Bomber Command, taking part on the Strategic Bombing campaign from its beginnings in May 1940 until the very end of the war.

Like many Bomber Command squadrons, No.149 began the war with an attack on the German fleet in September 1939, before the Phoney War set in. Once the night bombing campaign began the squadron’s only breaks came when it converted from the Wellington to the Stirling, and then from the Stirling to the Lancaster.

January 1939-December 1941: Vickers Wellington I, IA, IC
November 1941-June 1943: Short Stirling I
February 1943-September 1944: Short Stirling III
August 1944-November 1949: Avro Lancaster I and III

12 April 1937-6 April 1942: Mildenhall
6 April 1942-15 May 1944: Lakenheath
15 May 1944-29 April 1946: Methwold

418 Squadron

Formed at Debden, Essex, England on 15 November 1941 as the RCAF’s 14th -only Intruder -squadron formed overseas, the unit flew Boston and Mosquito aircraft on day-and night-intruder operations deep into enemy territory. Its claim of 178 enemy aircraft and 79½ V-1 flying bombs destroyed made it the top-scoring unit of the RCAF. The leading individual score was S/L R. Bannock, with 11 aircraft and 18½ V-l’s. On 21 November 1944 it was
transferred to close support work (1) with the Second Tactical Air Force in the Low Countries. The squadron was disbanded at Volkel, in The Netherlands, on 7 September 1945.

Brief Chronology: Formed as No. 418 (I) Sqn, Debden, Essex, Eng. 15 Nov 41. Disbanded at Volkel, Neth. 7 Sep 45.

Title or Nickname: “City of Edmonton”

Adoption: City of Edmonton, Alta (March 1944)

  • W/C G.H. Gatheral (RAF) 22 Nov 41 -14 May 42.
  • W/C A.E, Saunders (RAF) 15 May 42 -11 Dec 42. (RAF), DFC 12 Dec 42 -13 Jun 43 KIA.
  • W/C P.Y. Davoud, DFC 15 Jun 43 -7 Jan 44.
  • W/C D.C.S. MacDonald, DFC 8 Jan 44 -24 Feb 44. , DFC 25 Feb 44 -9 Mar 44 KIA.
  • W/C A. Barker 30 Mar 44 -9 Oct 44. , DFC and Bar 10 Oct 44 -22 No 44.
  • W/C J.C. Wickett 23 Nov 44 -22 Feb 45 POW.
  • W/C D.B. Annan 23 Feb 45 -23 May 45 OTE.
  • W/C H.D. Cleveland, DFC 24 May 45 -7 Sep 45.

Higher Formations and Squadron Location

Fighter Command renamed Air Defence Great Britain (15 Nov 43)

  • Debden, Essex 15 Nov 41 -14 Apr 42.
  • Bradwell Bay, Essex 15 Apr 42 -14 Mar 43.
  • Ford, Sussex 15 Mar 43 -7 Apr 44.
  • Holmsley South, Hants. 8 Apr 44 -13 Jul 44.
  • Hurn, Hants. 14 Jul 44 -28 Jul 44.
  • Middle Wallop, Hants. 29 Jul 44 -26 Aug 44.
  • Hunsdon, Herts. 28 Aug 44 -20 Nov 44.

Second Tactical Air Force:

  • Hartford Bridge, Hants. 21 Nov 44 -14 Mar 45.
  • B.(Base) 71 Coxyde, Bel. 15 Mar 45 -25 Apr 45.
  • B.80 Volkel, Neth. 26 Apr 45 -7 Sep 45.

Representative Aircraft (Unit Code TH)

Douglas Boston Mk.III (Nov 41 -Jul 43)

de Havilland Mosquito Mk.II (Mar 43 -Nov 44)

de Havilland Mosquito F.B.Mk.VI (Nov 44 -Sep 45) (2)

  • HR148 B HR184 Z HR324 N HR358 K HX953 X NS823 W NS857 L NS930 V NT115 J NT153 Y PZ219 E PZ235 M PZ414 P PZ454 Y RS454 F RS560 G RS561 F RS569 V RS594 L SZ962 U SZ964 X SZ965 T SZ967 V T A374 C

Operational History: First Mission, Bombing 27 March 1942, 8 Bostons from Ford dispatched to bomb oil refineries and tanks at Ertvelde, near Ghent, Belgium 7 bombed the primary target, 1 had a “bomb hang-up.”

First Mission, Intruder: 28 March 1942, 6 Bostons from Ford – night patrols of enemy airfields in France (Lille, Vendeville, Rennes, Le Touquet and Abbeville) and The Netherlands (Gilze-Rijen) in co-operation with No. 23 Squadron RAF.

First Victory: 26 April 1942, Sgts. G.W.C. Harding (RAF), R.P. Shannon (observer) and H.J.H. Irving (air gunner) in a Boston from Holmsley South – night intruder over Evreux airfield in France, credited with 1 unidentifiable enemy aircraft damaged. 7 May 1942, P/O A. Lucas (RAF), Sgts W.S. Randolph (observer) and H. Haskell (air gunner) in a Boston from Holmsley South – night intruder over Gilze-Rijen airfield in The Netherlands, shared with a Hurricane aircraft of No. 3 Squadron RAF 1 unidentifiable enemy aircraft destroyed.

Last Mission: 3 May 1945, Mos­quito VI from Volkel – reconnaissance of the battle area.

Summary Sorties: 3492 (including 402 on anti-flying bomb patrols).

  • Operational/Non-operational Flying Hours: 11,248112,255.
  • Victories:
    • Aircraft: 178 destroyed (73 on ground), 9 probably destroyed, 103 damaged. V-1: 76 destroyed over water, 7 over England. (3)
    • Ground: dropped 56 tons of bombs credited with 17 locomotives destroyed and 59 damaged, 52 freight and passenger cars destroyed or derailed, 200 motor vehicles destroyed.
    • Opera­tional: 59 aircraft 143 aircrew, of whom 94 killed or presumed dead, 27 missing, 14 POW, 8 evaded capture.
    • Non-operational: 13 aircraft 31 personnel killed, 2 in­jured.

    Squadron Aces: W/C R. Bannock, DFC and Bar 25½-7-0-1-18½. (4) S/L R. Gray, DFC 12-10-0-12-2. F/O S.P. Reid, DFC 11½-8-0-7-3½. S/L H.D. Cleveland, DFC 10-10-0-1-0. F/L C.M. Jasper, DFC 9-6-1-1-3. F/L C.J. Evans 9-l 1/2-0-7 1/2. F/L S.H.R. Cotteril, DFC 8-4-0-1-4 F/L D.E. Forsyth 8-4-0-0-4. S/L J.B. Kerr 6-5-0-3-1. F/L H.E. Miller 5-2-0-0-3. F/L P.S. Leggat 5-0-0-0-5.

    Honours and Awards: 3 DSO’s, 1 second bar to DFC, 9 bars to DFC, 42 DFC’s, 5 DFM’s, 1 DFC(USA), 1 Air Medal (USA).

    Battle Honours:

    • Defence of Britain 1944.
    • Fortress Europe 1942-1944. Dieppe.
    • France and Germany 1944-1945. Nor­mandy 1944, Rhine.

    (1) In the intruder role, it was replaced by No. 406 Squadron.
    (2) Aircraft were named and decorated after characters of the comic strip “Li’l Abner.”
    (3) A V-1 destroyed over England was counted as only half a victory.

    (4)The five categories indicate, for this squadron: Total confirmed pro­bable damaged and V-l’s destroyed.

    No. 40 Squadron (RAF): Second World War - History

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    The Squadrons of the Wartime Royal Air Force

    During the Second World War, the British Royal Air Force (RAF) emerged as one of the most unique fighting forces in history. Its beating heart were its squadrons.

    But what is a squadron if not a cipher following arcane military logic? An entity created and fostered to live in a world of violence? Every air force in the world has squadrons, each like some riotous boy&rsquos-own club, especially in the early days of aviation and especially during the war.

    A squadron is the most basic quasi-autonomous, combat component of a fighting air force. It has generally anywhere from nine to 15 aircraft and is staffed by about a hundred people. It is a conglomeration of disparate, moving parts: Aviators to armorers, cooks to typists, mechanics to machinists, window washers to administrators. Their raison d&rsquoetre is to fly in the face of fire. Their aircraft are symbolic of brute strength or agility. There is nothing reassuring about these machines even though they may be graceful.

    Their pilots adopted bawdy emblems, full of projected machismo, often juvenile which is unsurprising considering that at least during the Second World, when most of these emblems were hewn out of thin air, that most of the pilots were just out of school or college.

    These were the nitty gritty details of machines tuned to wreak havoc and destruction, and during the Second World War, the Royal Air Force had 553 of them. But where the British experience differs from others was how the English chose to structure their air force &mdash also the world&rsquos oldest, having been formed in crucible of World War I.

    It was the most culturally diverse of all the air forces of the war, populated by scores of people from across the empire: from Jamaica to Fiji, from Canada to South Africa, from Argentina to New Zealand.

    It also had an entire &ldquoforeign&rdquo legion of 130 squadrons made up Free Poles, Free French, Free Czechs, Free Belgians, Free Norwegians, Free Danes, Free Greeks, Free Dutch and even Free Yugoslavs who had fled their subjugated homelands to fight again. Finally, there were also Americans who had thrown in their lot with the British or the Canadians, some after having been rejected as pilots in their own country. Within the individual histories of these squadrons, vignettes of key events within the larger battles and campaigns can be found.

    For example, there were the men of a squadron who irrecoverably altered the course of the war by shooting up the staff car of a famous German Field Marshal's while he happened to be in. Men of another squadron single-handedly delayed the introduction of a German capital battleship into combat operations. On another instance, fliers from yet another squadron saved the lives of scores of resistance fighters by blasting open a Gestapo headquarters in occupied Europe. In the Far East, a handful of aviators from a fighter squadron prevented a densely populated city from being bombed. By in large, however, the squadrons sustained the overall momentum of the Allied air offensive against the Axis powers through the usual humdrum of daily activities: the unglamorous, lethal raids, the mundane but sometimes adrenaline-high patrols, the delivering of letters and communiques, the ferrying of troops, agents and supplies, the charting of the weather and shooting rolls and rolls of film of enemy forces and the landscape they held. Without these, the war could not have been won.

    To be fair, a squadron by itself is nothing, being a number with a rota of pilots and staff. In the wartime United States Army Air Force (USAAF) and in the German Luftwaffe, they were little more cogs within the overall command structure of a flying group or combat wing which manifested the esprit d&rsquocorps . In these other air forces, the squadron was interchangeable as to be almost an afterthought of organization.

    In the Royal Air Force, the squadrons of the Second World War breathed life. They were full of faces and names, with a history dating back to an arguably more elegant age of the early century. No bawdy emblems were allowed &ndash all insignia had to be approved by the ruling monarch and to each was added a creed. Most were hewn out of Latin, others in the language of the regions that squadrons called home. They breathed culture and sophistication. But that did not mean they could not be inane.

    On the dry island of Malta, where 185 Squadron was raised for example in the maelstrom of 1941, the new squadron took a sentence in Maltese as its motto &mdash Ara Fejn Hu (Look where it is). This, as far as squadron mottoes went, was reasonably tepid. In comparison: 34 Squadron &mdash Lupus vult, lupus volant (Wolf wishes, wolf flies), 139 &mdash Si placet necamus (We destroy at will), 157 &mdash Our cannon speak our thoughts, 179 &mdash Delentem deleo (I destroy the destroyer), 261&mdash Semper contendo (I always fight) or the peerless French motto of the Canadian 425 Squadron &mdash Je te plumerai (I shall pluck you).

    " Although all war is a symptom of man's failure as a thinking animal, still there was in these memory-wars some gallantry, some bravery, some kindness" John Steinbeck

    In addition to the front-line squadrons, the RAF also had 80 training and miscellaneous units during the war, including Operational Conversion units (OCUs), Operational Training Units (OTUs), Heavy Operational Conversion Units (HOCUs), Maintenance Units (MUs). Also, there existed 20 other establishments and camps, devoted to tactic development, advanced training, aircraft testing and other special tasks.

    Every RAF squadron raised since 1918 has been disbanded at least once during its career. This was particularly true after the First World War ended in November 1918. RAF strength plummeted from the original wartime strength of 190 combat-ready squadrons to less than 45 by 1925. By mid-1934, however, many of these disbanded squadrons had been resurrected to deal with the rising complexities of international relations in the years approaching the Second World War.

    By the beginning of World War II on 3 September 1939, RAF strength had reached 150 combat squadrons, of which 29 were with Bomber Command, 50 with Fighter Command, 19 with Coastal Command, 18 with Army-Cooperation Command, 19 with RAF Middle East, six in India and lastly the last five on Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Malaya (now Malaysia) and Singapore.

    By 1942, RAF strength had roughly tripled, and included new squadrons incorporated pilots from all over the world. Squadrons from the independent RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force), the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) and the RNZAF (Royal New Zealand Air Force), serving in Western Europe (and in some cases the Mediterranean and the Far East) came under the overall operational control of the RAF.

    After World War II, the RAF again wound-down as the British government focused on cutting costs. In this time of demobilization, roughly 75 percent of the RAF&rsquos wartime squadrons disbanded within the first ten years of peace, although some reformed in the 1960&rsquos to face the Soviet threat during the Cold War. From the late &lsquo70&rsquos through to the &lsquo90s, the RAF&rsquos numbers reduced even further. Those that remain today are the inheritors of a rich history that dates back to more than a hundred years, through war and peace.

    Official Lineages, Volume 4: Operational Flying Squadrons

    Except for the abortive Canadian Aviation Corps established at the beginning of the First World War Canadian airmen fought in that conflict as individual members of the British flying services. Two Canadian squadrons, perpetuated by 2 Squadron and 401 Squadron, were organized into a Canadian wing and authorized in 1918 as part of the newly-formed Canadian Air Force, but were not formed until after the Armistice and were disbanded just over a year later. The Royal Canadian Naval Air Service, established near the end of the war to patrol the Atlantic Coast off Nova Scotia, never reached operational status.

    The postwar Air Board, and its successor the Canadian Air Force, was initially visualized as a non permanent reserve of individual airmen. This idea proved ineffectual and although a few squadrons were formed in the mid-1920s, they were transferred to civil government air operations shortly thereafter in response to the latter's dominant demands. Strong military requirements did not emerge again until rearmament started in the mid-1930s. The squadrons slowly formed thereafter were designed primarily for home defence, and, with only one exception, squadrons numbered from 1 to 170 fought the Second World War from North American territory. (The one exception, 162 Squadron, was temporarily assigned to Royal Air Force (RAF ) Coastal Command in Iceland and Scotland. A few other squadrons patrolled against the Japanese in Alaska, but this was considered part of the North American defence task.

    Official titles

    The most recent title for each flying squadron is given as the official title. Until the mid- to late- 1970s the official titles for flying squadrons were in English only. The authorization of French-language titles has been noted in the lineage section of the charts. In one case (430 Squadron), the squadron was reformed as a French-language unit and was later granted an English-language title. Some units never received French-language titles and, so, these charts reflect the official unilingual titles accorded those squadrons.

    The official badge

    A badge is a distinctive sign, symbol or emblem used to visually identify a military organization and foster the pride and cohesiveness necessary for operational effectiveness. All active squadrons established as a separate entity under a Ministerial Organization Order and a Canadian Forces Organization Order, may be granted one official, primary badge. These are recorded where approved.

    Each badge is unique, yet enclosed in a common frame which indicates its an operational flying squadron. Air force flying squadron badges follow a special military custom. Prior to unification, these were all designed as if "hollow", with no field. Thus their distinctive devices are still painted on a white (blank) field to reflect that heritage, except for squadrons originally organized in the Royal Canadian Navy. (One exception - 448 Squadron's badge - was created in the period of administrative uncertainty after unification. The badge of the squadron, is now regarded as a special case.)

    The English word "squadron" was originally translated poorly because of organizational differences among air forces. This problem was corrected after Unification, but the correction was not consistently applied. As a result, organizational orders used the term ' escadron ,' while badge frames used ' escadrille .' The organizationally correct term is 'escadron' and all active and 400-Block badge frames were converted some years ago. The badge frames of the remainder of the squadrons reflect the frame authorized at the time of their disbandment. Older patterns may only be used as historical illustrations.

    Each chart includes an heraldic description and the significance of the badge. With respect to the latter item, changes have only been made to correct the tense or outdated terminology within the description.


    Mottoes are words, phrases or short sentences expressing a maxim, sentiment, or rule of conduct to rally sentiment or to mark matters of significance. Mottoes originated as battle cries or guiding principles. They were associated with the individuals or units who created them, and, thus, became part of family custom and identity.

    A motto always forms part of an approved squadron badge, although a motto may be approved by itself without reference to other symbology.

    Livery colours

    Ex-naval squadrons have officially-authorized "livery" colours normally derived from the principal heraldic metal and colour in their badges.

    Battle honours

    Air force battle honours include both major and subsidiary battle honours. Major battle honours are essentially theatre honours awarded for operations which extended over a protracted period. These are shown in orders by upper case type (e.g., FORTRESS EUROPE). Subsidiary honours apply to specific geographical locations for which accurate and restricted dates can be applied, and are printed in lower case type (e.g., Dieppe). All battle honours are considered equal and are listed in the order detailed in the Official List. A battle honour in bold type indicates one authorized to be emblazoned on a squadron's Standard (to a maximum of eight honours for the Second World War). All new Standards are now issued with bilingual battle honour scrolls.

    For an explanation of the unique case of naval battle honours, see the note on the 880 Squadron lineage chart.


    Full "unit" status as an independent entity - which includes the right to a badge, Standard, and battle honours - begins with an organization as an operational "squadron". Thus flights, detachments, schools and similar units are mentioned as predecessors where applicable in this volume, but the existence of these smaller organizations does not extend formal squadron lineage. All lineage dates shown are 'official' as they emanate from government orders. In some cases, squadrons were authorized to be formed long before they were actually established and in other instances squadrons ceased operations before official orders were issued. An example of this would be 450 Squadron which ceased operations in 1996 but was not officially disbanded until 1998.

    In accordance with naval and air force tradition, disbandment does not end a squadron's life-line, which is considered to be the sum of all its previous incarnations.

    As squadrons were formed and redesignated during and after the Second World War, little attention was paid to lineages. Uncertainty resulted later when issues such as qualifications for battle honours and squadron Standards were being determined. Practice and precedent, however, lead to the following squadron lineage rules:

    1. Normal perpetuation and family "life" is through the squadron number.
    2. Unit identity is continuous after a redesignation with no break in service, even if the number is changed e.g., 400 Squadron was previously numbered as 10 Squadron and 110 Squadron, and counts that service as part of its own.
    3. If a number is re-used after such a redesignation, it indicates a new and separate unit that cannot claim the old number's honours or service time, which are considered redesignated along with the original unit. Four squadrons formed during the Second World War are affected in this way: Numbers 1, 2, 10, and 11. (Three other numbers re-used during the war - 12, 13, and 14 - are absorbed by de facto amalgamation as noted below.) A current example is 103 Search and Rescue Squadron which has no lineal connection with the 103 Rescue Unit of 1947-68 which was redesignated 413 Squadron.
    4. Two numbers which come together by the redesignation of a squadron with no break in service constitute a de facto amalgamation of the redesignated unit and the family "life-line" of the new number e.g. 12 Squadron and 412 Squadron are amalgamated as a result of the redesignation of the former unit. In these cases the honours of both partners are maintained (less naval battle honours from the common Commonwealth list, which are lost in accordance with naval custom).

    Within each lineage chart specific parameters have been established:

    1. The 'verb' terminology within each chart has been limited to the terms: authorize, disband, reform, redesignate and amalgamate. Terms such as form, activate, reactivate or convert have not been used as they are of an operational, as opposed to lineage, nature. For example, redesignation of a squadron's title often meant a conversion of its operational role or equipment.
    2. Entries (such as authorizations and redesignations) have been included in this section whether the squadron was operational at the time or not.
    3. The use of the prefix "No." (for number) has been used in an inconsistent manner historically. In general, the prefix was consistently used in squadron titles until the end of the Second World War. Since Unification the prefix has rarely been used. Within the charts the use of the prefix has been determined entirely by the text of the documentation cited in the footnote.

    Operational history

    The notes in the lineage charts give only a brief overview of the operational history of each squadron. For this purpose, "operational" is considered to apply to activity during war. Peacetime service is not summarized, including overseas service with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation or continental defence as part of the North American Aerospace Defence Command. For further information on the operational history of a squadron please consult the relevant volume of the official RCAF history.

    The battle honours noted on the charts serve as a record of a squadron's participation in campaigns, and it is not considered necessary to repeat this detail in each chart's history note.


    Operational squadrons which have been amalgamated may not count service time twice when calculating their twenty-five years of cumulative service.


    Within the footnotes of the lineage charts it should be noted the following abbreviations are used:

    All unpublished documentation has been taken from the collection of the Directorate of History and Heritage or the National Archives of Canada. The latter documentation is cited as being taken from a particular section of the NAC . All Directorate of History and Heritage documentation taken from Document Collection, Kardex or Permanent Reference files is cited as such. All other documentation is from the Heritage Section's own squadron files.

    The Passion and the Fury: Mick Mannock

    Captain Edward "Mick" Mannock prepares to depart London Colney for France with No. 74 Squadron in his S.E.5a D276 "A" on March 31, 1918.

    RAF flight leader Edward ‘Mick’ Mannock devoted his meteoric combat career to teaching squadron mates how to survive in the Western Front’s deadly skies

    On a pleasant April afternoon high above northwestern France in 1918, S.E.5as of A Flight, No. 74 Squadron, Royal Air Force, were on their second patrol. It was the unit’s first day of combat, and all the pilots except their leader, Captain Edward “Mick” Mannock, were novices. As his men watched wide-eyed, Mannock suddenly wagged his wings, alerting them that the enemy was nearby, then dropped down like a hawk on a formation of German Albatros fighters. Mannock centered a black-and-yellow Albatros D.V in his Aldis sight, sucked in a breath and gently squeezed the firing button, loosing a lethal stream of silky white tracers. The Albatros broke up in the air. Back on the ground, pilots congratulated their captain on his second victory of the day, but what left them full of undying admiration for him was Mannock’s combat report, in which he wrote, “The whole flight should share in the credit for the EA [enemy aircraft], as they all contributed to its destruction.”

    That disclaimer was indicative of the unselfish and intense devotion to his comrades that characterized the life of Edward Mannock, one of Britain’s all-time greatest combat pilots and leaders of men. By any measure, he was a man of extraordinary gifts, a man who surely would have made as great an impact on the postwar world as he did on those who knew and loved him during his brilliant career as a fighter pilot.

    Mannock was born in Cork, Ireland, on May 24, 1887, son of a soldier in the Royal Scots Guards who fought in Britain’s imperial wars. A rough man, he beat Edward and his siblings and drank heavily. While his father was posted to India, Mannock contracted an amoebic infestation that weakened his left eye. That misfortune would be subsequently transformed into the oft-repeated myth of Mannock’s being the “ace with one eye.” Despite early hardships, young Edward possessed a sharp analytical mind. He hated inequality and later became a fervent socialist.

    When Mannock was in his early teens, his father abandoned the family, and Edward had to work to support them. He left home and boarded with the Eyles family. Jim Eyles later wrote that Mannock was a person “with high ideals and with a great love for his fellow mortals. He hated cruelty and poverty….A kinder, more thoughtful man you could never meet.” It seems likely that Mannock could have risen in the Labour Party, for he was an excellent speaker. But the coming global conflagration would soon shatter his high ambitions.

    When war was declared in August 1914, Mannock was working for a British company in Constantinople. Since the Ottoman empire sided with Germany, he and other British citizens were thrown into prison camps, where they endured appalling conditions. Mannock quickly developed a hatred for the Turks and the Germans. In April 1915, with the assistance of Jim Eyles, he was repatriated. Shortly afterward, Mannock joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and then the Royal Engineers, where he was commissioned a second lieutenant. But he immediately transferred to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in August 1916, so he could be more involved in the fighting.

    Despite his weak left eye, Mannock passed the medical exam. He was apparently a natural pilot with an excellent feel for his machine. One of his instructors, just returned from combat flying in France, was ace Captain James McCudden. The two got along well, and McCudden made a great impact on his pupil. “Mannock,” McCudden wrote, “was a typical example of the impetuous young Irishman, and I always thought he was the type to do or die.” He would do both in France.

    With his flight training completed, on April 6, 1917, Mannock was posted to C Flight in No. 40 Squadron, which was flying the highly maneuverable French-built Nieuport 17 fighter armed with one Lewis machine gun mounted above the upper wing. A new phase in Mannock’s life had commenced, and as always for him it was filled with challenges. He made an awful first impression at his new home and rubbed just about everybody the wrong way, failing to appreciate the clubby public school atmosphere of an RFC squadron. Lieutenant Lionel A. Blaxland, a squadron mate, recalled that Mannock “seemed too cocky for his experience, which was nil….New men usually took their time and listened to the more experienced hands Mannock was the complete opposite. He offered ideas about everything: how the war was going, how it should be fought, the role of scout pilots.” He also broke several unwritten rules of pilot etiquette, asking comrades how many “Huns” they had shot down and—a terrible faux pas—sitting in the seat previously occupied by a pilot who had just been killed.

    Mannock sits in the cockpit of his Nieuport 17 of No. 40 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, which sported a spinner painted yellow to thumb his nose at squadron mates who considered him timid in combat. (Courtesy of O'Brien Browne)

    To make matters worse, Mannock spent hours at target practice but appeared hesitant when confronting enemy planes over the lines. He recorded his emotions on his first combat patrol in his diary on April 13, 1917: “I went over the lines for the first time, escorting FEs [Farman Experimental F.E.2b reconnaissance planes]. Heavily ‘Archied.’ My feelings very funny.” In fact, the novice pilot who had talked so big in the mess had been very afraid. On subsequent flights Mannock was seen as timid in the face of the enemy—“windy” or “having the wind up,” in pilot’s slang. Some of his squadron mates began to shun him and talk about him behind his back. The squadron was soon divided into his supporters and detractors.

    His detractors could only be silenced by deeds. They got a taste of Mannock’s mettle on April 19 when, while practice diving at a ground target from 2,000 feet, the lower right wing of his Nieuport snapped off and the plane plunged downward. Mannock somehow managed to land the crippled craft safely. After that display of sang-froid and flying skill, the other pilots began to reconsider their opinions of him.

    They were further impressed on May 7 when Mannock joined a flight of five others for a strike on German observation balloons. Mannock destroyed a balloon for his first victory that day. But he wrote in his diary: “My fuselage had bullet holes in it, one very near my head, and the wings were more or less riddled. I don’t want to go through such an experience again.”

    Still, fired with new confidence, Mannock became more aggressive in the air and was now accepted in the squadron men who had formerly given him the cold shoulder now bought him drinks in the mess. He sometimes led combat patrols, and on at least two occasions believed he had brought down a German aircraft but did not claim it, as there were no witnesses. His great desire at that point was to gain a “real” victory over an enemy airplane, but this eluded him.

    His persistence eventually paid off. On June 7, flying Nieuport B1552 north of Lille, Mannock went after an Albatros D.III at 13,000 feet. He had been flying escort for a squadron of F.E.2b bombers. Coming in from behind, Mannock pumped 60 rounds into the German fighter at 10 yards, and it went down out of control, an action he jubilantly reported back at the base.

    Shortly afterward, Mannock suffered an eye injury, and was sent home on a two-week leave. He used his time at home to think about combat tactics, and when he rejoined his unit, he was convinced of his fighting abilities. On July 12, Mannock shot down a DFW C.V two-seater that crashed inside British lines. Delighted with the opportunity to examine his “work” up close, Mannock drove out to the crash site. The observer had survived, but the pilot was dead. Upon returning to base, he spoke about this to his friend Lieutenant William Maclanachan. “It sickened me,” Mannock told him, “but I wanted to see where my shots had gone. Do you know, there were three neat little bullet holes right here”—Mannock indicated the side of his head. In his diary, Mannock added a further detail, a “little black-and-tan terrier—dead—in the observer’s seat. I felt exactly like a murderer.” Nevertheless, he sent another DFW down out of control the next day.

    July 1917 would be important for Mannock in many ways. Not only did he score his first concrete kill, but a squadron mate, Captain George L. “Zulu” Lloyd, spoke privately with him, telling him that a few men still doubted his fighting spirit.

    “Of course, I’ve been frightened against my will—nervous reaction,” Mannock forthrightly explained. “I’ve now conquered this physical defect and, having conquered myself, I will now conquer the Hun. Air fighting is a science. I have been studying it and have not been unduly worried at not getting Huns at the expense of being reckless.” Lloyd was more than satisfied with this answer. When some men still questioned Mannock’s abilities, it was put down to jealousy.

    Mannock's piercing gaze hints at the complex and contradictory personality that lay beneath the surface of the World War I ace. (Courtesy of O'Brien Browne)

    Another event that same month was to have a profound effect on Mannock. On the 21st he watched in horror as 2nd Lt. F.W. Rook, a well-liked squadron member, plummeted to earth in flames after being attacked by 1st Lt. Adolf Ritter von Tutschek of Jasta 12. Maclanachan remembered that Mannock later came into his hut, speaking about what was to become an obsession with him. “That’s the way they’re going to get me in the end—flames and finish,” Mannock said with tears in his eyes. Then he explained why he had started to carry his service revolver with him on flights: “to finish myself as soon as I see the first sign of flames.”

    The next day Mannock was awarded the Military Cross for his “very fine offensive spirit and great fearlessness attacking the enemy at close range and low altitudes under heavy fire from the ground.” Major General Hugh M. Trenchard, commander of the RFC, even sent his personal congratulations. Soon after that Mannock was made leader of A Flight.

    Although taking responsibility did not come easily to Mannock, his score now rose dramatically. He had sharp eyesight and was a magnificent shot. In August alone he was credited with four Albatros D.Vs and one DFW. By the end of 1917, he had 15 confirmed victories under his belt and had received a Bar to his MC. He was becoming an excellent flight leader, fighting with tactics rather than sheer audacity. He also had a sense of humor he once used a pair of women’s silk stockings on his struts for leader’s streamers.

    Mannock looked after the men who flew with him with fatherly compassion and patience, helping them develop into successful combat pilots. If a man was killed, Mannock took it very hard, often retiring to his hut, sobbing and “keening”—mourning by rocking back and forth, as was done in ancient Ireland. Although combat intensified his hatred for the Germans, he was revolted on September 4 when he flamed a DFW. “It was a horrible sight,” Mannock wrote in his diary, “and made me feel sick.”

    But that same flight illustrated Mannock’s superb tactics. As noted in his diary, he had had trouble recognizing the two-seater’s national markings at first. “So I turned my tail towards him,” Mannock related, “and went in the same direction, thinking that if he were British he wouldn’t take notice of me, and if a Hun I felt sure he would put his nose down and have a shot (thinking I hadn’t seen him). The ruse worked beautifully. His nose went (pointing at me), and I immediately whipped round, dived and ‘zoomed’ up behind him before you could say ‘knife.’ He tried to turn but he was much too slow for the Nieuport. I got in about 50 rounds in short bursts whilst on the turn and he went down in flames.”

    On October 17, 1917, the squadron was delighted to receive the RFC’s new British-made fighter, the Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5a. This was a powerful aircraft, faster and tougher than the nimble Nieuport. The pilots loved them at first, especially their double armament—a synchronized Vickers machine gun and an over-wing Lewis—which at long last put them on a par with the Germans. They soon found out that this machine was having teething troubles, however, including gun jams and engine failures. The squadron suffered more than 20 such incidents in a two-week period.

    By December, after 10 months of continuous air fighting, Mannock was worn out. Maclanachan described him as tense and noted that he often “brought up the subject of catching fire in the air.” On January 1, 1918, Mannock shot down another DFW and was informed that he was being sent back to England to serve as a flight trainer. That night at his farewell party, Lieutenant W. Douglas remembered, Mannock rose and “entertained us to one of his marvelous speeches,” full of giving the Hun hell and injecting “jokes about one or other of his comrades going down in flames or crashing in some other horrible way.” The commander of No. 40 Squadron, Major L.A. Tilney, wrote in the unit’s diary, “His leadership and general ability will never be forgotten by those who had the good fortune to serve under him.”

    Back in England, Mannock was posted on February 2 to London Colney as a flight commander at No. 74 Squadron, which was in training. The unit was suffering from low morale, apparently due to unmotivated instructors. Mannock electrified the disheartened pilots. He was a natural teacher and a powerful speaker, and his lectures on aerial combat were always fully attended. “Gentlemen,” he told his men, “always above seldom on the same level never underneath.” His practical advice was priceless and would save lives at the front. “Don’t ever attempt to dog-fight a triplane on anything like equal terms as regards height,” he warned, “otherwise he will get on your tail and stay there until he shoots you down.” He also told his pilots never to follow a victim too close to the ground, because they might be hit by fire from the trenches.

    To motivate his men, Mannock—much like a football coach—affected a “kill-all-the-bloody-Huns” persona that later gave birth to another hoary myth about his being a “Hun-hater,” which would have appalled him. In fact his diary reveals his respect for his opponents. Concerning a two-seater that escaped him in early September 1917, Mannock wrote, “He deserved to get away really, as he must have been a brave Hun.” In an earlier dogfight in which the British outnumbered the Germans 2-to-1 but could not bring one down, Mannock noted, “I shall always maintain an unsullied admiration for those Huns.” Major Keith L. “Grid” Caldwell, No. 74 Squadron’s New Zealand–born commanding officer, recalled that “Mick was a very human, sensitive sort of chap he did not hate people or things at all….I believe that this hatred was calculated or assumed to boost his own morale and that of the squadron in general.”

    In April 1918, Mannock and No. 74 Squadron landed their S.E.5as at their new aerodrome in France, Clairmarais North. Mannock was eager to fight. Leading A Flight on April 12, he scored a double kill over Albatros D.Vs, the unit’s first victories. In the next three months or so, he would increase his victory list by an amazing 33, not counting those he did not claim or gave away to fellow pilots to pump up their self-confidence—a habit with him. Under his leadership, No. 74 came to be known as the “Tiger Squadron,” and his men reverently called him the “Iron Man.”

    Mannock took it as his responsibility to protect the members of his flight and often guided them over the lines. “It was wonderful to be in his Flight” remembered one young pilot, “to him his Flight was everything and he lived for it. Every member had his special thought and care.” Mannock gave them vital advice on how best to deal with the enemy. “He placed gunnery before flying,” recalled Lieutenant Ira “Taffy” Jones, a close friend. “Good flying has never killed a Hun yet,” Mannock pointed out. Moreover, he would set up kills for inexperienced pilots. Lieutenant Henry E. Dolan related how Mannock had shot up a German two-seater and then “nodded at me to get it. I went down on the Hun’s tail and saw that Mick had killed the gunner, and I could attack safely.”

    With his piercing blue eyes and his trademark affectations, a long-stemmed pipe and a cane, Mannock was famous along the front. He had, recalled Jones, “an intriguingly complex nature. It fluctuated so,” for Mannock could be ruthless as a fighter, boyish in the mess, harsh with his pilots’ mistakes, gentle and complimentary for good work, morbid when depressed. Once Mannock dived repeatedly on a crashed German two-seater, firing at the crew. Asked about this later, he growled, “The swines are better dead—no prisoners for me.”

    On May 21, Mannock brought down four German planes—three Pfalz D.IIIs and a Hannover two-seater—and the next day was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. Before the month was out, he flamed eight new victims. After such victories, he would burst into the mess shouting, “Sizzle, sizzle, sizzle, wonk woof!” to boost morale. But privately he expressed darker thoughts. By the middle of June, Jones noticed that Mannock’s nerves were “noticeably fraying. He was now continually talking about being shot down in flames.” Writing to his sister, Mannock said, “I am supposed to be going on leave, (if I live long enough)….” He was fighting depression and plagued by dreams of burning aircraft.

    On June 18, Mannock sailed home for leave in England. Upon his arrival he was informed that he had been promoted to major and given command of No. 85 Squadron, previously led by Canadian ace Major William A. “Billy” Bishop, and that he also had been awarded a Bar to his DSO. He reacted with indifference to the news.

    After spending a brief but painful time with his mother, an alcoholic, Mannock went to stay with his friend Jim Eyles, who saw that he “had changed dramatically. Gone was the old sparkle we knew so well gone was the incessant wit. I could see him wring his hands together to conceal the shaking and twitching.” One day, as the time approached for Mannock to return to the war, “he started to tremble violently. This grew into a convulsive straining. He cried uncontrollably….His face, when he lifted it, was a terrible sight. Saliva and tears were running down his face he couldn’t stop it.” Given his condition, 31-year-old Mannock should never have been sent back to the front. But back he went.

    Back in France again, Mannock took command of No. 85 Squadron on July 5, 1918, and his arrival was seen as a godsend. He immediately set to work teaching his new men about aerial tactics. Two days after his arrival he got two Fokker D.VIIs as his new squadron mates, infected by his enthusiasm, brought down an additional three. Within a matter of days, Mannock’s personality had completely transformed the unit. He threw himself into his work and even enjoyed a respite from the nightmares and depression. It would not last long.

    Members of No. 85 Squadron who Mannock mentored to greater exploits included New Zealander Malcolm C. McGregor (11 victories, fifth from left) and Americans Lawrence K. Callahan (5 victories, seventh) and Elliott White Springs (12 victories, eighth). New Zealander Donald C. Inglis (sixth from right), the last man to see Mannock alive, afterward lamented­, “The bastards killed my major.” (IWM Q 12050)

    On July 10, Mannock heard that his friend James McCudden had been killed in a flying accident, news that hurled Mannock back into depression but also spurred him to a furious killing spree. He shot down six aircraft between July 14 and 26. But he was also taking risks and ignoring his own teachings. Often he followed a victim down to spray the wreckage with bullets. He led his flights with rage and flew solo patrols in his hunt for Germans. Premonitions of death haunted him. In his last letter to his sister he wrote, “I feel that life is not worth hanging on to.” And Ira Jones found him unstable, noting: “One minute, he’s full out. The next he gives the impression of being morbid and keeps bringing up his pet subject of being shot down in flames.”

    Early in the morning of July 26, 1918, Lieutenant Donald Inglis walked into the mess where Mannock was smoking his pipe and playing “Londonderry Air” on the gramophone. The two were to fly a morning patrol together. Earlier, Mannock had asked the rookie pilot, “Have you got a Hun yet, Inglis?” and to his negative answer replied, “Well come on out and we will get one.” Mannock told Inglis that they would hunt for a two-seater. Once it was located, Mannock would attack first, with Inglis coming in behind to finish the enemy off and thus get his first kill.

    At 5:30 a.m. over Merville, Mannock dived on a two-seater at about 5,000 feet. He knocked out the observer and pulled away, letting Inglis come from underneath, firing into the gas tank. The German plane burst into flame, with the two S.E.5as very low over the ground. Violating his own teaching, Mannock circled the burning wreck twice. Then, as Inglis later wrote in his combat report, “I saw Mick start to kick his rudder and realized we were fairly low, then I saw a flame come out of the side of his machine it grew bigger and bigger. Mick was no longer kicking his rudder his nose dropped slightly, and he went into a slow right-hand turn round, about twice, and hit the ground in a burst of flame.” Mannock’s S.E.5a had been brought down by groundfire. Inglis’ plane was shot up, too, and he crash-landed in the British lines, sputtering: “The bastards killed my major. They killed Mick.”

    It is impossible to know if Mannock shot himself as he had always threatened to do. Most likely, given the way his plane flew after he was hit, he was either wounded, unconscious or dead. In any event, some unknown German soldier buried the ace after first retrieving Mannock’s ID discs, pistol, notebook and other personal effects, which were returned to his family after the war. These items had all been on Mannock’s body, and they showed no signs of fire.

    Back at the airfield, the awful news spread quickly. Jones scribbled in his diary: “26th July—Mick is dead. Everyone stunned. No one can believe it. I can write no more today. It is too terrible.”

    In the years after the war, Eyles and others attempted to locate Mannock’s grave, which had been obliterated by shelling. Some researchers believe he lies in the grave of an unknown British aviator near La Pierre-au-Beure. In addition, his friends campaigned for him to be awarded Britain’s highest decoration, the Victoria Cross, which was conferred on July 18, 1919.

    A final apocrypha is Mannock’s victory score, which most books give as 73—a number dreamed up by his admirers (above all Jones), many of whom disliked Billy Bishop, who finished the war with 72 kills. According to the most reliable estimates, Mannock brought down 61 enemy aircraft—not counting, of course, the many victories he gave away or did not claim—which makes him Britain’s second-highest scoring ace of the war.

    Mannock’s deeply felt emotions, the immense fears and obstacles he faced and the manner in which he overcame them, his achievements, his unconventionality and his great promise all make him vividly human and bring home the tragedy of the lives lost in World War I. The way Mannock touched people was extraordinary. “I was awed by his personality,” wrote Maclanachan after first meeting Mannock. “He was idolized by all who came into intimate contact with him,” recalled another pilot. “He was a man among men,” added a third, while long after the war another remembered Mannock as “a warm, lovable individual of many moods and characteristics. I shall always salute his memory.”

    O’Brien Browne writes from Heidelberg, Germany. Further reading: Mick: The Story of Major Edward Mannock, by James M. Dudgeon or Victoria Cross: WWI Airmen and Their Aircraft, by Alex Revell.

    This article by O’Brien Browne was originally published in the July 2007 issue of Aviation History. For more great articles, subscribe to Aviation History magazine today!

    Bentwaters History

    Royal Air Force Bentwaters is a former Royal Air Force station about 80 miles northeast of London and 10 miles east-northeast of Ipswich in England. Its name was taken from ‘Bentwaters Cottages’ that had stood on the site of the main runway during its construction in 1943.

    It was used by the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the Second World War, and by the United States Air Force (USAF) during the Cold War, being the primary home for the 81st Fighter Wing under various designations from 1951 to 1993. For many years the 81st Fighter Wing also operated RAF Woodbridge, with Bentwaters and Woodbridge airfields being known by the Americans as the “Twin Bases”.

    The site is now known as Bentwaters Parks. The Bentwaters Cold War Museum is located on the site, there are offices and warehouses, and the site is also used for television and film making.

    Second World War
    Bentwaters airfield’s origin dates to 1942 when construction began on a Royal Air Force station called Royal Air Force Butley for use by RAF Bomber Command. On 28 January 1943 the station was renamed Royal Air Force Bentwaters. It was opened for operational use in April 1944. In December it was transferred to No. 11 Group, RAF Fighter Command.

    In addition to its RAF use, United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) fighters flew escort missions for RAF Bomber Command from Bentwaters beginning on 4 May 1945. The USAAF designation for Bentwaters was AAF Station 151.

    During the postwar years, the RAF retained Bentwaters for flying various aircraft, including first-generation jet aircraft. before finally closing the facility on 26 August 1949 when it was placed into ‘care and maintenance’ status.

    Control of Bentwaters was transferred to the United States Air Force on 16 March 1951 by the Ministry of Defence, and the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) designated it a primary installation of HQ USAFE on 7 September 1951. Bentwaters was to play a key role in the defence of Western Europe during the Cold War when large numbers of USAF aircraft were assigned as part of the air arm of NATO.

    The 81st Fighter-Interceptor Wing became the new host unit at Bentwaters in September 1951. The 81st, in various designations, remained at RAF Bentwaters for over 40 years during the Cold War era. The 81st FIW was a North American F-86A “Sabre” equipped unit, being activated at Moses Lake AFB, Washington in May 1950. In August 1951 the 81st flew initially into RAF Shepherds Grove, then in September transferred its headquarters to RAF Bentwaters.

    Post Cold War
    With the end of the Cold War, the USAF presence at Bentwaters was gradually phased down. It was announced that the station would be closed and the 81st TFW would be deactivated.

    The last A-10 aircraft departed Bentwaters on 23 March 1993, and the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing was inactivated on 1 July 1993. With the inactivation, the USAF returned control of Bentwaters to the Ministry of Defence.

    Currently, Bentwaters airfield is inactive as a military facility.

    Bentwaters Cold War Museum
    With the handover of Bentwaters back to the UK Ministry of Defense in 1993, the facility was closed. It is now known as “Bentwaters Parks”.

    In 2003, work commenced on the Bentwaters Cold War Museum (BCWM). The museum opened on Sunday 27 May 2007. The museum is located in the former USAF hardened command post. The main “war operations room” and “Battle cabin” have been restored to their original condition the BT telephone exchange room, decontamination showers, and airlock have been similarly restored. Other rooms within the building have been turned into exhibition rooms, covering the history of RAF Bentwaters from the Second World War until the station closed in 1993.

    Included in this are histories of the units that operated from the airfield, particularly the 81 TFW. Another room is dedicated to the history of the other airfield which was part of the “twin base” complex, RAF Woodbridge, again covering the period from the Second World War until the present day. Other exhibition rooms featuring information on the “Special Operations/Rescue Squadrons” that were based at RAF Woodbridge, and also the “Aggressor” Squadron based at Bentwaters.

    The museum is run by volunteers from Bentwaters Aviation Society.
    Click here to visit the Bentwaters Cold War Museum.


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