No. 90 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

No. 90 Squadron (RAF): Second World War


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No. 90 Squadron (RAF) during the Second World War

Aircraft - Locations - Group and Duty - Books

No. 90 Squadron went through three incarnations during the Second World War. At the start of the war the squadron served as a training squadron for No. 6 Group, flying the Bristol Blenheim. This first incarnation of the squadron ended in April 1940 when it merged with No. 35 Squadron to form No. 17 Operational Training Unit

The second incarnation of No. 90 Squadron was formed to fly the Fortress I. The reformed squadron began daylight raids with the Fortress on 8 July 1941, but this early version of the B-17 Flying Fortress was not well suited to operations over Europe. The aircraft were sent to the Middle East in October 1941, where they joined No. 220 Squadron, while No. 90 Squadron received the Blenheim IV, operating with that aircraft until it was disbanded on 14 February 1942.

The third and final wartime incarnation of No. 90 Squadron saw it return to Bomber Command, flying the first of the four engined heavy bombers, the Short Stirling. This was the least effective of the three British heavy bombers, but No. 90 Squadron had to soldier on with the type until June 1944. As well as the normal bombing operations the squadron also undertook a large number of mine laying mission, often given to the Stirling squadrons as the more effective Halifax and Lancaster bombers entered service. No. 90 Squadron itself converted to the Lancaster in May-June 1944, flying that type until the end of the war.

Aircraft
March 1937-April 1940: Bristol Blenheim I
March 1939-April 1940: Bristol Blenheim IV
May 1941-February 1942: Boeing Fortress I
October 1941-February 1942: Bristol Blenheim IV
December 1942-May 1943: Short Stirling I
February 1943-June 1944: Short Stirling III
May 1944-December 1947: Avro Lancaster I and III

Location
10 May-7 September 1939: West Raynham
7-19 September 1939: Weston-on-the-Green
19 September 1939-4 April 1940: Upwood

7-15 May 1941: Watton
15 May-28 June 1941: West Raynham
28 June 1941-14 February 1942: Polebrook

7 November-29 December 1942: Bottesford
29 December 1942-31 May 1943: Ridgewell
31 May-13 October 1943: Wratting Common
13 October 1943-11 November 1946: Tuddenham

Squadron Codes:

Group and Duty
1939-1940: Pool bomber squadron with No. 6 Group
1941: Bomber Command as the first Fortress squadron
1942-1945: Bomber Command with the Stirling and then Lancaster

Links

Books


8 July 1941

Boeing Fortress Mark I AN521, ‘WP-K’, (U.S.A.A.F. serial number 40-2052) of No. 90 Squadron R.A.F., based at West Raynham, Norfolk, preparing for take off at Hatfield, Hertfordshire, during an inspection of newly-arrived American aircraft by the Chief of the Air Staff and the U.S. Air Attache. Photograph by Flight Lieutenant Bertrand John Henry Daventry, Royal Air Force. © IWM (CH 2873)

8 July 1941: Three Royal Air Force Boeing Fortress Mk.I heavy bombers departed from their base at RAF Watton to attack Wilhelmshaven, Germany. This was a daylight bombing mission, with the airplanes flying at 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). One bomber diverted to a secondary target because of engine trouble, while the remaining two Fortresses continued to the primary target.

At the very high altitudes flown, the defensive heavy machine guns that gave the airplane its name froze due to the low temperatures and could not be fired. (In standard atmospheric conditions, the temperature at 30,000 feet would be -45 °C., or -49 °F.)

“Vertical aerial reconnaissance of Wilhelmshaven.” © IWM (HU 91201)

All three aircraft returned safely to their base. The mission was completely ineffective, however.

This was the very first use of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress in combat.

Fortress B.I AN530, WP-F (U.S.A.A.F. B-17C 40-2066) (Royal Air Force)

The Boeing Model 299H, designated B-17C, was the second production variant ordered by the U.S. Army Air Corps. 38 were built by Boeing for the U.S. Army Air Corps, but 20 were transferred to Great Britain’s Royal Air Force, designated Fortress Mk.I. (Boeing Model 299T.) They were initially assigned to No. 90 Squadron, Bomber Command. (A 1941 book, War Wings: Fighting Airplanes of the American and British Air Forces, by David C. Cooke, Robert M. McBride & Company, New York, refers to the B-17C in British service as the “Seattle,” which is in keeping with the R.A.F.’s system of naming bombers after cities.)

Of the 20 Fortress Mk.I bombers, 8 were lost in combat or in accidents.

Boeing Fortress Mk.I AN529 at Heathfield, Scotland, after arrival from United States, May 1941. © Imperial War Museum E(MOS) 276

The Boeing B-17C/Fortress Mk.I was 67 feet, 10-9/16 inches (20.690 meters long with a wingspan of 103 feet, 9 ⅜ inches (31.633 meters) and the overall height was 15 feet, 4½ inches (4.686 meters). The B-17C had an empty weight of 30,900 pounds (14,016 kilograms). The maximum design gross weight was 47,500 pounds (21,546 kilograms).

The B-17C was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged, 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.876 liters) Wright Cyclone G666A (R-1820-65)¹ nine-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.70:1. The engines were equipped with remote General Electric turbochargers capable of 24,000 r.p.m. The R-1820-65 was rated at 1,000 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 1,200 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. for takeoff. The engine could produce 1,380 horsepower at War Emergency Power. 100-octane aviation gasoline was required. The Cyclones turned three-bladed, constant-speed, Hamilton-Standard Hydromatic propellers with a diameter of 11 feet, 7 inches (3.835 meters) though a 0.5625:1 gear reduction. The R-1820-65 engine is 3 feet, 11.59 inches (1.209 meters) long and 4 feet, 7.12 inches (1.400 meters) in diameter. It weighs 1,315 pounds (596 kilograms).

“RAF Fortress crew at RAF Polebrook July 19, 1941.” © IWM (CH 3090)

The B-17C had a maximum speed of 323 miles per hour (520 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). Its service ceiling was 37,000 feet (11,278 meters) and the maximum range was 3,400 miles (5,472 kilometers).

The Fortress Mk.I could carry 4,800 pounds (2,177 kilograms) of bombs in an internal bomb bay. Defensive armament consisted of one Browning AN-M2 .30-caliber air-cooled machine gun at the nose and four Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber heavy machine guns in dorsal, ventral and waist positions.

Royal Air Force Fortress Mk.I AN528 (B-17C 40-2064) prior to being camouflaged. (Getty Images/Three Lions)


File:The crew of a Boeing Fortress Mk I of No. 90 Squadron RAF putting on electrically-heated flying suits at Polebrook, Northamptonshire, before taking off for a high-altitude bombing attack on the German battlecru CH3090.jpg

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Contents

Origins Edit

In April 1933, the British Air Ministry issued Specification P.27/32 which sought a two-seat single-engine monoplane day bomber to replace the Hawker Hart and Hind biplane bombers then in service with the Royal Air Force (RAF). [2] A requirement of the prospective aircraft was to be capable of carrying 1,000 pounds (450 kg) of bombs over a distance of 1,000 miles (1,600 km) while flying at a speed of 200 mph (320 km/h). [2] According to aviation author Tony Buttler, during the early 1930s, Britain had principally envisioned that any future war would see France as its enemy and thus the distance to enable the bomber to reach Paris was a factor in determining the necessary range that was sought. [3] According to aerospace publication Air International, a key motivational factor in the Air Ministry's development of Specification P.27/32 had been for the corresponding aircraft to act as an insurance policy in the event that heavier bombers were banned by the 1932 Geneva Disarmament Conference. [4]

The Fairey Aviation Company were keen to produce a design to meet the demands of Specification P.27/32 and commenced work upon such a design. [2] The Belgian aeronautical engineer Marcel Lobelle served as the aircraft's principal designer. One of the early decisions made by Lobelle on the project was the use of the newly developed Rolls-Royce Merlin I engine, which had been selected due to its favourable power and compact frontal area. [2] The Merlin engine was quickly paired to a de Havilland Propellers-built three-bladed variable-pitch propeller unit. The choice of engine enabled the designing of the aircraft to possess exceptionally clean lines and a subsequently generous speed performance. [2] The resulting design was an all-metal single-engine aircraft, which adopted a low-mounted cantilever monoplane wing and was equipped with a retractable tail wheel undercarriage. [5]

A total of four companies decided to formally respond to Specification P.27/32, these being the Fairey, Hawker Aircraft, Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft, and Bristol Aeroplane Company. [2] Of the submissions made, the Air Ministry selected Armstrong Whitworth and Fairey to produce prototypes to demonstrate their designs. On 10 March 1936, the first Fairey prototype, K4303, equipped with a Merlin I engine capable of generating 1,030 hp (770 kW), performed its maiden flight at Hayes, Middlesex. [2] [6] The prototype was promptly transferred to RAF Martlesham Heath, Woodbridge, Suffolk for service trials, during which it attained a maximum speed of 257 MPH and reportedly achieved a performance in advance of any contemporary day bomber. [2]

Even prior to the first flight of the prototype, some members of the Air Staff had concluded that both the specified range and bomb load, to which the aircraft had been designed to, were insufficient to enable its viable use in a prospective conflict with a re-emergent Germany. [2] Despite these performance concerns, there was also considerable pressure for the Battle to be rapidly placed into mass production in order that it could contribute to a wider increase of the RAF's frontline combat aircraft strength in line with similar strides being made during the 1930s by the German Luftwaffe. As such, the initial production order placed for the type, for the manufacture of 155 aircraft built as per the requirements of Specification P.23/35, which had received the name Battle, had been issued in advance of the first flight of the prototype. [2]

Production Edit

In 1936, further orders were placed for Fairey to build additional Battles to Specification P.14/36. [7] In June 1937, the first production Battle, K7558, conducted its maiden flight. [2] K7558 was later used to perform a series of official handling and performance trials in advance to the wider introduction of the type to operational service. During these trials, it demonstrated the Battle's ability to conduct missions of a 1,000-mile range while under a full bomb load. [2] The first 136 Fairey-built Battles were the first to be powered by the Merlin I engine. [2] By the end of 1937, 85 Battles had been completed and a number of RAF squadrons had been re-equipped with the type, or were otherwise in the process of re-equipping. [7]

As the RAF embarked on what became a substantial pre-war expansion programme, the Battle was promptly recognised as being a priority production target. At one point a total of 2,419 aircraft were on order for the service. [8] [9] In June 1937, the first aircraft was completed at Hayes, but all subsequent aircraft were manufactured at Fairey's newly completed factory at Heaton Chapel, Stockport. [5] Completed aircraft were promptly dispatched for testing at the company's facility adjacent to RAF Ringway, Manchester. A total of 1,156 aircraft were produced by Fairey. [8] [9]

Subsequently, as part of government-led wartime production planning, a shadow factory operated by the Austin Motor Company at Cofton Hackett, Longbridge, also produced the type, manufacturing a total of 1,029 aircraft to Specification P.32/36. On 22 July 1938, the first Austin-built Battle, L4935, conducted its maiden flight. [10] At that point, concerns that the aircraft was obsolete had become widespread, but due to the difficulties associated with getting other aircraft types into production, and the labour force having already been established, stop-gap orders were maintained, and production continued at a steady rate through to late 1940. [10]

A further 16 were built by Fairey for service with the Belgian Air Force (contrary to popular belief, they were not built in Belgium). [11] The Belgian Battles were delivered in early 1938, and were differentiated from British-built examples by having a longer radiator cowling and a smoother camouflage finish. [8] [9] In September 1940, all production activity came to a close and the final assembly lines were shuttered. Overall production of the Battle during its entire manufacturing life was 2,201 machines, including 16 for Belgium. [11]

A number of Battles which had been originally completed as bombers were later converted to serve in different roles, such as target tugs and trainer aircraft. [9]

The Fairey Battle was a single-engine monoplane light bomber, powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. Production aircraft were progressively powered by various models of the Merlin engine, such as the Merlin I, II, III (most numerous) and V but all bomber variants were called the Battle Mk I. [11] The Battle had a relatively clean design, having adopted a slim oval-shaped fuselage which was manufactured in two sections. [2] The forward section, in front of the cockpit, relied mainly upon a steel tubular structure to support the weight of the nose-mounted engine the rear section was of a metal monocoque structure comprised hoop frames and Z-section stringers which was built on jigs. [12] The structure of the aircraft involved several innovations and firsts for Fairey, it had the distinction of being the company's first low-wing monoplane it also was the first light-alloy stressed-skin construction aircraft to be produced by the firm. [2]

The wing of the Battle used a two-part construction, the centre section being integral with the fuselage. [13] The internal structure of the wings relied upon steel spars which varied in dimension towards the wing tips the ailerons, elevators and rudder all were metal-framed with fabric coverings, while the split trailing edge flaps were entirely composed of metal. [13]

The Battle was furnished with a single cockpit to accommodate a crew of three, these typically being a pilot, observer/navigator and radio operator/air gunner. [13] The pilot and gunner were seated in a tandem arrangement in the cockpit, the pilot in the forward position controlling the fixed .303 Browning machine gun mounted in the starboard wing, while the gunner was in the rear position where he could use the manually-aimed .303 Vickers K machine gun. The observer's position, who served as the bomb aimer, was situated directly beneath the pilot's seat sighting was performed in the prone position through a sliding panel in the floor of the fuselage using the Mk. VII Course Setting Bomb Sight. [13] Complete with a continuous glazed canopy, the cockpit of the Battle had several similarities to that of a large fighter rather than a bomber. [14]

The armament and crew of the aircraft were similar to the Bristol Blenheim bomber: three crew, 1,000 lbs standard bomb load and two machine guns, although the Battle was a single-engine bomber with less horsepower. [15] The Battle had a standard payload of four 250 lb (113 kg) bombs which was carried in cells contained within the internal space of the wings. [16] Maximum bomb load was 1,500 lb (680 kg), with two additional 250 lb (113 kg) bombs on underwing racks or with two 500 lb (227 kg) bombs carried externally under bomb bays and two 250 lb (113 kg) bombs on underwing racks. [16] The bombs were mounted on hydraulic jacks and were normally released via trap doors during a dive bombing attack, they were lowered below the surface of the wing. [13]

The Battle was a robust aircraft which was frequently described as being easy to fly, even for relatively inexperienced pilots. [17] The pilot was provided with good external visibility and the cockpit was considered to be roomy and comfortable for the era but the tasks of simultaneously deploying the flaps and the retractable undercarriage, which included a safety catch, has been highlighted as posing considerable complication. [17] Climate control within the cockpit was also reportedly poor. [7]

By the time that the Battle was entering service in 1937 it had already been rendered obsolete by the rapid advances in aircraft technology. The performance and capabilities of fighter aircraft had increased to outstrip the modest performance gains that the light bomber had achieved over its biplane antecedents. [18] For defence, the Battle had been armed only with a single Browning machine gun and a trainable Vickers K in the rear position in service, these proved to be woefully inadequate. [5] The Battle lacked other common defensive features of the era, such as an armoured cockpit and self-sealing fuel tanks. [19] The Battle was considered well-armoured by the standards of 1940, although there was an emphasis on protection against small-arms fire from the ground. [20] No RAF bombers were fitted with self-sealing tanks at the beginning of the war, although they were hastily fitted once the necessity became apparent. Since it was some time before self-sealing tanks could be mass-produced, it was a common stop-gap in 1940, even into 1941, to simply armour the rear of the fuel tanks with single or double layers of 4 mm armour. [21] The Battle, along with the rest of the early-war inventory, was taken out of front-line duties before it had a chance to be fitted with self-sealing tanks.

Introduction Edit

In June 1937, No. 63 Squadron, based at RAF Upwood, Cambridgeshire, became the first RAF squadron to be equipped with the Fairey Battle. [22] On 20 May 1937, the delivery of the first Battle to No. 63 occurred following further deliveries, the squadron was initially assigned to perform development trials. The type holds the distinction of being the first operational aircraft powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine to enter service, having beaten the debut of the Hawker Hurricane fighter by a matter of months.

By May 1939, there were a total of 17 RAF squadrons that had been equipped with the Battle. While many of these were frontline combat squadrons, some, under the No. 2 Group, were assigned to a non-mobilising training role on the eve of the outbreak of war, these squadrons were reassigned to operate under No. 6 Training Group or alternatively served as reserve squadrons. [10]

Wartime bomber service Edit

The Battle was obsolete by the start of the Second World War, but remained a front-line RAF bomber owing to a lack of a suitable replacement. On 2 September 1939, during the "Phoney War", 10 Battle squadrons were deployed to pre-selected airfields in France to form a portion of the vanguard of the British RAF Advanced Air Striking Force, which was independent of the similarly-tasked Army-led British Expeditionary Force. [10] Once the Battles arrived, the aircraft were dispersed and efforts were made to camouflage or otherwise obscure their presence the envisioned purpose of their deployment had been that, in the event of German commencement of bombing attacks, the Battles based in France could launch retaliatory raids upon Germany, specifically in the Ruhr valley region, and would benefit from their closer range than otherwise possible from the British mainland. [23]

Initial wartime missions were to perform aerial reconnaissance of the Siegfried Line during daylight, resulting in occasional skirmishes and losses. [24] On 20 September 1939, a German Messerschmitt Bf 109 was shot down by Battle gunner Sgt. F. Letchard during a patrol near Aachen this occasion is recognised as being the RAF's first aerial victory of the war. [24] [25] Nonetheless, the Battle was hopelessly outclassed by Luftwaffe fighters, being almost 100 mph (160 km/h) slower than the contemporary Bf 109 at 14,000 ft (4,300 m). That same day, three Battles were engaged by German fighters, resulting in two Battles being lost. [24] During the winter of 1939–1940, the Advanced Air Striking Force underwent restructuring some of the Battle-equipped squadrons were returned to the UK while their place was taken by Bristol Blenheim-equipped squadrons instead. [24] The activities of the Advanced Air Striking Force were principally restricted to training exercises during this time. [24]

Upon the commencement of the Battle of France in May 1940, Battles were called upon to perform unescorted, low-level tactical attacks against the advancing German army this use of the type placed the aircraft at risk of attack from Luftwaffe fighters and within easy range of light anti-aircraft guns. [24] In the first of two sorties carried out by Battles on 10 May 1940, three out of eight aircraft were lost, while a further 10 out of 24 were shot down in the second sortie, giving a total of 13 lost in that day's attacks, with the remainder suffering damage. Despite bombing from as low as 250 ft (76 m), their attacks were recorded as having had little impact on the German columns. [26] During the following day, nine Belgian Air Force Battles attacked bridges over the Albert Canal that connects to the Meuse River, losing six aircraft, [9] [27] and in another RAF sortie that day against a German column, only one Battle out of eight survived. [28]

On 12 May, a formation of five Battles of 12 Squadron attacked two road bridges over the Albert Canal four of these aircraft were destroyed while the final aircraft crash-landing upon its return to its base. [29] [30] Two Victoria Crosses were awarded posthumously for the action, to Flying Officer Donald Garland and air observer/navigator sergeant Thomas Gray of Battle serial P2204 coded PH-K, for pressing home the attack in spite of the heavy defensive fire. [31] The third crew member, rear gunner Leading Aircraftsman Lawrence Reynolds, did not share the award. Both fighters and flak had proved lethal for the Battles. Although Garland's Battle managed to destroy one span of the bridge, the German army quickly erected a pontoon bridge to replace it. [32]

On 14 May 1940, in a desperate attempt to stop German forces crossing the Meuse, the Advanced Air Striking Force launched an "all-out" attack by all available bombers against the German bridgehead and pontoon bridges at Sedan. The light bombers were attacked by swarms of opposing fighters and were devastated. Out of a strike force of 63 Battles and eight Bristol Blenheims, 40 (including 35 Battles) were lost. [33] [34] After these abortive raids, the Battle was switched to mainly night attacks, resulting in much lower losses. [35]

A similar situation befell the German Luftwaffe during the early days of the Battle of Britain, when the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive bomber suffered equivalent losses in a similar role. With the exception of a few successful twin-engine designs such as the de Havilland Mosquito, Bristol Beaufighter and Douglas A-20, low-level attack missions passed into the hands of single-engine, fighter-bomber aircraft, such as the Hawker Hurricane, Hawker Typhoon and Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.

On 15 June 1940, the last remaining aircraft of the Advanced Air Striking Force returned to Britain. In six weeks almost 200 Battles had been lost, with 99 lost between 10 and 16 May. [36] After the return from France, for a short period of time, the RAF continued to rely on the light bomber. Reforming No. 1 Group and later equipping four new Polish squadrons with the type, it continued to be deployed in operations against shipping massed in the Channel ports for Operation Sealion. Their last combat sortie was mounted on the night of 15/16 October 1940 by No. 301 (Polish) Squadron in a raid on Boulogne, and Nos 12 and 142 Squadrons bombing Calais. Shortly afterwards Battle squadrons of No. 1 Group were re-equipped with Vickers Wellington medium bombers. [37] Battles were operated into 1941 by 88 and 226 Squadrons in Northern Ireland and 98 Squadron in Iceland, for coastal patrol work. [38]

East Africa Edit

Meanwhile, the South African Air Force had been supplied with some Battles. In August 1940, No. 11 Squadron took possession of at least four, which were flown north to be operated in the Italian East Africa (Ethiopia, Italian Somaliland and Eritrea) campaign. They conducted bombing and reconnaissance operations. Whereas in France the RAF's Battles had encountered modern German fighters in large numbers, the South Africans faced a smaller number of Italian biplane fighters (Fiat CR.32 and CR.42), which enabled the aircrews to contribute more effectively to the campaign but not without several losses, especially when surprised above some predictable targets (air bases, ports etc.). Italian biplanes dived as fast as possible over the bombers, trying to shoot them down in the first pass. [39] [40]

Greece Edit

The last combat operations carried out by Fairey Battles were during the Italian and German invasion of Greece, from the end of 1940 until April 1941. A few Fairey Battles of the RAF and about a dozen belonging to the RHAF – serial numbers starting from B274 – participated in secondary bombing roles against enemy infantry. Most of them were destroyed on the ground by Luftwaffe air attacks on the airfields of Tanagra and Tatoi north of Athens between end of March and mid April 1941. No significant contribution of this type was reported during this period, although some hits were recorded by the Greek Air Force.

Prior to the Second World War, in spring 1939, the Polish government had placed an order for 100 Battle bombers, but none of these were delivered before the outbreak of war. The first 22 aircraft were sent in early September 1939 on two ships to Constanta in Romania, to be received there by the Polish crews, but the ships were ordered back while in Istanbul when the fall of Poland became inevitable. They were next offered to Turkey. [41]

Some sources state that the Fairey Battle was licence-produced in Denmark for the Danish Air Force before the German invasion in 1940, but no such plane is known to have been completed. [42]

Trainer role Edit

While found to be inadequate as a bomber aircraft in the Second World War, the Fairey Battle found a new niche in its later service life. As the Fairey Battle T, for which it was furnished with a dual-cockpit arrangement in place of the standard long canopy, the type served as a trainer aircraft. The Battle T was equipped with dual-controls in the cockpit and optionally featured a Bristol-built Type I gun turret when employed as a bombing/gunnery training. [43] [44] As the winch-equipped Fairey Battle TT target tug, it was used as a target-towing aircraft to support airborne gunnery training exercises. Furthermore, Battles were not only used in this role by the RAF, several overseas operators opted to acquire the type as a training platform. [45]

In August 1939, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) received its first batch of eight Battles at RCAF Station Borden, Ontario, Canada. [43] A total of 802 Battles were eventually delivered from England, serving in various roles and configurations, including dual-control trainers, target-tugs, and gunnery trainers for both the Bombing and Gunnery schools of the Commonwealth Air Training Plan. [44] Canadian use of the Battle declined as more advanced aircraft, such as the Bristol Bolingbroke and North American Harvard, were introduced the type remained in RCAF service until shortly after the end of hostilities in 1945. [43]

The Battle served as a trainer with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), which allocated it the prefix A22. [46] On 30 April 1940, the first four RAAF Battles were delivered to No. 1 Aircraft Depot on 29 June 1940, the first assembled aircraft, P5239, conducted its first flight. Deliveries occurred at a steady pace until the last Battle was received on 7 December 1943. [47] These aircraft were a mix of bomber, target tug, and dual-control trainer variants they were mainly used by Bombing and Gunnery schools until 1945 the last aircraft were phased out in 1949. [47]

Following an initial evaluation using a handful of aircraft, the South African Air Force (SAAF) purchased a number of Battles. Operated in the Western Desert and East Africa, SAAF Battles were used into early 1942. [31] Battles were also sold to the Turkish Air Force, which was reportedly pleased by the type's manoeuvrability. [45] The type remained in RAF service, in secondary roles, until 1949.

Engine testbed Edit

While the Battle was no longer viable as a frontline combat aircraft, its benign handling characteristics meant that it was an ideal platform for testing engines, and it was used in this role to evaluate engines up to 2,000 hp (1,500 kW) including the Rolls-Royce Exe, Fairey Prince (H-16) and Napier Dagger. [47] These trials were often conducted to support the development of other aircraft, such as the Fairey Spearfish, as well as the suitability of the individual engines. [47]

As part of a study of potential alternative engines in the event of supply interruptions of the Merlin engine, which normally powered the type, were encountered, a single Canadian Battle, R7439, was re-engined by Fairchild Aircraft with a Wright R-1820 Cyclone radial engine. R7439 was the sole aircraft to be equipped with this powerplant. [43]

In 1939, one Battle, K9370, underwent extensive modifications in order to test the Fairey Monarch 2,000 hp (1,500 kW) or higher engine in addition to the engine itself, K9370 was furnished with electrically-controlled three-bladed contra-rotating propellers and a large ventral radiator. [47] According to Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1946–47, the aircraft was shipped to the US after 86 hours test time in December 1941. Testing continued for a time at Wright Airfield, Liberty County, Georgia. [47]

Two aircraft, K9270 and L5286, acted as flying testbeds for the Napier Sabre engine. [47] Modifications included the adoption of a fixed undercarriage, large ventral radiator, and an auxiliary intake. The two Sabre-equipped Battles accumulated roughly 700 flight hours. [47]

In addition to the units listed, many Battles were operated by training schools, particularly for bombing and gunnery training.

    received 366 aircraft which were used for training purposes [49][50]
    operated 16 aircraft. [11]
    received 739 aircraft.
    received four Battles in 1942. [51]
    interned 1 ex-RAF target tug in 1942. It was in use as a target tug from 1944 to 1946. [47][51]
    received 12 aircraft.
    received approximately 340 aircraft.
    received 30 aircraft, including 1 Target Tug. [52]

On 16 December 1939 a recently qualified flyer, Pilot Officer Harold G. Tipple of 264 Squadron RAF was tasked with ferrying Fairey Battle Mk.I (N2159) from RAF Little Risington to RAF Martlesham Heath in company with a more experienced officer in another Battle. Tipple had never flown the type previously and received only brief instruction before takeoff. Once in the air the aircraft was observed to be trailing smoke. By the time the pair had reached Hintlesham, Suffolk the aircraft was losing altitude and Tipple attempted to bale out. The aircraft crashed at Little Wenham, Babergh, Suffolk and the pilot was killed. [54] [ unreliable source? ] Tipple is buried in Hintlesham churchyard and is commemorated on the adjacent war memorial. [55]

On 2 August 1940, Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth, a racing motorist, aviator and prolific collector of veteran cars and aircraft was killed when Fairey Battle L4971 of No. 12 Operational Training Unit RAF Benson crashed into a hill during a solo night flying exercise. [56]

On 23 September 1940, Fairey Battle K9480 on a training flight, crashed onto a house, killing the Polish pilot and five civilians from one family in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire. [57] [58] [59] [60]


Air Crew Europe Star: Flight Lieutenant Roydon Derwent Woods, 90 Squadron RAF

Air Crew Europe Star with FRANCE AND GERMANY' clasp. Engraved on reverse with recipient's details.

Roydon Derwent Woods was born on 15 July 1916 and was a clerk on enlistment in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) on 17 August 1941. He completed his early training at No 2 Initial Training School, Bradfield Park and No 5 Elementary Flying Training School, Narromine before graduating as a pilot from No 5 Service Flying Training School, Uranquinty.

Embarking for overseas service on 17 October 1942 Woods arrived in England on 17 December. He was attached to No 3 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit and No 27 Operational Training Unit (OTU) where he was trained in flying the medium bombers Airspeed Oxford and Vickers Wellington. After completing his OTU training Woods transferred to No. 1651 Conversion Unit, where he was required to qualify as a pilot of the heavy bomber the Short Stirling before he would be posted to an operational squadron. At this time the Short Stirling was one of the main line heavy bombers of Bomber Command.

Joining No 90 Squadron, RAF Woods flew a total of 200 operational hours and completed a tour of 30 operations. He carried out multiple night and day bombing raids across France and Germany, including over Bordeaux, Calais, Cleves, Bonn, Stuttgart, Essen, Hamburg and Trier. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in April 1945.

Woods was discharged with the rank of flying officer on 14 December 1945.


1939-45 Star: Flight Lieutenant Roydon Derwent Woods, 90 Squadron RAF

1939-45, engraved on reverse with recipient's details.

Roydon Derwent Woods was born on 15 July 1916 and was a clerk on enlistment in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) on 17 August 1941. He completed his early training at No 2 Initial Training School, Bradfield Park and No 5 Elementary Flying Training School, Narromine before graduating as a pilot from No 5 Service Flying Training School, Uranquinty.

Embarking for overseas service on 17 October 1942 Woods arrived in England on 17 December. He was attached to No 3 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit and No 27 Operational Training Unit (OTU) where he was trained in flying the medium bombers Airspeed Oxford and Vickers Wellington. After completing his OTU training Woods transferred to No. 1651 Conversion Unit, where he was required to qualify as a pilot of the heavy bomber the Short Stirling before he would be posted to an operational squadron. At this time the Short Stirling was one of the main line heavy bombers of Bomber Command.

Joining No 90 Squadron, RAF Woods flew a total of 200 operational hours and completed a tour of 30 operations. He carried out multiple night and day bombing raids across France and Germany, including over Bordeaux, Calais, Cleves, Bonn, Stuttgart, Essen, Hamburg and Trier. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in April 1945.

Woods was discharged with the rank of flying officer on 14 December 1945.


British War Medal 1939-45: Flight Lieutenant Roydon Derwent Woods, 90 Squadron RAF

British War Medal 1939-45, engraved around edge with recipient's details.

Roydon Derwent Woods was born on 15 July 1916 and was a clerk on enlistment in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) on 17 August 1941. He completed his early training at No 2 Initial Training School, Bradfield Park and No 5 Elementary Flying Training School, Narromine before graduating as a pilot from No 5 Service Flying Training School, Uranquinty.

Embarking for overseas service on 17 October 1942 Woods arrived in England on 17 December. He was attached to No 3 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit and No 27 Operational Training Unit (OTU) where he was trained in flying the medium bombers Airspeed Oxford and Vickers Wellington. After completing his OTU training Woods transferred to No. 1651 Conversion Unit, where he was required to qualify as a pilot of the heavy bomber the Short Stirling before he would be posted to an operational squadron. At this time the Short Stirling was one of the main line heavy bombers of Bomber Command.

Joining No 90 Squadron, RAF Woods flew a total of 200 operational hours and completed a tour of 30 operations. He carried out multiple night and day bombing raids across France and Germany, including over Bordeaux, Calais, Cleves, Bonn, Stuttgart, Essen, Hamburg and Trier. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in April 1945.

Woods was discharged with the rank of flying officer on 14 December 1945.


The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (420835) Flight Sergeant Douglas Venning Harvey, No. 166 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War.

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (420835) Flight Sergeant Douglas Venning Harvey, No. 166 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War.

420835 Flight Sergeant Douglas Venning Harvey, No. 166 Squadron, Royal Air Force
KIA 31 March 1944
Photograph: P04931.001

Story delivered 31 March 2017

Today we pay tribute to Flight Sergeant Douglas Harvey.

Douglas Venning Harvey was born on 24 September 1916 to Edward Venning Harvey and Ada Florence Harvey of Oberon, New South Wales.

Growing up, the young Douglas Harvey attended Bathurst Primary School and then Bathurst High School. A keen sportsman, Harvey played cricket and football, and represented Bathurst in the district football team.

Harvey worked alongside his brother, Ronald, as a farmer and grazier at the property “The Retreat”, in Oberon.

After enlisting in the Royal Australian Air Force in December 1941, Harvey began training as an air gunner and wireless operator. On 15 January 1943 he left Australia for overseas service. As part of the Empire Air Training Scheme, Harvey was one of almost 27,500 RAAF pilots, navigators, wireless operators, gunners, and engineers, who, throughout the course of the war, joined squadrons based in Britain.

After arriving in Britain, Harvey undertook further specialist training, and in November 1943 was posted to No. 166 Squadron, Royal Air Force.

As part of RAF Bomber Command, No. 166 Squadron was equipped with four-engine Avro Lancaster heavy bombers.

On 31 March 1944, No. 166 Squadron was participating in a raid on the German city of Nuremburg. The Lancaster in which Harvey was the wireless operator and air gunner was attacked and shot down by an enemy fighter. It crashed at the aerodrome at Giessen, north of Frankfurt.

Harvey, four of his British crewmates, and a fellow Australian – Sergeant William Allan – were killed.

Douglas Harvey was 27 years old.

His body was never recovered, and today his name is commemorated upon the Air Forces Memorial overlooking the River Thames: the Runnymede memorial which lists all British and Commonwealth airmen with no known grave.

In a letter to Douglas Harvey’s brother, Ronald, the commander of No. 166 Squadron wrote: “Your brother was a most proficient member of a good crew and his loss is deeply regretted. I would like you to know how greatly we all honour the sacrifice he has made so far from his home country in the service of the United Nations.”

Douglas Harvey’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among some 40,000 Australians who died while serving in the Second World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Flight Sergeant Douglas Venning Harvey, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.


No. 90 Squadron (RAF): Second World War - History

For detailed information read 'Cambridgeshire Airfields in the Second World War'
by Graham Smith, published by Countryside Books - ISBN 1-85306-456-4

The Bomber Command Groups effective in this area are listed at the Bottom of the page. For the various commands of the RAF see the RAF Commands website.

From November 1943 the airfield was allocated to the 8th Air Force, 361st Fighter Group flying Republic P-47D or Thunderbolt. In January 1944 the runway was extended a further 1,470 yards. The 21st January 1944 saw the group fly its first mission. During the second week May 1944 all P-47's were replaced Mustang P-51Bs and Cs. The 361st left Bottisham on 26th September 1944 virtually closing it.

On 11th February 1942 101 Squadron moved in from Oakington starting with Wellington ICs but eventually converting to Mark IIIs the squadron moved to Stradishall in Suffolk on 11th August 1942. They were replaced Stirlings of XV Squadron from Wyton, these were upgraded to Mark IIs a the start of 1943. The XV flew their last mission from Bourn on 10th/11th April 1943.

Bourn was transferred to No 8 Group, No 97 ('Straits Settlement') PFF flying Lancasters who flew their first mission from Bourn 26/27th April 1943. The losses, and therefore reduction in strength of the squadron, caused the squadron to be loaned to No 5 Group, leaving for Coningsby 18th April 1944.

On 23rd March 1944 the first Mosquitos arrived from Marham belonging to 105 Squadron. The squadron was equipped in March 1944 with Mosquito BIXs and BXVIs. On 18th December 1944 a further Mosquito Squadron, No 162, was formed at Bourn. The 2/3rd May 1945 saw the last operastion for both 105 and 162 Squadrons.

At its peak during the Second World War, Marshall's Flying Training organisation at Cambridge had around 180 aircraft, mostly Tiger Moths and a few Magisters. The Company trained over 20,000 pilots and instructors for the RAF during the War. As a result of it pre-war civilian work and experience of maintenance on Tiger Moths and Magisters during the war, the Company developed engineering expertise in the maintenance and repair of training aircraft, particularly Harts, Audaxes, Hinds and Battles. The Company was thus ideally placed to play a key role in the Civilian Repair Organisation to cope with the burden of salvage and repair and, initially, Marshall at Cambridge was given responsibility for the rebuilding of Whitleys, Oxfords, Gladiators and Ansons but later went on to work on Spitfires, Hurricanes, Wellingtons, Blenheims, Typhoons and Mosquitos. During the six years of war the Company completed the rebuilding and on-site repair of over 5,000 aircraft.

Cardington's was saved when it was decided to resurrect the First World War barrage balloon defence system and No 1 Balloon Training Unit was formed on 9th January 1937 with Grp. Capt A.A. Thompson, MC, AFC as Commanding Officer. One month later the first Barrage Balloon Group, No 30, was formed and the first training courses for balloon crews were started in November of 1938 30 Group became the Balloon Command. By September 1939 almost 50 squadrons had been formed manning about 600 sites. The balloons were to remain a familiar site in our skies for the duration of the war. In November 1943 No 1 Balloon Training Unit was closed, having seen some 22,000 operators and drivers through its courses the Barrage Command was disbanded in February 1945.

In September 1937 No 2 RAF Recruitment Centre moved in from Henlow this was to be followed by Aircrew Selection and Medical Boards.

In 1942 the first Mosquitos started to assemble here in great secrecy for test flying with 157 Squadron until replaced in March 1943 by Number 605 Mosquito Squadron. In July 1943 Castle Camps became a satellite of North Weald and the Mosquito began to be used for intruder operations, and later for bomber support operations. Mosquitos left Castle Camps in October 1943. 527 Radar Calibration Squadron replaced them until February 1944 when Spitfires arrived, then Typhoons, then Tempests, all leaving quickly. The Canadian 410 Squadron again flew Mosquitos from Castle Camps until April 1944. In July to October 1944, 68 Squadron's Mosquitos also arrived, and also those of 151 and 25 Squadron. In 1945 307 and 85 Squadrons flew from here, also in Mosquitos.

The following is a complete list of squadrons who flew from Castle Camps.

  • 85 Squadron Hurricane
  • 73 Squadron Hurricane
  • 157 Squadron Mosquito
  • 605 Squadron Mosquito
  • 456 Squadron RAAF Mosquito
  • 527 RCS Squadron Blenheim, Hurricane, Hornet, Moth
  • 91 Squadron Spitfire
  • 486 Squadron RNZAF Tempest
  • 410 Squadron RCAF Mosquito
  • 68 Squadron Mosquito
  • 151 Squadron Mosquito
  • 25 Squadron Mosquito
  • 307 Squadron (Polish) Mosquito

The station closed in January 1946.

From August 1939, Nos 35 and 207 Squadrons, with Battles used the airfield for training pilots and observer/air gunners. The Squadrons were amalgamated on 1st October 1939 as 1 Group Pool. In September 1939 No 6 (Training) Group became responsible for the eight "Group Pool" units comprising fourteen squadrons with No 35 (Madras Presidency) and No 207 (Leicester) arrived at Cranfield towards the end of August to provide operational training. From 1939-40, the Squadrons moved out while the Station was requipped with new runways.

From 1940 to August 1941, 14 Service Flying Training School flew from here with Oxfords, then from August 1941 to 14th May 1945, 51 OTU training night fighter crews were based here flying Havocs, Blenheims and later Beaufighters and Mosquitoes.

Fowlmere has a long association with aviation starting in 1916 when land was leased as a landing station for aeroplanes. Then in 1918 a large aerodrome was constructed with six massive 'Belfast truss type' hangars, accommodation, workshops and instructional huts. No. 15 Squadron of the RAF disbanded here in 1918. It was however demolished in 1922/23. In 1940, the RAF used the fields of Manor Farm again as an airfield, by 12 Group as a satellite airfield for Duxford, and during 1943 the airfield was expanded to become, from 5th April 1944 to 10th October 1945, Station 378 of the USAAF 8th Air Force and was used by the 339th Fighter Group flying P51 Mustangs. Throughout this period the Group flew P-51Bs and Cs until equipped with P-51Ds.

The 339th flew 264 missions from Fowlmere and the Group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for it's actions on 10th/11th September 1944.

In April 1938 Maintenance Command was formed and the unit at Henlow became No 13 MU under control of No 43 Group mainly for repair and modification of aircraft. By June 1940 most of the training units had left the station.

The Luftwaffe clearly considered Henlow to be of some strategic importance as it was bombed in September and November 1940, February 1941 and July 1942 but without serious damage.

In January 1940 the first Hurricane aircraft that had been built in Canada arrived here for assembly, test and delivery to the operational squadrons. By late 1944 most of the Hurricanes had gone, the final one being appropriately named The Last of the Many left in September.

At the end of 1944 No 13 MU was still the main occupant but No 6 Repairable Equipment Unit (REU) was based there as well as a number of mobile Dental Units and The School of Aeronautical Engineering.

Kimbolton was initially, and briefly, occupied by the 91st Bomb Group in September 1942 but the airfield was determined to be unsuitable for operations using the heavy US bombers and the group was relocated to Bassingbourn.

Following upgrades, Kimbolton became the home of the 379th Bomb Group on 29th May 1943 which operated from there exclusively until it departed England on 12th June 1945.

The new Lancaster squadron, No 582, was officially formed on 1st April 1944, to be joined the next day by the Mosquito crews of No 109 squadron from Marham in Norfolk. Both squadrons were very active on 5th/6th June, the eve of D-Day and continued afterwards with many successful and heroic missions. Mosquito type XVI, crewed by Flying Officers A.C. Austin and P. Moorehead dropped the last bombs of the war at 02:14 hours on 21st April 1945.

At the outbreak of war all civilian flying ceased and the school closed the airfield was soon to provide the production facility for Percival Proctors and the Airspeed Oxfords.

Training returned on 22nd July 1940 when No 24 Elementary Flying Training School moved in from Sydenham, South London before moving on to Sealand in Cheshire in early February 1942. It was replaced in April by No 5 Ferry Pool of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) from Hatfield the only all female Pool.

By 1943 the ATA had more than 600 pilots and late in the year had to move on to Cosford (near the Spitfire factories) to make room for Mosquito manufacture. The airfield later became London Luton Airport.

1944 : Headquarters of - Eighth Air Force Service Command

The most imposing of buildings and possibly the most covert. Milton Ernest Hall was surrounded in intrigue and rumour. Other than the official recognition as 8th Air Force Service Command HQ it was thought to be central to a wider group of 'stations' concerned with secret allied radio and propoganda transmitting, political warfare, and undercover operations by British and American units. Several governmant ministers were thought to be located there as well as mention of having it's own runway, although it has always been closely associated with Twinwood airfield. Some local rumour has it a tunnel connects the two, although the surrounding landscape would make that highly improbable.

Glenn Miller often stayed at Milton Ernest Hall and, along with Don Haynes (his manager), based the administration and organisation of the band to the USAAF bases in the United Kingdom from here. The band were also taken out to the hall for its meals in between broadcasts and rehearsals at the Co-Partner Hall in Bedford. In return for the hospitality shown by General Goodrich and his officers at the hall, Miller agreed to play a concert in the grounds on the afternoon of 16th July 1944. A huge sucess with 1,600 officers and men present.

February 1942 saw the airfield transferred to USAAF and the runways extended. On 12th May 1942 the first US units arrived. From June 1942 to 10th September 1942, 5th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron were based here. Then from 9th June 1942 to 13th September 1942, 15th Bomb Group, with Douglas A20s, were here. Their first mission was on 29th June 1942 to Hazebrouck. They were re-equipped with B-17's 8/42 which completed the first USAAF mission from England.

On the 12th September 1942, 303rd Bomb Group ('Hells Angels') with B-17s arrived, being based here until to June 1945. Their first mission on 17th November 1942 was to St Nazaire, 'Hells Angels' went on to complete 364 missions. B-17F 'Hells Angels' of the 358th BS was the first to complete 25 missions. Knockout Dropper of the 359th BS was the first to complete 75 missions. The final mission was 25th April 1945 before moving to North Africa.

On 1st July 1945 441 and 442 Canadian Squadrons arrived with Mustangs based here until 10th August 1945. On 27th July 1945, 1335 Conversion Unit with Meteors arrived followed on 7th September 1915 by 19 Squadronn with Mustangs, then Spitfires, they remianed until 28th June 1946.

Although the airfield at Podington began to take shape in 1941, it would be another two years before it became fully operational as an Eighth Air Force heavy bomber base. Several units used it as a temporary base before the airfield was improved and runways extended and it was to be the oldest Bomb Group (92nd) that came to make Podington its home for the rest of the war.

Operations started on 23rd September 1943 with two missions against the V1 rocket sites all aircraft returned safely. Losses were significant but so were the achievements and for the final five months of the war the 92nd piled up the number of operations with steady regularity, passing a milestone in April 1945 - its 300th operation. On the 25th the Group was to fly its last mission, its 308th with the loss of one aircraft and crew bringing the total number of aircraft lost in action to 154 mostly from Podington. They left for France in June that year.

It was realised that Steeple Morden was not really suitable for a Class A bomber airfield so it was relegated it to a fighter station. The 355th Fighter Group moved in with P-47Ds although it took some time for the unit to become operational because of the short supply of aircraft. After a slow start they were re-equipped with P-51s and went on to become one of the most successful fighter units of the war, strafing aircraft on the ground. Aircraft from here were also used to escort B-17s on a bombing mission on Polish oilfields, made possible by the use of drop tanks. The 355th's last mission was on 25th April 1945 by which time they had recorded 868 victories.

During the second week of April No 161 Squadron. joined them from Graveley they were newly formed and were engaged in the skilled duties of landing and picking-up 'passengers' behind enemy lines with the Lysanders which had very short take-off and landing space requirements.

During 1943 the Lockheed Hudsons were used increasingly for these hazardous pick-up operations they were faster, quieter, of greater capacity and had more sturdy undercarriage than the Lysanders. A fine book written by 161 Squadron.'s flight commander, Squadron. Ldr. Hugh Verity, D.F.C., entitled We Landed By Moonlight gives detailed accounts of the secret landings.

In a nearby barn there is an impromptu memorial to the SOE agents who flew from here during WW2. Major France Antelme OBE, was an SOE agent dropped into France from Tempsford. On his third operation he was captured by the Germans in 1944 and executed in 1945. Denis Barret, landed twice in France, in 1943 and 1944. While trying to assist an SAS unit which had become surrounded, was captured, and executed in Buchenwald just before wars end. George Frederick Nichols flew missions for 138 Squadron in 1944. He was posted to the base as flying officer in August 1944, flew nine missions and failed to return from the December 2nd mission to Denmark, he was flying a Stirling which was lost without trace. Sgt E Markson 2211419. 161 Squadron. Aircraft crashed near Cugny France all the crew killed, Aircraft Halifax. He was lost with all the Crew on the night of August 8/9th 1944 from Tempsford. Richard 'Dick' Wilkin RCAF, who flew with 138, was killed returning from Poland when his Halifax was shot down.

By 1944 the 306th had been in action for almost 15 months and was nearing its 100th mission and having sustained many losses. The Group finally completed their long war on 19th April 1945 which was their 342nd mission the second highest for any B17 Group. During its time at Thurleigh over 9,600 sorties had been flown with the loss of 171 aircraft in action and over 22,500 tons of bombs were dropped.

It was from this station that Glenn Miller made his last flight 15th December 1944. Even before that fateful December day in 1944 (the 15th) Twinwood Farm had established an association with Glen Miller and his American Band of the Supreme Allied Command as it was originally known. It was based in Bedford in early July 1944 and they used the airfield on a couple of accessions as they undertook their exhausting tours. They gave a concert at the airfield on 27th August.

The order detailing Major Miller's journey to France for another tour was issued on 12th December but fog delayed departure and a friend offered to help him out with an aircraft. This was to be a Canadian-built Noordugn UC-64A Norsman. It was a cold, rainy and foggy afternoon and Glen Miller said to the band's manager, Lt Don Hayes, as he was boarding the aircraft, "Haynsie, even the birds are grounded today". The aircraft took off at 1.55pm and was never seen again.

The airfield closed in June 1945 .

Upwood’s aviation origins can be traced back to 1917 when land at Simmonds Farm, close to Upwood village was obtained for use by the Royal Flying Corps. Initially it was used as a night landing ground by 75 Squadron’s BE-2s. At this stage the airfield was named Bury (Ramsey). By the Summer of 1918 a number of huts and 170’ x 100’ hangars had been erected and the airfield renamed Upwood, coming under the auspices of 6th Brigade, Midland Area, 47th Home Defence Wing. Around the same time 191 Squadron moved in with its BE-2s and DH.6s, later converting to FE-2Bs. These were later followed by 190 Squadron’s Avro 504Ks.

A massive expansive of the RAF by 41 new squadrons in 1934 meant that nearly fifty new airfields would be required. Upwood benefited when it was announced that it would become the home to two medium bomber squadrons. Work began on buildings and airfield preparation and the buildings were completed just in time for the arrival on 1st March 1937 of seven Hawker Hinds of 52 Squadron. Later that day five Hawker Audaxes of 63 Squadron arrived. The Hinds were replaced in 1937 by Fairey Battles. Building work in 1937 included the three C-type hangars which still remain today, testimony indeed to the design and construction methods used.

With War being declared on 3rd September 1939, the Hinds and Auduxes departed to Kidlington and were replaced by 17OTU Blenheims from 90 Squadron which arrived from West Raynham on 16th September. This was the start of many operational changes at Upwood which saw a variety of types using the grass airfield including Fairey Battles, Airspeed Oxfords and Avro Ansons (which frequently used the perimeter tracks to fly from as the ground was frequently unusable). The construction of the three concrete runways started on 8th June 1943. This soon attracted the attention of the Americans and a USAAF B-17, short of fuel, landed on 9th October. A few weeks later five P-38s diverted in due to weather.

The base saw enemy action on 6th June 1940 at 03:00 when the airfield was bombed by a lone raider which caused one fatality and one injury. There are several documented cases of raids through the period on the airfield which resulted in many more casualties.

Mosquitos of 139 Squadron transferred from Wyton at the end of January 㤴 and were followed two months later by Lancasters of 156 Squadron from Warboys. Tragey struck on 7th August when one of the Mosquitos crashed into the married quarters on the base, killing the crew and two people on the ground. 48 hours later a Lancaster, which was being debombed, exploded with the loss of seven and 21 injured.


5 thoughts on &ldquoHeavy losses as RAF Bomber Command targets Nuremberg&rdquo

I am trying to trace the history of a building that was dismantled and then rebuilt on my Farm,it looks exactly as the operations room in the above photo! I am told that this style of building was Canadian built…RCAF. The building which is now at Manor Farm,Church End,Parson Drove was brought here to house a very large seed dryer. that was installed here in 1956.

I would greatly appreciate any further photos or information about the building in question.



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