Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation
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Numbers in the 600 series were originally allocated to squadrons of the Auxiliary Air Force. However, the AAF had only reached No 616 by the outbreak of World War Two, and further squadrons starting at 617 began to be formed from 1943 onwards.
Formed at Castle Bromwich on 5 October 1926 as a light bomber squadron in the Auxiliary Air Force, initially equipped with DH9As, it received Wapiti's in 1930. It continued to operate this type until 1934 when Harts arrived, they in their turn being replaced by Hinds in 1936. It was redesignated a fighter squadron in January 1939, receiving Gladiators in February.
It moved to Scotland in February 1940, south in May to cover the British withdrawal at Dunkirk, back to Scotland, retuning South in September in time to join the closing stages of the Battle of Britain. It continued to operate from bases in the south carrying out escort duties and fighter sweeps until posted overseas.
In November 1941, the squadron flew off the carrier HMS Argus to Malta, where it was retained as part of the island's defences, prior to continuing its journey to the Far East. Arriving in Singapore too late to prevent its capture, it moved to Sumatra and then Java. It operated any aircraft it could fly until it ceased to exist with its personnel either escaping in small groups or being captured. However, it is possible that a small detachment of the squadron may have been left on Malta during the transit journey to the Far East as a unit there which began operations on 10 January 1942 used the squadron number in its reports, which ended the following month, on being absorbed into No 185 Squadron.
A new No 605 was formed at Ford on 7 June 1942, equipped with Bostons in the intruder role. These were replaced with Mosquitoes from February 1943 and it continued to operate this type until the end of the war, moving to Belgium in March 1945 and Holland in April. The squadron disbanded by being re-numbered No 4 Squadron on 31 August 1945.
With the reactivation of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, 605 was reformed on 10 May 1946 at Honiley as a night fighter squadron. But its initial equipment of Mosquitoes NF 30s did not arrive until April 1947. In July 1948 its role was changed to that of day fighter, for which it received Vampire F 1s replacing them with FB 5s in May 1951, but along with all the flying units of the RAuxAF, it was disbanded on 10 March 1957.
Squadron Codes used: -
This squadron holds a unique position in RAF Squadron history. The number 606 was never allocated in the 1930's, although it was held in readiness, when the majority of the Auxiliary Air Force was formed. The number was also never activated subsequently and consequently it has never operated aircraft.
It therefore became unique when it was formed from the Helicopter Support Squadron of the RAuxAF at Benson on 1 October 1999, in that it is numbered within the range allocated to flying squadrons, yet does not operate any aircraft of its own but provides valuable support role to the tactical support helicopter fleet.
The Helicopter Support Squadron was originally formed on 1 October 1996, since when it has supplied personnel to various exercises in the UK, Germany and Slovenia. Personnel have also accompanied units of the Joint Helicopter Command, of which it became part of the same day it was awarded its number, on operations in the Balkans (1999).
Squadron Codes used: -
Formed at Usworth on 17 March 1930 as a light bomber squadron in the Auxiliary Air Force, although it's initial equipment of Wapiti's did not arrive until December 1932. It continued in this role until 23 September 1937 when it was redesignated a fighter squadron, having previously re-equipped with Demons in September 1936.
Gladiators arrived in December 1938 and it took these to France as part of the Air Component in November 1939. It stared to receive Hurricanes in March 1940 prior to the German attack but was not fully equipped until after it. It spent most of the Battle of Britain at its home base (Usworth) re-equipping but in September 1940 it returned south to take part in the Battle. Returning north in October it settled mainly in Scotland returning south in August 1941 to Martlesham Heath. It moved to Manston in October remaining there until going to India in 1942. Whilst based at Manston it pioneered the use of Hurricanes in the fighter-bomber role, paving the way for the type of operation that would become commonplace and today is the norm.
It joined No 166 Wing on 25 May 1942, still equipped with Hurricanes, reverting to the fighter role. These were replaced with Spitfires in September 1943, thereby becoming the first unit in SEAC to operate the type. It continued to operate along the Burma front, receiving Spitfire VIIIs in March 1944, until disbanding on 31 July 1945.
With the reactivation of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, 607 was reformed on 10 May 1946 at Ouston as a day fighter squadron. It was initially equipped with Spitfire F 14s and F 22, until June 1951 when Vampire FB 5s were received. These were supplemented by FB 9s from April 1956 until February 1957 but along with all the other flying units of the RAuxAF, it was disbanded on 10 March 1957.
Squadron Codes used: -
Formed at Thornaby on 17 March 1930 as a day bomber squadron Within the Auxiliary Air Force. It was equipped with the Wapiti until January 1937 when it received Demons, being re-designated a fighter squadron in May. However, on 20 March 1939 it was re-designated again, this time as a general reconnaissance unit equipped with Ansons. It became the only squadron to fly the Blackburn Botha operationally but when these were found to suffer from serious deficiencies they were withdrawn and replaced by Ansons in November 1940. The Botha was then relegated to a training role.
Blenheim IVs arrived early in 1941 but were soon replaced by Hudsons, moving to Scotland in January 1942 and then to North Africa in October, where it flew anti submarine patrols over the Mediterranean. It moved to Sicily in September 1943 and then onto Italy in October, were it disbanded on 31 July 1944
It reformed in No 8 (Pathfinder) Group the following day as a Mosquito squadron at Downham Market. It formed part of 8 Group's Light Night Striking Force. It continued in this role until disbanding on 28 August 1945.
With the reactivation of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, 608 was reformed on 10 May 1946 at Thornaby as a light bomber squadron. It received no equipment, however, prior to being redesignated a night fight unit in July 1947 when it received Mosquito NF 30s. It flew these until August 1948 when it was redesignated again, this time as a day fighter squadron receiving Spitfire F 22s. These were replaced in December 1949 by Vampires, although Spitfires were not completely replaced until June 1951. It continued to fly Vampires, with FB 9s arriving in April 1956 until, along with all the flying units of the RAuxAF, it was disbanded on 10 March 1957.
Squadron Codes used: -
Formed at Yeadon on 10 February 1936 as part of the Auxiliary Air Force, it was initially equipped with Harts, later receiving Hinds in December 1937. It was redesignated a fighter squadron on 8 December 1938 but did not receive its first Spitfire until August 1939.
It remained in the North of England and Scotland until it moved to Northolt in May 1940, from where it covered the Dunkirk evacuation. During the Battle of Britain it operated from Middle Wallop and later carried out sweeps over the continent from various bases.
In April 1942 it began to re-equip with the Typhoon and it carried out its first operation in June. Initially flying defensive patrols, it later undertook intruder operations, both day and night until joining 2nd TAF in March 1944. At this time it started to specialise in the use of a new weapon, the Rocket Projectile. It provided air support to 21st Army Group throughout its actions in France, the Low Countries and into Germany, where it disbanded on 15 September 1945.
With the reactivation of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, 609 was reformed on 10 May 1946 at Church Fenton as a night fighter squadron. It was initially equipped with Mosquito NF 30s, until September 1948, however, Spitfire LF 16s had started to arrive the previous April and on completion of re-equipment, it was redesignated a day fighter squadron. These were remained until January 1951 when it converted to the Meteor F 8, although it had received some Vampires from November 1950 to January 1951. However, along with all the flying units of the RAuxAF, it was disbanded on 10 March 1957.
It was reformed in 2001 from The Air Defence Support Squadron of the RAuxAF based at Leeming and its personnel now support the Tornado F 3 units based on the station.
Squadron Codes used: -
Formed at Hooton Park in Cheshire on 10 February 1936 as part of the Auxiliary Air Force, it was initially tasked as a light bomber squadron equipped with Harts, with Hinds arriving in May 1938. However, on 1 January 1939, the squadron was redesignated as a fighter squadron and was planned to receive Defiants, it kept its Hinds pending there arrival. That decision was rescinded and in early September 1939 its first Hurricanes arrived. Another change took place and by the end of September, Spitfires replaced the few Hurricanes. No 600 operated over Dunkirk and throughout most of the Battle of Britain.
It carried out the usual round of offensive sweeps, shipping protection and defensive operating until January 1944 when it received the first Spitfire XIVs equipped with the Rolls Royce Griffon engine. These arrived just in time to meet the threat from the V1 flying bombs which began to arrive in Britain from June as at that time they were fastest RAF fighters available. In September, fitted with long range tanks, the squadron began operations over Germany.
It eventually moved to the continent as part of No 127 Wing in December but almost immediately transferred to No 125 Wing. With 125 Wing it carried out long range sweeps and tactical recce mission until withdrawn to Warmwell for an Armament Practice Camp but in the event it never returned and disbanded at Warmwell on 3 March 1945.
With the reactivation of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, 610 was reformed on 10 May 1946 at Hooton Park as a day fighter squadron. It was initially equipped with Spitfire F 14s and F 22, until February 1951 with Meteor F 4s being received in April. These were replaced by F 8s in September 1951 but along with all the flying units of the RAuxAF, it was disbanded on 10 March 1957.
Squadron Codes used: -
Squadron badge image on this page is courtesy of Steve Clements
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This page was last updated on 11/02/17 using FrontPage 2003©
Sqns 611 - 620
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