No. 126 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No.126 Squadron was a fighter squadron that took part in the defence of Malta in 1941 and 1942, the invasion of Italy in 1943 and the D-Day invasions in 1944.

No.126 Squadron reformed at Talaki on 28 June 1941 to take part in the defence of Malta. It was equipped with the Hawker Hurricane, and by November was one of three Hurricane squadrons on the island.

In March 1942 a number of Spitfires were flown onto Malta from an aircraft carrier, and some went to No.126 Squadron. By the end of October three squadrons on Malta had the Spitfire, but the defensive phase of the battle was coming to an end. The defeat of the Afrika Korps after the battle of Alamein and the retreat west across North Africa lifted the siege of Malta, and in 1943 No.126 went onto the offensive, beginning offensive sweeps across Malta in February 1943.

In August 1943 the squadron received a flight of Spitfire IXs, before making the move to Sicily. This was followed by a move onto mainland Italy in October, and over the winter of 1943-44 the squadron operated in support of the Allied armies advancing up the Italian peninsula, before being made non-operational on 1 April 1944 in preparation for a return to the UK.

The squadron reassembled in the UK in May 1944, now fully equipped with the Spitfire IX. At the end of the month it began operations, providing fighter escort for bombers operation over north-western France and flying patrols over the massive invasion fleet now assembled on the south coast. The squadron continued to provide bomber escorts to the end of the war, moving to East Anglia in August 1944 to be closer to most targets, and receiving the long range Mustang in December 1944.

In February 1946 Spitfire XVIs replaced the lend-lease Mustangs, but the squadron was disbanded one month later, on 10 March 1946.

Aircraft
June 1941-March 1942: Hawker Hurricane I and IIB
March 1942-April 1944: Supermarine Spitfire VC
August-December 1943: Supermarine Spitfire IX

May 1944-December 1944: Supermarine Spitfire IX
December 1944-March 1946: North American Mustang III
August 1945-March 1946: North American Mustang IV
February -March 1946: Supermarine Spitfire LF.XVIE

Location
June 1941-May 1942: Takali
May 1942-June 1943: Luqa
June-September 1943: Safi
September-October 1943: Gerbini
October 1943-April 1944: Grottaglie

May 1944: Sawbridgworth
May-July 1944: Culmhead
July-August 1944: Harrowbeer
August-December 1944: Bradwell Bay
December 1944-September 1945: Bentwaters
September 1945: Hethel
September-October 1945: Bradwell Bay
October 1945-March 1946: Hethel

Squadron Codes: C, K, 5J

Duty
11 November 1941: Malta; Middle East Command
27 October 1942: Air HQ Malta, RAF Middle East Command
10 July 1943: Air HQ, Malta, Mediterranean Air Command, now one of five Spitfire squadrons
6 June 1944: No.10 Group; Air Defence of Great Britain, Allied Expeditionary Air Force

Books

Hurricane Aces 1941-45, Andrew Thomas. This book covers the later career of the Hurricane, starting with its final months as a front line fighter in Britain in 1941 before moving on to look at its career in North Africa, the Mediterranean and over the jungles of Burma [see more]
cover cover cover

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (10 December 2010), No. 126 Squadron (RAF): Second World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAF/126_wwII.html

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