No. 143 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No.143 Squadron was part of Coastal Command, and formed part of the first 'Strike Wing' at Coates, as well as the Banff strike wing in Scotland. The squadron was reformed at Aldergrove on 15 June 1941 as a long-range fighter unit equipped with the Beaufighter. It absorbed part of No.252 Squadron, which allowed it to become operational very quickly. In July it moved to north-east England, then to Scotland, from where it flew convoy patrols off the East Coast. In December the squadron moved back to Ireland, where it became a non-operational Blenheim training unit.

The Blenheims were very briefly taken into combat when in August 1942 the squadron moved to East Anglia to fly convoy patrols and carry out air-sea rescue duties.

143 Squadron Gallery

In September the squadron converted back to the Beaufighter as part of a plan by Coastal Command to create 'strike wings', groups of three squadrons armed with the same type of aircraft that could be used to attack strongly defended German convoys. The idea was for one squadron to be armed with the torpedo-bomber version of the Beaufighter (the Torbeau), while the other two were armed with either the fighter or fighter bomber version of the aircraft. No.143 Squadron provided the Beaufighters for the first of these wings, the Coates Wing, which was formed in November 1942. No.236 Squadron provided the fighter bombers and No.254 the torpedo bombers.

The wing's first operation came on 20 November, and didn't involve No.143 Squadron. The other two squadrons were called into action against a heavily armed convoy of ships heading for Rotterdam. The two squadrons became separated in bad weather, attacked independently and suffered heavily losses at the hands of flak and Fw 190s. The largest of the merchant ships was hit, but in return three Beaufighters were lost and four crashed or made forced landings. The wing was withdrawn for intensive training.

The next strike didn't come until 18 April 1943, by which time the wing was better prepared. This time all three squadrons were involved in the attack, while cover was provided by Fighter Command. The attack on a heavily armed convoy near the Dutch coast was a success, and no British aircraft were lost. The squadron remained with the Coates Wing until the late summer.

In August 1943 the squadron moved to Cornwall to provide fighter support for anti-submarine aircraft operating over the Bay of Biscay, operating alongside the Beaufighters of Nos.248 and 235 Squadrons, Coastal Command and the Mosquitoes from No.10 Group of Fighter Command against German fighters based in western France.

In February 1944 the squadron returned to North Coates and rejoined the Strike Wing, before in May moving to Manston to carry out anti E-boat patrols on the eastern flanks of the naval corridor linking southern England to the D-Day beaches in Normandy. This role continued for two months.

In October the squadron moved to northern Scotland to join the Banff strike wing, swapping its Beaufighters for Mosquitoes. Anti-shipping operations of the Norwegian coast were carried out from then until the end of the war. In April-May, as Germany approached collapse, a large number of U-boats were also sunk as they attempted to escape from Germany to Norway.

The squadron was disbanded on 25 May 1945 and its personnel transferred to No.14 Squadron.

Aircraft
June-December 1941: Bristol Beaufighter I
December 1941-September 1942: Bristol Blenheim IVF
September 1942-March 1943: Bristol Beaufighter IIF
March 1943-April 1944: Bristol Beaufighter XI
February-October 1944: Bristol Beaufighter X
October 1944-January 1945: de Havilland Mosquito II
October 1944-May 1945: de Havilland Mosquito VI

Location
June-July 1941: Aldergrove
July 1941: Thornaby
July-September 1941: Dyce
September-December 1941: Sumburgh
December 1941-April 1942: Aldergrove
April-June 1942: Limavady
June-July 1942: Thorney Island
July-August 1942: Docking
August 1942-August 1943: North Coates
August-September 1943: St. Eval
September 1943-February 1944: Portreath
February-May 1944: North Coates
May-September 1944: Manston
September-October 1944: North Coates
October 1944-May 1945: Banff

Squadron Codes: NE (Mosquito VI), HO (All other)

Duty
Coastal Command

Books

The Strike Wings - Special Anti-Shipping Squadrons, 1942-45, Roy Conyers Nesbit. A history of Coastal Command's Strike Wings, dedicated groups of anti-shipping squadrons that devastated German coastal shipping during the Second World War, but at a very high cost, written by someone who flew in the same role after the war and with a great use of eyewitness accounts and both Allied and German sources. [read full review]
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 Mosquito Bomber/ Fighter-Bomber Units of World War 2, Martin Bowman. The first of three books looking at the RAF career of this most versatile of British aircraft of the Second World War, this volume looks at the squadrons that used the Mosquito as a daylight bomber, over occupied Europe and Germany, against shipping and over Burma. [see more]  
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (27 December 2010), No. 143 Squadron (RAF): Second World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAF/143_wwII.html

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