No. 203 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No.203 Squadron began the Second World War as a flying boat squadron, but converted to the Blenheim fighter in 1939, and went on to serve as a reconnaissance, bomber, coastal patrol and anti-submarine warfare squadron at different times during the war.

The squadron was reformed on 1 January 1929 by the re-designation of No.482 (Coastal Reconnaissance) Flight at Mount Batten, Plymouth. In February 1929 the squadron left the UK and flew three Southampton flying boats to its new base in Iraq, where it remained until the outbreak of war (apart from a brief move to Aden in September 1935 during the Abyssinian crisis).

At the outbreak of the Second World War the squadron took its Singapore flying boats to Aden, but in December 1939 it began to convert to the Blenheim fighter. The squadron's own aircraft didn't arrive until March 1940, giving it three months to get used to the new aircraft before the Italian entry into the war. After Italy declared war the squadron flew reconnaissance and fighter patrols over the Red Sea.

In April 1941 the squadron helped to provide fighter cover for ships evacuating British and Allied troops from Greece, using bases on Crete.

In May 1941 a number of the squadron's aircraft operated from the besieged British base at Habbaniya (Iraq), helping to defend the base against the aircraft fighting for Rashid Ali. The squadron also helped to defend the Transjordon branch of the I.P.C. fuel line bringing oil from Iraq. One of the squadron's aircraft based on the pipeline was responsible for the first sighting of German aircraft in Vichy Syria, and on 14 May for the first bombing raid against those aircraft.

Towards the end of 1941 the squadron flew daily patrols between their base in western Egypt, Libya and Crete. A number of other airfields were used as advanced operating bases during this period, including Fuka, LG.05 and Sidi Barrani.

In April 1942 the squadron moved to bases in Egypt and Palestine, from where it took part in the invasion of Syria, then flew reconnaissance patrols over the Eastern Mediterranean. During the year the Blenheims were joined by Marylands (February) and then Baltimores (August), before in November the squadron converted completely to the Baltimore.

During 1942 the squadron has a share in the sinking of two U-boats. On 2 June U-652 was heavily damaged by aircraft from No.203 Squadron and No.815 Naval Air Squadron off Sollum, and was scuttled soon after the attack. On 4 August the squadron cooperated with the navy in the sinking of U-372.

In November 1943 the squadron moved to India where it converted to the Vickers Wellington and began to fly coastal patrols. In October 1944 the Wellingtons were replaced with Liberators and in February 1945 the squadron began to fly anti-submarine patrols from Ceylon. These were flow for the rest of the war. After the Japanese surrender the squadron performed transport duties, before returning to the UK in March 1946 where it converted to the Lancaster.

Aircraft
September 1935-March 1940: Short Singapore III
March-May 1940: Bristol Blenheim I
May 1940-November 1942: Bristol Blenheim IV
February-November 1942: Martin Maryland I
February-March 1942: Lockheed Hudson II and III
August 1942-November 1943: Martin Baltimore I, II, IIIA and V
November 1942-October 1944: Vickers Wellington XIII
October 1944-March 1946: Consolidated Liberator VI

Location
August 1936-September 1939: Basra
September 1939-February 1940: Aden/ Isthmus
February-May 1940: Sheikh Othman
May 1940-April 1941: Khormaksar
April 1941: Kabrit
April 1941: Heraklion
April-June 1941: Kabrit
June 1941-January 1942: LG.101 (Western Egypt)
January 1942: Berka 3
January-February 1942: El Gubbi
February 1942: Gambut
February 1942: LG.05
February-June 1942: LG.39
June-July 1942: LG.Y
July-October 1942: LG.X
October 1942-March 1943: LG.227
March-November 1943: Berka 3
November 1943: LG.91
November 1943-October 1944: Santa Cruz
October 1944-February 1945: Madura
February 1945-May 1946: Kankesanturai

Squadron Codes: PP, V, Y, F, D

Duty
1929-1939: Flying Boat squadron, Iraq
1939-1942: Blenheim Fighter Squadron, Middle East
1942-1943: Reconnaissance and Bombing duties, Middle East
1943-1944: Coastal Patrols, India
1944-1945: Anti-submarine patrols, Ceylon
 
Part of
September 1939: British Forces in Aden
11 November 1941: No.234 Wing; No.201 Group; RAF Middle East; Beaufort Detachment with AHQ Western Desert
27 October 1942: No.201 Group; RAF Middle East
10 July 1943: No.247 Wing; No.201 Group; RAF Middle East; Mediterranean Air Command
1 July 1944: No.225 Group; Air Command South East Asia

Books and Links

Memoirs of Tony Tubbenhauer, a pilot with No.203 Squadron (Wordpress Blog)

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (4 February 2011), No. 203 Squadron (RAF): Second World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAF/203_wwII.html

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