No. 236 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No.236 Squadron spent most of the Second World War serving with Coastal Command, forming part of the North Coates strike wing from its formation in November 1942 until the end of the war.

The squadron reformed on 31 October 1939 at Stradishall as part of Fighter Command. In December 1939 it received the Blenheim fighter, and in February 1940 the squadron moved to North Coates to join Coastal Command.

In April 1940 the squadron reverted to Fighter Command control, and in May-June was used for defensive patrols over shipping in the English Channel. As the Germans advanced into France it became clear that the Blenheim was no longer capable of performing this role against more powerful fighter opposition, and on 4 July the squadron returned to Coastal Command, where it was used for a mix of reconnaissance and long range fighter duties.

On 18 September a detachment moved to Northern Ireland, where it was used to form No.272 Squadron on 19 November. The rest of the squadron operated from bases in Cornwall and Pembroke, operating over the Western Approaches. In October 1941 the squadron began to convert to the Beaufighter I, but on 9 February 1942 it moved to East Anglia to become a cadre unit, while its aircraft were dispersed to other squadrons.

This was only a short break. On 15 March the squadron became operational once again, this time fully equipped with the Beaufighter. At first the squadron was used for shipping reconnaissance and escort duties, before in July it began operations against enemy shipping off the Dutch coast. At the same time detachments operated over the Bay of Biscay to protect anti-submarine aircraft against German attack. 

In June 1942 the squadron flew one of its more unusual missions when a volunteer crew (Flight Lieutenant A. K. Gatward and Sergeant G. Fern) attempted to drop a French tricolour onto a German military parade in Paris. The aircraft successfully reached Paris, but found no parade, and so its crew had to satisfy themselves by attacking the Gestapo HQ before returning safely to Britain.

In November 1942 the squadron became a founder member of the North Coates Strike Wing, operating as a Beaufighter bomber squadron alongside No.143's Beaufighter fighters and No.254 Squadron's normal and torpedo-armed Beaufighters (Torbeaus). The new wing's first strike, on 20 November, was disastrous. Nos. 236 and 254 Squadrons were sent to attack a convoy, lost touch with each other, and ran into a powerful escort force of Fw 190s. Although three enemy ships were hit, three aircraft were destroyed and four very badly damaged, and the wing was withdrawn until the spring of 1943.

The North Coates wing returned to action on 18 April with a much more successful attack on a convoy, from which all twenty-one Beaufighters returned. No.236 Squadron provided six bomb armed aircraft to this force.

The squadron formed part of the North Coates Strike Wing until the end of the war, spending most of its time on anti-shipping duties. It also took part in the sinking of two U-boats, one soon after the wing returned to operations and the second only twenty days before the squadron was disbanded at the end of the war. U-418 was sunk in the Bay of Biscay on 1 June 1943, while U-2338 was sunk off the Danish coast on 5 May 1945 by aircraft from Nos.236 and 254 Squadrons.

Aircraft
December 1939-July 1940: Bristol Blenheim IF
July 1940-March 1942: Bristol Blenheim IVF
October 1941-February 1942: Bristol Beaufighter I
March 1942-July 1942: Bristol Beaufighter I
June 1942-August 1943: Bristol Beaufighter VI
June 1943-May 1945: Bristol Beaufighter X

Location
October-December 1939: Stradishall
December 1939-February 1940: Martlesham Heath
February-April 1940: North Coates
April-May 1940: Speke
May-June 1940: Filton
June-July 1940: Middle Wallop
July-August 1940: Thorney Island
August 1940-March 1941: St. Eval
March 1941-February 1942: Carew Cheriton
February-July 1942: Wattisham
July-September 1942: Oulton
September 1942-May 1945: North Coates

Squadron Codes: -

Duty
February-April 1940: Coastal Command
May-June 1940: Fighter Command
July 1940-end of war: Coastal Command, reconnaissance and anti-shipping

Part of
15 February 1943: No.16 Group; 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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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (11 March 2011), No. 236 Squadron (RAF): Second World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAF/236_wwII.html

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