No. 242 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No.242 Squadron went through three incarnations during the Second First World War, the first as Douglas Bader's fighter squadron during the Battle of Britain, the second as a fighter squadron in North Africa and Italy and the third as a transport squadron.

The squadron was reformed on 30 October 1939 at Church Fenton, as a fighter squadron with a large proportion of Canadian personnel. It was equipped with Blenheim fighters in December 1939, before receiving the Hurricane in January 1940. The squadron became operational on 23 March 1940.

Operations over France began on 16 May, from bases in Britain. On 7 June the squadron was one of the last RAF squadrons to be ordered to move to France, and on 8 June the squadron moved to Chateaudun. It was moved to change base twice in the next eight days, before in mid June it helped cover the evacuation from St. Nazaire and Nantes. 

The squadron took part in the Battle of Britain, and was based at Coltishall (No.12 Group) from 18 June until 26 October, practically the entire length of the battle. During this period the Hurricanes of No.242 operated alongside a series of Spitfire squadrons, under the energetic but controversial leadership of Douglas Bader. The squadron thus formed part of the 'Duxford Wing', named after the base where it rendezvoused.

The squadron flew offensive sweeps and bomber escort missions from December 1940 until September 1941, when it moved to North Wales. A short period of patrols over the Irish Sea followed, before on 3 October the squadron became non-operational in preparation for a move to the Far East. In December 1941 the squadron became its move. The pilots only reached Malta, where they were absorbed into No.126 Squadron. The ground echelon had a rather more difficult time, reaching Singapore in January 1942. There it merged with elements of Nos.232 and 605 Squadrons to service a composite Hurricane unit. This unit was forced to withdraw to Sumatra and then Java, where it was dispersed on 10 March 1942, having suffered very heavy losses.

The squadron reformed at Turnhouse on 10 April 1942. Defensive patrols were flow for most of the year, before in November 1942 the squadron moved to North Africa to support Operation Torch. Its first base was Maison Blanche, where on 9 November it was one of three squadrons that intercepted a raid by twenty unescorted Junkers Ju.88s. The squadron then took part in the invasion of Tunisia, providing air cover for the British 1st Army. In June 1943 the squadron moved to Malta to support the landings on Sicily, then in mid-September it moved to Italy to support the armies there. In April 1944 it moved to Corsica, from where it flew sweeps over Northern Italy. In August it covered the Allied landings in the south of France, spending one month operating from bases in France. Like many squadrons involved in this operation No.242 disposed of its aircraft, moved to Naples, and was disbanded, in this case on 4 November 1944.

Eleven days later, on 15 November 1944, the squadron reformed as a transport squadron at Stoney Cross, with 80 crewmen from Nos.232 and 252 squadrons. The new unit trained on the Wellington XVI, before in February 1945 its first Stirling Vs began to arrive. At this point the squadron's planned establishment was 25 Stirlings, but in April this was changed to 15 Yorks. After a short first appearance the Yorks were replaced by Stirlings between July and December 1945, and the squadron wasn't fully equipped with the York until January 1946. After the war the squadron took part in the Berlin Air Lift, and was disbanded in 1950.

December 1939: Bristol Blenheim IF
December 1939-January 1940: Fairey Battle I
January 1940-February 1941: Hawker Hurricane I
February 1941-February 1942: Hawker Hirricane IIB
April 1942-April 1944: Supermarine Spitfire VB and VC
June 1943-October 1944: Supermarine Spitfire IX

January-February 1945: Vickers Wellington XVI
Febriary 1945-January 1945: Short Stirling V
September-December 1945: Short Stirling IV

October 1939-May 1940: Church Fenton
May-June 1940: Biggin Hill with detachments at
    June 1940: Chateaudun
    June 1940: Ancenis
    June 1940: Chateau Bougon
June-October 1940: Coltishall
October-November 1940: Duxford
November-December 1940: Coltishall
December 1940-April 1941: Martlesham Heath
April-May 1941: Stapleford Tawney
May-July 1941: North Weald
July-September 1941: Manston
September-December 1941: Valley

January-February 1942: Seletar
February 1942: Kallang
February 1942: Palembang I
February 1942: Palembang II
February-March 1942: Tjililitan
March 1942: Andir
March 1942: Tasik Malaja

April-May 1942: Turnhouse
May-June 1942: Ouston
June-August 1942: Drem
August 1942: North Weald
August 1942: Manston
August-September 1942: North Weald
September-October 1942: Digby

November 1942: Maison Blanche
November 1942: Djidjelli
November 1942-January 1943: Bone
January 1943: Constantine
January 1943: Tingley
January-February 1943: Setif
February-March 1943: Souk-el-Khemis
March-April 1943: Tingley
April-May 1943: Marylebone
May-June 1943: Protville 3
June-July 1943: Takali
July-September 1943: Lentini East
September 1943: Milazzo East
September 1943: Asa
September-October 1943: Serretelle
October-December 1943: Gioia del Colle
December 1943-January 1944: Afisse North
January-February 1944: Ramat David

April 1944: Alto
April-June 1944: Poretta
June-August 1944: Calenzana
August-September 1944: Frejus
September 1944: Montelimar
September-October 1944: Le Vallon
October-November 1944: Naples, then disbanded

November 1944-December 1945: Stoney Cross

Squadron Codes: LE (1941-44), KY (1945)

1939-1941: Fighter Command
1943-1944: Fighter squadron, North Africa and Italy
1944-1945: Transport Squadron

Part of
8 August 1940: No.12 Group; Fighter Command
10 July 1943: No.322 Wing; No.322 Group; Desert Air Force; North African Tactical Air Force; Northwest African Air Forces; Mediterranean Air Command


The Decisive Campaigns of the Desert Air Force 1942-1945, Bryn Evans. . Looks at the activities of the RAF's tactical air force in the North Africa and Italian Theatres, where it developed many of the close support techniques used with greater fame by 2nd Tactical Air Force in Normandy. This is a valuable account of the services of a key, but often overlooked, part of the wartime RAF. [read full review]
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ow to cite this article: Rickard, J (12 July 2011), No. 242 Squadron (RAF): Second World War,

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