No. 257 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No.257 Squadron was a Typhoon squadron that took part in the campaign against German fighter-bomber raids on the south coast before joining Second Tactical Air Force to serve as a fighter-bomber squadron during the invasion of Western Europe.

The squadron reformed at Hendon on 17 May 1940 as a fighter squadron. Initially it was equipped with Spitfires, but in June these were replaced by Hurricanes and it was these aircraft that became operational on 1 July.

The squadron was based in the south east of England during the Battle of Britain. From September it was commanded by 'Bob' Stanford-Tuck, the RAF's first Spitfire ace and a successful pilot.

In March 1941 the squadron began to fly offensive sweeps over France as well as some night fighter patrols, although their single-seat fighters didn't make the most effective night fighters.

In July 1942 the squadron was part of the second batch of squadrons to covert to the Hawker Typhoon, following on from the three squadrons of the Duxford Wing. The second batch of squadrons included the newly formed Nos.181 and 182 Squadrons, and Nos.257 and 486 Squadrons which both converted from the Hurricane. 

On 29 July 1942 the squadron was the first to experience a deadly flaw in the Typhoon, when the tail came off in the air, killing the pilot. This was eventually (in September 1943) traced to a problem with the elevator mass balance, but twenty six aircraft would suffer structural failures in the air.

In late September 1942 it was decided to take advantage of the Typhoon's impressive low altitude speed and use it against the low-level Fw 190 fighter bombers that had been raiding the south coast with virtual impunity. No.257 Squadron moved to Exeter, where on 3 November it achieved one of the first successes of the new campaign, shooting down two Fw 190s. This campaign continued during the first half of 1943, but the last large-scale Jabo (fighter-bomber) raid came on 1 June, and after that a large number of Fw 190s were moved from France to Sicily, relieving the pressure.

In 1944 the squadron began part of Second Tactical Air Force, joining No.146 Wing in March 1944. Apart from two short periods of rest the squadron spent the rest of the war with No.146 Wing.

The wing was used to attack enemy transport and troop concentrations in the period before D-Day, with No.197 Squadron using 500lb bombs. These attacked included on 23 May in which both ends of a railway tunnel were destroyed while a train was in the tunnel. This day saw the squadron fire 9,615 20mm shells and drop 62 500lb bombs, the highest figures it had yet achieved in a single day.

After the D-Day landings the wing was used to provide close support for the army, using the 'cab rank' system, with aircraft circling over the battlefield waiting for instructions from controllers travelling with the troops.

On 27 June the wing attacked the HQ of Leutnant General Dohlman's infantry division around St Lo, killing the general and destroying much of his HQ.

The wing moved to Normandy in mid-July, initially to airfield B.3. During the German retreat from Normandy Typhoons of No.146 Wing destroyed the last permanent bridge remaining over the Seine, trapping many of the survivors.

Encounters with the Luftwaffe were rare in this period, although the squadron was involved in a fight with thirty Bf 109s on 13 July (along with No.197 Squadron)

Over the winter of 1944-45 the wing was used to attack the remaining isolated German garrisons on the Scheldt estuary and Walcheren Island, left behind by the retreat of the main German armies. At the start of October the squadron moved to Deurne airfield at Antwerp, where it found itself under fire from V2 rockets - five airmen were killed by one rocket on 25 October.

As the advance came to a halt in the winter of 1944-45 the Typhoon squadrons flew fewer sorties in direct support of the armies and instead began to operate further behind German lines. Attacks on Geman headquarters continued, with No.146 Wing making an attack on the believed location of the German 15th Army in a park in the centre of Dordrecht on 24 October. This attack killed two German generals, seventeen staff officers and 236 others, a massive blow to the efficiency of the 15th Army.

The wing's next targets were isolated garrisons around Arnhem and Nijmegen. The squadron also took part in an attack on a 'human torpedo' factory at Utrecht, and an attempted attack on the Gestapo HQ at Amsterdam on 19 November, but this second attack was stopped by the weather. Nos.193, 257, 263 and 266 Squadrons returned to the same target on 26 November, this time with more success, with some bombs going through the front door of the building!

The wing was largely unaffected by Operation Bodenplatte, the Luftwaffe's attempt to destroy the Allied air forces on the ground on 1 January 1945. Only three of the wing's aircraft were damaged, two of them from No.257 Squadron.

By the spring of 1945 the RAF was running short of Typhoon pilots, and so in order to keep most squadrons at full strength each Typhoon wing lost one squadron. No.257 Squadron flew its last sortie on 3 March and was officially disbanded on 5 March.

Aircraft
May-June 1940: Supermarine Spitfire I
June 1940-July 1941: Hawker Hurricane I
May 1941-September 1942: Hawker Hurricane IIA and IIB
April 1941-August 1941: Hawker Hurricane IIC
January-July 1942: Hawker Hurricane I
January-September 1942: Hawker Hurricane IIC
April-May 1942: Supermarine Spitfire VB
July 1942-March 1945: Hawker Typhoon IA and IB

Location
May-July 1940: Hendon
July-August 1940: Northolt
August-September 1940: Debden
September-October 1940: Martlesham Heath
October-November 1940: North Weald
November-December 1940: Martlesham Heat
December 1940-November 1941: Coltishall
November 1941-June 1942: Honiley
June-September 1942: High Ercall
September 1942-January 1943: Exeter
January-August 1943: Warmwell
August-September 1943: Gravesend
September 1943-January 1944: Warmwell
January 1944: Beaulieu
January-April 1944: Tangmere
April-July 1944: Need's Oar Point
July 1944: Hurn
July-August 1944: B.3 St. Croix
August 1944: Fairwood Common
August-September 1944: B.3 St. Croix
September 1944: B.23 Morainville
September-October 1944: B.51 Lille/ Seclin
October 1944-February 1945: B.70 Deurne
February-March 1945: B.89 Mill

Squadron Codes: DT (Hurricane I)< FM (Hurricane II, Typhoon)

Duty
8 August 1940: No.11 Group, Fighter Command
March-11 April 1944: No.146 Wing; No.84 Group; 2nd Tactical Air Force
11-12 April 1944: APC Fairwood Common
12 April-11 August 1944: No.146 Wing; No.84 Group; 2nd Tactical Air Force
11-30 August 1944: APC Fairwood Common
30 August 1944-5 March 1945: No.146 Wing; No.84 Group; 2nd Tactical Air Force

Books

Typhoon and Tempest Aces of World War War 2, Chris Thomas. This book tells the tale of the troubled Hawker Typhoon, concentrating on its use as a fighter rather than its more successful career as a ground attack aircraft, and its transformation into the excellent Tempest, one of the best fighters of the later years of the Second World War [see more]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (28 July 2011), No. 257 Squadron (RAF): Second World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAF/257_wwII.html

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