No. 320 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No.320 (Netherlands) Squadron was formed around a number of Fokker T-VIIIW seaplanes that escaped from the Netherlands. It spent the next three years serving as a maritime patrol and anti-shipping squadron, before becoming a daylight bomber squadron in 1943, a role it performed until the end of the war.

In May 1940 the Germans invaded the neutral Netherlands. The country was quickly overrun, but a number of Dutch aircraft escaped to the UK. Amongst them were a number of modern Fokker T-VIIIW twin-engined seaplanes, which flew from the Netherlands to Pembroke Dock.

On 1 June 1940 these aircraft were used to form No.320 (Netherlands) Squadron. The new squadron was used to fly maritime patrols, using the Fokkers until the supply of spare parts ran out. The Fokkers were replaced by the Avro Anson, and from October by the rather more capable Lockheed Hudson.

No.320 merged with another Dutch squadron, No.321, on 18 January 1941, and in March the combined squadron moved to Scotland. The maritime patrols continued, but anti-shipping strikes were added to the mix. In April 1942 the squadron moved down the east coast to East Anglia, where it continued the same duties, now focusing on German shipping between the Elbe and the Hook of Holland.

Mitchell II of No.320 Squadron
Mitchell II of
No.320 Squadron

A major change of role came in March 1943 when the squadron was transferred to No.2 Group, Bomber Command. The Hudsons were replaced with Mitchells, and on 17 August 1942 the squadron flew its first daylight bombing raid.

The squadron formed part of Second Tactical Air Force, and was used to support the D-Day landings. On 10 June 1944 it took part in one of a number of 'set piece' attacks of the period, when it provided some of the 61 Mitchells that carried out a low-level attack on La Caine Chateau, the headquarters of General von Schweppenburg's Panzer Group West. Eighteen staff officers were killed in the raid, amongst them the general's chief of staff. The HQ was forced to pull back to Paris to recover, greatly reducing its efficiency at a key moment in the battle in Normandy.

The squadron moved to Belgium in October 1944, and to Germany in the last week of the war. The squadron didn't remain with the RAF for long after the end of the war, and on 2 August 1945 it was transferred to the Royal Netherlands Navy.

Aircraft
June-September 1940: Fokker T.VIII-W
June 1940-October 1941: Avro Anson I
October 1940-September 1942: Lockheed Hudson I, II and III
September 1942-March 1943: Lockheed Hudson VI
March 1943-August 1945: North American Mitchell II
February-August 1945: North American Mitchell III

Location
June 1940-March 1941: Pembroke Dock and Carew Cheriton
March 1941-April 1942: Leuchars
April 1942-March 1943: Bircham Newton
March 1943: Methwold
March-August 1943: Attlebridge
August 1943-February 1944: Lasham
February-October 1944: Dunsfold
October 1944-April 1945: B.58 Melsbroek
April-August 1945: B.110 Achmer

Squadron Codes: NO

Duty
June 1940-March 1941: Maritime patrols
March 1941-March 1943: Anti-shipping and maritime patrols
August 1943 onwards: Daylight bomber squadron

Part of
15 February 1943: No.16 Group; Coastal Command
6 June 1944: No.139 Wing; No.2 Group; Second Tactical Air Force; Allied Expeditionary Air Force

Books

 

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (10 November 2011), No. 320 Squadron (RAF): Second World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAF/320_wwII.html

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