No. 32 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No.32 Squadron was one of the most successful Hurricane squadrons of the Battle of Britain, and was credited with 102 victories in the first half of the battle. It then moved to the Mediterranean, taking part in Operation Torch, the invasion of Italy and the liberation of Greece.

No.32 Squadron was not one of the Hurricane squadrons posted to France, but after the French invasion the squadron did begin to fly patrols off the coast of France of Belgium, while a detachment from the squadron was sent out to join No.3 Squadron.

The squadron took part in Operation Dynamo, the evacuation from Dunkirk. During the fighting over Dunkirk Flt Ln M N Crossley and Plt Off V G Daw were both credited with six victories. The squadron continued to operate over the French coast after the evacuation, escorting aircraft from Bomber Command.

No.32 Squadron was officially the most successful fighter squadron during the first half of the Battle of Britain. On 20 July it took part in the most successful engagement to that date, one of the series of convoy battles that made up the first phase of the battle (alongside No.615 Squadron). Fifteen German aircraft were claimed destroyed, and German records support thirteen of those claims.

The squadron was led for the first part of the Battle of Britain by Sqn Ldr "Johnny" Worrall. He was then posted to the Biggin Hill control room as senior controller, and was replaced by Michael "Red Knight" Crossley. During the period of 12-25 August 1940 Crossley was credited with 12.5 kills. By the time the squadron moved north for a rest Crossley was the top scoring ace in Fighter Command, and No.32 the most successful fighter squadron, with 102 victories to its credit. Crossley was awarded with the DSO and one of the squadron's five DFCs. During this period of the battle the squadron lost five pilots killed and one taken prisoner during one of the early patrols over France.

The squadron returned to the south in December 1940, after the daytime fighting had died down. It remained a day fighter squadron until May 1942, when it began to prepare for night intruder missions over France, which began in July.

After two months of intruder duties, No.32 Squadron was withdrawn from the front line and allocated to the force being prepared for Operation Torch. It reached Algeria at the start of December 1942, and would remain in the Mediterranean for the rest of the war.

During the fighting in North Africa the squadron was used to fly patrols over the North African coast. The Hurricanes were finally replaced by Spitfires during the summer of 1943. These were taken to Italy in October 1943, arriving in the Salerno area in October (some time after the battle had been won). The squadron remained in Italy for two months on this occasion, then returned to North Africa.

The squadron returned to Italy in September 1944, and spent the first three quarters of the year flying a mix of fighter-bomber and bomber escort duties. In October 1944 the Germans began to withdraw from Greece, and British forces moved in to prevent a Communist takeover. No.32 Squadron sent a detachment to Araxos in western Greece, before on 17 October moving to Athens, where fighting broke out against the Communists.

The fighting in Greece was serious enough to draw Churchill to Athens at Christmas 1944, but by February 1945 had died down enough for No.32 Squadron to be moved to Palestine, where it would remain until 1948.

Aircraft
October 1938-July 1941: Hawker Hurricane I
July 1941-November 1942: Hawker Hurricane IIB
November 1941-August 1943: Hawker Hurricane IIC
April 1943-November 1943: Supermarine Spitfire VC
June 1943-July 1944: Supermarine Spitfire IX
December 1943-July 1944: Supermarine Spitfire VIII
May 1944-July 1944: Supermarine Spitfire VC

November 1944-June 1947: Supermarine Spitfire IX

The data is clearly in error, for the squadron was in action in Greece in October 1944.

Location
21 September 1932-3 January 1940: Biggin Hill
3 January-8 March 1940: Gravesend
8-22 March 1940: Manston
27 March-26 May 1940: Biggin Hill
26 May-4 June 1940: Wittering
4 June-28 August 1940: Biggin Hill
28 August-15 December 1940: Acklington
15 December 1940-16 February 1941: Middle Wallop
16 February-17 April 1941: Ibsley
17 April-1 June 1941: Pembrey
1 June-26 November 1941: Angle
26 November 1941-4 May 1942: Manston
4 May-14 June 1942: West Malling
14 June-7 July 1942: Friston
7 July-14 August 1942: West Malling
14-20 August 1942: Friston
20 August-9 September 1942: West Malling
9 September-18 October 1942: Honiley
18 October-25 November 1942: Baginton

7 December 1942: Philippeville (Ground echelon)
17 December 1942-25 May 1943: Maison Blanche (Air and Ground)
25 May-19 August 1943: Tingley
19 August-1 October 1943: La Sebala (Tunisia)
1 October-20 November 1943: Montecorvino, Salerno (complete by 28 October)
20 November 1943-31 January 1944: Reghaia (Algiers)
31 January-14 July 1944: Foggia Main
14 July-23 September 1944: Canne (Calabria)
23 September-15 October 1944: Brindisi
    2-17 October 1944: Detachment to Araxos (western Greece)
15-17 October 1944: San Pancrazio (eastern tip of Italy)
17 October-9 November 1944: Kalamaki (Athens)
9 November 1944-25 February 1945: Salonika - Sedes
25 February-27 September 1945: Ramat David (Palestine)

Squadron Codes: KT, GZ

Duty
1939-1942: Fighter Command
1942-1945: Mediterranean Air Force

Books
Hurricane Aces, 1939-40, Tony Holmes. A look at the men who flew the Hawker Hurricane during the first two years of the Second World War, when it was arguably the most important front line fighter in RAF service. This book covers the Phoney War Period, the German invasion of the West, the Battle of Britain and the early use of the Hurricane in North Africa and from Malta. [see more] cover cover cover

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (17 September 2008), No. 32 Squadron (RAF): Second World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAF/32_wwII.html

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