No. 42 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No.42 Squadron began the Second World War as a torpedo bomber squadron equipped with the obsolete Vickers Vildebeest, and performed that role for the first half of the war. It then briefly operated in the Mediterranean at the time of the battle of El Alamein, before moving on to Burma, where it spent the remaining years of the war operating as a fighter bomber squadron.

The squadron formed from B Flight of No.22 Squadron on 14 December 1936. At first both squadrons were desperately short of aircraft, but the squadron was at least fully equipped when the war began. After the outbreak of war the squadron was used to fly convoy protection missions off the East Coast, retaining the Vildebeests until April 1940.

Squadron Plate from No.42 Squadron
Squadron Plate
No.42 Squadron

On 5 June 1940 the squadron flew its first mission with the Bristol Beaufort. The same month saw the squadron carry out an attack on the Scharnhorst (21 June) in which three aircraft were lost. The squadron flew a mix of anti-shipping and mine laying operations, operating in both the English Channel and off the coast of Norway. At first the squadron's aircraft operated unescorted, and suffered heavy casualties, but after October 1941 an escort of Beaufighters was provided. German capital ships remained a target, with the Lutzow hit in June 1941 and the Prinz Eugen on 17 May 1942.

In June 1942 the squadron prepared to move to the Far East. The aircraft were flown out via the Mediterranean, arriving in time to take part in the fighting before and after the battle of El Alamein. The squadron's aircraft were used by Nos.39 and 47 Squadrons, while its aircrews operated with No.47 Squadron.

No.42 Squadron finally reformed in its own right on Sri Lanka in December 1942. In February 1943 it converted to the Bristol Blenheim, and on 16 March 1943 began a short period of bomber operations over Burma.

Bristol Beaufort of No.42 Squadron
Bristol Beaufort of No.42 Squadron

In August 1943 No.42 Squadron converted to the Hawker Hurricane, and on 22 December began operating as a ground-attack squadron over Burma. This incarnation of the squadron continued to perform that role until it was disbanded on 30 June 1945. On the same day No.146 Squadron, equipped with the Republic Thunderbolt, was renamed No.42 Squadron, and continued to fly ground attack missions until the end of the war. This version of the squadron was disbanded at the end of December 1945.

March 1937-April 1940: Vickers Vildebeest IV
September 1939-April 1939: Vickers Vildebeest III
April 1940-February 1943: Bristol Beaufort I and II
February-October 1943: Bristol Blenheim V
October 1943-January 1945: Hawker Hurricane IIC
November 1944-June 1945: Hawker Hurricane IV

July-December 1945: Republic Thunderbolt II

August 1939-April 1940: Bircham Newton
April-June 1940: Thorney Island
June 1940-March 1941: Wick
March 1941-June 1942: Leuchars

October-November 1942: Ratmalana
November-December 1942: Jalahalli
December 1942-March 1943: Yelahanka
March-May 1943: Rajyeswarpur
May-October 1943: Kumbhirgram
October 1943: Yelahanka
October-November 1943: Palel
November-December 1943: St. Thomas Mount
December 1943-May 1944: Palel
May-July 1944: Kangla
July-November 1944: Tuliha
November 1944-January 1945: Kangla
January-March 1945: Onbauk
March-April 1945: Ondaw
April-May 1945: Magwe/ Maida Vale
May 1945: Chakulia
May-June 1945: Dalbumgarh

July-December 1945: Meiktila

Squadron Codes: AW, R

1939-1942: Torpedo bomber, Coastal Command
1942-1943: Bomber, Burma
1943-1945: Fighter-Bomber, Burma


Blenheim Squadrons of World War Two, Jon Lake. This book looks at the entire RAF service career of the Bristol Blenheim, from its debut as a promising fast bomber, through the deadly disillusionment of the blitzkrieg, on to its work in the Middle East and Mediterranean, where the aircraft found a new lease of life. Lake also looks at the use of the Blenheim as an interim fighter aircraft and its use by Coastal Command.
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Hurricane Aces 1941-45, Andrew Thomas. This book covers the later career of the Hurricane, starting with its final months as a front line fighter in Britain in 1941 before moving on to look at its career in North Africa, the Mediterranean and over the jungles of Burma [see more]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (1 October 2008), No. 42 Squadron (RAF): Second World War,

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