No. 53 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No.53 Squadron started the Second World War as a strategic reconnaissance unit equipped with the Bristol Blenheim, but spent most of the war flying anti-submarine patrols, eventually using the very long range Consolidated Liberator.

No.53 Squadron converted to the Bristol Blenheim between January and June 1939. In September 1939 the squadron moved to France, not as a bomber squadron but as a strategic reconnaissance unit. This alternative role didn't spare the squadron from suffering heavy loses after the start of the German offensive in the west on 10 May 1940, and ten days later the squadron was ordered back to south east England, from where it continued to perform its reconnaissance duties. In July night bombing was added to its tasks, and it carried out these two roles for the rest of the year.

In February 1941 the squadron changed duties, moving to Cornwall from where it flew anti-shipping strikes off the French coast. In July 1941 the squadron converted to the Lockheed Hudson V, and began to fly anti-submarine patrols.

On 23 July 1942 No.53 Squadron became one of the few British units to operate directly from American soil, when it began flying anti-submarine patrols off the Eastern seaboard in a attempt to halt the 'second happy time', a period of renewed success for the U-boats. After spending a month operating from Rhode Island, the squadron moved south to Trinidad, where it remained until the end of November.

On its return to Britain the squadron converted to the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley, which it used on nine patrols off East Anglia, before converting to the Consolidated Liberator. Operations with the very long range Liberator began on 25 June 1943, and the squadron spent the next year operating over the Bay of Biscay and the Western Approaches. In September 1944 the squadron moved to Iceland, from where it continued to fly anti-submarine patrols until the end of the war against Germany. In June 1945 the squadron returned to Britain, and in August began to transport troops to India.

January 1939-July 1941: Bristol Blenheim IV
July 1941-July 1942: Lockheed Hudson V
July 1942-February 1943: Lockheed Hudson III
February-May 1943: Armstrong Whitworth Whitley VII
May 1943- March 1945: Consolidated Liberator V, VA
June-March 1945: Consolidated Liberator VI
January 1945-June 1945: Consolidated Liberator VIII
August 1945-June 1946: Consolidated Liberator VI

April 1938-September 1939: Odiham

September-October 1939: Plivot
October 1939-May 1940: Poix
May 1940: Crecy

May 1940: Lympne
May-June 1940: Andover
June 1940: Eastchurch
June-July 1940: Gatwick
July-November 1940: Detling
November 1940-February 1941: Thorney Island
February 1941: Bircham Newton
February-July 1941: St. Eval
July-October 1941: Bircham Newton
October-December 1941: St. Eval
December 1941-February 1942: Limavady
February-May 1942: North Coates
May-July 1942: St. Eval

July-August 1942: Quonset Point, Rhode Island
August 1942: Waller Field, Trinidad
August-November 1942: Edinburgh Field, Trinidad

December 1942-February 1943: Davidstow Moor (Ground echelon)
February-March 1943: Docking
March-April 1943: Bircham Newton
April-September 1943: Thorney Island
September 1943-January 1944: Beaulieu
January-September 1944: St. Eval
September 1944- June 1945: Reykjavik

Squadron Codes: TE (Blenheim - pre war), PZ (Blenheim after Munich, Hudson), FH (Liberator)

1939-1940: Strategic Reconnaissance
1941: Anti-shipping
1941-45: Anti-submarine patrols
1945: Transport


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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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (8 June 2009), No. 53 Squadron (RAF): Second World War,

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