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No.542 Squadron was a photographic reconnaissance unit that operated the Spitfire over northern Europe from its formation in 1942 until the end of the war.
No.542 Squadron was formed on 19 October 1942 when the Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron was split into five squadrons. No.542 was formed from A and E Flights, and was equipped with the Spitfire.
The squadron’s first role was to photograph the French coast between Cherbourg and Calais. From May 1943 the squadron split its time between this role and supporting Bomber Command, photographing their targets before and after raids.
In the first half of 1944 the squadron focused on the anti V-1 campaign (codenamed Noball). In the period before D-Day the emphasis moved back to German troops, and for the rest of the year the squadron was used to support the armies fighting in France and the Low Countries.
In December 1944 the squadron began to work alongside GEE-equipped Mosquitos. The Mosquito would be used to guide the PR Spitfires to targets that were obscured by clouds, and the Spitfires would then try and find a gap in the weather to take their pictures.
During 1945 the squadron focuses on targets in Germany, and in particular communications targets, such as railways or the German oil production and distribution system.
After the end of the war the squadron was used to carry diplomatic mail, before being disbanded on 27 August 1945.
October 1942-April 1945: Supermarine Spitfire IV
November 1942-April 1943: Supermarine Spitfire VII
February-July 1943: Supermarine Spitfire IX
April 1943-August 1945: Supermarine Spitfire XI
May 1944-April 1945: Supermarine Spitfire XIX
July 1944-April 1945: Supermarine Spitfire X
October 1942-August 1945: Benson
Squadron Codes: L
1942-1945: Photographic Reconnaissance
15 February 1943: No.16 Group; Coastal Command
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