No. 59 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No.59 Squadron began the Second World War as a reconnaissance squadron, but spent most of the war serving as an anti-shipping or anti-submarine squadron, flying the very long range Liberator from the summer of 1942.

At the start of the Second World War No.59 Squadron was equipped with the Bristol Blenheim squadron. It moved to France in October 1939, and operated as a strategic reconnaissance unit throughout the phoney war period and during the German offensive in May 1940. The squadron remained in France for longer than many other Blenhiem squadrons, only returning to England on 20 May.

After its return to England the squadron continued to fly reconnaissance missions for five months, before in October that task was taken over by the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit. Bombing raids against the German invasion ports began in July 1940, as did anti-submarine patrols.

On 1 April 1941 No.59 became a general reconnaissance squadron, carrying out anti-shipping strikes, first with the Blenheims and then with Lockheed Hudsons. Bombing raids on German occupied ports continued during this period - Boulogne was bombed in June 1941.

Operations were suspended between 18 December 1941 and March 1942 while new crews were training to replace eighteen of the squadron's air crews who left to fly Hudsons out to the Far East.

Hudson missions resumed in March 1942, before in August the squadron converted to the Consolidated Liberator. Two months of anti-submarine patrols began on 24 October, before in December the squadron became one of a small number of RAF squadrons to operate the Flying Fortress. The first Fortress patrol was flown on 23 January 1943, but by March the squadron had converted back to the Liberator, which had the endurance needed for effective anti-submarine patrols. In May 1943 the squadron moved the Northern Ireland, and for the rest of the war it flew long range patrols over the Atlantic.

After the end of the war in Europe No.59 Squadron joined Transport Command, and flew troops out to India from 1 October 1945 until it was disbanded on 15 June 1946.

Aircraft
June 1937-September 1939: Hawker Hector
May 1939-September 1941: Bristol Blenheim IV
July 1941-August 1942: Lockheed Hudson III, V and VI
August-December 1942: Consolidated Liberator III
December 1942-March 1943: Boeing Fortress IIA
March 1943-March 1945: Consolidated Liberator V
March 1946-June 1946: Consolidated Liberator VIII

Location
March-April 1939: Aldergrove
April-May 1939: Old Sarum
May-October 1939: Andover
October 1939-May 1940: Poix
May 1940: Crecy-en-Ponthieu
May 1940: Lympne
May-June 1940: Andover
June-July 1940: Odiham
July 1940-February 1941: Thorney Island
February-March 1941: Manston
     March-June 1941: Detachment to Bircham Netwon
March-June 1941: Thorney Island
June-July 1941: Detling
     July-August 1941: Detachment remains at Detling
July 1941-January 1942: Thorney Island
     October-December 1941: Detachment to Bircham Newton
January-August 1942: North Coates
August 1942-February 1943: Thorney Island
February-March 1943: Chivenor
March-May 1943: Thorney Island
May-September 1943: Aldergrove
September 1943-September 1945: Ballykelly

Squadron Codes: PJ, M, X, BY

Duty
1939-1940: Reconnaissance
1941-1942: Anti-shipping
1942-1945: Anti-submarine

Books
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. cover cover cover

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (9 June 2009), No. 59 Squadron (RAF): Second World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAF/59_wwII.html

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