No. 612 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No.612 (County of Aberdeen) Squadron served with Coastal Command throughout the Second World War, spending most of the war operating from the UK but for the first half of 1942 it was based on Iceland.

The squadron was formed in June 1937 as an army co-operation squadron in the Auxiliary Air Force, but in November 1938 it became a general reconnaissance squadron of Coastal Command. Its first useable patrol aircraft, Avro Ansons, arrived in June 1939 and the squadron was ready to begin coastal patrols from Dyce (close to Aberdeen) at the outbreak of war in 1939. Two attacks on U-boats were recorded during 1940.

During 1940 the squadron continued to fly anti-submarine patrols and convoy escort duties, recording two attacks on U-boats in June and two in July. The squadron was also used to fly anti-invasion patrols along the Scottish coast, using Tiger Moths to patrol the long coastline to watch out for any German landings.

In November 1940 the squadron received its first Whitleys, and in January 1941 it was withdraw from operations to convert to the new aircraft. Operations resumed on 22 February. Teething problems with the new aircraft and with the ASV radar caused problems, and the sortie rate of 70-80 per month was well down on the 280 achieved in June 1940.

The Whitley allowed the squadron to fly bombing raids as well as its normal patrols. The Bismarck and Prinz Eugen were attacked twice while in Bergen harbour. The first attack, on 21 May, was stopped by bad weather, but a second raid on 5/6 June at least reached its target.

The squadron's brief association with Iceland began in September 1941 when a detachment was posted to the island to fly anti-submarine patrols over the mid-Atlantic. This detachment returned to Scotland in the following month, when a second detachment was sent to Cornwall. In December 1941 the entire squadron moved to Iceland. The Whitleys remained its main equipment but it also inherited a flight of Fairey Battles from No.98 Squadron. The squadron's main role was still anti-submarine warfare, but it was also used on ice patrols, guarding against icebergs entering the shipping lanes. The first detachment to Iceland had seen the squadron make four attacks on U-boats, but this second move produced less action.

In August 1942 the squadron returned to the UK and was based at Thorney Island, where it prepared for a new role as an-shipping squadron. Operations began (and ended) in September and the squadron's area of operations spread from Cherbourg to Le Havre.

By the end of September the squadron had been withdrawn from the bombing campaign and returned to the north of Scotland, where it flew a mix of anti-submarine patrols and convoy protection missions, focusing on the precious convoys to Russia.

Towards the end of 1942 the squadron began to convert to the Leigh Light Wellington, and operations off the Norwegian coast began, but in February the Wellingtons were removed and given to Nos.172 and 179 Squadrons instead. No.612 finally converted at Davidstow Moor (Cornwall) in April-May 1943.The last Whitley operation was flown in June.

For the rest of 1943 and the early months of 1944 the squadron focused on night sorties over the Bay of Biscay, hoping to attack German U-boats as they were crossing the bay. A significant number of attacks were recorded, and on 28 April 1944 the squadron recorded its only confirmed U-boat victory of the war, sinking U-193 to the west of Nantes.

From June until September 1944 the squadron concentrated on 'Channel Stop' sorties, designed to prevent German naval forces from attacking the massive invasion fleets heading for Normandy and then the supply fleets maintaining the Allied forces in Europe.

In September the squadron moved to Northern Ireland, from where it flew patrols over the Atlantic. In December it moved to Norfolk and began a series of attacks on E-boats off the Dutch coast. Two were sunk during the first few sorties, and this role continued until the end of the war.

After the war the squadron carried out a number of transport sorties between Holland and the UK before disbanding in July 1945. It was reformed as a day fighter squadron in the Auxiliary Air Force in November 1946.

Aircraft
December 1937-November 1939: Hawker Hector I
July 1939-November 1941: Avro Anson I
November 1940-December 1941: Armstrong Whitworth Whitley V
June 1941-June 1943: Armstrong Whitworth Whitley VII
November 1942-June 1943: Vickers Wellington VIII
April-June 1943: Vickers Wellington XII
June 1943-July 1945: Vickers Wellington XIV

Location
June 1937-April 1941: Dyce
April-December 1941: Wick
December 1941-August 1942: Reykjavik
August-September 1942: Thorney Island
September 1942-April 1943: Wick
April-May 1943: Davidstowe Moor
May-November 1943: Chivenor
November-December 1943: St. Eval
December 1943-January 1944: Chivenor
January-March 1944: Limavady
March-September 1944: Chivenor
September-December 1944: Limavady
December 1944-July 1945: Langham

Squadron Codes: WL

Duty
1939-December 1941: Coastal Command, home based
December 1941-August 1942: Coastal Command, Iceland
August 1942-July 1945: Coastal Command, home based

Part of
September 1939: No.18 G.R. Group, Coastal Command
15 February 1943: No.18 Group, Coastal Command

Books

 

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (4 April 2012), No. 612 Squadron (RAF): Second World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAF/612_wwII.html

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