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No.657 Squadron was an Air Observation Post squadron that served in Italy from August 1943 until the spring 1945 before being transferred to the Netherlands for the last few weeks of the war in Europe.
Air Observation Post squadrons were created to provide airborne observers for the artillery (see No.651 Squadron for more details). Most of their aircrews came from the army, and they used light aircraft (most Austers) which flew above their own guns using the altitude to spot targets over the horizon.
No.657 Squadron was formed on 31 January 1943 and departed for North Africa in August. The squadron then moved to Italy where it operated in small detachments in support of the Eighth Army. This continued for all of 1944 and the first months of 1945, but in March 1945 the squadron was withdrawn from Italy and moved to the Netherlands, where it supported the last part of the fighting in northern Europe.
The squadron spent the summer and autumn of 1945 with the occupation forces in Germany before returning to the UK. It was renumbered as No.651 Squadron in November 1955 after that squadron was disbanded.
February 1943-October 1944: British Taylorcraft Auster I and III
June 1944-March 1945: British Taylorcraft Auster IV
December 1944-December 1946: British Taylorcraft Auster V
January-May 1943: Ouston
May-June 1943: Westley
June-August 1943: Clifton
August 1943-May 1945: Dispersed bases North Africa and Italy
May-April 1945: To Netherlands
April 1945: Gilze-Rijen
April 1945: Doetinchem
April 1945: Otterloo
April-May 1945: Teuge
May-June 1945: Hilversum
June-November 1945: Goslar
November 1945-January 1946: Rollestone Camp
January 1946-January 1948: Andover
January 1948-November 1955: Middle Wallop
Squadron Codes: sss
January-August 1943: Home based Air Observation Post
August 1943-March 1945: Air Observation Post, Italy
March 1945 onwards: Air Observation Post, Netherlands