No. 72 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

Aircraft - Locations - Group and Duty - Books

No.72 Squadron began the Second World War as a home based fighter squadron, taking part in the battle of Britain and the offensive sweeps over France, before moving to North Africa late in 1942. The squadron remained in the mediterranean to the end of the war, taking part in the fighting on Sicily, in Italy and the invasion of southern France.

After a short existence during the First World War No.72 Squadron reformed in February 1937 as a fighter squadron, equipped with the biplane Gloster Gladiator. Spitfires arrived in April 1939, and like most Spitfire squadrons No.72 spent the first few months of the war flying defensive patrols over Britain. Serious combat duties began in early June when the squadron flew patrols over the Dunkirk beaches, before it returned north to Acklington.

The squadron returned south in August, at first to Biggin Hill, and took part in the second half of the battle of Britain. After resting in the north between November and July 1941 the squadron returned south again, and spent the next year taking part in the costly fighter sweeps over northern France that were designed to take the initiative away from the Luftwaffe.

In September 1942 the squadron began to prepare for a move to North Africa. At the start of Operation Torch the squadron operated from Gibraltar, before moving to Tunisia. The squadron then advanced with the Allied armies, moving to Malta in June 1943 to prepare for the invasion of Sicily, then to Sicily in the next month and to Italy in September 1943. After ten months in Italy the squadron moved to Corsica, from where it helped to cover Operation Dragoon, the invasion of southern France. After six weeks in France the squadron returned to Italy, where it remained until the end of the war, flying a mix of defensive patrols and aggressive fighter-bomber missions.

Aircraft
April 1939-April 1941: Supermarine Spitfire I
March 1940: Gloster Gladiator I
April-July 1941: Supermarine Spitfire IIA and IIB
July 1941-January 1944: Supermarine Spitfire VB and VC
July-August 1942: Supermarine Spitfire IX
February 1943-December 1946: Supermarine Spitfire IX

Location
June 1937-October 1939: Church Fenton
October 1939: Leconfield
October 1939-January 1940: Drem
January 1940: Leconfield
January-March 1940: Church Fenton
March-June 1940: Acklington
June 1940: Gravesend
June-August 1940: Acklington
August-September 1940: Biggin Hill
September 1940: Croydon
September-October 1940: Biggin Hill
October 1940: Coltishall
October-November 1940: Matlask
November 1940: Coltishall
November-December 1940: Leuchars
December 1940-July 1941: Acklington
July 1941: Gravesend
July-October 1941: Biggin Hill
October 1941-March 1942: Gravesend
March-June 1942: Biggin Hill
June 1942: Martlesham Heath
June 1942: Biggin Hill
June-July 1942: Lympne
July-August 1942: Biggin Hill
August 1942: Duxford
August 1942: Morpeth
August-September 1942: Ayr
September-November 1942: Ouston

November 1942: Maison Blanche
November 1942: Bone
November 1942-January 1943: Souk el Arba
January-May 1943: Souk el Khemis
May 1943: La Sebala
May-June 1943: Mateur
June-July 1943: Hal Far
July 1943: Comiso
July-August 1943: Pachino
August 1943: Pachino South
August-September 1943: Panebianco
September 1943: Cassala
September 1943: Falcone
September-October 1943: Tusciano
October 1943-January 1944: Capodichino
January-June 1944: Lago
June 1944: Tre CancellI
June 1944: Tarquinia
June-July 1944: Grosseto
July 1944: Piombino
July-August 1944: Calvi
August 1944: Ramatuelle
August-September 1944: Sisteron
September 1944: Lyon/ Bron
September-October 1944: Salon/ La Jasse
October-November 1944: Peretola
November 1944-February 1945: Rimini
February-May 1945: Ravenna
May 1945: Rivolto
May-September 1945: Klagenfurt
September-October 1945: Zeltweg
October 1945: Campoformido
October 1945-September 1946: Zeltweg
September-December 1946: Tissano

Squadron Codes: SD (Spitfire I), RN (Other Spitfire), V (Spitfire IX)

Duty
Fighter Command: 1937-1942
Fighter squadron, North Africa, Sicily, Italy: 1942-5

Books

Swift to Battle: No.72 Squadron RAF in Action: Volume II 1942 to 1947, North Africa, Malta, Sicily, Southern France and Austria, Tom Docherty. A very detailed, almost day-by-day, account of the activities of No.72 Squadron during the Allied advance from Tunisia, up the Italian peninsula and into Austria, that gives a good feel of life within an RAF squadron during these campaigns [read full review]
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Gloster Gladiator Aces, Andrew Thomas. A look at the wartime career of the only biplane fighter still in RAF service during the Second World War. Covers the Gladiator's service in Finland, Malta, North Africa, Greece, Aden, East Africa and Iraq, where despite being outdated it performed surprisingly well.
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Spitfire Mark I/II Aces 1939-41, Dr Alfred Price. Slightly different to many books in the Aircraft of the Aces series, Price splits his material, concentrating on the wider picture in the first part of the book before looking at eleven of the top Spitfire aces in the last two chapters of the book [see more]
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Spitfire Mark V Aces, 1941-45, Dr Alfred Price. A well written and nicely balanced look at the combat career of the Spitfire Mk V and of the men who flew it. The Spitfire V fought in more theatres than the more famous Mk I/II, including over France in 1941, on Malta, in North Africa and even in northern Australia. [see more]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (26 June 2009), No. 72 Squadron (RAF): Second World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAF/72_wwII.html

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