No. 73 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No.73 Squadron was one of the small number of Hurricane squadrons that moved to France at the start of the Second World War. After operating as a night fighter squadron during the battle of Britain it them moved to the Middle East, taking part in the campaigns in North Africa, in Italy, and in Greece, before ending the war in the Balkans.

The squadron reformed on 15 March 1937 as a fighter squadron, equipped with the Hawker Fury. Three months later these were replaced by Gladiators, and the first monoplanes didn't arrive until July 1938 when the squadron converted to the Hawker Hurricane.

In September 1939 No.73 was one of two Hurricane squadrons that moved to France with the Advanced Air Striking Force. After months of inconclusive action the storm broke in May 1940, and the squadron was soon involved in desperate battles over Allied airfields. On 18 June the squadron was finally forced to retreat back to Britain.

During the Battle of Britain the RAF was seriously short of suitable night fighters. In an attempt to fill the gap No.73 Squadron used its Hurricanes at night, but single seat non-radar equipped fighters made very poor night fighters, and this experiment ended on 20 October, in preparation for a move to the Middle East.

At this time no direct air route was open through the Mediterranean, and so the squadron's Hurricanes were shipped to Takoradi on the Gold Coast onboard HMS Furious, and were then flown in stages across Africa to Egypt. Once in North Africa the squadron took part in the entire campaign in the Western Desert and Tunisia, helping cover the supply routes to Tobruk and taking part in the development of highly effective ground-attack methods during the later stages of the fighting.

In June 1943 the squadron converted to the Spitfire, and it was these aircraft that it took to Italy in October. In April 1944 the squadron officially became a fighter-bomber unit, and began to operate over the Balkans, at first from bases in Italy. In December 1944 part of the squadron was moved to Greece to take part in the fighting against the Communist resistance group that was attempting to seize power. In January 1945 the squadron returned to Italy, before in April moving to Yugoslavia, where it remained until the end of the war.

Aircraft
July 1938-January 1942: Hawker Hurricane I
September-November 1941: Curtiss Tomahawk IIB
December 1941-June 1942: Hawker Hurricane IIA and IIB
June 1942-July 1943: Hawker Hurricane IIC
June 1943-October 1944: Supermarine Spitfire VC
July-November 1944: Supermarine Spitfire VIII
October 1943-November 1947: Supermarine Spitfire IX

Location
November 1937-September 1939: Digby
September 1939: Le Havre/ Octeville
September-October 1939: Norrent Fontes
October 1939-April 1940: Rouvres
April 1940: Reims/ Champagne
April-May 1940: Rouvres
May 1940: Reims/ Champagne
May 1940: Rouvres
May 1940: Reims/ Champagne
May 1940: Villeneuve-les-Vertus
May-June 1940: Gaye
June 1940: Echemines
June 1940: Raudin
June 1940: Nantes
June-September 1940: Church Fenton
September-November 1940: Castle Camps

November-December 1940: Takoradi
December 1940: Heliopolis
December 1940-January 1941: Sidi Haneish
January-March 1941: Gazala West
March-April 1941: Bu Amud
April 1941: El Gubbi
April-September 1941: Sidi Haneish
September 1941: Amriya
September 1941-February 1942: Port Said/ Gamil
     October-December 1941: Detachment to Kilo 8
     December 1941-April 1942: Detachment to Shandur
February 1942: El Adem
February 1942: Gasr-el-Arid
February 1942: Gambut II
February-March 1942: Gasr-el-Arid
March-April 1942: Gambut I
April-May 1942: Gambut Main
May 1942: El Adem
May-June 1942: Gambut Main
June 1942: LG.115
June 1942: LG.76
June 1942: Qasaba
June 1942: El Daba
June-July 1942: Burg-el-Arab
July 1942: LG.89
July 1942: El Ballah
July-August 1942: Shandur
August-November 1942: LG.85
November 1942: LG.21
November 1942: LG.13
November 1942: LG.155
November 1942: Gambut West
November 1942: El Adem
November 1942: El Magrum
November 1942-January 1943: Merduma
January 1943: Alemel Chel
January 1943: Tamet
January-February 1943: Bir Dufan
February 1943: Gasr Garabulli
February-March 1943: El Assa
March-April 1943: Nefatia South
April 1943: Gabes Main
April 1943: Sfax/ El Maoui
April 1943: Kairouan/ Alem
April 1943: Monastir
April-October 1943: La Sebala II
October-December 1943: Montecorvino
December 1943-September 1944: Foggia Main
September 1944-April 1945: Canne
   September-December 1944: Detachment to Hassani
April-May 1945: Prkos
May-July 1945: Brindisi

Squadron Codes: TP, R, P, E, C

Duty
Fighter Squadron, Advanced Air Striking Force: 1939-1940
Fighter Command: 1940
Fighter Squadron, North Africa: 1940-1943
Fighter Squadron, Italy and Balkans: 1943-45

Books
Hurricane Aces, 1939-40, Tony Holmes. A look at the men who flew the Hawker Hurricane during the first two years of the Second World War, when it was arguably the most important front line fighter in RAF service. This book covers the Phoney War Period, the German invasion of the West, the Battle of Britain and the early use of the Hurricane in North Africa and from Malta. [see more] cover cover cover
Hurricane Aces 1941-45, Andrew Thomas. This book covers the later career of the Hurricane, starting with its final months as a front line fighter in Britain in 1941 before moving on to look at its career in North Africa, the Mediterranean and over the jungles of Burma [see more] cover cover cover

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (26 June 2009), No. 73 Squadron (RAF): Second World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAF/73_wwII.html

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