No. 74 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No.74 Squadron began the Second World War as a home-based Spitfire squadron, taking part in the fighting at Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain. It then spent two years in the Middle East before returning to Britain to take part in the Normandy invasions and the campaign in northern Europe, ending the war operating from bases inside Germany.

No.74 Squadron reformed on 3 September 1935 during the Abyssinian crisis. The squadron formed on the transport ship Neuralia, and immediately set sail for Malta, where it was known as 'Demon Flights' until 14 November. The squadron remained on Malta into the autumn of 1936, although the Demon fighters were packed away in July.

The squadron and its aircraft came back together at Hornchurch on 21 September 1936. The Demons were replaced with Gauntlets in April 1937, and Spitfires arrived in February 1939. This meant that when war broke out in September 1939 the squadron remained in Britain, flying defensive patrols. The squadron's baptism of fire came over Dunkirk in May 1940, and the squadron then took part in the first part of the Battle of Britain, under the command of Adolph 'Sailor' Malan. It was involved in the fighting on 10 July 1940, the first official day of the battle, and remained involved until mid-August when it moved north to Kirton-in-Lindsey for a rest.

The squadron returned south in October 1940, by which time the Battle of Britain had turned into the Blitz. The rest of the year was thus relatively quiet for the single engined fighters, but in January 1941 the squadron began to fly sweeps over German occupied France, a costly tactic designed to take the initiative away from the Luftwaffe.

No.74 Squadron took part in these sweeps until July 1941, when it was moved north for a mix of a rest and defensive duties. The squadron later moved on to Wales, and then Northern Island, before in April 1942 departing for Egypt.

Although the squadron reached Egypt in June 1942 no aircraft were available until December, when the squadron was equipped with Hurricanes. Even then it was another five months before the squadron returned to combat, flying defensive patrols and shipping sweeps from Egypt. Spitfires were received for the second time in September 1943, just in time to be used during the unsuccessful invasion of the Aegean islands that began in October. After the failure of this campaign the squadron remained in the eastern Mediterranean, until in April 1944 it departed for the United Kingdom to take part in the Normandy campaign.

The move back to Britain was better planned than the move to the Middle East had been, and No.74 Squadron returned to action in May 1944, flying sweeps over France. In June-July 1944 it flew a mix of fighter-bomber and bomber escort missions to support the fighting, before in August it moved to Normandy. From then until the end of the war No.74 Squadron operated as a ground-attack unit, supporting the 21st Army Group and advancing east with the armies. By the end of the was the squadron was operating from bases inside Germany, but on 11 May it returned to Britain to convert to the Gloster Meteor.

February 1939-September 1940: Supermarine Spitfire I
September 1940-May 1941: Supermarine Spitfire IIA
May 1941-July 1941: Supermarine Spitfire VB
July 1941-January 1942: Supermarine Spitfire IIA
November 1941-April 1942: Supermarine Spitfire VB
December 1942-September 1943: Hawker Hurricane IIB
August 1943-April 1944: Supermarine Spitfire VB and VC
October 1943-April 1944: Supermarine Spitfire IX
April 1944-March 1945: Supermarine Spitfire IXE
March-May 1945: Supermarine Spitfire XVIE
June 1945-March 1948: Gloster Meteor F.3

September 1936-May 1940: Hornchurch with detachments at Rochford
May -June 1940: Leconfield
June 1940: Rochford
June-August 1940: Hornchurch
August 1940: Wittering
August-September 1940: Kirton-in-Lindsey
September-October 1940: Coltishall
October 1940-February 1941: Biggin Hill
February-May 1941: Manston
May-July 1941: Gravesend
July-October 1941: Acklington
October 1941-January 1942: Llanbedr
January-March 1942: Long Kesh
March-April 1942: Atcham

June 1942: Geneifa
June-July 1942: Helwan
July-September 1942: Ramat David
September-October 1942: Hadeira
October-December 1942: Doshan Tappeh
December 1942-May 1943: Mehrabad

March 1943: Abadan
March-May 1943: Shaibah
May 1943: Habbaniya
May 1943: Aqir
May-August 1943: LG.106
August-September 1943: Idku
September-October 1943: Nicosia
October 1943: Peristerona
October-November 1943: Idku
November-December 1943: Dekheila
December 1943-January 1944: Idku
January-March 1944: Dekheila
March-April 1944: Idku

April-May 1944: North Weald
May-July 1944: Lympne
July 1944: Tangmere
July 1944: Selsey
July-August 1944: Southend
August 1944: Tangmere
August-September 1944: B.8 Sommervieu
September 1944: B.29 Bernay
September 1944: B.37 Gamaches
September 1944: B.51 Lille-Vendeville
September 1944: B.55 Wevelghem
September 1944-February 1945: B.70 Deurne
February-April 1945: B.85 Schijndel
April-May 1945: B.105 Drope
May 1945-August 1946: Horsham St. Faith

Squadron Codes: JH, ZP

1939-1942: Fighter Command
1942-1944: Middle East
1944-1945: Normandy, Northern Europe


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 (29 July 2009), No. 74 Squadron (RAF): Second World War,

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