Douglas Havoc in RAF Service

The Douglas Havoc was an impromptu conversion of lower powered French DB-7s, which achieved a certain amount of success as a night fighter and intruder in 1941 and 1942.

It may seem odd that the DB-7, having been rejected as a bomber because of its short range, would then be used as a night intruder, but with its bomb load reduced to 1,000lb the Havoc I (Intruder) could reach German air bases in northern France, Belgium and Holland. No.23 Squadron was the first to receive the Havoc. From March 1941 until August 1942 it flew low level night time missions, harassing the Germans while suffered very low losses. The Havoc was joined by the Boston III (Intruder) in July 1942, before converting to the Mosquito in August 1942. The Havocs moved on to No.605 Squadron, which operated the Havoc (Intruder) from 14 July 1942, before replacing them with the Boston in October and the Mosquito in August 1943.

No.85 Squadron was the only squadron to use the Havoc I (Night Fighter) and Havoc II (Night Fighter) exclusively, receiving its first aircraft in February 1941. The Havoc I (Night Fighter) replaced the Boulton-Paul Defiant, with which it had achieved a single night time victory. The Havoc went operational on 7 April, and only two days later the squadron scored one confirmed, one probable and one damaged.

The Havoc I remained in use to the end of 1941, while the Havoc II (Night Fighter), with twice the firepower, arrived in July 1941. The squadron operated the Havoc for eighteen months, before replacing them with the Mosquito in September 1942. No.25 Squadron also operated a number of Havocs alongside its Bristol Beaufighters. The Beaufighter IF was more heavily armed and had twice the range of the Havoc I, although the Havoc was slightly faster.

Numerically the largest group of squadrons to operate the Havoc were the ten Turbinlite squadrons that had a brief existence from September 1942 to January 1943, when the entire idea was abandoned. The Turbinlite was a massive spotlight that was installed in the nose of a Havoc or Boston. A total of 21 Havoc I (Turbinlites), 39 Havoc II (Turbinlites) and at least three Boston III (Turbinlites) were produced.

The idea was that the Havoc would use its radar to find a German aircraft, then catch it in the spotlight and let a normal day fighter attack it. At first the Havocs operated in Turbinlite flights, starting with No.1422 Flight (Air Illumination Unit) working alongside Hurricane squadrons, but the two aircraft rarely met up, and so in September 1942 ten Turbinlite squadrons were formed, operating a mix of Havocs, Bostons and Hurricanes. This improved the cooperation between the two types of aircraft, but successes were still rare. As better radar equipped night fighters began to appear the Turbinlite concept was abandoned, and all ten squadrons were disbanded early in 1943.







Blenheim IF

March 41-Aug42*




Beaufighter I

July 41-Sept 41%


Night fighter


Defiant I

Feb 41-Sept 42


Night fighter



Dec 40-Dec 41

Wellington ^




Feb 42-Dec 43

Halifax, Hudson

Special Ops



Jul-Oct 42*



* Alongside Boston III (intruder)
% Alongside Beaufighter at all times
^ Alongside Harrow II at first, then Wellington

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (5 September 2008), Douglas Havoc in RAF Service ,

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