No. 3 Squadron (RAAF): Second World War

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No.3 Squadron (RAAF) was originally a reconnaissance unit, but in 1941 it became a fighter squadron and served in that role in North Africa, Sicily and Italy, ending the war as a ground attack unit.

Australia purchased twelve Avro Ansons which were delivered in November 1936. They were split between Nos.2, 3 and 5 (General Reconnaissance) Squadrons.

In 1940 it was decided to send No.3 Squadron to North Africa, where it would use aircraft available in the area. The squadron's personnel began to reach Egypt in August 1940, and the squadron was re-equipped with a mix of Gladiator biplanes and Lysander air cooperation aircraft.

The squadron became operational on 23 September 1940 at Helwan, where it formed part of the force defending the Suez Canal. The squadron was used for tactical reconnaissance, with the Gladiators (and six Gauntlets) escorting the Lysanders.

In February 1941 the squadron converted to the Hawker Hurricane, and became a fighter squadron. The squadron spent two months flying fighter patrols over the Western Desert, but in May it was withdrawn to convert to the Tomahawk.

The squadron first used its Tomahawks in July 1941 during the Allied invasion of Syria. After the end of the successful Allied campaign the squadron remained in Syria.

The squadron returned to the Western Desert in September 1941 and accompanied the 8th Army as it advanced and retreated across the desert. When the army retreated to the El Alamein line the squadron withdrew to Amriya, from where it was used to attack Rommel's advancing army.

In November 1942 the Tomahawks were replaced with Kittyhawks. The re-equipped squadron followed the 8th Army as it advanced through Libya and into Tunisia. During this phase of the battle the squadron flew a mix of bomber escort and ground attack duties.

In July 1943 the squadron moved to Malta, from where it was used to support the invasion of Sicily. Later in the same month the squadron moved onto Sicily, to reduce the distance it had to fly to reach combat.

In September 1943 the squadron moved to Italy, where it was used on ground attack duties. At first it operated in support of the Eighth Army, fighting in Italy, but in November 1944 the Kittyhawks were replaced with Mustangs. The longer range aircraft allowed the squadron to carry out long range sweeps over Yugoslavia in support of the partisans and over northern Italy. The squadron was also used against Axis shipping.

In August 1945 the squadron's personnel left Naples at the start of the journey back to Australia. The squadron was the most successful RAAF fighter squadron of the Second World War. The RAAF Museum credits the squadron with 217 victories, but the Squadron Association has done research that convincingly reduces that total to 192 enemy aircraft (still the highest in the RAAF), tracking down the point at which the extra victories were accidentally added to the total.

During the war the squadron destroyed 217 enemy aircraft, the highest achieved by any RAAF squadron during the Second World War.

3 Squadron Association Website

September 1940-February 1941: Gloster Gladiator I and II and Gauntlet II
September 1940-March 1941: Westland Lysander II
February-June 1941: Hawker Hurricane I
May 1941-November 1942: Curtiss Tomahawk II
November-December 1942: Curtiss Kittyhawk I
November 1942-March 1944: Curtiss Kittyhawk II
April 1943-May 1944: Curtiss Kittyhawk III
May-November 1944: Curtiss Kittyhawk IV
November 1944-August 1945: North American Mustang III

September-November 1940: Helwan
November 1940-January 1941: Gerawla
    November-December 1940: Detachment to Maryut
January 1941: Tmimi
January-February 1941: Martuba
February 1941: Berka
February-April 1941: Benina
April 1941: Got-es-Sultan
April-May 1941: Maraua
May-April 1941: Martuba
April 1941: Gazala East
April 1941: Sidi Mahmoud
April 1941: LG.79
April 1941: Mersa Matruh
April 1941: Sidi Haneish
April-May 1941: Aboukir
May 1941: Aqir
May 1941-July 1941: Lydda
    May-June 1941: Detachment to Nicosia
July 1941: Rosh Pinna
July-September 1941: Rayak
September 1941: Amriya
September-November 1941: Sidi Haneish
November 1941-February 1942: LG.110
February-June 1942: Sidi Haneish
June 1942: Wadi Natrun
June-November 1942: LG.91 Amriya
November 1942: LG.106
November 1942: LG.101
November 1942: LG.76
November 1942: Gambut
November 1942: Gazala
November-December 1942: Martuba I
December 1942: Antelat
December 1942: Belandah
    December 1942-January 1943: Detachment to Marble Arch
December 1942-January 1943: Alem el Gzina
January 1943: Hamraiet
January 1943: Sedada
January-February 1943: Castel Benito
February-March 1943: El Assa
March 1943: Nefatia
March-April 1943: Medenine Main
April 1943: El Hamma
April-May 1943: Kairouan
May-July 1943: Zuara
July 1943: Takali
July 1943: Luqa
July-August 1943: Pachino
August-September 1943: Agnone
September 1943: Grottaglie
September-October 1943: Bari
October 1943: Foggia Main
October 1943-January 1944: Mileni
January-May 1944: Cutella
May-June 1944: San Angelo
June 1944: Guidonia
June-July 1944: Falerium
July-August 1944: Crete
August-November 1944: Iesi
November 1944-February 1945: Fano
February-May 1945: Cervia
May-August 1945: Lavariano

Squadron Codes: -

1936-40: General Reconnaissance, Australia
1940-42: Fighter Squadron, Mediterranean
1942-1945: Fighter/ Fighter bomber, Mediterranean


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.
cover cover cover

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (14 August 2012), No. 3 Squadron (RAAF): Second World War,

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