No. 123 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No.123 Squadron served as an army co-operation and fighter squadron in the Middle East in 1942-43, then provided fighter escorts over Burma before ending the war as a fighter-bomber squadron.

The squadron reformed at Turnhouse (west of Edinburgh) on 10 May 1941 as a fighter squadron, and began defensive patrols on 8 June. This role lasted until April 1942 when the squadron's personnel departed for the Middle East, arriving in June. At this point no aircraft were available and so the squadron's ground crews were assigned to maintenance duties in Iraq and Iran.

Aircraft began to arrive in October when one flight was equipped with Gladiator biplanes which were to be used for army co-operation from Abadan. Hurricanes arrived in November 1942 and were used for defensive patrols.

In May 1943 the squadron moved to the Western Desert, where it continued to fly defensive patrols. This continued across the summer, before in November 1943 the squadron moved to India.

On 19 December 1943 the squadron began to fly escort missions for transport aircraft and for dive bombers operating over Burma. This lasted until May 1944 when the squadron was withdrawn to southern India, where in September it converted to the Thunderbolt. These aircraft were taken back to the Burma front, where fighter-bomber operations began on 27 December. These continued into 1945, operating on the 'cab rank' system developed in Western Europe. The squadron's aircraft would loiter over the battlefield waiting for a call for help from a ground air controler working with the army, allowing for a very rapid response. The squadron was renumbered as No.81 Squadron on 20 June 1945.

May-September 1941: Supermarine Spitfire I
September 1941-January 1942: Supermarine Spitfire IIA
January-April 1942: Supermarine Spitfire VB
October-November 1942: Gloster Gladiator II
November 1942-August 1944: Hawker Hurricane IIC
May-October 1943: Supermarine Spitfire VC
September 1944-June 1945: Republic Thunderbolt II

May-August 1941: Turnhouse
August-September 1941: Drem
September 1941-April 1942: Castletown

June-July 1942: Aboukir
July-September 1942: Muqeibila
September-October 1942: Hadera
October 1942: Habbaniya
    October 1942-January 1943: Detachment to Abadan
October-November 1942: Doshan Tappeh
November 1942-January 1943: Mehrabad
January-May 1943: Abadan
May-October 1943: Bu Amud

November 1943-January 1944: Feni
January-May 1944: Patharkundi
May-September 1944: St. Thomas Mount
September-October 1944: Yelahanka
October 1944: Cholavarum
October-December 1944: Kajamalai (Trichinopoly)
December 1944: Baigachi
December 1944-April 1945: Nazir
April-June 1945: Kyaukpyu
June 1945: Cox's Bazaar
June 1945: Baigachi

Squadron Codes: XE, R

1942-43: Army Cooperation
1943-44: Bomber Escort, Burma
1944-45: Ground Attack, Burma


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: Flying Legend - 60th Anniversary 1936-96, John M. Dibbs. A beautifully illustrated book focusing on surviving flyable Spitfires, with some very impressive modern colour photos backed up by a good selection of archival pictures and a good selection of relevant quotes from wartime Spitfire pilots [see more]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (7 December 2010), No. 123 Squadron (RAF): Second World War,

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