No. 159 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No.159 Squadron was a heavy bomber squadron formed for service in the Far East but that was delayed in the Middle East for most of 1942, before spending the rest of the war operating over Burma and more distant areas.

The squadron was reformed at Molesworth on 2 January 1942. The ground echelon left for the Middle East in February, and was used for servicing duties before moving on to India in May 1942. Two months later the first of the squadron's Liberators reached Palestine. The aircraft were then detained in the Middle East until September, carrying out raids on German and Italian targets in North Africa, Greece and Italy.

The squadron finally prepared to move on to the Far East in September 1942, and the first of its Liberators reached Salbani in India in the first weeks of October. The Liberators were used for long range reconnaissance and to carry out bombing raids over Burma, reaching the Mandalay and Rangoon areas, as well as reaching out to Siam, Malaya, Indo-China and the Dutch East Indies. At first the payload that could be carried on these long distance flights was disappointing - only 4,000lb of bombs could be carried to Bangkok, while raids of over 1,000 miles range were limited to 3,000lb.

This changed in July-December 1944, when the squadron was commanded by Wing Commander J. Blackburn, an experienced Liberator pilot. He ordered his ground crews to lighten the aircraft by removing the middle turret, the armour plating and limiting the amount of ammunition being carried. In the European theatre this would have led to an unacceptable level of losses, but by the middle of 1944 Japanese fighter aircraft were becoming increasing rare, and so it was an acceptable risk. The payload increased dramatically, reaching 8,000lb for a trip go Bangkok and 12,000lb for Rangoon.

One of the longest range missions came on 27-28 October 1944, when sixteen of the squadron's aircraft took off from an American airfield with a 3,000yd runway carrying four 1,100lb mines and made a 3,000 mile round trip to mine the approaches to Penang Harbour.

The squadron was also used to provide more direct support for the Allied armies, attacking Japanese bases, airfields and transport links during the British offensive that began at the end of 1943

After the war the squadron performed general transport and survey duties, as well as taking part in Operation Hunger in late 1945 and early 1946, carrying food to the starving population of southern Burma. The squadron was disbanded on 1 June 1946.

July 1942-August 1943: Consolidated Liberator II
August 1943-February 1945: Consolidated Liberator III and V
March 1944-July 1945: Consolidated Liberator VI
June 1945-May 1946: Consolidated Liberator VIII

January-February 1942: Molesworth

July-August 1942: St. Jean
August-September 1942: Aqir
September 1942-October 1943: Salbani
October 1943-March 1944: Digri
March-April 1944: Dhubalia
April 1944-October 1945: Digri
October 1945-June 1946: Salbani

Squadron Codes: M, A, Q, V

July-September 1942: Heavy Bomber Squadron, Middle East
November 1942-end of war: Heavy Bomber Squadron, Far East

Part of:
July 1943: No.221 Group
1 July 1944: No.185 Wing; No.231 Group; Strategic Air Force, Eastern Air Command; HQ Air Command South-East Asia
December 1944: No 231 Group


 Consolidated B-24 Liberator (Crowood Aviation), Martin W. Bowman. A well balanced book that begins with a look at the development history of the B-24, before spending nine out of its ten chapters looking at the combat career of the aircraft in the USAAF, the US Navy and the RAF.
cover cover cover

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (20 January 2011), No. 159 Squadron (RAF): Second World War,

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