No. 201 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No.201 Squadron was a flying boat squadron that served with Coastal Command throughout the Second World War, sinking five U-boats, all in the period between March 1943 and August 1944. The squadron was reformed on 1 January 1929 when No.480 (Coastal Reconnaissance Flight) at Calshot was redesignated as No.201 Squadron. The new squadron was equipped with the Supermarine Southampton flying boat from its formation until April 1936, when it began to convert to the Saro London. These aircraft were still being flown at the start of the Second World War, when the squadron was based in the north of Scotland, and was flying patrols across the North Sea to look for blockade runners, surface raiders and U-boats both in international waters and in Norwegian coastal waters. On 2 November a London from the squadron spotted the City of Flint, a merchant ship that had been captured by the Deutschland and was on her way back to Germany, in Norwegian territorial waters.

In April 1940 the squadron converted to the Short Sunderland, and in October moved to Northern Ireland to fly anti-submarine patrols over the North Atlantic. On 20 March 1943, during the fierce battles raging around convoys SC 122 and HX 229, Sunderland 'T for Toc' from No.201 Squadron found U-384 on the surface, and sank her, the first U-boat to be sunk during this battle and the squadron's first confirmed victory. A second victory came on 31 May 1943, when U-440 was sunk to the north-west of Cape Ortegal (north-west Spain).

The squadron also took part in the campaign against German blockade runners. One notable success came 27 December 1943 when Sunderland 'T for Tare' spotted the Alsterufer, a blockade runner heading for Bordeaux from the South Atlantic. Aircraft from several squadrons were involved in the attack on the Alsterufer, including 'U for Uncle' from No.201 Squadron and 'Q for Queen' from No.422 Squadron, RCAF, but she was eventually sunk by a Liberator from the Czech No.311 Squadron.

In April 1944 the squadron moved to Pembroke Dock to protect the D-Day landings against U-boats by patrolling over the western entrance to the channel. This led to the squadron's most successful period, which saw three U-boats sunk between 7 June and 18 August, all in the Bay of Biscay. In November the squadron returned to Northern Ireland, and the run of victories ended. The squadron remained in Northern Ireland until the end of the war, then moved back to Pembroke Dock in August 1945. It continued to operate the Sunderland until it was disbanded on 28 February 1957, using them during the Berlin Airlift of 1948.





 20 March 1943

 North Atlantic


 31 May 1943

 NW of Cape Ortegal


 7 June 1944

 Bay of Biscay


 11 July 1944

 Bay of Biscay


 18 August 1944

 Bay of Biscay

April 1936-April 1940: Saro London I and II
April 1942-January 1942: Short Sunderland I
May 1941-March 1944: Short Sunderland II
January 1942-June 1945: Short Sunderland III
February 1945-February 1957: Short Sunderland V

January 1929-September 1939: Calshot
September-October 1938: Invergordon
October 1938-August 1939: Calshot
August-November 1939: Sullom Voe
November 1939-May 1940: Invergordon
May 1940-October 1941: Sullom Voe
October 1941-April 1944: Castle Archdale
April-November 1944: Pembroke Dock
November 1944-August 1945: Castle Archdale
August 1945-March 1946: Pembroke Dock
March 1946-January 1949: Calshot
January 1949-February 1957: Pembroke Dock

Squadron Codes: VQ (London), ZM, JS, A (Sunderland)

September 1939: No.18 G.R. Group; Coastal Command
15 February 1943: No.15 Group; Coastal Command

1939-1945: Anti-submarine patrols, Coastal Command


Short Sunderland Squadrons of World War 2, Jon Lake. A look at the service carrier of the most successful British flying boat of the Second World War, and a key component in Coastal Command's battle against the U-boat. Covers the introduction of the aircraft, its role in the Battle of the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, West Africa and other theatres.
cover cover cover


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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (4 February 2011), No. 201 Squadron (RAF): Second World War,

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