No. 208 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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Lysander I over the Suez Canal
Lysander I
over the
Suez Canal

No.208 Squadron was an army co-operation and reconnaissance squadron that was based in the Middle East for most of the Second World War, before spending the period from March 1944 to the end of the war serving as a fighter-bomber squadron in Italy.

The squadron was formed on 1 February 1920 at Ismailia by the renumbering of No.113 Squadron. It spent the pre-war years based in the Middle East, using a series of army cooperation aircraft, converting to the Westland Lysander in January 1939.

After the Italian entry to the war in June 1940 the squadron began to fly reconnaissance mission in the Western Desert, watching the more advanced Italian troop positions. It soon became clear that the Lysanders were very vulnerable to enemy attack, and so they were provided with a fighter escort, initially Gladiators and later Hurricanes. In November the squadron was given a number of Hurricanes which took over most of the reconnaissance duties, leaving the Lysanders to carry out artillery support and reconnaissance close to the front line. The squadron fulfilled these roles during Operation Compass, the British offensive of December 1940 that pushed the Italians back from the Egyptian border.

Lysander I over the Suez Canal
Lysander I over the
Suez Canal
Signatures of the personnel of No.208 Squadron
Signatures of the
personnel of
No.208 Squadron

In April 1941 the squadron moved to Greece, arriving just at the German invasion began. The squadron was posted to the western part of the front line, but had to pull back to Athens on 19 April, and the four remaining Lysanders were flown to Crete on 22-23 April. The Hurricanes remained in Greece a little longer in an attempt to provide some air defence, but they too had to evacuate on 24 April. 

The squadron moved the Palestine, and in June took part in the Allied invasion of Vichy Syria, providing a flight of Hurricanes. The squadron returned to the Western Desert in October 1941, and took part in Operation Crusader (November 1941), flying reconnaissance missions on the Allied left flank and locating the vehicles of the Italian Ariete Division. The squadron continued to operate with the army until December 1942 when it moved to Iraq. In December 1943 the squadron, still in Iraq, converted to the Spitfire to provide local air defence.

Personnel of No.208 Squadron, second half of 1941
Personnel of No.208 Squadron, second half of 1941

In March 1944 the squadron moved to Italy, where it flew a mix of fighter and ground attack missions until the end of the war. In July 1945 the squadron returned to Palestine, and it continued to operate as a reconnaissance squadron based in the Middle East until 1959.

January 1939-May 1942: Westland Lysander I and II
November 1940-September 1942: Hawker Hurricane I
May 1942-December 1943: Hawker Hurricane IIA, IIB and IIC
May-September 1942: Curtiss Tomahawk IIb
December 1943-July 1944: Supermarine Spitfire VC
August-October 1944: Supermarine Spitfire VIII
March 1944-June 1947: Supermarine Spitfire IX

September-November 1939: Qasaba
November 1939-June 1940: Heliopolis
June 1940-January 1941: Qasaba
January-February 1941: Gambut
February-March 1941: Barce
March-April 1941: Heliopolis
April 1941: Kazaklar
April 1941: Elevsis
April 1941: Argos
April-May 1941: Maleme
May-June 1941: Gaza
June-September 1941: Ramleh
September-October 1941: Aqir
October-December 1941: Gerawla
December 1941: El Gubbi
December 1941-February 1942: Tmimi
February 1942: Acroma
February-March 1942: Sidi Azeiz
March-May 1942: Moascar
May-June 1942: Sidi Azeiz
June 1942: LG.103
June-July 1942: LG.100
July 1942: Heliopolis
July-November 1942: LG.100
November 1942-January 1943: Burg el Arab
January-February 1943: Aqsu
February-July 1943: K.1
July-November 1943: Rayak
November 1943-January 1944: El Bassa
January-March 1944: Megiddo
March-May 1944: Trigno
May-June 1944: San Angelo
June 1944: Venafro
June 1944: Aquino
June 1944: Osa
June 1944: Falerium North
June-July 1944: Orvieto Main
July-August 1944: Castiglione
August-October 1944: Malignano
October 1944-April 1945: Peretola
April-June 1945: Bologna
June-July 1945: Bari

Squadron Codes: GA (Lysander)

September 1939: Egypt Group; RAF Middle East
11 November 1941: No. 253 Wing; AHQ Western Desert; Middle East Command
27 October 1942: No.285 Wing; AHQ Western Desert; Middle East Command
No.215 Group; AHQ Iraq and Persia; RAF Middle East; Mediterranean Air Command

1939-1943: Tactical Reconnaissance
1943-1944: Fighter Squadron, Middle East
1944-1945: Fighter and Ground Attack duties, Italy



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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (11 February 2011), No. 208 Squadron (RAF): Second World War,

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