No. 209 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No.209 Squadron was a flying boat squadron that flew maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine patrols from British bases from 1939 until 1942, and then operated over the India Ocean for most of the rest of the war, before taking part in the final stages of the offensive in Burma in 1945.

The squadron was formed in March 1930 at Mount Batten to fly the Blackburn Iris flying boat, but only four of these aircraft were ever built, making it difficult for the squadron to remain effective. Things got worse in January 1934 when the squadron converted to the Perth, of which only three were built! A more numerous aircraft was finally adopted in July 1936, when the squadron was fully equipped with the Short Singapore. These were flown for the next year and a half, before being replaced with the Supermarine Stranraer in December 1938 (a Kestrel powered version of the Southampton).

At the start of the Second World War the squadron moved to Invergorden and flew patrols between Scotland and Norway. In October it moved again, to Oban, and began to fly patrols over the Atlantic. In December 1939 the squadron converted to the disastrously poor Saro Lerwick. Six of these aircraft were lost in various incidents over the next year, and they were finally replaced with the Catalina in April 1941. These aircraft were used for anti-submarine patrols from Loch Erne until August 1941.

In May 1941 the squadron played a major part in the hunt for the Bismarck, helping to relocate the German battleship on 26 May, after she had slipped away from the British fleet.

The squadron sank one U-boat during the war, U-452 which was sunk to the south of Iceland on 25 August 1941.

On 27 August 1941 the squadron played a part in one of the most remarkable incidents of the struggle against the U-boats, the surrender of U-570. The U-boat was forced to surrender by Hudsons from No.269 Squadron, but these aircraft didn't have the endurance to guard their price until surface ships arrived, and so a Catalina of No.209 took over the role.

At the end of August the squadron moved to Iceland for two months, before returning to Britain.

In March 1942 the squadron moved to East Africa, from where it flew patrols over the Indian Ocean, using bases in South Africa, Oman and on Madagascar and the Seychelles to extend its range. Towards the end of 1943 the squadron moved north, to protect the Gulf of Oman against an expected increase in U-boat activity after the Mediterranean had been secured by the Allies. An administrative quirk meant that for much of this period the squadron actually came under the command of RAF Middle East, but by the summer of 1944 control had passed to Air Command, South East Asia.

In July 1945 the squadron changed aircraft and role. The Catalinas were replaced by Sunderlands, and the squadron moved to Ceylon, while a detachment moved to Rangoon, from where it attacked the remaining Japanese shipping on the coasts of Burma and Malaya. In September 1945 a detachment from the squadron moved to Hong Kong, and was followed by the rest of the squadron in October. No.209 Squadron remained in the Far East until it was merged into No.205 Squadron in 1955.

December 1938-April 1940: Supermarine Stranraer I
December 1939-April 1941: Saro Lerwick I:
April 1941-April 1945: Consolidated Catalina Ib and II
February 1945-December 1954: Short Sunderland Ib and II

August-October 1939: Invergordon
October 1939-July 1940: Oban
July-December 1940: Pembroke Dock
December 1940-March 1941: Stranraer
March-August 1941: Castle Archdale
August-October 1941: Reykjavik
October 1941-March 1942: Pembroke Dock

June 1942-July 1945: Kipevu

Squadron Codes: sss

1939-1942: Maritime Reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare from British bases apart from two months in Iceland
March 1942-July 1945: Patrols over Indian Ocean

Part of
September 1939: No.18 GR Group; Coastal Command
27 October 1942: No.207 Group; RAF Middle East
10 July 1943: No.246 Wing; AHQ East Africa; RAF Middle East, Mediterranean Air Command
1 July 1944: No.222 Group; Air Command, South East Asia


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 (11 February 2011), No. 209 Squadron (RAF): Second World War,

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