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No.216 Squadron began the Second World War as a bomber-transport squadron located in the Middle East, but soon lost its bombing role and from 1941 until the end of the war served as a transport squadron.
The squadron was formed on 1 April 1918 to operate the Handley Page O/400 heavy bomber. It was one of the relatively small number of squadrons to survive across the entire inter-war period, moving to Egypt in July 1919. In 1931, still in the Middle East, it became a bomber-transport squadron, operating a series of aircraft designed to perform either role. At the start of the war it was equipped with the Vickers Valentia I, but in October 1939 these were joined by the Bristol Bombay. This bomber-transport aircraft made its first flight in 1935, and still counted as a heavy bomber in the Middle East until the end of 1940 (when it was one of four heavy bomber squadrons available for service in the Western Desert).
After the Italian entry into the war the squadron used its Bombays on night bombing raids, including longer distance raids on Tobruk. At the same time the Valentia was used as a transport aircraft, remaining operational until September 1941.
By the end of 1940 the Bombay had been superseded as a bomber by the Vickers Wellington, leaving No.216 Squadron free to operate entirely as a transport squadron. Its wide ranging duties included transporting other squadrons around the Middle East and to and from Greece, operating the supply route from the Gold Coast across Africa to Egypt along which many aircraft were flown to the Middle East front, evacuating troops from Greece and flying supplies into Tobruk during the German siege.
The squadron was used to fly supplies into Habbaniya during the siege of April-May 1941. It was also used to transport troops from the Essex Regiment to pumping station H.4 on the border between Iraq and Trans-Jordan in early May and to move troops to a position to the north-east of Baghdad later in the month.
In June 1942 one Bombay managed to fly supplies to the beleaguered garrison of Bir Hakim, where the Free French held out until 10 June, disrupting Rommel's timetable.
In July 1942 the squadron received a number of Lockheed Hudsons which were used for supply and casualty evacuation duties. Dakotas finally began to replace the Bombays in March 1943, and the last of the older aircraft was retired in June. The squadron was used to provide regular transport services around the Mediterranean and the Middle East, while in April 1944 a large detachment was sent to Burma, where it spent two months supplying the 14th Army.
In September 1943 the squadron's Dakotas were used to drop troops onto some of the Aegean Islands during the brief and unsuccessful Allied attempt to take advantage of the Italian surrender by taking control of the islands. Between 5 October and 20 November the squadron flew 87 supply drop sorties during 26 missions, but this effort was unable to prevent the Germans from recapturing the islands.
September 1935-October 1941: Valentia I
October 1939-June 1943: Bristol Bombay I
December 1941-January 1942: D.H.86B
July 1942-April 1943: Lockheed Hudson III and VI
March 1943-January 1950: Douglas Dakota I, Dakota II, Dakota III and Dakota IV
April 1921-October 1941: Heliopolis
October 1941-December 1942: El Khanka
December 1942-July 1945: Cairo West
April-June 1944: Detachment to Agartala
July 1945-September 1946: Almaza
Squadron Codes: SH (Bombay)
1931-1940: Bomber-transport squadron, Middle East
1941-1945: Transport squadron, Middle East
September 1939: Egypt Group; RAF Middle East
11 November 1941: No.202 Group; RAF Middle East with detachment under AHQ Western Desert
27 October 1942: No.216 Group; RAF Middle East
10 July 1943: No.216 Group; Mediterranean Air Command