No. 232 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No.232 Squadron went through three incarnations during the Second World War, first as a fighter squadron that was caught up in the disasters in the Far East early in 1942, then as a fighter squadron in the Mediterranean and finally as a transport squadron in the Far East.

The squadron was reformed on 17 July 1940 by the redesignation of B Flight, No.3 Squadron, at Sumburgh in Scotland. This made it one of only five new squadrons to join Fighter Command's order of battle between the end of the fighting in France and the start of the Battle of Britain, but it remained a half-strength unit until mid December when it was finally brought up to strength. During this period the squadron was used for defensive duties in the north of Scotland.

In April 1941 the squadron became non-operational in preparation for a move overseas that didn't happen. The pilots were used on ferrying duties but the unlucky ground crews were embarked on ships on 10 May and remained onboard until 6 June when they disembarked. The squadron resumed operations in the north-east of England for a short period, but finally left for the Middle East in November 1941.

By the time the squadron's convoy reached Cape Town Japan had entered the war and the squadron was diverted to Singapore. The ground echelon disembarked at Singapore on 13 January 1942, but the airfields near the city were already too dangerous to use, and so on 15 January the squadron's aircraft were embarked on HMS Indomitable, before flying off to Java on 27 January from a point fifty miles to the south of Christmas Island.

On 2 February the squadron's air and ground echelons were reunited at Palembang, Sumatra, but the Japanese invasion of Sumatra forced the squadron to move again, this time to Batavia, Java on 15 February. Here the squadron operated alongside No.605 Squadron, while their aircraft were serviced by a composite unit formed from both fighter squadrons and from the ground crews of No.242 Squadron (this squadron's pilots had remained behind on Malta when the squadron moved out to the Far East). The two fighter squadrons were in action from 17-27 February 1942, often operating at odds of ten to one or worse, and by noon on 28 February their combined strength was down to that of a single squadron. No.232 was chosen to remain on Java, where on 1 March it attacked the Japanese forces landing at Eretanwetan. This last ditch defence was soon over and by the end of March the squadron had been disbanded. 

On 10 April 1942 the squadron reformed at Atcham, Shropshire, as a Spitfire-equipped fighter squadron. The new squadron moved south in August and flew its first offensive sweep over France on 17 August. In the autumn the squadron was chosen to take part in Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. The ground echelon set sail in November, while the aircraft flew to Gibraltar. The two parts of the squadron were reunited at the end of December, and the squadron flew fighter patrols, ground attack and escort missions from then until the end of the North African campaign.

In June 1943 the squadron moved to Malta to cover the landings on Sicily. It then moved to Sicily to support the Salerno landings, and finally to Italy in September 1943. In December the squadron moved again, this time to the Lebanon to provide local air defence against any raids from German occupied Greece. While in the Lebanon the squadron converted to the Spitfire IX, which it took to Corsica in April 1944. The squadron was used to support the invasion of the south of France, moving to France just behind the invasion armies. As the Allied armies advanced north they quickly joined up with the forces advancing from Normandy. Most of the squadrons that had accompanied the invasion of southern France returned to Italy. No.232 moved to Naples, where on 31 October 1944 it was disbanded.

On 6 January 1945 the squadron was reformed at Stoney Cross as a transport squadron equipped with 25 Wellington XVIs. This version of the squadron was short-lived. On 6 January 1945 the air crews went to form No.243 Rear Echelon Squadron and No.1315 Flight, while in February the Wellingtons went to No.242 Squadron. No.232 Squadron remained in existence, but was effectively reformed with new crews and Liberator transports.

The squadron departed for India on 14 February. Its Liberators were used for general transport flights in South East Asia, while Skymaster aircraft were used for the Ceylon to Australia route, with flights to Sydney beginning in August. The squadron continued to provide transport services for a short period after the end of the war, but commercial airlines were soon back in business and the squadron disbanded on 15 August 1946.

Aircraft
July 1940-August 1941: Hawker Hurricane I
August 1941-February 1942: Hawker Hurricane IIB
April 1942-Febriary 1944: Supermarine Spitfire VB
May 1943-October 1944: Supermarine Spitfire IX

November 1944-February 1945: Vickers Wellington XVI
February 1945-March 1946: Consolidated Liberator III, VI and VIII
July 1945-March 1946: Douglas Skymaster

Location
July-September 1940: Sumburgh
September-October 1940: Castletown
October 1940: Skitten
October-November 1940: Drem
November-December 1940: Skitten
December 1940-April 1941: Elgin
April-May 1941: Montrose

July 1941: Abbotsinch
July-November 1941: Ouston

January 1942: Batavia
January-February 1942: Palembang II
February 1942: Palembang I
February 1942: Palembang II
February 1942: Tjililitan

April-May 1942: Atcham
May 1942: Llanbedr
May-June 1942: Ayr
June-July 1942: Merston
July-August 1942: Llanbedr
August 1942: Turnhouse
August 1942: Debden
August 1942: Gravesend
August-September 1942: Debden
September-November 1942: Turnhouse

December 1942: Philippeville (ground echelon)
December 1942-January 1943: Constantine (full squadron)
January-February 1943: Bone
February-March 1943: Tingley
March-May 1943: Souk-el-Kkemis
May-June 1943: Protville
June-July 1943: Takali
July-September 1943: Lentini East
September 1943: Asa
September-October 1943: Serretelle
October-December 1943: Gioia del Colle
December 1943-March 1944: Aleppo/ Bab el Haoua

April 1944: Alto
April-July 1944: Poretta
July-August 1944: Calenzana
August-October 1944: Frejus
31 October 1944: Disbanded on way to Naples

November 1944-February 1945: Stoney Cross

February 1945-May 1946: Palam
May-August 1946: Poona

Squadron Codes: sss

Duty
1942: Fighter Squadron, Home Based
1942-1944: Fighter Squadron, Mediterranean
1944-1946; Transport Squadron, Far East

Part of
8 August 1940: No.13 Group; Fighter Command
10 July 1943: No.322 Wing; No.211 Group; Desert Air Force; North African Tactical Air Force; Northwest African Air Forces; Mediterranean Air Command

Books

The Decisive Campaigns of the Desert Air Force 1942-1945, Bryn Evans. . Looks at the activities of the RAF's tactical air force in the North Africa and Italian Theatres, where it developed many of the close support techniques used with greater fame by 2nd Tactical Air Force in Normandy. This is a valuable account of the services of a key, but often overlooked, part of the wartime RAF. [read full review]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (7 March 2011), No. 232 Squadron (RAF): Second World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAF/232_wwII.html


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