No. 271 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No.271 Squadron was formed in 1940 as a transport squadron, and served in that role until 1944, when it became an airborne forces squadron, taking part in the D-Day landings, the battle of Arnhem and the crossing of the Rhine.

The squadron was formed at Doncaster on 1 May 1940 from No.1680 Flight. Like many transport squadrons in this early period of the war, the new squadron operated a variety of aircraft types. The most important was the Handley Page Harrow, which had been designed as an interim bomber that could be used as a transport aircraft once more advanced bombers were developed. The Harrow remained in use with the squadron until May 1945, outliving a number of more modern aircraft that were used in small quantities.

One of the new squadron's first duties was to help evacuate British personnel from France as the Germans advanced across the country. After that the squadron's main role was to help RAF squadrons move bases around Britain.

In September 1940 the squadron was given two de Havilland Albatross mail planes, which were to be used to provide a regular service between Britain and Iceland. The Albatross was a four-engined mail plane and passenger plane that used the same wooden construction as the later Mosquito, but only seven were built, and only two were completed as mail planes. No.271 squadron's use of them would be short-lived, as both were destroyed in landing accidents at Reykjavik, one in 1941 and the second in 1942.

The squadron first received a number of Dakotas in the summer of 1943, but in January 1944 it was almost completely equipped with the type, and became an airborne forces unit (the Harrows remained until May 1945, serving as air ambulances, but were phased out after seven were destroyed during Operation Boddenplatte, the last major Luftwaffe offensive in the west).

The squadron provided twenty-two glider-tugs on D-Day (used to carry part of the 3rd Parachute Brigade), while soon after the landings the Harrows began to fly casualties back to the UK. The squadron was during the massive airlift to Arnhem in September 1944, and again during Montgomery's carefully planned crossing of the Rhine in March 1945. Flight Lieutenant D.S.A. Lord won a posthumous Victoria Cross for his actions during the efforts to support the Arnhem landings.

Some aircraft from the squadron were probably lost during Operation Bodenplatte, the large German attack on Allied airfields on 1 January 1945, when the squadron was visiting Evere airfield as it was attacked.

After the end of the war the squadron was used to fly regular flights to Germany, Italy and Greece, continuing until the civil airlines were able to fill the gap. On 1 December 1946 the squadron was renumbered as No.77.

May 1940-May 1945: Handley Page Harrow I and II
May-June 1940: Bristol Bombay I
May-September 1940: Ford 5-AT-D
June-December 1940: H.P. 42
May-June 1940: S-73
January 1941-April 1942: de Havilland D.H.91 Albatross
May 1942-January 1944: Dominie I
January-April 1942: Lockheed Hudson V
August 1943-January 1944: Douglas Dakota I
January 1944-December 1945: Douglas Dakota III
May-December 1945: Douglas Dakota IV

May 1940-February 1944: Doncaster
February 1944-August 1945: Down Ampney
    February-June 1944: Detachment to Doncaster
    May-July 1944: Detachment to Blakehill Farm
    February-April 1945: Detachment to Northolt
    April 1945: Detachment to Croydon
August-October 1945: Odiham
October-December 1942: Broadwell

Squadron Codes: BJ, YS

1940-1944: Transport squadron
1944-1945: Airborne forces squadron

Part of
6 June 1944: No.46 Group; Allied Expeditionary Air Force


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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (16 August 2011)), No. 271 Squadron (RAF): Second World War,

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