No. 273 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No.273 Squadron was reformed on Ceylon in 1939, and had a quiet war until the Japanese raid on the island in April 1942. Two more quiet years followed, before the squadron moved to the Burma front in 1944 to carry out ground attack and fighter escort missions.

The squadron was reformed on 1 August 1939, with six Vickers Vildebeests of its own and four Seal sea planes that were officially allocated to the China Bay base. At this point the squadron's base wasn't able to operate land planes, and so operations began with just the Seals. The landing strip was ready for operations by 5 September, and the Vildebeests joined the Seals on 13 September. The two types were used for coastal patrols, but in 1939-40 Ceylon was very distant from the conflict in Europe.

This changed dramatically in December 1941 when Japan entered the war, and even more as the Japanese advanced across south-east Asia, capturing Malaya and Singapore. Ceylon and the east coast of India were now directly exposed to Japanese attack.

In March 1942 No.273 Squadron began to convert to the two-seat Fairey Fulmar, normally a naval aircraft. This was reflected in the composition of the squadron's personnel, with half coming from the navy and half from the RAF. Sixteen Fulmars were available when the Japanese made their only major sortie into the Indian Ocean in April 1942. One Fulmar was lost during a Japanese attack on the squadron's base, and over the next few days the squadron was kept busy searching for the Japanese ships.

This was the only Japanese naval sortie into the Indian Ocean, but the squadron continued to provide defensive cover for the next two years. The Fulmars were replaced with Hurricanes in August 1942 and Spitfires in March 1944.

In July 1944 it was decided that the squadron was no longer needed for the air defence of India, and it moved to the Burma front.  From then until the end of the war the squadron was used for ground attack and escort missions, accompanied both Allied bombers and the transport aircraft that were so important in Burma. The Spitfires began to carry bombs in February 1945, and the squadron added attacks on Japanese communications to its list of duties.

After the Japanese surrender the squadron moved to Bangkok, and then very quickly into French Indo-China. It was disbanded at Saigon on 31 January 1946.

Aircraft
August 1939-March 1942: Vildebeest III
August 1939-May 1942: Seal
March-September 1942: Fulmar II
August-September 1942: Hawker Hurricane I
August 1942-March 1944: Hawker Hurricane IIB
January-March 1944: Hawker Hurricane IIC
March 1944-January 1946: Supermarine Spitfire VIII
November 1945-January 1946: Supermarine Spitfire XIV

Location
August 1939-June 1942: China Bay
June-September 1942: Katukurunda
September 1942-February 1943: Ratmalana
February-August 1943: China Bay
August 1943-July 1944: Ratmalana
July-August 1944: Chittagong
August-December 1944: Cox's Bazaar
December 1944-January 1945: Maunghnama
January-May 1945: Kyaukpyu
May-September 1945: Mingaladon
September 1945: Don Muang
September 1945-January 1946: Tan Son Nhut

Squadron Codes: HH (Hurricane), MS (Spitfire)

Duty
1939-1944: Fighter squadron, Ceylon
1944-1945: Ground attack and escort squadron, Burma

Part of
September 1939: RAF Far East
Spring 1942: No.222 Group
1 July 1944: No.222 Group; Air Command, South East Asia

Books

 

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (2 September 2011), No. 273 Squadron (RAF): Second World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAF/273_wwII.html

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