No. 601 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

Aircraft - Locations - Group and Duty - Books

No.601 'County of London' Squadron was a fighter squadron that took part in the fighting in France in 1940, the Battle of Britain, then moved to the Mediterranean, where it fought in North Africa, Sicily and Italy.

The squadron was formed in 1925 as a light bomber unit in the Auxiliary Air Force. In 1934 the squadron began a fighter unit, and in January 1939 it began to convert to the Blenheim fighter. These aircraft were used for patrols early in the war, but by March 1940 the squadron had converted to the Hurricane.
 
Although No.601 Squadron wasn't amongst the fighter squadrons sent to France, it did operate a detachment from France during the fighting in May 1940.

On 17 June the squadron moved to Tangmere, a sector station in No.11 Sector. It was thus at Tangmere during the all of the first phase of the Battle of Britain – the contact phase or convoy battles of 10 July-7 August and most of the second or coastal battle phase of 8-23 August.

On 19 August the squadron moved to the sector station at Debden, where it replaced No.85 Squadron. It stayed there until 2 September when it returned to Tangmere. No.17 Squadron replaced it at Tangmere, before itself moving to Debden on 2 September. The squadron was thus at Debden during for miuch of the hardest phase of the battle, the assault on Fighter Command of 24 August-6 September.

The squadron's second stint at Tangmere was much shorter – on 7 September it moved to Exeter, where it remained for the rest of the Battle of Britain.

Bell Airacobra Is of No.601 Squadron
Bell Airacobra Is of
No.601 Squadron

In February 1941 the squadron began to fly offensive sweeps over France. This continued until August when the squadron received the Airacobra. The new aircraft was not a success, and was only used on a small number of operations.

The squadron converted to the Spitfire in March 1942 and in the following month departed for the Middle East. It reached Egypt in June and took part in the battle of El Alamein. The squadron then followed the armies as they moved west, eventually reaching Tunisia.

In June 1943 the squadron moved to Malta, from where it covered the invasion of Sicily. It moved onto Sicily in mid-July then onto mainland Italy in October.

From then until the end of the war the squadron was a ground attack unit, using its Spitfire fighter bombers against German troops. The squadron was disbanded on 14 August 1945.

Aircraft
January 1939-March 1940: Bristol Blenheim IF
March 1940-March 1941: Hawker Hurricane I
March 1941-January 1942: Hawker Hurricane IIB
August 1941-March 1942: Bell Airacobra I
March-April 1942: Supermarine Spitfire VB
June 1942-January 1944: Supermarine Spitfire VB and VC
June 1943-June 1944: Supermarine Spitfire VIII
June 1944-May 1945: Supermarine Spitfire IX

Location
September-December 1939: Biggin Hill
December 1939-June 1940: Tangmere
    May 1940: Detachment to Merville
June 1940: Middle Wallop
June-August 1940: Tangmere
August-September 1940: Debden
September 1940: Tangmere
September-December 1940: Exeter
December 1940-May 1941: Northolt
May-July 1941: Manston
July-August 1941: Matlask
August 1941-January 1942: Duxford
January-March 1942: Acaster Malbis
March-April 1942: Digby

June 1942: Ikingi Maryut
June 1942: Aboukir
June 1942: LG.13
June-July 1942: LG.154
July-August 1942: LG.85
August 1942: LG.219
August 1942: Helwan
August-September 1942: LG.154
September-November 1942: LG.92
November 1942: LG.21
November 1942: LG.13
November 1942: LG.155
November 1942: Gambut West
November-December 1942: Msus
December 1942: El Hasseit
December 1942: Melah el Nogra
December 1942: El Merduma
December 1942-January 1943: El Chel
January 1943: Hamraiet
January-February 1943: Darragh North
February 1943: Castel Benito
February-March 1943: Hazbub Main
March 1943: Ben Gardane South
March 1943: Hazbub North
March-April 1943: Bu Grara
April 1943: Gabes Main
April 1943: La Fauconnerie
April-May 1943: Bou Goubrine South
May 1943: Hergia North
May-June 1943: Ben Gardane
June-July 1943: Luqa
July 1943: Pachino
July 1943: Cassibile
July-October 1943: Lentini West
October 1943: Tortorella
October-November 1943: Triolo
November 1943-January 1944: Canne
January-April 1944: Marcianise
April-June 1944: Venafro
June 1944: Littorio
June-July 1944: Fabrica
July-August 1944: Perugia
August-September 1944: Loreto
September-December 1944: Fano
December 1944-May 1945: Bellaria
May-August 1945: Treviso

Squadron Codes: UF

Duty
September 1939-March 1942: Fighter Squadron, UK
June 1942-May 1943: Fighter Squadron, North Africa
June-July 1943: Fighter Squadron, Malta
July-October 1943: Fighter Squadron, Sicily
October 1943-August 1945: Fighter Bomber Squadron, Italy

Part of
September 1939: No.11 Group, Fighter Command
8 August 1940: No.11 Group, Fighter Command
27 October 1942: No.244 Wing; No.211 Group; A.H.Q. Western Desert; RAF Middle East
10 July 1943: No.244 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]
cover cover cover

 

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (28 March 2012), No. 601 Squadron (RAF): Second World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAF/601_wwII.html

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