No. 608 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

Aircraft - Locations - Group and Duty - Books

No.608 (North Riding) Squadron went through two incarnations during the Second World War, the first with Coastal Command and the second as the only Auxiliary Air Force squadron to join Bomber Command.

The squadron was formed in 1930 as a day bomber squadron. Like many Auxiliary Air Force squadrons it began a fighter squadron, in its case in 1937, but in March 1939 it had a second change of purpose, becoming a general reconnaissance squadron in Coastal Command.

The squadron was equipped with the Avro Anson, and after the outbreak of the Second World War began to fly anti-submarine patrols over the North Sea, protecting east coast convoys. This involved the squadron's crews in long hours of patrolling with little or no action.

In June 1940 A Flight began to convert to the Blackburn Botha. The first operational Botha sortie was flown on 10 August, and it soon became clear that the aircraft was deeply flawed. It was withdrawn in November 1940 and the squadron reverted to the Avro Anson. By this date the Anson was increasingly outdated, and son February 1941 the squadron began to convert to the Blenheim IV.

More suitable aircraft finally began to arrive in July 1941 when the squadron got its first Lockheed Hudsons. The new aircraft also marked a change in the squadron's role, with offensive strikes and bombing raids being added and then replacing the patrol duties. The first anti-shipping strike took place in September 1941, and the first bombing raids in October.

In January 1942 the squadron moved to Scotland, and began to fly anti-shipping operations and bombing raids along the Norwegian coast. Anti-shipping strikes and the odd attack on U-boats became the squadron's main role until August 1942, when it began to prepare for a move to Gibraltar.

In September 1942 the move began, and it was completed by November. The squadron's new role was to provide anti-submarine cover around Gibraltar in order to protect the convoys preparing for Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. A series of attacks on U-boats were recorded, and the squadron's first victory soon came. On 14 November 1942 the squadron sank U-595 after catching her on the surface north of Oran, Algeria. Unusually the entire crew of the submarine survived and were taken prisoner.

Over the next few months the squadron moved to North Africa and accompanied the Allied armies as they moved east, operating around Sicily towards the end of the campaign in Tunisia. On 28 May 1943 the squadron sank U-755 north-west of Mallorca in a rocket attack. This time there were nine survivors, rescued by a Spanish destroyer.

In October 1943 the squadron moved to Sicily, from where it provided anti-submarine cover for the troops convoys involving in the campaign in Italy. In January 1944 the squadron was used to provide cover for the convoys involved in the Anzio landings. Convoy escort patrols were flown until July 1944 when the squadron was disbanded.

No.608 was reformed on 1 August 1944 at Downham Market, this time as a Mosquito squadron in the Night Light Striking Force of Bomber Command. In this role it took part in 246 raids and flew 1,726 sorties for the loss of only nine Mosquitos! On the night of 2/3 May 1945 sixteen Mosquitoes from No.608 Squadron dropped bombs on Kiel in the last Bomber Command operation of the Second World War. The squadron was disbanded on 24 August 1945, but reformed in July 1946 in the new Auxiliary Air Force.

Aircraft
March 1939-March 1941: Avro Anson I
June-November 1940: Blackburn Botha I
March-July 1941: Bristol Blenheim IV
July 1941-July 1944: Lockheed Hudson III, V and VI
August 1944-April 1945: de Havilland Mosquito XX
October 1944-April 1945: de Havilland Mosquito 25
March-August 1945: de Havilland Mosquito XVI

Location
March 1930-January 1942: Thornaby
January-August 1942: Wick
August 1942: Sumburgh
August-September 1942: Gosport
September-October 1942: North Coates

November-December 1942: Gibraltar
December 1942-August 1943: Blida
August-September 1943: Protville
September-October 1943: Borizzo
October 1943-June 1944: Montecorvino
June-July 1944: Pomigliano

August 1944-August 1945: Downham Market

Squadron Codes: UL (1939-41), 6T (1944-45)

Duty
1939-September 1941: Anti-submarine patrols, convoy protection
September 1941-January 1942: As above plus anti-shipping strikes
January 1942-August 1942: Anti-shipping and bombing, Norway
September 1942-October 1943: Anti-submarine patrols, Gibraltar then North Africa
October 1943-July 1944: Convoy Escort around Italy
August 1944-24 August 1945: Light Night Striking Force, Bomber COmmand

Part of
September 1939: No.18 G.R. Group, Coastal Command
Start of 1942: No.18 Group
10 July 1943: North African Coastal Air Force; Northwest African Air Forces; Mediterranean Air Command
From July 1944: Light Night Striking Force; No.8 Group; Bomber Command

Books

Bomber Offensive, Sir Arthur Harris. The autobiography of Bomber Harris, giving his view of the strategic bombing campaign in its immediate aftermath. Invaluable for the insights it provides into Harris’s approach to the war, what he was trying to achieve and the problems he faced. Harris perhaps overstates his case, not entirely surprisingly given how soon after the end of the war this book was written (Read Full Review)
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (2 April 2012), No. 608 Squadron (RAF): Second World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAF/608_wwII.html

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