No. 616 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No.616 (South Yorkshire) Squadron was a fighter squadron that became the first operational squadron to use a jet aircraft when it was equipped with the Gloster Meteor during 1944.

The squadron was formed in November 1938 as a fighter unit. It was initially equipped with the Hawker Hind but Gloster Gauntlets arrived in January 1939 and the plan was for the squadron to convert to the Spitfire. Four Fairey Battles arrived in May 1939 to allow the pilots to train on single engined aircraft and the Spitfires finally arrived in October-November 1940.

The squadron saw combat over Dunkirk in May 1940. It then moved to Yorkshire, where it took part in the first part of the Battle of Britain. On 15 August the Germans used Luftflotte 5 in Scandinavia to launch daylight raids for the only time during the Battle of Britain. One of these raids was heading towards Scarborough and was intercepted off Flamborough Head by Nos.73 and 616 Squadron. Part of the formation was repulsed but some aircraft were able to reach Driffield where they bombed an airfield.

The squadron moved to the 11 Group Sector Station at Kenley on 19 August, replacing No.64 Squadron. The squadron was present for the last part of the second phase of the battle (the coastal battles) and for most of the third and hardest phase of the battle, the assault on Fighter Command. The squadron moved to Norfolk on 3 September and was replaced by No.66 Squadron at Kenley. All three of these squadrons were Spitfire squadrons, but No.616 operated alongside the Hurricanes of No.615 at Kenley. In the period from 25 August to 2 September 1940 the squadron lost twelve aircraft and five pilots.

The squadron spent six days at Coltishall, including the first few days of the period of daylight raids on London. The squadron then moved further north into Lincolnshire.

The squadron returned south in April 1941 when it began to fly offensive sweeps over France. In October it was withdraw for a rest, before resuming the offensive sweeps in June 1942.

In March 1943 the squadron moved to the south-west, where on 12 July 1944 it received the first two Meteor jets to enter squadron service. This made No.616 the first operational squadron in the world to operate jet aircraft, the Me 262 at this point only having been used by experimental units (in the conditions inside Germany this quickly dragged them into combat).

On 25 July a Mosquito photographed a Me 262 in the air (while being chased by the German jet). This proved that the Germans had active jet aircraft, and on 27 July No.616 was given operational clearance for its Meteors. Its first combat sortie came on the same day and was against the V-1 flying bomb.

In January 1945 the squadron joined 2nd Tactical Air Force. A detachment moved to Belgium in February, and in April the entire squadron moved to the Netherlands. The first operational sortie, a ground attack mission, was flown on 16 April 1945.

The squadron was used to support the Canadian Army in its efforts to clear the Germans out of Holland. It never found any enemy aircraft to combat, and so concentrated on ground targets, in particular vehicles. The only casualties came when two aircraft collided in cloud on 29 April during an unsuccessful attempt to reach an area where German fighters had been sighted.

Aircraft
January-November 1939: Gloster Gauntlet II
May-November 1939: Fairey Battle I
October 1939-February 1941: Supermarine Spitfire I
February-July 1941: Supermarine Spitfire IIA and IIB
July 1941-October 1942: Supermarine Spitfire VB
October 1941: Supermarine Spitfire IIA and IIB
April 1942-December 1943: Supermarine Spitfire VI
September 1943-August 1944: Supermarine Spitfire VII
July 1944-February 1945: Gloster Meteor I
January-August 1945: Gloster Meteor III

Location
November 1938-October 1939: Doncaster
October 1939-February 1940: Leconfield
February-March 1940: Catfoss
March-May 1940: Leconfield
May-June 1940: Rochford
June-August 1940: Leconfield
August-September 1940: Kenley
September 1940: Coltishall
September 1940-February 1941: Kirton-in-Lindsey
February-May 1941: Tangmere
May-October 1941: Westhampnett
October 1941-January 1942: Kirton-in-Lindsey
January-July 1942: Kings Cliffe
July 1942: West Malling
July 1942: Kenley
July-August 1942: Great Sampford
August 1942: Hawkinge
August-September 1942: Great Sampford
September 1942: Ipswich
September 1942: Great Sampford
September-October 1942: Tangmere
October 1942-January 1943: Westhampnett
January-March 1943: Ibsley
March 1943: Harrowbeer
March-September 1943: Ibsley
September-November 1943: Exeter
November-December 1943: Fairwood Common
December 1943-March 1944: Exeter
March-April 1944: West Malling
April-May 1944: Fairwood Common
May-July 1944: Culmhead
July 1944-January 1945: Manston
January-February 1945: Colerne
    February-March 1945: B.58 Melsbroek
February-April 1945: Andrews Field
April 1945: B.77 Gilze-Rijen
April 1945: B.91 Nijmegen
April 1945: B.109 Quackenbruck
April-May 1945: B.152 Fassberg
May 1945: B.156 Luneberg
May-August 1945: B.158 Lubeck

Squadron Codes: QJ (1941), YQ (1942-1945)

Duty
1939-1945: Fighter Command

Part of
September 1939: No.12 Group, Fighter Command
8 August 1940: No.12 Group, Fighter Command
6 June 1944: No.10 Group; Air Defence of Great Britain; Allied Expeditionary Air Force

Books

 

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (6 April 2012), No. 616 Squadron (RAF): Second World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAF/616_wwII.html

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