No. 85 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No. 85 Squadron was formed from A Flight of No. 87 Squadron on 1 June 1938 as a fighter squadron. For the first four months of its existence the squadron was equipped with the Glostor Gladiator, before receiving the Hawker Hurricane in September 1938.

In September 1939 the squadron moved to France with the Air Component of the BEF. The squadron suffered heavily during the Battle of France, losing all but four of its aircraft in the twelve days between the start of the German offensive and its return to Britain.

The RAF took advantage of the lull in air operations during and immediately after the rest of the German campaign in France, and by early June was operational again. The squadron took part in the first half of the Battle of Britain, before moving to Church Fenton in Yorkshire early in September.

Once in Yorkshire the squadron converted to night fighter operations, at first using their Hurricanes. After a month operating from Yorkshire, the squadron moved back to the south, but the Hurricane was not well suited to night fighting. The alternative to be tried was the Defiant I, but the squadron only flew three sorties before these turret armed fighters were replaced with Havocs. The squadron was one of a number to use the Turbinlight equipped Havocs in an attempt to improve their ability to operate in the dark.

The squadron converted to the de Havilland Mosquito NF Mk II in August 1942, but it would not gain its first night victory until 17/18 January 1943. From March 1943 to the end of April 1944 the squadron carried out intruder missions over occupied France.

On 1 May 1944 No. 85 Squadron was transferred to No. 100 Group, supporting Bomber Command's night bombing campaign until the end of the war. In this role the squadron carried out attacks on German night fighter airfields as well as escorting the bomber stream.

Noctu diuque venamur (We hunt by day and night)

September 1938-July 1941: Hawker Hurricane I
January-February 1941: Defiant I
February 1941-August 1942: Turbinlight Havoc I and Havoc II
August 1942-July 1943: de Havilland Mosquito NF Mk II
March 1943-November 1944: de Havilland Mosquito NF Mk XII
October 1943-May 1944: de Havilland Mosquito Mk XIII
March-August 1943: de Havilland Mosquito Mk XV
November 1943-May 1944: de Havilland Mosquito XVII
November 1944-April 1946: de Havilland Mosquito 30

1 June 1938-9 September 1939: Debden
9-29 September 1939: Rouen/ Boos
29 September-5 November 1939: Merville
5 November 1939-10 April 1940: Lille/ Seclin
10-26 April 1940: Mons-en-Chausee
26 April-22 May 1940: Lille/ Seclin
22 May-19 August 1940: Debden
19 August-3 September 1940: Croydon
3-5 September 1940: Castle Camps
5 September-23 October 1940: Church Fenton
23 October-23 November 1940: Kirton-in-Lindsey
23 November 1940-1 January 1941: Gravesend
1 January-3 May 1941: Debden
3-13 May 1943: Hunsdon
13 May 1943-1 May 1944: West Malling
1 May-21 July 1944: Swannington
21 July-29 August 1944: West Malling
29 August 1944-28 June 1945: Swannington

Squadron Codes:

Group and Duty
September 1939-May 1940: Air Component, BEF
June 1940-September 1940: Fighter Command day fighter squadron
September 1940-April 1944: Night fighter squadron
May 1944-end of war: Bomber support with No. 100 Group

January 1943: Wg Cdr G L Raphael DFC

Known Operations
17/18 January 1943: Gains first victory with the Mosquito NF Mk II
14/15 April 1943: First victory with the Mosquito NF Mk XII


Hurricane Aces, 1939-40, Tony Holmes. A look at the men who flew the Hawker Hurricane during the first two years of the Second World War, when it was arguably the most important front line fighter in RAF service. This book covers the Phoney War Period, the German invasion of the West, the Battle of Britain and the early use of the Hurricane in North Africa and from Malta. [see more]
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Mosquito Aces of World War 2, Andrew Thomas. This volume concentrates on the fighter variants of the Mosquito, looking at their role as a defensive fighter, both over Britain and overseas and their use during the D-Day invasion to protect the fleet. Thomas also looks at the career of the Mosquito as a night intruder over Germany, where it became the scourge of the German night fighters, often being blamed for losses miles from the nearest Mosquito.
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (28 January 2008), No. 85 Squadron (RAF): Second World War,

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