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No. 50 Squadron was a squadron of the Royal Air Force

No. 50 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, was formed at Dover, Kent, on 15 May 1916, as a Home Defence squadron. The squadron October of that year contributed twelve Lancasters to No. 5 Group's celebrated low-Ievel dusk raid on the Schneider works at Le Creusot. In 1943 it took part in the first shuttle-bombing raid (when the targets were a radar factory at Friedrichshafen and the Italian naval base at Spezia), and the epic raid on the German V-weapons experimental establishment at Peenemünde. Among the targets that it attacked in 1944 were the V1 storage sites in the caves at St. Leu d'Esserent in the oise valley, and the dykes at Flushing on the German-held Dutch island of Walcheren. In December 1944, it took part in a raid on the German Baltic Fleet at Gdynia, and in March 1945, was represented in the bomber force that so pulverised the defences of Wesel just before the crossing of the Rhine that Commandos were able to seize the town with only 36 casualties. In April 1945, came the last of the squadron's operations against the enemy - an attack on an oil refinery at Vallø (Tonsberg) in Norway.

Among the many decorations won by No. 50 Squadron in the Second World War were a Victoria Cross (awarded posthumously to Flying Officer Leslie Thomas Manser), 6 DSOs, 70 DFCs and 114 DFMs.

The Squadron flew Lancasters until they were replaced with Avro Lincolns in 1946 which were flown until the Squadron disbanded on 31 January 1951. No. 50 reformed on 15 August 1952 at RAF Binbrook with Canberras which were flown until disbandment on 1 October 1959.

The squadron was reformed again on 1 August 1961 at RAF Waddington as part of RAF Bomber Command's V-bomber force maintaining the UK's strategic nuclear deterrent, equipped with three Avro Vulcan B1s and three B1As[1] assigned a high-level strategic bombing role with a variety of free fall nuclear bombs. These included American bombs supplied to the RAF under Project E.[2]

After the advent of effective Soviet SAMs forced Bomber Command to re-assign V-bombers from high-altitude operations to low-level penetration operations, the squadron's Vulcans adopted a mission profile that included a 'pop-up' manouvre to above 12,000 ft for safe release of Yellow Sun Mk2, until by July 1966[3] the squadron was re-equipped with eight Vulcan B2 aircraft and eight WE.177B laydown bombs[4] which improved aircraft survivability by enabling aircraft to remain at low-level during weapon release.[5]

Following the transfer of responsibility for the UK's nuclear deterrent to the Royal Navy the squadron was re-assigned to SACEUR for tactical strike missions. In a high-intensity European war the squadron's role was to support land forces on the Continent resisting an assault by the Red Army on Western Europe, by striking deep into enemy-held areas beyond the forward edge of the battlefield, striking at enemy concentrations and infrastructure, first with conventional weapons and secondly with WE.177 tactical nuclear weapons as required, should a conflict escalate to that stage.

The squadron continued in this role until the Falklands War of 1982[6], when its aircraft were hurriedly converted to tankers.[7]

The squadron was disbanded for the last time on 31 March 1984.

References

  1. ^ Humphrey Wynn. RAF Strategic Nuclear Deterrent Forces: their origins, roles and deployment 1946-69. p567. ISBN 0 11 772833 0
  2. ^ Tim McLelland. The Avro Vulcan: a complete history. p120. ISBN 978 0 85979 127 4
  3. ^ Wynn. p567.
  4. ^ RAF nuclear front line Order-of-Battle 1966-67
  5. ^ Weapon overview @ www.nuclear-weapons.info/vw.htm#WE.177 Carriage
  6. ^ RAF nuclear front line Order-of-Battle 1982
  7. ^ McLelland. p222-225.

External links

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