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No. 52 Squadron was a Royal Air Force squadron that saw service in both World War I and World War II.


No. 52 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps was formed at Hounslow, Middlesex, on 15 May 1916. The squadron became part of the Air Force when the Royal Flying Corps merged with the Royal Naval Air Service in 1918. No 52 Squadron reformed in the light bomber role on 18 January 1937 from a nucleus provided by No 15 Squadron at Abingdon. Initially equipped with Hinds, these were replaced by Battles in November 1937. However, in February 1939, the squadron became a group pool squadron tasked with training crews for the other units in its group. For this purpose it was also supplied with Ansons for conversion training. This role did not change on the outbreak of war, but on 8 April 1940 its independence ceased when it was absorbed into No 12 Operational Training Unit.

Its next incarnation was quite unusual, in that it was formed at Habbaniya as a Maintenance Unit equipped with Audaxes but no pilots. Its aircraft were flown by crews from No 31 Squadron when need to undertake local reconnaissance flights. By December it had received some aircrew but that month the aircraft were disposed of and the personnel were allocated to various units, with most of the aircrew going to Blenheim units in North Africa. Eventually in October 1942 the various elements came back together in Iraq and equipped with Blenheims, it carried out survey work in the area before moving to Egypt in February 1943. Here it converted to Baltimores, which it used for shipping reconnaissance and convoy escort duties along the North African coast until November, when it moved to Italy. The squadron moved to Gibraltar in February 1944, but was disbanded on 31 March.

The squadron reformed, in the transport role, on 1 July 1944, when 'C' an 'D' Flights of no 353 Squadron was redesignated as such. Based at Dum Dum near Calcutta, the squadron was now flying Dakotas on general transport duties throughout India. From April to July 1945, the squadron also flew a few Tiger Moths and Expeditors in the air ambulance role. The squadron continued to operate after the Japanese surrender and began some scheduled flights to Malaya, China and Burma. In 1947 the squadron was stationed at Mingladon in Burma but following a coup it moved to Changi, taking all its personnel and what equipment it could, becoming the last RAF unit to be stationed in Burma. From here it was soon involved in 'Operation Firedog'. Dakotas were replaced by Valettas in 1951 and based at RAAF Butterworth these continued to be used on a regular passenger run between Singapore and Butterworth until unreliability forced cessation of passenger carrying. The squadron continued to operate, notably from Kuching dropping supplies to the jungle troops, mainly Gurkhas, fighting the Indonesian troops in the confrontation war until disbanded on 25 April 1966, The squadron reformed, for the final time so far, on 1 December 1966 at Seletar. It was still employed on general transport duties but was now equipped with Andover aircraft , which it used until disbanding on 31 December 1969.

Motto: Sudore quam sanguine (By sweat other than through blood)

It was reformed at RAF Seletar in March 1967 with the arrival of three Andover C Mk1 aircraft adding to the three that had arrived in December 1966.

The aircraft were XS 606, XS 607, XS 608, XS 612, XS613 and XS 637.

Confrontation with Indonesia had finished just before the Squadron Andovers arrived and rumour has it that the Air Commander was all for sending the aircraft back to the UK.

Tasks were found for the Squadron with regular flights to RAAF Butterworth, a twice weekly flight to RAF Kuching, Seria Anduki and RAF Labuan with the aircraft returning after a night stop. The latter flight was also utilised to ferry Gurkha troops to Singapore for onward flights to Nepal.

Other than this, the only route fights were trainers under one pretext or another. Flights were undertaken to Hong Kong via Saigon and by, using a single ferry tank, a direct return flight was possible.

Bangkok was always a favourite with a tour of the USAF bases occasionally witnessing the start or finish of a strike against the North Vietnamese.

Laos was visited as was Cambodia. Air Marshal Sir Ivor Broom, KCB, CBE, DSO, DFC & two Bars, AFC was flown to Indonesia to review the Indonesian Air Force after the end of Confrontation.

Nearer home, para dropping of the SAS and dropping of Seac packs kept the Squadron up to standard in those skills. A few landings on the short strips used by the Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneers were also carried out.

In 1968 the Squadron was relocated to RAF Changi. The Squadron Commander was most displeased when one aircraft arrived supposedly full of spares but carrying only the captain's motorcycle and the inevitable six sided Ukkers Board.

The Squadron was disbanded at RAF Changi in January 1970 and the aircraft returned to the UK.


See also



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