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No. 604 Squadron RAF: Wikis

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No. 604 (County of Middlesex) Squadron RAF
Active 17 March 1930 - 18 April 1945
10 May 1946 - 10 March 1957
Country United Kingdom United Kingdom
Branch Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Royal Air Force
Part of Royal Auxiliary Air Force
Motto Latin: Si vis pacem para bellum
("If you want peace, prepare for war")
post 1950 aircraft insignia RAF 604 sqn.svg
Battle honours France & Low Countries, 1940; Dunkirk; Battle of Britain, 1940; Home Defence, 1940-44; Fortress Europe, 1943-45; Normandy, 1944; France & Germany, 1944-45.
Insignia
Squadron Badge heraldry A seax
No. 604 Squadron, being the County of Middlesex squadron, took part of the armorial bearings of the county, a seax, to commemorate that association[1]
Squadron Codes WQ (Jan 1939 - Sep 1939)
NG Sep (1939 - Apr 1945, 1949 - Apr 1951)
RAK (Jul 1946 - 1949)

No. 604 (County of Middlesex) Squadron RAF was a squadron of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. It was formed in 1930 at RAF Hendon, (North London). Early in World War II it was transferred to the Night Fighter role and was one of the most successful of the pioneer Radar-controlled Night Fighter squadrons.

Initially a day bomber squadron it changed to the 2-seat fighter role in 1934. It was disbanded in April 1945 as part of the end of war rundown of the fighting services and reformed as a single-seater fighter Auxiliary squadron in May 1946 (again at Hendon). It was finally disbanded in March 1957 with the abolition of the Auxiliary Air Force.

The list of notable members of the squadron in 1940-41 reads pretty much as a who's-who of radar controlled night fighting technique development. It probably is mentioned in more books on the period than any other night-fighter squadron.

Contents

History

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Formation and early years

The squadron was formed on 17 March 1930 at RAF Hendon[2] as a day bomber unit, receiving its first aircraft (DH 9As) the following month. In September it received the more modern Westland Wapiti, keeping them until 23 July 1934 when it was re-designated as a 2-seater fighter squadron and swapped the Wapitis for Hawker Harts. The Harts were themselves replaced by Hawker Demons in June 1935.

In World War II

The Demons were replaced by Bristol Blenheim fighter conversions early in 1939 (one report says January, others simply state 'shortly before activation'). The squadron was activated on 24 August 1939 and was to operate in the long-range fighter role. It spent the first few months of the war operating defensive patrols over coastal convoys from RAF North Weald to where it had moved at the end of August 1939.

Night fighting

Another re-designation soon followed - to day and night fighters. This was followed in January 1940 by another move - this time to RAF Northolt. With start start of the German offensive in May 1940 the squadron moved again - this time to RAF Manston. Some action was seen , the most notable item being on the night of 18 June when Flying Officer Alistair Hunter and Sergeant Gordon Thomas destroyed a Heinkel 115 floatplane shortly after midnight. Following the evacuation at Dunkirk the squadron moved to Gravesend, staying only a short while before moving to RAF Middle Wallop at the end of July.

Radar enters

While at Manston and Gravesend the aircraft had been fitted with VHF radiotelephone equipment and Mark III AI radar. The former change was one that applied right across RAF Fighter Command and was much applauded by the crews, the latter applied to a small number of squadrons and not all aircraft in each squadron. AI was not popular with the crews at this stage, apart from needing a third crew member the external antennas slowed down aircraft that were already thought of as too slow by the crews. The operators of the new equipment did not help. Many were non-technical and there was no-one to teach them the mechanics of the job, just how to switch it on and read the screens. At least three of those who came to 604 had some clue - they had been ground radar operators in the RAF component of the BEF, but Air Intercept operating requires a different set of skills and the poor displays made things worse.

Comes the Beaufighter

Late in September 1940 the squadron received its first Beaufighter. Apart from the awe at the size of the thing the dominant emotion was one of surprise as most crews had expected a power-operated turret with at least 4 machine-guns to fire up into the belly of the target, instead there was just a small observation dome and four 20-mm cannon under the nose and Mark IV AI radar.

Enters the Mosquito

It continued to provide night defence to the UK until early 1943 but with the reduction in German activity over Britain, it began to move over to night intruder operations. In February 1944, the squadron was allocated to the 2nd Tactical Air Force and at the same time began conversion to Mosquitos. Operations from Normandy began in August but the following month it returned to the UK, returning to the continent once again in January 1945, remaining there until disbanding at B.51 at Lincelles, near Lille, France on 18 April 1945.

Post-war: into the jet age

With the reactivation of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, no. 604 was reformed on 10 May 1946 at RAF Hendon as a day fighter squadron. It was initially equipped with Spitfire LF.16s but converted to jets in November 1949 when Vampires arrived. These were replaced by Meteor F.8s in August 1952 but along with all the flying units of the RAuxAF, it was disbanded on 10 March 1957.

References

Notes

  1. ^ Rawlings 1978, p. 483.
  2. ^ Halley 1988, p. 421.

Bibliography

  • Bishop, Chris.(ed.) The Encyclopedia of 20th Century Air Warfare. Amber Books Ltd., 2004. ISBN 1-904678-26-1.
  • Bushby, John R. Gunner's moon. London: Ian Allan, 1972. ISBN 0-7110-0372-6. (Middle Wallop night fighter ops 1940)
  • Chisholm, Roderick. Cover of Darkness. London: Chatto and Windus, 1953 (republished by Elmfield Press in 1976).
  • Halley, James J. The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth 1918-1988. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1988. ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
  • Hunt, Leslie. Twenty-one Squadrons: History of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, 1925-57. London: Garnstone Press, 1972. ISBN 0-85511-110-0. (New edition in 1992 by Crécy Publishing, ISBN 0-94755-426-2.)
  • Jefford, C.G., Wing Commander MBE, BA, RAF (Retd). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife Publishing Ltd., 1998 (second edition 2001). ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
  • Rawlings, John D.R. Fighter Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald and Jane's (Publishers) Ltd., 1969 (Second edition 1976, reprinted 1978). ISBN 0-354-01028-X.
  • Rawnsley, Cecil Frederick and Robert Wright. Night Fighter. London: Collins, 1957 (Also published by Goodall Publications, 1998, ISBN 0-90757-967-1)

External links


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