No. 178 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

No. 178 Squadron (RAF): Second World War



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No. 178 Squadron (RAF) during the Second World War

Aircraft - Locations - Group and Duty - Books

No.178 Squadron was a heavy bomber squadron that spent the entire Second World War operating in the Mediterranean. It was formed on 15 January 1943 at Shandur, Egypt, around a nucleus from No.160 Squadron, and managed the very rare feat of carrying out its first combat mission on the very same day.

The squadron followed the Allied armies as they advanced through Libya, before on 1 March 1944 moving to Italy, remaining there for the rest of the war. As well as carrying out bombing missions over North Africa, Italy and the Balkans, the squadron was used to drop supplies to partisans, even reaching as far as Poland on occasions. The squadron was disbanded without ever serving in Britain.

Aircraft
January-December 1943: Consolidated Liberator II
May-September 1943: Handley Page Halifax II
September-December 1943: Consolidated Liberator III
December 1943-November 1945: Consolidated Liberator VI

Location
15 January-4 March 1943: Shandur (Egypt)
4 March-1 October 1943: Hosc Raui (Ghemines) (Libya)
1 October 1943-1 January 1944: Terria (Libya)
1 January-1 March 1944: El Adem (Libya)
1 March-4 July 1944: Celone (Italy)
4 July 1944-25 August 1945: Amendola (Foggia basin, Italy)

Squadron Codes: C, Q, Y, T

Duty
January 1943-May 1945: Bomber squadron, Mediterranean Command

Books

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History

First World War

The squadron can be traced to The Eastchurch Squadron, which formed Eastchurch in February 1914. [2] After mobilisation at the start of WWI it was renamed No.3 Wing RNAS, and then later as No.3 (Naval) Squadron. In March 1915, the squadron, under the command of Commander Charles Samson, moved to the island of Tenedos, and began operating 18 aircraft in support of the Gallipoli Campaign. In the first weeks of the campaign they took over 700 photographs of the peninsula, and conducted other ground support tasks including spotting for naval gunfire, and reporting the movements of Ottoman troops. On 21 June 1915, the squadron became No. 3 Wing RNAS and was moved to Imbros. [3] On 19 November, during a raid against a railway junction near the Maritsa River in Bulgaria, Squadron Commander Richard Bell Davies won the Victoria Cross for landing to rescue a pilot who had been shot down, in the face of intense enemy fire. The squadron returned to the UK at the end of 1915, and was disbanded. [2]

A new No. 3 Squadron was formed at Saint Pol on 5 November 1916 from elements of No. 1 Wing RNAS. It then served as a fighter squadron on the Western Front. Among the numerous types of aircraft it was equipped with were the Nieuport 17, Nieuport 21, and Sopwith Pup, followed later by the Sopwith Camel. [4]

Eleven of the squadron's 23 aces were Canadian. The squadron claimed about 250 aerial victories during World War I. [5]

Inter-war years

On 21 January 1920, the squadron disbanded. In 1929 the squadron reformed as a reconnaissance squadron operating Supermarine Southampton flying boats.

Second World War

Shortly before the start of the war the squadron was re-equipped with Short Singapore IIIs [6] and in 1940 with Bristol Blenheims. The squadron flew patrols over the Red Sea from Basra. At the end of 1941 the squadron operated Bristol Blenheim IV, Mediterranean from various bases in Western Egypt, flying patrols from the Libyan coast out as far as Crete. In 1942 the squadron re-equipped with Martin Baltimore aircraft and was involved in operations in Syria. In 1943 the squadron was posted to RAF Santacruz [7] India and was re-equipped with Vickers Wellingtons to fly coastal patrols. The squadron converted to Consolidated Liberator aircraft in November 1944 and began anti-shipping patrols over the Bay of Bengal.

Post war

HS Nimrod MR.1 of No. 203 Squadron wearing the unit's badge on its fin in 1977 when displayed at Royal Air Force Finningley.

The squadron returned to the UK in 1947 and re-equipped with Avro Lancasters. In July 1954, the squadron was flying Neptune MR.2s from RAF Topcliffe, along with No.s No. 36 and No. 210 Squadrons as part of No. 19 Group, RAF Coastal Command. [8] The squadron remained a Maritime Reconnaissance squadron for the remainder of its existence operating Avro Shackletons and then Hawker Siddeley Nimrods from RAF Luqa between July 1971 and December 1977. [9] The squadron disbanded on 31 December 1977 at RAF Luqa in Malta, by which time it was part of No. 18 Group within RAF Strike Command. [10]

Sea Kings

The squadron was reformed in October 1996, when the Sea King Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) at RAF St Mawgan in Cornwall was redesignated 203(R) Squadron as a reserve unit. In 2008, 203(R) Squadron relocated to RAF Valley in Anglesey, maintaining its role as the Sea King OCU and operating the Sea King HAR.3 until it was disbanded on 14 September 2014 following the withdrawal of the Sea King from RAF service. [11] [12]


History [ edit | edit source ]

World War I [ edit | edit source ]

It was first formed at Gosport on 1 August 1917 as a squadron of the Royal Flying Corps. It was equipped with Sopwith Dolphin fighter aircraft in December that year, moving to France in February 1918. It specialised in low-level ground-attack operations, mainly in support of the British Second Army. Despite its lack of emphasis on air to air combat, by the time of the Armistice, the squadron had claimed 64 enemy aircraft and nine kite balloons. Ώ] Five aces had served in it: Francis W. Gillet, future Air Commodore Ronald Bannerman, Frederic Ives Lord, John McNeaney, and Edgar Taylor. ΐ] After the end of the war, it formed part of the British Army of Occupation, before being disbanded at Bickendorf on 15 July 1919. Ώ]

Post World War I through 1942 [ edit | edit source ]

Hawker Hurricane IIC wearing the 'NV' wartime code marks of No.79 Squadron

It was reformed on 22 March 1937 by splitting off "B" Flight of No. 32 Squadron at RAF Biggin Hill, equipped with Gloster Gauntlet biplane fighters. Α] It received more modern Hawker Hurricane fighters in November 1938, retaining these aircraft when the Second World War began. It claimed its first success on 21 November 1939,when it shot down a Dornier Do 17 over the English Channel. As the Battle of France heated up,it was deployed to Merville,operating over France for ten days, claiming 25 German aircraft. Ώ] During the Battle of Britain the squadron operated from Biggin Hill and RAF Hawkinge in July, being moved to RAF Acklington in Northumberland for a rest before returning to Biggin in August. Ώ]

Far Eastern service [ edit | edit source ]

In 1942, it was sent to the Far East, arriving in India in May, where the squadron flew primarily ground attack missions, initially with later mark cannon armed Hurricanes. In June 1944 the squadron re-equipped with P-47 Thunderbolt IIs under SEAC command. It disbanded at Meiktila in Burma on 30 December 1945. Α]

Korean War era onwards [ edit | edit source ]

Supermarine Swift FR.5 wearing the red arrow markings of No. 79 Squadron

The squadron was reformed again on 15 November 1951 as a fighter-reconnaissance squadron, flying Gloster Meteor FR.9s, based at RAF Wunstorf in West Germany. It was re-equipped with Swift FR.5s in June 1956, being transferred to RAF Gutersloh (approx Sept 1956) due to the proximity of the Russian Zone to RAF Wunstorf. It was renumbered as 4 Squadron on 1 January 1961. Α]

Operational training role from 1967 onwards [ edit | edit source ]

No. 76 Squadron was reformed as part of No. 229 Operational Conversion Unit at RAF Chivenor in North Devon on 2 January 1967, tasked with training pilots to fly the Hawker Hunter until disbanded on 2 September 1974, when it was reformed as one of the component squadrons of No.1 Tactical Weapons Unit, flying first Hunters and then the BAe Hawk T.1 until finally disbanded at RAF Brawdy on 31 August 1992. Β]


History [ edit | edit source ]

No. 215 Squadron RAF was formed in France on 1 April 1918 by renumbering No. 15 squadron of the Royal Naval Air Service. No. 15 Squadron RNAS had been formed on 10 March 1918 to operate the Handley Page 0/100 as a night bomber squadron against targets in Germany. Soon after the squadron became part of the Royal Air Force it returned to England to re-equip with the Handley Page O/400 before returning to France as part of the Independent Air Force. After World War I hostilities ended (November 1918), the squadron disbanded on 18 October 1919.

The squadron was reformed on 1 October 1935 from 'A' flight of No. 58 Squadron at RAF Worthy Down. It was merged into 11 OTU. The squadron re-formed at RAF Honnington on the same day with the Vickers Wellington only to be merged into 11 OTU the following month.

The squadron was reformed in December 1941 at RAF Newmarket ready for movement to India. The squadron was posted to Calcutta in 1942 and was involved in bombing operations using first Vickers Wellington and then later, Consolidated Liberator aircraft.

In April 1945 it re-equipped with the Douglas Dakota and assumed a transport squadron role for the remainder of the war. The squadron disbanded on 15 February 1946 and was renumbered No. 48 Squadron.

The squadron was formed again on 1 August 1947 at Kabrit in Egypt with the Douglas Dakota for transport duties and was disbanded on 1 May 1948 when it was re-numbered as 70 Squadron.

The squadron was reformed in April 1956 at RAF Dishforth to operate the Scottish Aviation Pioneer in the light transport role and Army support duties, and was disbanded two years later in September 1958 when it was re-numbered as 230 Squadron.

The squadron was again formed in May 1963 at RAF Benson as a medium-range transport squadron for operation in the Far East and it moved to RAF Changi with the Armstrong Whitworth Argosy until it was disbanded in December 1967.


The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (401092) Squadron Leader John Philip Liversidge, No. 178 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Meredith Duncan, the story for this day was on (401092) Squadron Leader John Philip Liversidge, No. 178 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War.

401092 Squadron Leader John Philip Liversidge, No. 178 Squadron, Royal Air Force
KIA 17 August 1944
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 24 April 2015

Today we pay tribute to Squadron Leader John Philip Liversidge who was killed on active service with the Royal Air Force in 1944.

Born on 27 July 1913 in South Melbourne, John Philip Liversidge was the first son of Charles and Lillian Liversidge.

Liversidge was a school teacher for the Victorian Department of Education at the Bendigo School of Mines. Married to Eunice Miriam Benton, Liversidge also served in the 38th Battalion and the 2nd Artillery Survey Company of the Militia. He enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force at the age of 27 on 4 January 1941.

Liversidge began training as a navigator, and in December 1941 he embarked for overseas service. As part of the Empire Air Training Scheme, Liversidge was one of almost 16,000 RAAF pilots, navigators, wireless operators, gunners, and engineers who joined Royal Air Force squadrons throughout the course of the war.

Arriving in the Middle East, Liversidge was posted to Air Headquarters Levant, Royal Air Force, where he joined No. 1438 Flight, flying the Bristol Blenheim light bomber. Liversidge served with this unit until July 1943. The following December he was posted to No. 178 Squadron, RAF. Operating successively from Egypt, Libya, and Italy, No. 178 Squadron was a four-engine heavy bomber squadron flying the B-24 Liberator.

Liversidge flew on numerous operations with the squadron, including mine-laying missions in the Aegean Sea and Danube River and bombing targets in Greece, Crete, Bulgaria, France, Hungary, and Romania. In September 1943 Liversidge was promoted to the rank of flight lieutenant.

No. 178 Squadron was one of a number of Allied squadrons in Italy tasked with dropping supplies to the Polish Home Army and Polish insurgents engaged in desperate fighting against German forces during the Warsaw uprising.

It was a dangerous operation. Squadrons from airfields in Italy had to fly a 2,600-kilometre round-trip without fighter escort, much of it over occupied territory. Once over Warsaw they dropped their supplies at low altitudes at slow speeds. On 17 August 1944, during its second delivery flight, the aircraft in which Squadron Leader John Liversidge was navigator was shot down by a German fighter near Krakow. Liversidge was killed. He was 31 years old. His remains were recovered and buried in the Krakow Rakowicki Cemetary.

One of Liversidge’s crewmates, fellow Australian Allan Hammett, survived by parachuting safely to the ground where, badly wounded, he hid with Polish partisans until the arrival of Soviet forces in the area in January 1945.

Casualties among Allied airmen involved in these operations were high, though these overall numbers were small in comparison to Polish casualties on the ground. Their uprising was eventually defeated by the Germans more than 15,000 Polish fighters and roughly 200,000 Polish civilians were killed during the fighting.

Just three months after John’s death his younger brother, Eric Joseph Liversidge, also died on active service. Eric was reported missing while serving with Z Special Force, and is believed to have died of illness on 20 November 1944. Their mother, Lillian Liversidge, lost her only sons during the Second World War.

The names of both John Philip Liversidge and Eric Joseph Liversidge are listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with around 40,000 Australians who died during the Second World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Squadron Leader John Philip Liversidge, and all of those Australians – as well as our Allies and brothers in arms – who gave their lives in the hope for a better world.


The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (416821) Warrant Officer Murray Alexander Baxter, No. 178 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Charis May, the story for this day was on (416821) Warrant Officer Murray Alexander Baxter, No. 178 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War.

416821 Warrant Officer Murray Alexander Baxter, No. 178 Squadron, Royal Air Force
KIA 15 August 1944
Photograph: P01405.012 (seated, fourth from right)

Story delivered 20 April 2015

Today we pay tribute to Warrant Officer Murray Alexander Baxter, who was killed on active service with the Royal Air Force in 1944.

Born on 17 October 1920 in Wallacedale, a small settlement in south-western Victoria, Murray Baxter was the son of Alexander and Winifred Baxter. Residing in the town of Edenhope, he attended Tabor Primary School during his formative years. A keen sportsman, he played football and cricket, and was fond of swimming.

After receiving his Merit Certificate upon finishing his schooling in 1934, Baxter worked as an orchardist. Through 1941 he served as a trooper in the 3rd Light Horse Regiment of the Militia.

On 11 October 1941, aged 20, Baxter enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force. Soon after, on 1 November 1941, he married Margaret Eileen Baxter, who gave birth to their son, Brian Kent Baxter, on 28 October 1942.

Baxter trained in the RAAF as a pilot, and in January 1943 he embarked for overseas service. As part of the Empire Air Training Scheme, Baxter was one of almost 16,000 RAAF pilots, navigators, wireless operators, gunners, and engineers who joined Royal Air Force squadrons throughout the course of the war.

Arriving in Britain in March 1943, Baxter undertook further training before being posted to No. 37 Squadron, RAF, a bomber squadron based in the Middle East. Following the completion of a tour with No. 37 Squadron, in July 1944 Baxter was posted to No. 178 Squadron, RAF. Operating successively from Egypt, Libya, and Italy, No. 178 Squadron was a four-engine heavy bomber squadron which flew the B-24 Liberator.

In August 1944 No. 178 Squadron was one of a number of Allied squadrons in Italy that was tasked with dropping supplies to the Polish Home Army and Polish insurgents, at that time engaged in desperate fighting against German forces during the Warsaw uprising.

It was a dangerous operation. Squadrons from airfields in Italy had to fly a 2,600-kilometre round-trip without fighter escort, much of it over occupied territory. Once over Warsaw they dropped their supplies at low altitudes at slow speeds. On his second such mission during this operation, Baxter was killed in action in the early hours of 15 August. He was 23 years old. His remains were recovered and buried in the Krakow Rakowicki Cemetery.

Casualties among Allied airmen involved in these operations were high, though these overall numbers were small in comparison to Polish casualties on the ground. Their uprising was eventually defeated by the Germans more than 15,000 Polish fighters and around 200,000 Polish civilians were killed during the battle.

Baxter’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with some 40,000 Australians who died in the Second World War. His photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection. Baxter is seated fourth from the right with his No 4 Initial Training School RAAF course. He is one of seven men in the photograph that did not survive the Second World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Warrant Officer Murray Alexander Baxter, and all of those Australians – as well as our Allies and brothers in arms – who gave their lives in the hope for a better world.


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Formation and World War I

No. 139 Squadron Royal Air Force was formed on 3 July 1918 at Villaverla in Italy and was equipped with Bristol F2b fighter aircraft. It was disbanded on 7 March 1919.

Reformation and World War II

The squadron reformed on 3 September 1936 at Wyton, equipped first with Hawker Hinds and then Bristol Blenheims. On 3 September 1939 a Blenheim IV of the squadron piloted by Andrew McPherson was the first British aircraft to cross the German coast after Britain had declared war on Germany. On 4 September 1939, Nos. 110, 107 and 139 Squadrons led the first RAF air raid of the war against German shipping near Wilhelmshaven. In December 1939, the squadron was moved to Betheniville, France and in May 1940 when based at Plivot it was overrun by the German advance and lost most of its aircraft.

A Jamaican newspaper started a fund to buy bombers for Britain and in recognition of money raised to buy Blenheims it was decided to link Jamaica with a squadron of the Royal Air Force, hence the "Jamaica" tag given to the squadron. In December 1941, the squadron converted to the Lockheed Hudson aircraft, which it operated in Burma until April 1942.

In June 1942, the squadron returned to England and re-equipped with the Blenheim V before quickly switching to the de Havilland Mosquito at Horsham St. Faith. On 3 March, it carried out a daring air raid on the molybdenum processing plant at Knaben in Norway. It is believed that this was one of the raids on which the fictional work 633 Squadron was based. As a result of this raid a number of flight crew received decorations. On 20 March, the squadron lost a number of aircraft a week before the official announcement of the decorations.

It became part of the pathfinder force in July 1943 and remained so for the remainder of the war.

Post War

The squadron equipped with the English Electric Canberra B2 at RAF Hemswell beginning in November 1952. It disbanded on 31 December 1959 and reformed again at RAF Wittering on 1 January 1962 with the Handley Page Victor B2, before it was finally disbanded on 31 December 1968.


Contents

World War I Edit

The squadron was formed on 1 September 1915, as a fighter-reconnaissance unit of the Royal Flying Corps, [3] and became arguably the highest scoring and possibly most decorated British squadron on the Western Front with 613 combat victories, a posthumous Victoria Cross won by Thomas Mottershead, four Distinguished Conduct Medals, and over sixty Military Crosses and Military Medals awarded to its members. Its ranks included over forty flying aces. The squadron transferred from the Royal Flying Corps to the newly formed Royal Air Force in April 1918. [2]

Post World War I, unlike most of its contemporaries, the squadron was not disbanded and was transferred in Jun 1919 to the North-West Frontier Province, India for policing duties, in the Army Co-operation role, equipped with Bristol Fighters, then Wapitis and Audaxes for the whole of the inter-war period. [2]

World War II Edit

At the outbreak of World War II, the squadron was still equipped with Audaxes, which were replaced with Lysanders in December 1941, re-equipping with Hurricanes in March 1943. During the Second World War the squadron's Hawker Hurricane IIDs and IVs saw action against the Japanese. [4]

The squadron flew from RAF Trichinopoly (now Tiruchirappalli International Airport) from 31 July 1944 to 21 September 1944. [5]

After the war, the squadron re-equipped with Spitfires in September 1945, and Tempest FBIIs in May 1946, retaining these until it disbanded on 1 August 1947, whilst based in India. [3]

Cold War Edit

20 Squadron reformed from No. 631 Sqn at RAF Llanbedr on 11 February 1949 as an Anti-Aircraft Co-operation (AAC) squadron, [6] moving to RAF Valley on 19 July 1949, equipped with miscellaneous aircraft. The squadron disbanded at Valley on 16 September 1951. [3]

In June 1952 the squadron reformed at RAF Jever, [7] Germany, operating the de Havilland Vampire and moved to RAF Oldenburg a month later. The Vampires were replaced in 1953 by Canadair Sabres which were themselves replaced with Hawker Hunters. The squadron was disbanded in 1960, only to be reformed again at RAF Tengah, Singapore, again operating Hunters. Following the withdrawal of the RAF from the Far East the squadron disbanded in 1970. [8]

20 Squadron reformed again in late 1970 at RAF Wildenrath, Germany, operating the Hawker Siddeley Harrier. [9]

In 1977 at RAF Bruggen the squadron re-equipped with twelve SEPECAT Jaguar strike aircraft, various weapons for the squadron's conventional strike role of support for ground forces in repelling a Soviet attack in Europe, and eight WE.177 tactical nuclear bombs for use if a conflict escalated to the nuclear phase. [10] The apparent mismatch between eight nuclear bombs and twelve aircraft was because RAF staff planners expected up to one third attrition in the conventional phase, with sufficient aircraft held back in reserve to deliver the full stock of nuclear weapons to targets beyond the forward edge of the battlefield, deep into the enemy's rear areas. The squadron was assigned to SACEUR for operational and targeting purposes, although political control over release of the British-owned WE.177 weapons was retained by the British government in London. [11]

The squadron re-equipped again with twelve Tornado GR1 aircraft at RAF Laarbruch in 1984, while its stock of WE.177 weapons increased to eighteen because of the Tornado's greater capacity. The squadron's war-role and assignment to SACEUR remained unchanged. [12] [13]

Operational Conversion Unit Edit

In May 1992 the Options for Change defence review called for the disbanding of 20 Squadron as a front line unit, and it disbanded on 31 July 1992. On 1 September 1992 the squadron numberplate was assigned to the Harrier Operational Conversion Unit at RAF Wittering as No. 20 (Reserve) Squadron. [14]

With the formation of Joint Force Harrier and the decision to withdraw the FAA's Sea Harriers, the personnel of the RAF's No. 1 and 4 Squadrons, and the RN's 800 Naval Air Squadron and 801 Naval Air Squadron, later known as Naval Strike Wing, were absorbed with 20(R) Squadron into a joint RAF/RN unit, manned 50/50 by each service. [15]

On 9 February 2009, a 20(R) Squadron Harrier T12, ZH656, crashed at RAF Akrotiri while on training operations there. Both crew ejected safely and were treated in hospital for minor injuries. [16]

As a result of 2010 defence cuts, 20 Squadron disbanded on 31 March 2010, with its tasks taken over by the retitled 4 (Reserve) Squadron. [17]

ASACS training (2021 – present) Edit

On 1 June 2021, the squadron number plate was allocated to the RAF's Air Surveillance and Control System (ASACS) Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) based at RAF Boulmer in Northumberland. The ASACS OCU provides basic and advanced air battle management training to British Armed Forces personnel whose role it is to monitor, detect and identify all aircraft in and around UK airspace and coordinate Quick Reaction Alert aircraft tasked by the UK or NATO. [18]