RAF Squadrons 1942

British flagAircrafts and bases of the Royal Air Force in June 1942.

Stirling bomber of the RAF Bomber Command

Briefing for the crew of a heavy Stirling bomber of the RAF Bomber Command.

By July 1941 the strength of Bomber Command stood at 45 RAF squadrons with a theoretical deployment of 1,000 aircraft. In practice, only 37 squadrons could be considered for active operations and not all of these were fully-trained. As a result the tally of sorties over Germany in the last five months of 1941 seldom averaged more than 60 per night. 38 squadrons were operationally effective by the spring of 1942, but of these only 14 were equipped with the new heavy bombers (Stirling, Halifax and Manchester). The dispatch of reinforcements to the Far East and the demands of Coastal Command further delayed the growth of Bomber Command, and by March 1943 only 50 squadrons with some 800 first-line aircraft were in commission instead of the planned total of 4,000 operational aircraft.

The balance of the air war against Germany in 1942: approximately 100 night attacks of RAF Bomber Command, 17 of them with more than 500 tons of bombs dropped. The losses of the RAF Bomber Command was 5.6 percent of the aircrafts. For every 40 tons of bombs one bomber was lost. In relation to costs, the number of ‘kills’ remained minimal: one German life ‘costs’ 3 tons of bombs and for this was the use of a four-engined bomber with a crew of 6 to 8 required. 100 heavy bombers were killing 100 civilians, an average of 6 bombers with a crew of 40 to 50 men were lost for it. Of the civilians, 65 percent were women, children and old people. The effect of this ‘strategic’ attacks was therefore correspondingly low.

Meanwhile, Fighter Command had begun the counter-offensive. While their poorly-equipped night fighters were making halting progress towards stemming the German bombers by night, many Rhubarb intruder sorties were being flown by day over occupied Europe. By 13 June 1941, 104 such missions had been flown, together with 11 circuses involving larger numbers of fighters. The RAF intruder force came under the jurisdiction of No. Eleven Group until August 1942, when it passed to Fighter Command HQ. The Dieppe Raid on 19 August 1942, however, was a disaster both on the ground and in the air; the Allies lost about 4,000 of the 7,500 troops engaged, while the loss of over 100 aircraft compared unfavourably with the Luftwaffe‘s 50.

By November 1941 the squadron strength of the Western Desert Air Force was just in excess of 27, made up as follows:
14 squadrons of short-range fighters (Hurricanes, Tomahawks, Kittyhawks);
2 squadrons of long-range fighters (Beaufighters)
8 squadrons of medium bombers;
3 squadrons of tactical reconnaissance aircraft;
1 flight of survey reconnaissance aircraft;
1 flight of strategical reconnaissance aircraft.
Of these squadrons, six were South African, two were Australian, and one Free French. During Operation Crusader in December 1941 the Middle East Air Force fought for and gained air superiority, disrupted the Axis supply network, and assisted in the land battle.

A Bristol Beaufort II torpedo bomber at Malta.

A Bristol Beaufort II torpedo bomber at Malta.

Between February and May 1942 the Axis Air Forces made a determined effort to render Malta useless as an air and sea base. Although a squadron of Spitfires flew in from carriers as reinforcements, the number of serviceable Hurricanes had been reduced to 30 by mid-March, and the majority of the Wellington force was withdrawn from the island. On 20 April 47 Spitfires flew in from the USS Wasp but by the evening of the following day only 17 remained in action. A further reinforcement of 62 Spitfires, flown off the Wasp and HMS Eagle on 9 May, together with the dispersal of German bomber strength to Cyrenaica, Russia, and France, finally marked a turning point in the battle of Malta and the RAF was able to resume offensive operations against Rommel’s supply lines.

On 26 May 1942 the operation ‘Theseus’ was beginning in North Africa, the offensive of the German-Italian Panzer Army on the Gazala front towards Tobruk. The German Luftflotte (Air Fleet) 2 has 542 aircraft available, the British Desert Air Force counts 604 planes.

The RAF was heavily committed during the Battle of Gazala in May and June 1942, and by the middle of July eleven fighter squadrons were at half strength, seven squadrons were still equipped with obsolescent aircraft, and nine squadrons were without any operational aircraft at all.

When the Battle of Alam El Halfa began at the end of August the RAF had 565 aircraft in the Western Desert plus 165 heavy and medium bombers of No.205 Group in support. For the loss of 68 aircraft this force harried and bombed the Africa Corps at every opportunity during the week’s fighting and their effort contributed significantly to the failure of the German offensive.
The deployment of the US Army Middle East Air Force in October 1942 led to some reorganization within the Desert Air Force; the 25 British and American fighter squadrons, for example, being divided between two fighter groups, Nos. 211 and 212. The most modern fighters were allocated to No.211 Group which was known as Force ‘A’. Operational control of the American medium day-bombers was also placed in the hands of the Western Desert Air Force. Altogether 96 squadrons totalling 1,500 front-line aircraft were assembled in support of the 8th Army for the Battle of El Alamein.

Active RAF Squadrons in June 1942
Sqn Base Planes Sqn Base Planes
1 Tangmere (from 8 July Acklington) Hurricane IIB, IIC (conversion to Typhoon IB in July) 2 Sawbridgworth Mustang I, Ia
3 Hunsdon Hurricane IIC 4 Clifton Tomahawk IIA, Mustang I
5 Dinjan (India) Mohawk IV 6 Sidi Haneish (Egypt) Hurricane IID
7 Oakington Stirling I 8 Khormaskar (Aden) Blenheim IV
9 Honington Wellington III 10 Leeming Halifax II
11 Colombo (Ceylon) Blenheim IV 12 Binbrook Wellington II
13 Odiham (10 November Op. Torch) Blenheim IV (V in November) 14 Qassassin (Egypt) Blenheim IV (conversion to Marauder I in August)
15 Wyton Stirling I 16 Weston Zoyland Lysander III, IIIA, Mustang I
17 Jessore (India) Hurricane IIB 18 Wattisham Blenheim IV
19 Warmwell Spitfire VB, VC 20 Jamshedpur (India) Lysander II
21 Bodney Bleinheim IV 22 Ratmalana (India) Beaufort I,II
23 Manston Havoc I, Boston III (conversion to Mosquito II in July)" 24 Hendon various communication types
25 Church Fenton Beaufighter I 26 Gatwick Thomahawk IIA, Mustang I
27 reformed at Amarda Road (India) in September Beaufighter VI 28 Kohat (India) Lysander II
29 West Malling Beaufighter I 30 Ratmalana (Ceylon) Hurricane IIA, IIB
31 Lahore (India) DC-2K, Dakota I,III,IV 32 West Malling Hurricane IIB
33 Amriya (Egypt) Hurricane IIC 34 Allahabad (India) Blenheim IV
35 Linton-on-Ouse Halifax II 36 reformed at Tanjore (India) Wellington IC
37 Abu Sueir (Egypt) Wellington IC 38 Shallufa (Egypt) Wellington III
39 Shandur (Egypt) Beaufort I 40 Shallufa (Egypt) Wellington III
41 Merston Spitfire VB 42 transfer to Egypt Beaufort I
43 Tangmere Hurricane IIA, IIB, IIC 44 Waddington Lancaster I
45 Asansol (India) Blenheim IV 46 Idku (Egypt) Beaufighter I, VI
47 airstrip in Egypt Wellesley, Beaufort I 48 Wick Hudson V, VI
49 Scampton Manchester (conversion to Lancaster I in July) 50 Swinderby Lancaster I
51 Chivenor Whitley V 52 reformed at Mossul (Iraq) in August Blenheim IV
53 transfer to USA for anti-sub patrols Hudson III 54 transfer to Australia Spitfire VC
55 Ismalia (Egypt) Baltimore I, II, III 56 Snailwell Typhoon IA, IB
57 Methwold Wellington III 58 St.Eval Whitley V
59 North Coates Hudson III (conversion to Liberator III in August) 60 Asansol (India) Blenheim IV
61 Syerston conversion to Lancaster I 62 Cuttack (India) Hudson III
63 Gatwick Mustang I, IA 64 Hornchurch Spitfire VB (conversion to Spitfire IX in July)
65 Great Stampford Spitfire VB, VC 66 Ibsley Spifire VA, VB, VC
67 Alipore (India) Hurricane IIC 68 Coltishall Beaufighter I
69 Luqa (Malta) Spitfire IV, Baltimore I, II 70 Abu Sueir (Egypt) Wellington IC
71 Debden (Eagle Squadron, transfer to USAAF in September) Spitfire VB 72 Biggin Hill Spitfire VB, VC (conversion to Spitfire IX in July)
73 Gambut Main (Egypt) Hurricane IIC 74 Geneifa (Egypt, operational from December) Hurricane IIB
75 Mildenhall Wellington III 76 Middleton St.George (det. to Egypt from 12 Juli-7 September) Halifax II
77 Chivenor Whitley V 78 Middleton St.George Halifax II
79 arrived 20 June in India Hurricane IIC 80 Fuka Main (Egypt) Hurricane IIB, IIC
81 Hornchurch Spitfire VB 82 Karachi (India) conversion to Vengeance I
83 Wyton conversion to Lancaster I 84 Quetta (India) conversion to Vengeance I
87 Charmy Down (2 Novenber Op. Torch) Hurricane IIC 88 Attlebridge Boston III, IIIA
89 Malta Beaufighter I 91 Hawkinge Spitfire VA, VB
92 Heliopolis (Egypt, operational in August) Spitfire VB, VC 93 Andreas Spitfire VB, VC
94 El Gamil (Egypt) Hurricane IIC 95 Jui (Sierra Leone) Sunderland I
96 Wrexham Beaufighter II 97 Woodhall Spa Lancaster I
99 Ambala (India) Wellington I, IA, IC 101 Bourn Wellington III
102 Topcliffe Halifax II 103 Elsham Wolds Wellington IC (conversion to Halifax II in July)
104 Kabrit (Egypt) Wellington II 105 Horsham St.Faith Mosquito IV
106 Coningsby Lancaster I 107 Great Massington Boston III, IIIa
108 Kabrit (Egypt) Wellington IC 109 Stradishall Wellington IC
110 Quetta (India) conversion to Vengeance 111 Debden Spitfire VB
112 Sidi Azeiz (Egypt) Kittyhawk I,Ia 113 Asansol (India) Blenheim IV
114 West Raynham Blenheim IV 115 Marham Wellington III
117 Bilbeis (Egypt) Lodestar, DC-3, Hudson VI 118 Ibsley Spitfire VB
119 Lough Erne Catalina IIIa 120 Nutts Corner Liberator I, II, III
121 Southend (Eagle Squadron, transfer to USAAF in September) Spitfire VB 122 Fairlop Spitfire VB, VC
123 transfer to Iraq (operational October) Gladiator II 124 Gravesend Spitfire VB (conversion to Spitfire VI in July)
125 Fairwood Common Beaufighter IIF 126 Luqa (Malta) Spitfire VC
127 Shandur (Iraq) Hurricane IIB 128 Hastings (Sierra Leone) Hurricane I
129 Westhampnett Spitfire VB, VC 130 Perranporth Spitfire VA, VB, VC
131 Merston Spitfire VB, VC 132 Skeabrea (Scotland) Spitfire VB, VC
133 Biggin Hill Spitfire VB 134 Kasfareet (Egypt) Hurricane IIB, IIC (operational January 1943)
135 Dum Dum (India) Hurricane IIB, IIC 136 Alipore (India) Hurricane IIB, IIC
137 Charmy Down Whirlwind I 138 Tempsford Halifax I
139 Horsham St.Faith Blenheim V 140 Mount Farm Spitfire IV, Blenheim IV
141 Acklington Beaufighter I 142 Thruxton Wellington IV
143 Thorney Island Blenheim IV 144 Leuchars (September to North Russia) Hampden I
145 Gambut (Egypt) Spitfire VA, VB 146 Dum Dum (India) Hurricane IIB
148 Kabrit (Egypt) Wellington IC 149 Lakenheath Stirling I
150 Snaith (December to Algeria) Wellington IC, III 151 Coltishall Defiant II, Mosquito II
152 Angle Spitfire VB, VC 153 Ballyhalbert Beaufighter I
154 Churchstanton Spitfire VA, VB 155 Peshawar (India) Mohawk IV (operational in August)
156 Alconbury Wellington IC, III 157 Castle Camps Mosquito II
158 Driffield Halifax II 159 Palestine (September to India) Liberator II (operational July)
160 transfer to Egypt (Aqir, 11 June) Liberator II 161 Tempsford Lysander IIIa, Whitley V, Havoc I
162 Bilbeis (Egypt) Wellington IC 164 Skeabrae Spitfire VA
165 Ayr Spitfire VA, VB 167 Castletown Spitfire VC, VB
168 Snailwell (formed 15 June) Tomahawk IIA 169 Twinwood Farms (formed 15 June) Mustang I
170 Weston Zoyland (formed 15 June) Mustang I 171 Gatwick (formed 15 June) Tomahawk I, IIa
172 Chivenor Wellington VIII 174 Manston Hurricane IIB
175 Warmwell Hurricane IIB 185 Takali (Malta) Spitfire VB, VC
200 Jeswang (West Africa) Hudson V 201 Castle Archdale Sunderland II, III
202 Gibraltar Catalina IB, Sunderland I, II, III 203 Palestine Blenheim IV, Maryland I
204 Bathurst (West Africa) Sunderland I, II 205 transfer to Ceylon (operational 23 July) Catalina I, Ib
206 Aldergrove Hudson I, II, III 207 Bottesford Lancaster I
208 Heliopolis (Egypt) Hurricane I, IIA, IIb, Tomahawk IIb 209 Kipevu (East Africa) Catalina Ib, II
210 Sullom Voe Catalina I, Ib 213 Gambut West (Egypt) Hurricane IIA, IIC
214 Stradishall Stirling I, III 215 Pendaveswar (India) Wellington IC
216 El Khanka (Egypt) Bombay I, Hudson III, VI 217 transfer to Luaq (Malta, operational 10 June) Beaufort II
218 Marham Stirling I 219 Tangmere Beaufighter I
220 Nutts Corner Fortress I, II, IIa 221 Shandur (Egypt) Wellington VIII
222 Manston Spitfire VB 223 Maaten Bagush (Egypt) Baltimore I, II, IIA, III
224 Tiree Hudson V (conversion to Liberator II in July) 225 Thruxton Hurricane IIC, Mustang I, II
226 Swanton Morely Boston III, IIIA 228 Oban Sunderland I, II, III
229 Qrendi (Malta, reformed 3 August) Spitfire VC 230 Aboukir (Egypt) Sunderland I, III
231 Maghaberry Lysander II, III, Tomahawk I, IIB 232 Ayr Spitfire VB
233 transfer to Gibraltar Hudson I, III, VI 234 Portreath Spitfire VB, VC
235 Docking Beaufighter VI 236 Wattisham Beaufighter I
237 Mossul (Iraq) Hurricane I 238 Gmabut West (Egypt) Hurricane IIB, IIC
239 Gatwick Mustang I 240 transfer to India (Redhills Lake, 4 July) Catalina I, Ib, II
241 Ayr Mustang I 242 Drem Spifire VB, VC
243 Ouston (operational 12 June) Spitfire VB 244 Sharjah (Iran) Vincent, Blenheim IV
245 Middle Wallop Hurricane IIB 247 Exeter Hurricane IIC
248 Sumburgh Beaufighter VIc 249 Takali (Malta) Spitfire VB, VC
250 Ikingi Maryut (Palestine) Kittyhawk I, II 252 Idku (Egypt) Beaufighter I
253 Hibaldstow Hurricane IIA, IIB, IIC 254 Dyce Blenheim IV, Beaufighter VI
255 Honiley Beaufighter VI 256 Woodvale Beaufighter I, VI
257 High Ercall (operational July) conversion to Typhoon Ia 258 Colombo (Ceylon) Hurricane IIB
260 Bir el Beihra (Egypt) Kittyhawk I, II 261 China Bay (Ceylon) Hurricane IIB
263 Angle Whirlwind I 264 Colerne Defiant II, Mosquito II
266 Duxford Typhoon Ib 267 Heliopolis (Egypt, transportation duties) Wellesley, Lockheed 14,18, Hudson III, IV, VI, Dakota I, III, IV
268 Snailwell Tomahawk IIA, Mustang I, IA 269 Kaldadarnes (Iceland) Hudson III
271 Doncaster Dominie, Hudson 272 Idku (Egypt) Beaufighter I
273 China Bay (Ceylon) Fulmar II 274 Gambut (Egypt) Hurricane IIB, IIC
300 (Polish) Ingham Wellington IV 301 (Polish) Hemswell Wellington IV
302 (Polish) Heston Spitfire VB, VC 303 (Polish) Northolt Spitfire VB
304 (Polish) Dale Wellington IC 305 (Polish) Lindholme Wellington II
306 (Polish) Northolt Spitfire VB 307 (Polish) Exeter Beaufighter VI
308 (Polish) Hutton Cranswick Spitfire VB 309 (Polish) Dunino Lysander III, IIIA
310 (Czech) Exeter Spitfire VB, VC 311 (Czech) Talbenny Wellington IA, IC
312 (Czech) Harrowbeer Spitfire VB, VC 313 (Czech) Churchstanton Spitfire VB, VC
315 (Polish) Woodvale Spitfire VB, VC 316 (Polish) Heston Spitfire VB, VC
317 (Polish) Northolt Spitfire VB 320 (Dutch) Bircham Newton Hudson I, II, III
321 (Dutch) China Bay (Ceylon) Catalina II (operational August) 330 (Norwegian) Reykjavik (Iceland) Northrop N-3PB, Catalina III
331 (Norwegian) North Weald Spitfire VB 332 (Norwegian) Catterick Spitfire VA, VB
335 (Greek) Gerawla (Egypt) Hurricane I 340 (French) Westhampnett Spitfire VB
350 (Belgian) Debden Spitfire VB 353 Dum Dum near Calcutta (India) Hudson III
500 Stornoway Hudson III, V 501 Chilbolton Spitfire VB, VC
502 St. Eval Whitley VII 504 Ballyhalbert Spitfire IIA, IIB, VB, VC
600 Predannack Beaufighter VI 601 Aboukir (Egypt) Spitfire VB, VC
602 Redhill Spitfire VB, VC 603 transfer from Malta to Cyprus Spitfire VC
604 Middle Wallop Beaufighter I 605 Ford (operational July) Havoc I, Boston III
607 Alipore (India) Hurricane IIB, IIC 608 Wick Hudson III, V, VI
609 Duxford Typhoon IA, IB 610 Ludham Spitfire VB, VC
611 Kenley Spitfire VB, VC (conversion to IX in July) 612 Reykjavik (Iceland) Whitley VII
613 Twinwood Farm Mustang I 614 Macmerry Blenheim IV
615 transfer India (Jessore on 17 June) Hurricane IIC 616 Kings Cliffe Spitfire VB, VI

Note: Squadron Nos. 400 to 499 were squadrons of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force and Royal New Zealand Air Force. Not all numbers were used and unfortunately there are no detailed information available.

Overview of RAF squadrons aircraft equipment and location:
Aircraft type UK, Iceland Western Desert, East Africa, Middle East, Cyprus Malta, Gibraltar, West Africa India, Australia Total
Hurricane 11 12 1 10 34
Spitfire 50 2 4 1 57
Tomahawk & Kittyhawk 6 4 - - 10
Mustang 7 - - - 7
Typhoon 4 - - - 4
Whirlwind 2 - - - 2
Mohawk - - - 2 2
Fulmar - - - 1 1
Gladiator - 1 - - 1
Beaufighter 16 3 1 - 20
Mosquito 4 - - - 4
Havoc, Boston 6 - - - 6
Blenheim 9 5 - 3 17
Baltimore - 2 - - 2
Beaufort 1 3 1 1 6
Vengeance - - - 3 3
Hudson 10 1 2 2 15
Hampden 1 - - - 1
Wellington 17 9 - 3 29
Stirling 5 - - - 5
Halifax 7 - - - 7
Lancaster 7 - - - 7
Manchester 1 - - - 1
Whitley 5 - - - 5
Liberator 1 2 - - 3
Fortress 1 - - - 1
Sunderland 2 1 2 - 5
Catalina 3 1 - 3 7
Lysander 3 - - 2 5
Dakota 1 2 - 1 4
TOTAL 180 48 11 32 271

The RAF squadron strength was between 6 and 18 aircrafts (Average 18 planes for fighters and bombers, Coastal Command 8 planes).

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  1. I am trying to find where Desert Airfore base were located durng the WWII Libyan part of the war and those of Fliegerfuhrer Africa.So far i have Gambut,El Adem,Maktila and Quasaba for the RAF and Timimi for the Regio Aeronautica ,Derna and Barca for the Flieger fuhrer Africa..
    I had the outlines of a game published in Miniature Wargames and now would limeke to do it in a more detailed fashion

    • The only known source to me is ‘The sqaudrons of the Royal Air Force’ by James J Halley. Currently only available as used books (have add the link in the page now; before ‘Overview’ table). Every Squadron with based airfield and plane types with dates which is the source for this information here. However, unfortunatly without Commonwealth Squadrons, which took a good part in the Western Desert.

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