RAF Squadrons in September 1939


British flagAircrafts and bases of the Royal Air Force at the beginning of World War II in September 1939. Number of squadrons, locations and aircraft equipment in Western Europe, Africa, Middle and Far East.

Gloster Gladiator launching

The spirit of the RAF in the first months of war is captured exquisitely in this photograph of one of the then-new fighters beating up a car on the grass airfield.

By the outbreak of World War Two, most RAF squadrons had modern equipment, the breathing space given by the Munich agreement having given time for the introduction of vital Hurricanes and Spitfires into Fighter Command squadrons. In September 1939, the RAF had 10,208 aircraft in service, approximately 3,500 being in operational units. Of the latter number, about half were modern.

Two groups of squadrons were despatched to France on the outbreak of war. One was the Advanced Air Striking Force and consisted of ten squadrons of Fairey Battles and two Hurricane squadrons. Based on airfields around Reims, the AASF was positioned to allow its short-range aircraft to operate over Germany. Conversion to Blenheims was in progress when the German invasion came in May 1940 and most of the AASF’s obsolescent Battles were destroyed in the ensuing few weeks.

The second force to go to France was the Air Component of the British Expeditionary Force, consisting of five squadrons of Lysanders for army cooperation and four of Hurricanes. Its airfields were overrun in the early stages of the German attack and its squadrons retired to bases in southern England.


Active RAF Squadrons in September 1939:

SqnBasePlanesSqnBasePlanes
1 Tangmere (Sep. 9, France)Hurricane2 Hawking (Oct.6, France)Lysander
3CroydonHurricane4 Odiham (Sep.24, France)Lysander
5Risalpur (India)Wapiti IIA6Ramleh (Palestine) Hardy, Gauntlet, Lysander
7Doncaster Anson, Hampden8Khormaskar (Aden/Jemen) Vincent, Blenheim
9HoningtonWellington10DishforthWhitley
11Tengah (Egypt)Blenheim12Berry-au-Bac (France)Battle
13 Odiham (Oct. 2, France)Lysander14Ismalia (Egypt)Wellesley
15Betheniville (France)Battle16Old SarumLysander
17CroydonHurricane18Upper HeyfordBlenheim
19DuxfordSpitfire20Miramshah (India)Audax
21WattonBleinheim22Thorney IslandVildebeest
23WitteringBlenheim IF24Hendonvarious communication types
25Northolt Blenheim IF, IVF26 Catterick (Oct. 8, France)Lysander
27Kohat (India)Wapiti28Kohat (India)Audax
29DebdenBlenheim IF30Ismalia (Egypt) Blenheim I, IF
31Peshawar (India)Valentia32Biggin HillHurricane
33Mersa Matruh (Egypt)Gladiator34SingaporeBlenheim
35Cranfield Battle, Anson36Seletar (Malaya)Vildebeest
37FeltwellWellington38MarhamWellington
39SingaporeBlenheim40Betheniville (France)Battle
41Catterick (Sep. 25)Spitfire42Bircham NewtonVildebeest
43TangmereHurricane44WaddingtonHampden
45Fuka (Sudan)Blenheim46DigbyHurricane
47Khartum (Sudan) Vincent, Wellesley48Thorney IslandAnson
49ScamptonHampden50WaddingtonHampden
51Linton-on-OuseWhitley52Alconbury Battle, Anson
53 Odiham (Sep. 18, France)Blenheim54HornchurchSpitfire
55Ismalia (Egypt)Blenheim56Biggin HillHurricane
57 Upper Heyford (Sep. 24, France)Blenheim58Linton-on-OuseWhitley
59 Andover (Oct. 12, France)Blenheim60Ambala (India)Blenheim
61HemswellHampden62Singapore (Sep. 22)Blenheim
63Upwood Battle, Anson64Church FentonBlenheim IF
65HornchurchSpitfire66DuxfordSpitfire
70Habbaniya (Egypt)Valentia72Church FentonSpitfire
73 Digby (Sep. 9, France)Hurricane74HornchurchSpitfire
75Harwell Anson, Wellington76Finningley Hampden, Anson
77DriffieldWhitley78TernhillWhitley
79Biggin HillHurricane80Sidi Haneish (Egypt)Gladiator
82WattonBlenheim83ScamptonHampden
84Shaibah (Iraq)Blenheim85 Debden (Sep. 9, France)Hurricane
87 Debden (Sep. 9, France)Hurricane88Auberive (France)Battle
90West RaynhamBlenheim94Sheikh Othman (Aden/Jemen)Gladiator
97LeconfieldWhitley98HucknallBattle
99MildenhallWellington100Seletar (Singapore)Vildebeest
101West RaynhamBlenheim102DriffieldWhitley
103Challerange (France)Battle104BassingbournBlenheim
105Reims (France)Battle106CottesmoreHampden
107WattishamBlenheim108BassingbournBlenheim
110WattishamBlenheim111NortholtHurricane
112Helwan (Egypt)Gladiator113Mersa Matruh (Egypt)Blenheim
114WytonBlenheim115MarhamWellington
139 Wyton (Dec. 2, France)Blenheim142Berry-au-Bac (France)Battle
144HemswellHampden148Harwell Wellington, Anson
149MildenhallWellington150Challerange (France)Battle
151North WealdHurricane166LeconfieldWhitley
185Cottesmore Hampden, Hereford201InvergordonLondon
202GibraltarLondon203 Aden,JemenSingapore
204Mount BattenSunderland205Seletar (Ceylon)Singapore
206Bircham NewtonAnson207Cranfield Battle, Anson
208Qasaba (Egypt)Lysander209InvergordonStranrear
210Pembroke DockSunderland211El Daba (Egypt)Blenheim
213WitteringHurricane214MerhwoldWellington
215Honington Harrow, Wellington216Heliopolis (Egypt)Valentia, Bombay
217St.EvalAnson218Suippes (France)Battle
220Thornaby Anson, Hudson223Nairobi (Kenya)Wellesley
224LeucharsHudson226Reims (France)Battle
228Pembroke Dock (from Sep. 10)Sunderland230Seletar (Singapore)Sunderland
233Leucchars Anson, Hudson240InvergordonLondon
269MontroseAnson273China Bay (Ceylon)Vildebeest
500DetlingAnson501FiltonHurricane
502AldergroveAnson504DigbyHurricane
600HornchurchBlenheim IF601Biggin HillBlenheim IF
602AbbottinchSpitfire603Turnhouse Gladiator, Spitfire
604North WealdBlenheim IF605Tangmere Galdiator, Hurricane
607UsworthGladiator608ThornabyAnson
609CatterickSpitfire610Hooton ParkSpitfire
611DuxfordSpitfire612Dyce Hector, Anson
613RingwayHind614OdihamHector
615 Croydon (Nov. 15, France)Gladiator616Doncaster Gauntlet, Battle

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 equipment and location:

Plane UKFrance Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, Aden, Kenya, Gibraltar India, Singapore, Malaya Total
Hurricane124--16
Spitfire11---11
Gladiator4-4-8
Blenheim IF7---7
Hind1---1
Hector1---1
Vildebeest2--24
Wellesley--314
Blenheim I1138426
Battle610--16
Wapiti---22
Bombay--1-1
Whitley8---8
Hampden10---10
Wellington7---7
Hudson2---2
Anson10---10
Lysander142-7
Audax---22
Valentina--112
Stanrear1---1
London2-1-3
Singapore--112
Sunderland3--14
TOTAL99212114155

The RAF squadron strength was between 6 and 18 aircrafts.

Call of War

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One Comment

  1. Donald Timothy Johnson

    Can not find my fathers service record,can tell me what squadron I have a service number 1716542

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