RAF Squadrons in September 1939

Aircrafts and bases of the Royal Air Force

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
Sqn Base Planes Sqn Base Planes
1 Tangmere (Sep. 9, France) Hurricane 2 Hawking (Oct.6, France) Lysander
3 Croydon Hurricane 4 Odiham (Sep.24, France) Lysander
5 Risalpur (India) Wapiti IIA 6 Ramleh (Palestine) Hardy, Gauntlet, Lysander
7 Doncaster Anson, Hampden 8 Khormaskar (Aden/Jemen) Vincent, Blenheim
9 Honington Wellington 10 Dishforth Whitley
11 Tengah (Egypt) Blenheim 12 Berry-au-Bac (France) Battle
13 Odiham (Oct. 2, France) Lysander 14 Ismalia (Egypt) Wellesley
15 Betheniville (France) Battle 16 Old Sarum Lysander
17 Croydon Hurricane 18 Upper Heyford Blenheim
19 Duxford Spitfire 20 Miramshah (India) Audax
21 Watton Bleinheim 22 Thorney Island Vildebeest
23 Wittering Blenheim IF 24 Hendon various communication types
25 Northolt Blenheim IF, IVF 26 Catterick (Oct. 8, France) Lysander
27 Kohat (India) Wapiti 28 Kohat (India) Audax
29 Debden Blenheim IF 30 Ismalia (Egypt) Blenheim I, IF
31 Peshawar (India) Valentia 32 Biggin Hill Hurricane
33 Mersa Matruh (Egypt) Gladiator 34 Singapore Blenheim
35 Cranfield Battle, Anson 36 Seletar (Malaya) Vildebeest
37 Feltwell Wellington 38 Marham Wellington
39 Singapore Blenheim 40 Betheniville (France) Battle
41 Catterick (Sep. 25) Spitfire 42 Bircham Newton Vildebeest
43 Tangmere Hurricane 44 Waddington Hampden
45 Fuka (Sudan) Blenheim 46 Digby Hurricane
47 Khartum (Sudan) Vincent, Wellesley 48 Thorney Island Anson
49 Scampton Hampden 50 Waddington Hampden
51 Linton-on-Ouse Whitley 52 Alconbury Battle, Anson
53 Odiham (Sep. 18, France) Blenheim 54 Hornchurch Spitfire
55 Ismalia (Egypt) Blenheim 56 Biggin Hill Hurricane
57 Upper Heyford (Sep. 24, France) Blenheim 58 Linton-on-Ouse Whitley
59 Andover (Oct. 12, France) Blenheim 60 Ambala (India) Blenheim
61 Hemswell Hampden 62 Singapore (Sep. 22) Blenheim
63 Upwood Battle, Anson 64 Church Fenton Blenheim IF
65 Hornchurch Spitfire 66 Duxford Spitfire
70 Habbaniya (Egypt) Valentia 72 Church Fenton Spitfire
73 Digby (Sep. 9, France) Hurricane 74 Hornchurch Spitfire
75 Harwell Anson, Wellington 76 Finningley Hampden, Anson
77 Driffield Whitley 78 Ternhill Whitley
79 Biggin Hill Hurricane 80 Sidi Haneish (Egypt) Gladiator
82 Watton Blenheim 83 Scampton Hampden
84 Shaibah (Iraq) Blenheim 85 Debden (Sep. 9, France) Hurricane
87 Debden (Sep. 9, France) Hurricane 88 Auberive (France) Battle
90 West Raynham Blenheim 94 Sheikh Othman (Aden/Jemen) Gladiator
97 Leconfield Whitley 98 Hucknall Battle
99 Mildenhall Wellington 100 Seletar (Singapore) Vildebeest
101 West Raynham Blenheim 102 Driffield Whitley
103 Challerange (France) Battle 104 Bassingbourn Blenheim
105 Reims (France) Battle 106 Cottesmore Hampden
107 Wattisham Blenheim 108 Bassingbourn Blenheim
110 Wattisham Blenheim 111 Northolt Hurricane
112 Helwan (Egypt) Gladiator 113 Mersa Matruh (Egypt) Blenheim
114 Wyton Blenheim 115 Marham Wellington
139 Wyton (Dec. 2, France) Blenheim 142 Berry-au-Bac (France) Battle
144 Hemswell Hampden 148 Harwell Wellington, Anson
149 Mildenhall Wellington 150 Challerange (France) Battle
151 North Weald Hurricane 166 Leconfield Whitley
185 Cottesmore Hampden, Hereford 201 Invergordon London
202 Gibraltar London 203 Aden,Jemen Singapore
204 Mount Batten Sunderland 205 Seletar (Ceylon) Singapore
206 Bircham Newton Anson 207 Cranfield Battle, Anson
208 Qasaba (Egypt) Lysander 209 Invergordon Stranrear
210 Pembroke Dock Sunderland 211 El Daba (Egypt) Blenheim
213 Wittering Hurricane 214 Merhwold Wellington
215 Honington Harrow, Wellington 216 Heliopolis (Egypt) Valentia, Bombay
217 St.Eval Anson 218 Suippes (France) Battle
220 Thornaby Anson, Hudson 223 Nairobi (Kenya) Wellesley
224 Leuchars Hudson 226 Reims (France) Battle
228 Pembroke Dock (from Sep. 10) Sunderland 230 Seletar (Singapore) Sunderland
233 Leucchars Anson, Hudson 240 Invergordon London
269 Montrose Anson 273 China Bay (Ceylon) Vildebeest
500 Detling Anson 501 Filton Hurricane
502 Aldergrove Anson 504 Digby Hurricane
600 Hornchurch Blenheim IF 601 Biggin Hill Blenheim IF
602 Abbottinch Spitfire 603 Turnhouse Gladiator, Spitfire
604 North Weald Blenheim IF 605 Tangmere Galdiator, Hurricane
607 Usworth Gladiator 608 Thornaby Anson
609 Catterick Spitfire 610 Hooton Park Spitfire
611 Duxford Spitfire 612 Dyce Hector, Anson
613 Ringway Hind 614 Odiham Hector
615 Croydon (Nov. 15, France) Gladiator 616 Doncaster 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 UK France Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, Aden, Kenya, Gibraltar India, Singapore, Malaya Total
Hurricane 12 4 - - 16
Spitfire 11 - - - 11
Gladiator 4 - 4 - 8
Blenheim IF 7 - - - 7
Hind 1 - - - 1
Hector 1 - - - 1
Vildebeest 2 - - 2 4
Wellesley - - 3 1 4
Blenheim I 11 3 8 4 26
Battle 6 10 - - 16
Wapiti - - - 2 2
Bombay - - 1 - 1
Whitley 8 - - - 8
Hampden 10 - - - 10
Wellington 7 - - - 7
Hudson 2 - - - 2
Anson 10 - - - 10
Lysander 1 4 2 - 7
Audax - - - 2 2
Valentina - - 1 1 2
Stanrear 1 - - - 1
London 2 - 1 - 3
Singapore - - 1 1 2
Sunderland 3 - - 1 4
TOTAL 99 21 21 14 155

The RAF squadron strength was between 6 and 18 aircrafts.


 

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