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No. 604 Squadron RAF

No. 604 Squadron RAF
Active
  • 17 March 1930 – 18 April 1945
  • 10 May 1946 – 10 March 1957
Country  UK
Branch  Royal Air Force
Part of Royal Auxiliary Air Force
Motto Latin: Si vis pacem para bellum
(Translation: "If you want peace, prepare for war")[1][2][3]
Post-1951 aircraft insignia
Battle honours
Commanders
Honorary Air Commodore Samuel Hoare, 1st Viscount Templewood (1932–1957)
Notable
commanders
John Cunningham, Michael Hugh Constable-Maxwell, Frederick Desmond Hughes
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][2]
Identification
symbol
  • WQ (Jan 1939 – Sep 1939)[4]
  • NG Sep (1939 – Apr 1945,
    1949 – Apr 1951)[5]
  • RAK (Jul 1946 – 1949)[6]

No. 604 Squadron RAF was a squadron of the Royal Air Force noted for its pioneering role the development of radar-controlled night-fighter operations. The squadron was established in March 1930 at RAF Hendon as a day-bomber squadron of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. In July 1934, the squadron transitioned to two-seat fighters. Shortly after the commencement of World War II in 1939, the squadron was reassigned to a night-fighter role.

No. 604 Squadron was initially disbanded in April 1945 as part of a reduction of the British Armed Forces near the end of the war. It was reformed as an auxiliary single-seat fighter squadron in May 1946, again at RAF Hendon. Final disbandment occurred in March 1957 with the dissolution of the Auxiliary Air Force.

History

Formation and early years

No. 604 Squadron was established on 17 March 1930 at RAF Hendon as a squadron of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force.[1][3] The squadron was initially assigned to the role of day-bombing and received its first aircraft (Airco DH.9As) in April 1930.[7] The DH.9A was soon replaced by the Westland Wapiti in September 1930. Upon re-designation as a two-seat fighter squadron, No. 604 transitioned to the Hawker Hart on 23 July 1934. Hawker Demons replaced the Harts in June 1935.[8]

World War II

In early 1939 the squadron transitioned to the long-range fighter variant of the Bristol Blenheim. No. 604 Squadron was activated on 24 August 1939 to operate long-range fighters from RAF North Weald. The squadron spent the first several months of World War II flying defensive patrols in support of coastal convoys.

The squadron was reassigned to a night-fighter role in late 1939 and was relocated to RAF Northolt in January 1940. By May 1940, the squadron had moved to RAF Manston. During the squadron's stay at RAF Manston that Flying Officer Alistair Hunter and Sergeant Gordon Thomas shot down a Luftwaffe Heinkel 115 floatplane shortly after midnight on 18 June 1940, during the first major night raid over the United Kingdom. [9] Following the Dunkirk evacuation, the squadron was based at RAF Middle Wallop at the end of July 1940.

In early summer 1940, squadron aircraft were fitted with VHF radiotelephone equipment and Mark III Airborne interception (AI) radar. The former was part of RAF Fighter Command policy, and greatly improved air-to-air and air-to ground communication. The AI equipment was fitted to assist the night fighter crews in locating German bombers at night. A new technological development, AI was not particularly reliable at this stage, and needed a third crew member to operate. The external antennas slowed down aircraft that were already considered of low performance for their role. Most AI operators were inexperienced and were forced to learn on the job, translating the information provided on the AI screens into instructions to enable their pilot to get close enough to visually locate and shoot down an enemy bomber.

Late in September 1940 the squadron received its first Bristol Beaufighter, equipped with four 20-mm Hispano-Suiza HS.404 cannon under the nose and improved Mark IV AI radio-location equipment. As one of the few squadrons thus equipped, 604 Squadron provided night defence over the UK during the Blitz from late 1940 until mid May 1941, when most Luftwaffe bomber units departed for involvement in the invasion of Russia. By this time 50 air victories had been claimed by the squadron—fourteen by F/L John Cunningham.[9]

In early 1943 the squadron began to switch over to night intruder operations. In February 1944, the squadron was allocated to the 2nd Tactical Air Force and began conversion to the de Havilland Mosquito. Operations from Normandy began in August but the following month the unit returned to the UK, returning to the continent once again in January 1945. They remained there until disbanding at B.51 at Vendeville,[8][10] near Lille, France on 18 April 1945.[3][11] Some 127 air victories had been claimed by the Squadron during the war, 41 since May 1944.[9]

Post-war

With the reactivation of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, 604 Squadron 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 de Havilland Vampires arrived. These were replaced by Gloster Meteors in August 1952 but this was only for a few years as the squadron was disbanded on 10 March 1957, along with all the flying units of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force.[3][11]

Aircraft operated

Aircraft operated by No. 604 squadron RAF[7][8][10][11]
From To Aircraft Version
April 1930 September 1930 Airco DH.9A
June 1930 June 1935 Westland Wapiti Mk.IIa
September 1934 June 1935 Hawker Hart
June 1935 January 1939 Hawker Demon
January 1939 January 1941 Bristol Blenheim Mk.If
May 1940 May 1940 Gloster Gladiator Mk.I
September 1940 April 1943 Bristol Beaufighter Mk.I
April 1943 April 1944 Bristol Beaufighter Mk.VIf
February 1944 September 1944 de Havilland Mosquito Mk.XII
April 1944 April 1945 de Havilland Mosquito Mk.XIII
October 1946 May 1950 Supermarine Spitfire LF.16e
November 1949 September 1952 de Havilland Vampire F.3
August 1952 March 1957 Gloster Meteor F.8

Squadron bases

Bases and airfields used by No. 604 Squadron RAF[7][8][10][11]
From To Base
17 March 1930 29 September 1938 RAF Hendon, Middlesex
29 September 1938 3 October 1938 RAF North Weald, Essex
3 October 1938 2 September 1939 RAF Hendon, Middlesex
2 September 1939 16 January 1940 RAF North Weald, Essex (det. at RAF Martlesham Heath, Suffolk)
16 January 1940 15 May 1940 RAF Northolt, Middlesex
15 May 1940 20 June 1940 RAF Manston, Kent
20 June 1940 3 July 1940 RAF Northolt, Middlesex
3 July 1940 27 July 1940 RAF Gravesend, Kent
27 July 1940 12 August 1942 RAF Middle Wallop, Hampshire (Det. at RAF Coltishall, Norfolk)
12 August 1942 23 August 1942 RAF Warmwell, Dorset
23 August 1942 7 December 1942 RAF Middle Wallop, Hampshire
7 December 1942 18 February 1943 RAF Predannack, Cornwall
18 February 1943 24 April 1943 RAF Ford, West Sussex
24 April 1943 25 April 1944 RAF Scorton, North Yorkshire
25 April 1944 3 May 1944 RAF Church Fenton, North Yorkshire
3 May 1944 13 July 1944 RAF Hurn, Dorset
13 July 1944 25 July 1944 RAF Colerne, Wiltshire
25 July 1944 28 July 1944 RAF Zeals, Wiltshire
28 July 1944 6 August 1944 RAF Colerne, Wiltshire (Det. at A.15/Maupertus, France)
6 August 1944 9 September 1944 A.8/Picauville, France
9 September 1944 24 September 1944 B.17/Carpiquet, France
24 September 1944 5 December 1944 RAF Predannack, Cornwal
5 December 1944 31 December 1944 RAF Odiham, Hampshire
31 December 1944 18 April 1945 B.51/Lille-Vendeville, France
10 May 1946 28 March 1949 RAF Hendon, Middlesex
28 March 1949 10 March 1957 RAF North Weald, Essex

Commanding officers

Officers commanding No. 604 Squadron RAF[12][13][14]
From To Name
March 1930 March 1935 W/Cdr. A.S.W. Dore, DSO, TD
March 1935 January 1939 S/Ldr. C.P. Gabriel
January 1939 March 1940 S/Ldr. R.A. Budd
March 1940 August 1941 S/Ldr. M.F. Anderson
August 1941 August 1941 W/Cdr. Appleton
August 1941 July 1942 W/Cdr. J. Cunningham, DSO & Bar, DFC
July 1942 April 1943 W/Cdr. Wood, AFC
April 1943 July 1944 W/Cdr. M.H. Constable-Maxwell, DFC
July 1944 18 April 1945 W/Cdr. F.D. Hughes, DFC & 2 Bars
June 1946 January 1948 W/Cdr. J. Cunningham, DSO & 2 Bars, DFC & Bar
January 1948 May 1951 S/Ldr. K.T. Lofts, DFC & Bar
May 1951 September 1953 S/Ldr. A. Deytrikh
September 1953 March 1957 S/Ldr. T.P. Turnbull, DFC

References

Notes

  1. ^ a b c Moyes 1976, p. 275.
  2. ^ a b Rawlings 1978, p. 483.
  3. ^ a b c d Halley 1988, p. 421.
  4. ^ Bowyer & Rawlings 1979, p. 14.
  5. ^ Bowyer & Rawlings 1979, p. 76.
  6. ^ Bowyer & Rawlings 1979, p. 138.
  7. ^ a b c Moyes 1976, p. 276.
  8. ^ a b c d Halley 1988, p. 422.
  9. ^ a b c Shores & Williams 1994, p. 74.
  10. ^ a b c Rawlings 1978, p. 485.
  11. ^ a b c d Jefford 2001, p. 100.
  12. ^ Rawlings 1978, p. 486.
  13. ^ Bowyer 1984, p. 121.
  14. ^ Hunt 1972, pp. 137–163.

Bibliography

Further reading

External links

  • 604 Squadron history on RAF website
  • Squadron histories for nos. 600–604 sqn on RAFweb
  • 604 in the Battle of Britain
  • Traces of World War 2: RAF – No. 604 Squadron
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