RAF Squadrons 1942

Aircraft and bases of the Royal Air Force in June 1942. Number of squadrons, locations and aircraft equipment in Britain, Africa, Middle and Far East.

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:

1Tangmere (from 8 July Acklington) Hurricane IIB, IIC (conversion to Typhoon IB in July)2Sawbridgworth Mustang I, Ia
3HunsdonHurricane IIC4Clifton Tomahawk IIA, Mustang I
5Dinjan (India)Mohawk IV6Sidi Haneish (Egypt)Hurricane IID
7OakingtonStirling I8 Khormaskar (Aden)Blenheim IV
9HoningtonWellington III10LeemingHalifax II
11Colombo (Ceylon)Blenheim IV12BinbrookWellington II
13Odiham (10 November Op. Torch)Blenheim IV (V in November)14Qassassin (Egypt)Blenheim IV (conversion to Marauder I in August)
15WytonStirling I16Weston Zoyland Lysander III, IIIA, Mustang I
17Jessore (India)Hurricane IIB18WattishamBlenheim IV
19Warmwell Spitfire VB, VC20Jamshedpur (India)Lysander II
21BodneyBleinheim IV22Ratmalana (India) Beaufort I,II
23Manston Havoc I, Boston III (conversion to Mosquito II in July)"24Hendonvarious communication types
25Church FentonBeaufighter I26Gatwick Thomahawk IIA, Mustang I
27reformed at Amarda Road (India) in SeptemberBeaufighter VI28Kohat (India)Lysander II
29West MallingBeaufighter I30Ratmalana (Ceylon) Hurricane IIA, IIB
31Lahore (India) DC-2K, Dakota I,III,IV32West MallingHurricane IIB
33Amriya (Egypt)Hurricane IIC34Allahabad (India)Blenheim IV
35Linton-on-OuseHalifax II36reformed at Tanjore (India)Wellington IC
37Abu Sueir (Egypt)Wellington IC38Shallufa (Egypt)Wellington III
39Shandur (Egypt)Beaufort I40Shallufa (Egypt)Wellington III
41MerstonSpitfire VB42transfer to EgyptBeaufort I
43Tangmere Hurricane IIA, IIB, IIC44WaddingtonLancaster I
45Asansol (India)Blenheim IV46Idku (Egypt) Beaufighter I, VI
47airstrip in Egypt Wellesley, Beaufort I48Wick Hudson V, VI
49ScamptonManchester (conversion to Lancaster I in July)50SwinderbyLancaster I
51ChivenorWhitley V52reformed at Mossul (Iraq) in AugustBlenheim IV
53transfer to USA for anti-sub patrolsHudson III54transfer to AustraliaSpitfire VC
55Ismalia (Egypt) Baltimore I, II, III56Snailwell Typhoon IA, IB
57MethwoldWellington III58St.EvalWhitley V
59North CoatesHudson III (conversion to Liberator III in August)60Asansol (India)Blenheim IV
61Syerstonconversion to Lancaster I62Cuttack (India)Hudson III
63Gatwick Mustang I, IA64HornchurchSpitfire VB (conversion to Spitfire IX in July)
65Great Stampford Spitfire VB, VC66Ibsley Spifire VA, VB, VC
67Alipore (India)Hurricane IIC68ColtishallBeaufighter I
69Luqa (Malta) Spitfire IV, Baltimore I, II70Abu Sueir (Egypt)Wellington IC
71 Debden (Eagle Squadron, transfer to USAAF in September)Spitfire VB72Biggin Hill Spitfire VB, VC (conversion to Spitfire IX in July)
73Gambut Main (Egypt)Hurricane IIC74 Geneifa (Egypt, operational from December)Hurricane IIB
75MildenhallWellington III76Middleton St.George (det. to Egypt from 12 Juli-7 September)Halifax II
77ChivenorWhitley V78Middleton St.GeorgeHalifax II
79arrived 20 June in IndiaHurricane IIC80Fuka Main (Egypt) Hurricane IIB, IIC
81HornchurchSpitfire VB82Karachi (India)conversion to Vengeance I
83Wytonconversion to Lancaster I84Quetta (India)conversion to Vengeance I
85Hunsdon Havoc I, II (conversion to Mosquito II in August), 86, Wick, Beaufort I
87, Charmy Down (2 Novenber Op. Torch), Hurricane IIC, 88, Attlebridge, "Boston III
89MaltaBeaufighter I91Hawkinge Spitfire VA, VB
92 Heliopolis (Egypt, operational in August) Spitfire VB, VC93Andreas Spitfire VB, VC
94El Gamil (Egypt)Hurricane IIC95Jui (Sierra Leone)Sunderland I
96WrexhamBeaufighter II97Woodhall SpaLancaster I
99Ambala (India) Wellington I, IA, IC101BournWellington III
102TopcliffeHalifax II103Elsham WoldsWellington IC (conversion to Halifax II in July)
104Kabrit (Egypt)Wellington II105Horsham St.FaithMosquito IV
106ConingsbyLancaster I107Great Massington Boston III, IIIa
108Kabrit (Egypt)Wellington IC109StradishallWellington IC
110Quetta (India)conversion to Vengeance111DebdenSpitfire VB
112Sidi Azeiz (Egypt) Kittyhawk I,Ia113Asansol (India)Blenheim IV
114West RaynhamBlenheim IV115MarhamWellington III
117Bilbeis (Egypt) Lodestar, DC-3, Hudson VI118IbsleySpitfire VB
119Lough ErneCatalina IIIa120Nutts Corner Liberator I, II, III
121 Southend (Eagle Squadron, transfer to USAAF in September)Spitfire VB122Fairlop Spitfire VB, VC
123transfer to Iraq (operational October)Gladiator II124GravesendSpitfire VB (conversion to Spitfire VI in July)
125Fairwood CommonBeaufighter IIF126Luqa (Malta)Spitfire VC
127Shandur (Iraq)Hurricane IIB128Hastings (Sierra Leone)Hurricane I
129Westhampnett Spitfire VB, VC130Perranporth Spitfire VA, VB, VC
131Merston Spitfire VB, VC132Skeabrea (Scotland) Spitfire VB, VC
133Biggin HillSpitfire VB134Kasfareet (Egypt) Hurricane IIB, IIC (operational January 1943)
135Dum Dum (India) Hurricane IIB, IIC136Alipore (India) Hurricane IIB, IIC
137Charmy DownWhirlwind I138TempsfordHalifax I
139Horsham St.FaithBlenheim V140Mount Farm Spitfire IV, Blenheim IV
141AcklingtonBeaufighter I142ThruxtonWellington IV
143Thorney IslandBlenheim IV144Leuchars (September to North Russia)Hampden I
145Gambut (Egypt) Spitfire VA, VB146Dum Dum (India)Hurricane IIB
148Kabrit (Egypt)Wellington IC149LakenheathStirling I
150Snaith (December to Algeria) Wellington IC, III151Coltishall Defiant II, Mosquito II
152Angle Spitfire VB, VC153BallyhalbertBeaufighter I
154Churchstanton Spitfire VA, VB155Peshawar (India)Mohawk IV (operational in August)
156Alconbury Wellington IC, III157Castle CampsMosquito II
158DriffieldHalifax II159 Palestine (September to India)Liberator II (operational July)
160 transfer to Egypt (Aqir, 11 June)Liberator II161Tempsford Lysander IIIa, Whitley V, Havoc I
162Bilbeis (Egypt)Wellington IC164SkeabraeSpitfire VA
165Ayr Spitfire VA, VB167Castletown Spitfire VC, VB
168Snailwell (formed 15 June)Tomahawk IIA169Twinwood Farms (formed 15 June)Mustang I
170Weston Zoyland (formed 15 June)Mustang I171Gatwick (formed 15 June) Tomahawk I, IIa
172ChivenorWellington VIII174ManstonHurricane IIB
175WarmwellHurricane IIB185Takali (Malta) Spitfire VB, VC
200Jeswang (West Africa)Hudson V201Castle Archdale Sunderland II, III
202Gibraltar Catalina IB, Sunderland I, II, III203Palestine Blenheim IV, Maryland I
204Bathurst (West Africa) Sunderland I, II205transfer to Ceylon (operational 23 July) Catalina I, Ib
206Aldergrove Hudson I, II, III207BottesfordLancaster I
208Heliopolis (Egypt) Hurricane I, IIA, IIb, Tomahawk IIb209Kipevu (East Africa)Catalina Ib, II
210Sullom Voe Catalina I, Ib213Gambut West (Egypt) Hurricane IIA, IIC
214Stradishall Stirling I, III215Pendaveswar (India)Wellington IC
216El Khanka (Egypt) Bombay I, Hudson III, VI217 transfer to Luaq (Malta, operational 10 June)Beaufort II
218MarhamStirling I219TangmereBeaufighter I
220Nutts Corner Fortress I, II, IIa221Shandur (Egypt)Wellington VIII
222ManstonSpitfire VB223Maaten Bagush (Egypt) Baltimore I, II, IIA, III
224TireeHudson V (conversion to Liberator II in July)225Thruxton Hurricane IIC, Mustang I, II
226Swanton Morely Boston III, IIIA228Oban Sunderland I, II, III
229 Qrendi (Malta, reformed 3 August)Spitfire VC230Aboukir (Egypt) Sunderland I, III
231Maghaberry Lysander II, III, Tomahawk I, IIB232AyrSpitfire VB
233transfer to Gibraltar Hudson I, III, VI234Portreath Spitfire VB, VC
235DockingBeaufighter VI236WattishamBeaufighter I
237Mossul (Iraq)Hurricane I238Gmabut West (Egypt) Hurricane IIB, IIC
239GatwickMustang I240 transfer to India (Redhills Lake, 4 July)Catalina I, Ib, II
241AyrMustang I242Drem Spifire VB, VC
243Ouston (operational 12 June)Spitfire VB244Sharjah (Iran) Vincent, Blenheim IV
245Middle WallopHurricane IIB247ExeterHurricane IIC
248SumburghBeaufighter VIc249Takali (Malta) Spitfire VB, VC
250Ikingi Maryut (Palestine) Kittyhawk I, II252Idku (Egypt)Beaufighter I
253Hibaldstow Hurricane IIA, IIB, IIC254Dyce Blenheim IV, Beaufighter VI
255HonileyBeaufighter VI256Woodvale Beaufighter I, VI
257High Ercall (operational July)conversion to Typhoon Ia258Colombo (Ceylon)Hurricane IIB
260Bir el Beihra (Egypt) Kittyhawk I, II261China Bay (Ceylon)Hurricane IIB
263AngleWhirlwind I264Colerne Defiant II, Mosquito II
266DuxfordTyphoon Ib267 Heliopolis (Egypt, transportation duties) Wellesley, Lockheed 14,18, Hudson III, IV, VI, Dakota I, III, IV
268Snailwell Tomahawk IIA, Mustang I, IA269Kaldadarnes (Iceland)Hudson III
271Doncaster Dominie, Hudson272Idku (Egypt)Beaufighter I
273China Bay (Ceylon)Fulmar II274Gambut (Egypt) Hurricane IIB, IIC
300(Polish) InghamWellington IV301(Polish) HemswellWellington IV
302(Polish) Heston Spitfire VB, VC303(Polish) NortholtSpitfire VB
304(Polish) DaleWellington IC305(Polish) LindholmeWellington II
306(Polish) NortholtSpitfire VB307(Polish) ExeterBeaufighter VI
308(Polish) Hutton CranswickSpitfire VB309(Polish) Dunino Lysander III, IIIA
310(Czech) Exeter Spitfire VB, VC311(Czech) Talbenny Wellington IA, IC
312(Czech) Harrowbeer Spitfire VB, VC313(Czech) Churchstanton Spitfire VB, VC
315(Polish) Woodvale Spitfire VB, VC316(Polish) Heston Spitfire VB, VC
317(Polish) NortholtSpitfire VB320(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 VB332(Norwegian) Catterick Spitfire VA, VB
335(Greek) Gerawla (Egypt)Hurricane I340(French) WesthampnettSpitfire VB
350(Belgian) DebdenSpitfire VB353Dum Dum near Calcutta (India)Hudson III
500Stornoway Hudson III, V501Chilbolton Spitfire VB, VC
502St. EvalWhitley VII504Ballyhalbert Spitfire IIA, IIB, VB, VC
600PredannackBeaufighter VI601Aboukir (Egypt) Spitfire VB, VC
602Redhill Spitfire VB, VC603 transfer from Malta to CyprusSpitfire VC
604Middle WallopBeaufighter I605Ford (operational July) Havoc I, Boston III
607Alipore (India) Hurricane IIB, IIC608Wick Hudson III, V, VI
609Duxford Typhoon IA, IB610Ludham Spitfire VB, VC
611Kenley Spitfire VB, VC (conversion to IX in July)612Reykjavik (Iceland)Whitley VII
613Twinwood FarmMustang I614MacmerryBlenheim IV
615 transfer India (Jessore on 17 June)Hurricane IIC616Kings 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
Tomahawk & Kittyhawk64--10
Havoc, Boston6---6

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

References and literature

The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force (James J. Halley)
Luftkrieg (Piekalkiewicz)
The Armed Forces of World War II (Andrew Mollo)
Das große Buch der Luftkämpfe (Ian Parsons)

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4 thoughts on “RAF Squadrons 1942”

  1. Just curious, my mother informed me that my uncle had served in the RAF during WW2 as a Radio and machine gun operator while flying in an Avro Lancaster. I know he was located at Doncaster aerodrome, but curious as she mentioned that he flew in Africa.
    Always suspected my mother was wrong as considered the African campaign to have included only light aircraft, but did they change to different aircraft ( both are now passed, my uncle did however survive the entire war, but sadly passed away in 1985 ).

    1. There were some shuttle raids, eps vs targets in Italy, flying for UK to Western Africa or Southern Italy and back in a 2nd raid.

  2. 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

    1. 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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