No. 138 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

No. 138 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No. 138 Squadron (RAF) during the Second World War

Aircraft - Locations - Group and Duty - Books

No. 138 Squadron was a mixed aircraft Special Duties squadron, formed on 25 August 1941 from No.1419 (Special Duties) Flight. At first it carried out a mix of supply drop and actual landings in occupied Europe, but in October 1942 No. 161 Squadron took over the pick-up duties, and No. 138 concentrated on the supply drop task, flying as far as Poland and Yugoslavia.

By the spring of 1945 the need for these supply drops had largely disappeared, and so No. 138 was re-equipped with Avro Lancasters and joined Bomber Command, taking part in the last few weeks of the strategic bombing campaign.

August 1941-October 1942: Armstrong Whitworth Whitley V
August 1941-November 1942: Westland Lysander IIIA
October 1941-December 1942: Handley Page Halifax B.Mk I
August 1941 or October 1942 to August 1944: Handley Page Halifax B.Mk II
January 1944 to August 1944: Handley Page Halifax B.Mk V
June 1944-March 1945: Short Stirling IV
March 1945-September 1947: Avro Lancaster I

25 August-16 December 1941: Newmarket
16 December 1941 to 11 March 1942: Stradishall
11 March 1942-9 March 1945: Tempsford

Squadron Codes: NF

Group and Duty
August 1941 onwards: Special Duties squadron
March 1945: Bomber Command


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Want to know more about RAF Bassingbourn?

William Marquis 227 Squadron / 102 Squadron (d.1945/11/08)

I have been researching my family history and have obtained the personnel records for my half-brother William Marquis.

The record shows that he was assigned to 227 Squadron on 12th April 1945 after discharge and appointment to RAF VR. There is a further entry for 227 Squadron dated 18th June 1945 which is some 10 days after 227 Squadron either moved from RAF Strubby or was disbanded. The next entry is at RAF Snaith dated 17th September 1945 followed by what seems to be an entry for 102 Squadron dated 20th or possibly 26th September 1945. He was with 102 Squadron based at RAF Bassingbourn when he was killed on active service at Abington Piggotts on 08/11/1945 when his plane crashed shortly after take off.

I know it is a long shot but any information anyone may have on William would be appreciated.

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He did, however, hand over a copy of his neice’s history project on the base. And following further research, Bernard uncovered the truth about the airfield.

One of more than 1,000 RAF bases built during the Second World War, it was rejected by bomber command because of the boggy fields and heavy fog that would often fall.

An aerial view of RAF Tempsford in 1944. Picture: Supplied by Bernard O'Connor - Credit: Archant

It was instead taken over by the Special Operation Executive, or SOE – a secret organisation whose purpose was to conduct espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance in occupied Europe, while supporting resistance movements on the continent.

The SOE agents would be flown out of RAF Tempsford before being dropped or even landed in Axis-held territory, and then picked up when or if they completed their dangerous mission.

Due to the secrective nature of the base, it was of utmost importance that it remained hidden from enemy eyes.

Bernard explained: “It is claimed that the airfield was designed by an illusionist.

ROYAL AIR FORCE BOMBER COMMAND, 1942-1945. (HU 60540) The Secretary of State for Air, Sir Archibald Sinclair (in civilian raincoat), accompanied by the Commanding Officer of No. 161 (Special Duties) Squadron RAF, Wing Commander P C Pickard, talking to Flying Officers Broadley and Cocker in front of their Lockheed Hudson during his visit to Tempsford, Bedfordshire. A noted Westland Lysander pilot of the Squadron, Fg Off J A McCairns, is standing extre. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: - Credit: Archant

“Because the work going on there was top secret, they didn’t want enemy pilots flying overhead to identify it as in use.

“The idea was to make it look inactive, so during the day there was no activity.

“Most of the buildings were camouflaged or designed to look like old farm buildings, and lines were painted across the runway so they looked like hedges.

“Activity started when the sun went down, with everything going on in the dark.”

Gibraltar Farm, part of RAF Tempsford, during the Second World War. The barn on the left still stands today. Picture: Supplied by Bernard O'Connor - Credit: Archant

While the work of renowned secret agents such as Violette Szabo and Wing Commander FFE Yeo-Thomas was incredibly dangerous, the pilots flying from Tempsford were also in great danger, as Bernard explained.

“The planes always took off and flew with no lights in complete darkness,” he said.

“They would fly across the channel or the North Sea to the likes of France, Belgium and Norway, complete their mission, then fly back before the sun came up.

“That was to give them the greatest chance of not being shot down.”

The base was home to two squadrons, with No 138 Squadron dropping supplies into Europe while No 161 Squadron – equipped with Westland Lysander and Lockheed Hudson transport planes – were tasked with landing in occupied territory to drop off and pick up agents.

These missions were undertaken by some of RAF’s best pilots, including Air-Chief Marshal Sir Lewis Hodges and Group Captain Percy Charles Pickard – who led the famous Amiens Prison raid of February 1944.

The personnel based at the airfield did reap the rewards for their top-secret work.

“There were more than 1,000 personnel based there and it was very cosmopolitan,” said Bernard.

“It provided a big economic boost to the area as the pilots and crew had money to spend in the pubs, the cinemas, the dances. There was also a lot of romance.”

Very little remains of RAF Tempsford today.

After the war it was closed and returned to farmland, but small sections of the runway are still intact.

You can still walk around the perimeter track and visit an old barn that stands as a memorial to those who worked at one of Britain’s most secret airfields.

For more about Bernard O’Connor and his books, have a look online at

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49 Squadron Association

49 Squadron was formed at Dover on 15 April 1916 under the command of Major A S Barratt MC and spent its first 18 months as an aircrew training unit equipped with BE2Cs and RE7s. Other documents record that the squadron also trained using Martinsydes and a number of pilots are described as "flying officers for Martinsydes".
In November 1917 the squadron was re equipped with DH4s and moved to La Bellevue aerodrome in France. Here the squadron was employed in the day bomber role as part of the 3rd (Army) Wing. Its first raid was made on 26 November 1917.

Later the squadron took part in the Battle of Cambrai, attacking enemy supply and communications centres. In April 1918, 49 Squadron re equipped with DH9s and continued high and low level bombing until the end of the war. After the Armistice the squadron moved to Bickendorf as part of the Army of Occupation and disbanded there on 18 July 1919. According to its records 49 Squadron destroyed 56 enemy aircraft drove down another 63 out of control, dropped a total of 120 tons of bombs and operated from 10 airfields in France during the 1914-18 War.

On 10 February 1936, 49 Squadron re formed at Bircham Newton from a nucleus provided by 'C' Flight of No 18 Squadron. It was equipped with Hawker Hind light bombers and initially commanded by Flt Lt J C Cunningham. It moved to Worthy Down in August 1936 where its official badge, depicting a racing greyhound surmounting the motto 'Cave Canem' (Beware of the Dog), was presented on 14 June 1937. At first the badge seems inappropriate for a bomber squadron but it is in fact indicative of the performance of the Hawker Hind when compared with its contemporaries. A move to Scampton in March 1938 was followed by conversion to the Handley Page Hampden, the first unit to be equipped with the type.

During the opening months of World War 2 the squadron was employed mainly on reconnaissance, mine laying and leaflet dropping. On 11 May 1940 bombing attacks on Germany began, the oil refineries at Munchen Gladbach being attacked. On 12 August a most successful low level attack on the Dortmund Ems canal was pressed home by Hampdens of 49 Squadron despite fierce opposition. Flt Lt R A B Learoyd received the Victoria Cross for his bravery during the attack, the first awarded in Bomber Command.

Throughout 1941 many targets were attacked ports, industrial centres, shipping, marshaling yards and airfields. In March 1942 the squadron took part in a particularly successful attack on the Renault works at Billancourt, Paris.

The squadron began to re equip with Manchester aircraft in April 1942 however, these aircraft were not in use for long and by July 1942 were replaced by Lancasters which, with their greater range and striking power, extended the scope of the squadron's operations.

On 17 October 1942 the squadron flew deep into France without escort and attacked the Schneider works at Le Creusot the Commanding Officer, Wing Commander L Slee and his navigator Pilot Officer A C Grant, led the attack and both were awarded the DSO. Italy could now be reached and 49 Squadron's first operation in that theatre was an attack on the harbour at Genoa on 22 October 1942.

The Squadron stood down from 1-15 January 1943 during which time a move was made to Fiskerton. Operations resumed on 16 January when the squadron attacked Berlin the first of many such visits. For the remainder of the war the squadron continued as a front line bomber squadron and took part in most major operations by Bomber Command including, in August 1943, the vital attack on the rocket research establishment at Peenemunde when the squadron lost four of the twelve Lancasters despatched.

After moving to Fulbeck on 16 October 1944, then Syerston on 22 April 1945, the squadron made its last attack on 25 April when Berchtesgaden was the target. In May the squadron took part in Operation 'EXODUS' ferrying ex -prisoners of war back to the UK.

Honours and awards gained by members of 49 Squadron during the Second World War include 1 Victoria Cross, 1 Empire Gallantry Medal (later the George Cross), 7 Distinguished Service Orders, 131 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 2 Conspicuous Gallantry Medals and 105 Distinguished Flying Medals.

49 Squadron remained in being as part of the post-war RAF, moving to Mepal on 29 September 1945 and to Upwood on 30 July 1946. During this period it carried out the routine peacetime training of Bomber Command.

In November 1949 the first Avro Lincoln B2 arrived and by April 1950 the squadron was fully re equipped. On 1 July 1952 the squadron moved to Waddington where it remained until 1 August 1953 when it moved to Wittering. Soon after arriving at Wittering the squadron was detached to Kenya to carry out operations against Mau Mau terrorists. On 22 February 1954, 49 Squadron moved to Upwood and remained there until disbanded on 1 August 1955.

49 Squadron was re-formed at Wittering on 1 May 1956 from personnel of 'C' Flight No 138 Squadron. Equipped with Valiant B1 aircraft (the first of the V Bombers) the squadron was tasked with carrying out a series of nuclear tests based on Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean. Initially commanded by Squadron Leader D Roberts, DFC, by 2 September 1956 the squadron had been brought up to strength by additional crews from No 214 Squadron and No 232 OCU, and Wing Commander K G Hubbard, OBE, DFC assumed command. The nuclear tests were code named 'Operation GRAPPLE' and, on the 15th May 1957, the squadron made history by successfully dropping the first British nuclear weapon with a yield in the megaton range.

The first weapon was dropped off Malden Island by Wing Commander Kenneth Hubbard and crew from Valiant XD818. After landing all five crew members were awarded the Air Force Cross. The 2nd and 3rd weapons were dropped on the 31st May and the 19th June by crews captained by Squadron Leader David Roberts and Squadron Leader Arthur Steele. The 4th drop, to be captained by Squadron Leader Barney Millett, was cancelled as sufficient data had been collected from the first three trials.
The 'GRAPPLE' series of trials (Grapples X,Y & Z) continued until the 11th September 1958 with nuclear weapons being dropped by most of the squadron's crews.

From November 1959 the squadron reverted to the normal medium bomber role. It moved to Marham on 26 June 1961. On 5 June 1964 Her Royal Highness Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, presented 49 Squadron with its standard, which was awarded in April.


Main article: History of the Royal Air Force===[edit] Origins=== While the British were not the first to make use of heavier-than-air military aircraft, the RAF is the world's oldest independent air force: that is, the first air force to become independent of army or navy control. [4] It was founded on 1 April 1918, with headquarters located in the former Hotel Cecil, during the First World War, by the amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). After the war, the service was drastically cut and its inter-war years were relatively quiet, with the RAF taking responsibility for the control of Iraq and executing a number of minor actions in other parts of the British Empire. Naval aviation in the form of the RAF's Fleet Air Arm was returned to Admiralty control on 24 May 1939.

The RAF developed its doctrine of Strategic bombing which led to the construction of long-range bombers and became the basic philosophy in the Second World War. [8]

[edit] Second World War [ edit | edit source ]

[4][5]Distinctive shape of the Spitfire which played a major part in the Battle of Britain.See also: Air warfare of World War IIThe RAF underwent rapid expansion prior to and during the Second World War. Under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan of December 1939, the air forces of British Commonwealth countries trained and formed "Article XV squadrons" for service with RAF formations. Many individual personnel from these countries, and exiles from occupied Europe, also served with RAF squadrons.

In the Battle of Britain in 1940, the RAF (supplemented by 2 Fleet Air Arm Squadrons, Polish, Czechoslovakian and other multinational pilots and ground personnel) defended the skies over Britain against the German Luftwaffe, helping foil Hitler's plans for an invasion of the United Kingdom, and prompting Prime Minister Winston Churchill to say in the House of Commons on 20 August, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few". [9]

The largest RAF effort during the war was the strategic bombing campaign against Germany by Bomber Command. While RAF bombing of Germany began almost immediately upon the outbreak of war, under the leadership of Air Chief Marshal Harris, these attacks became increasingly devastating from 1942 onward as new technology and greater numbers of superior aircraft became available. The RAF adopted night-time area bombing on German cities such as Hamburg and Dresden, and developed precision bombing techniques for specific operations, such as the "Dambusters" raid by No. 617 Squadron, [10] or the Amiens prison raid known as Operation Jericho.

[edit] Post-war [ edit | edit source ]

The Royal Air Force was involved in the 1948 Berlin Airlift, codenamed Operation Plainfire. Between 26 June and the lifting of the Russian blockade of the city on 2 May, the RAF provided 17% of the total supplies delivered during the event, using Avro Yorks, Douglas Dakotas flying to Gatow Airport and Short Sunderlands flying to Lake Havel. [11]

[edit] 1960–1970 [ edit | edit source ]

[6][7]The Handley Page Victor bomber was a strategic bomber of the RAF's V bomber force used to carry both conventional and nuclear bombs.The British Government elected on 16 February 1960 to share the country's nuclear deterrent between the RAF and submarines of the Royal Navy, deciding on 13 April to concentrate solely on the air force's V bomber fleet. These were initially armed with nuclear gravity bombs, later being equipped with the Blue Steel missile. Following the development of the UGM-27 Polaris, the strategic nuclear deterrent passed to the navy's submarines on 30 June 1969. [12]

[edit] Later years [ edit | edit source ]

The RAF celebrated the 90th anniversary of its formation on 1 April 2008 with a flypast of the Red Arrows and four Typhoons over many RAF Stations and Central London. [13]

As part of the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the BAE Systems Nimrod MRA4 aircraft was cancelled due to over spending and missing deadlines. [14] It was due to have replaced the Nimrod MR2 from late 2011, which fulfilled the Anti-Submarine Warfare and Anti-Surface Unit Warfare roles. It also saw use in a Search and Rescue role, where its long range and communications facilities allowed it to co-ordinate rescues by acting as a link between rescue helicopters, ships and shore bases. It could also drop pods containing life rafts and survival supplies to people in the sea. After the MR2's withdrawal, the search and rescue role was adopted by the C-130 Hercules force, and the Royal Navy took full responsibility for anti-submarine warfare. [citation needed]

The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (417779) Warrant Officer Graham Morris Bagshaw, No. 138 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War.

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Craig Berelle, the story for this day was on (417779) Warrant Officer Graham Morris Bagshaw, No. 138 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War.

417779 Warrant Officer Graham Morris Bagshaw, No. 138 Squadron, Royal Air Force
KIA 14 April 1944
Photograph: P04612.001 (back row, third from right)

Story delivered 25 March 2016

Today we pay tribute to Warrant Officer Graham Morris Bagshaw, who was killed on active service with the Royal Australian Air Force during the Second World War.

Born in the Adelaide suburb of Unley Park on 30 September 1922, Graham Bagshaw was the only child of Clarence Dale and Ella Maud Bagshaw. Before he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force in July 1942, aged 19, Bagshaw was employed on the staff of E. Treliving at Light Square in Adelaide, and was a member of the Adelaide Legacy Club.

Bagshaw began training as a wireless operator and an air gunner, and in November 1943 he embarked for overseas service. As part of the Empire Air Training Scheme, he was one of almost 27,500 RAAF pilots, navigators, wireless operators, gunners, and engineers who joined squadrons based in Britain throughout the course of the war.

He journeyed to Britain via North America. Included in his travels was a visit to the Anzac Club in New York in January 1944, which was reported in the Australian press.

After further specialist training in England Bagshaw was posted to No. 138 Squadron, Royal Air Force, then part of Bomber Command. The squadron was equipped with a four-engine Avro Lancaster heavy bomber, and Bagshaw joined a crew of six British airmen.

On 14 April the Lancasters of No. 138 Squadron were taking part in a raid on Potsdam near Berlin. Not far from the target area, Bagshaw’s aircraft was shot down, and all souls aboard were killed.

Graham Bagshaw was 22 years old. His mother did not receive confirmation of his death until November, eight months after the incident. In a letter to Bagshaw’s mother the commander of No. 138 Squadron wrote:

..during the time that Warrant Officer Bagshaw has been with this squadron he has made many friends, and has accomplished very valuable work in the cause of freedom. I would like to assure you how much we honour the gallant sacrifice he has made so far from his home.

Bagshaw is buried with his fellow crewmates at the British and Commonwealth war cemetery in Berlin. His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among some 40,000 others from the Second World War. His photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection where can be seen in the back row, third from the right.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Warrant Officer Graham Morris Bagshaw, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Watch the video: OXI MAXES STO OXYRO ROUPEL (July 2022).


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