No. 29 Squadron
Aircraft: Blenheim Mk.IF
Motto: Impiger et acer – ‘Energetic and keen’29 Squadron Badge
Badge: An eagle in flight preying on a buzzard – symbolising air combat.
- Digby – 27 June 1940
- Wellingore – 8 July 1940
No. 29 Squadron was formed at Gosport on 7 November 1915 from a nucleus supplied by No. 23 Squadron and after training moved to France in March 1916 as the third squadron to be fully equipped with fighters. Its DH2s were engaged in escort duties to protect the slow and vulnerable reconnaissance aircraft over the Western Front and in March 1917, it re-equipped with Nieuport Scouts. In April 1918 these were replaced by SE5As which were used for the rest of the war on fighter and ground attack missions. After a short period in Germany, the squadron was reduced to a cadre and returned to the UK in August 1919 where it was disbanded on 31 December 1919.
On 1 April 1923, No. 29 reformed as a fighter squadron at Duxford with Snipes, re-equipping with Grebes in January 1925. In turn, these were replaced by Siskins in March 1928 and Bulldogs in June 1932. In March 1935, No. 29 became a two-seat fighter squadron with the arrival of Demons which it took in October to Egypt during the Abyssinian crisis, a few Gordons being used for night patrols at this time. Returning to the UK a year later, it converted to Blenheims in December 1938. On the outbreak of World War Two these were used for patrols over shipping and early trials with airborne radar. When German night bombers began operating in strength in June 1940, No. 29 became fully involved in night fighting.
No. 32 Squadron
Aircraft: Hurricane Mk.I
Motto: Adeste comites – ‘Rally round, comrades’
Badge: A hunting horn stringed – symbolising the squadron’s ability to hunt the enemy.
- Biggin Hill – 4 June 1940
- Acklington – 28 August 1940
No. 32 Squadron was formed on 12 January 1916 at Netheravon and moved to France as a fighter squadron in May 1916. Equipped with DH2s it flew patrols over the Western Front for a year before beginning to re-equip with DH5s. These in turn began to be replaced by SE5As in December 1917 which were flown for the rest of the war on fighter and ground attack missions. In March 1919, the squadron returned to the UK as a cadre and disbanded on 29 December 1919.
No. 32 reformed on 1 April 1923 at Kenley as a single flight of Snipe fighters. A second flight was formed on 10 December 1923 and a third brought the squadron up to strength on 1 June 1924. Grebes were received at the end of 1924 and were replaced by Gamecocks two years later. Equipped in succession with Siskins, Bulldogs and Gauntlets, No. 32 received Hurricanes in October 1938 and these were flown on defensive patrols when World War Two broke out. In May 1940, the squadron flew patrols over northern France and took part in the defence of south-east England during the opening weeks of the Battle of Britain before moving to northern England at the end of August 1940.
No. 41 Squadron
Aircraft: Spitfire Mk.1
Motto: Seek and destroy
Badge: A double-armed cross. The badge is adapted from the Arms of St Omer which was the squadron’s first overseas Headquarters and with which the squadron has since maintained a link.
- Catterick – 8 June 1940
- Hornchurch – 26 July 1940
- Catterick – 8 August 1940
- Hornchurch – 3 September 1940
No. 41 Squadron was formed on 14 July 1916 at Gosport, an earlier nucleus during the previous month having been re-designated No. 27 Reserve Squadron. Equipped with FE8 fighters, it moved to France in October 1916 for patrols over the Western Front. Despite the FE8’s deficiencies as a fighter, the squadron flew this type until re-equipped with DH5s in July 1917 and four months later received SE5As. These it flew for the rest of the war, ground attack missions being added to its normal fighter and escort tasks. In January 1919, No. 41 reduced to a cadre and returned to the UK where it disbanded on 31 December 1919.
On 1 April 1923, No. 41 reformed at Northolt as a single flight equipped with Snipes, being increased to two flights in April 1924 and re-equipping with Siskins. A third flight was added a year later and in October 1931 the squadron converted to Bulldogs. No. 41 became a two-seat fighter unit in July 1934 when Demons arrived and these were taken to Aden in October 1935 during the Abyssinian crisis. Returning to the UK in August 1936, the squadron reverted to single-seaters and flew Furies until it converted to Spitfires in January 1939. After flying defensive patrols during the first months of World War Two, No. 41 moved south at the end of May 1940 to fly covering operations over the Dunkirk beaches, alternating between Yorkshire and south-east England during the Battle of Britain.
No. 43 Squadron
Aircraft: Hurricane Mk.I
Motto: Gloria finis – ‘Glory the aim’
Badge: A game cock. The game cock commemorates the first post-war designed fighter with which the squadron was equipped in 1926.
- Tangmere – 31 May 1940
- Northolt (D) – 23 July 1940 to 1 August 1940
- Usworth – 8 September 1940
No. 43 Squadron was formed at Stirling on 15 April 1916 and moved to France in January 1917 with Sopwith 11/2-stutters for fighter and reconnaissance duties. In addition some bombing raids were carried out behind the German lines before the squadron re-equipped with Camels in September 1917. Fighter patrols and ground attack missions occupied the squadron for the rest of the war. Snipes beginning to arrive in August. Conversion was completed only a few weeks before the Armistice and after a short period in Germany No. 43 returned to the UK and disbanded on 31 December 1919.
On 1 July 1923, No. 43 reformed at Henlow as a fighter squadron equipped with Snipes. These were replaced by Gamecocks in 1926 which were in turn superseded by Siskins in 1928. Furies arrived in May 1931 and were flown until the squadron converted to Hurricanes at the end of 1938. Soon after the outbreak of World War Two, No. 43 moved north for defensive duties, returning to Tangmere at the end of May 1940 for patrols over the Dunkirk beaches. After taking part in the first half of the Battle of Britain, the squadron was withdrawn to northern England to re-equip.
No. 46 Squadron
Aircraft: Hurricane Mk.I
Motto: We rise to conquer
Badge: Two arrowheads, surmounted by a third, all in bend. The arrows in the badge signify speed in getting into action and their position and number represent three aircraft climbing.
- Digby – 13 June 1940
- Duxford – 8 August 1940
- Digby – 19 August 1940
- Stapleford Tawney – 1 September 1940
No. 46 Squadron was formed at Wyton on 19 April 1916 from a nucleus supplied by No. 2 Reserve Squadron and trained as a reconnaissance unit. In October it moved to France with Nieuport two-seaters to undertake artillery observations and photographic missions over the Western Front. In April 1917 it re-equipped with Pups to become a fighter squadron as a result of increasing strength of German fighter units over the Front. In July 1917, No. 46 returned to the UK for defensive duties after a heavy German air raid on London but returned to France in august without seeing action. The squadron re-equipped with Camels in November 1917 and ground attack missions became common, especially during the German offensive in March 1918. As the Germans retreated during the last months of the war, attacks were made on communications and dumps behind the front line. In January 1919 the squadron was reduced to a cadre and returned to the UK in February, disbanding on 31 December 1919.
On 3 September 1936, B Flight of No. 17 Squadron became No. 46 Squadron at Kenley with Gauntlets. It was the end of February 1937 before a full complement of aircraft was in service and February 1939 conversion to Hurricanes took place. For the first months of World War Two, defensive patrols were flown to cover convoys off the East Coast. With the German invasion of Norway in April 1940 preparations were put in hand for the transfer of the squadron to northern Norway to augment the handful of Gladiators operating from improvised airfields. On 14 May , No. 46 Hurricanes left the Clyde in HMS ‘Glorious’ for an airfield near Harstad but had to return with the carrier to Scapa Flow when the landing ground was found to be unusable. On 26 May, ten aircraft were flown off to Skaanland but due to the soft surface two crashed on landing and the remainder were diverted to Bardufoss, sixty miles further north. After providing fighter cover for the Narvik area, the situation in France resulted in the evacuation of all forces from Norway and on 7 June, the squadron flew its Hurricanes on to the deck of the ‘Glorious’ despite their lack of arrester hooks. Ground crews embarked in other ships and re-assembled at Digby but ‘Glorious’ and her destroyer escort encountered German battlecruisers en route and were sunk.
By the end of June No. 46 was operational again and early in September moved south to relieve a squadron depleted by continuous action during the first stages of the Battle of Britain, where it remained until after the Battle.