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46 Squadron Royal Air Force

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Updated: 28 Oct 08

Formed: 19 Apr 1916

Disbanded: 31 Dec 1919

Reformed: 3 Sep 1936

Squadron was based at:

RAF Digby :: Sep 1937 - 10 Dec 1939; 17 Jan 1940 - 9 May 1940; 13 Jun 1940 - 1 Sep 1940;

RAF Stapleford Tawney :: 1 Sep 1940 - ?14 Dec 1940

RAF Digby :: 14 Dec 1940 - 28 Feb 1941

Squadron code: RJ, PO

Aircraft operated:

Gloster Gauntlet Mk II :: - Nov 1938

Hurricane MkI :: Nov 1938 -

46 Squadron formed on 19 Apr 1916 at Wyton and was disbanded on the 31st of December 1919. During the expansion of the inter-war RAF, B Flight of 17 Sqn was re-numbered and expanded to full-squadron strength as 46 Squadron on 3 Sep 1936.

46 Sqn was the first fighter squadron at RAF Digby to see wartime service. Ordered to mobilise on 1 Sep 1939, at 2134 hours on 3 September 1939 they were ordered into the air to intercept an enemy raid which was approaching. They saw nothing and landed, without having done any fighting.

On 21 Oct 1939, 611 Sqn Spitfire joined 46 Sqn Hurricane in incercepting and shooting down 7 He-115 off the Humber Estuary. This sortie is depicted on the plotting table of the Fighter Command Lima Sector Operations Room Museum at RAF Digby.

Sergeant Pilot Stanley Andrew served with 46 Squadron at RAF Digby from 1 Sep 1939 until May 1940 when the Sqn deployed to Norway on HMS Glorious. He was one of the 18 Hurricane Pilots who flew off the Carrier Flight Deck on 26 May 1940 for a 40 mile flight over the North Sea to land at difficult airstrips in Norway.

Sgt Andrew was lucky not to be on HMS Glorious when she was sunk on 8 Jun 1940 but 8 of his aircrews colleagues were lost. Only the Squadron's CO, 'Bing' Cross, and New Zealander Flight Lieutenant Pat Jameson survived from the RAF personnel embarked on Glorious.

Along with other survivors of Norway he returned to RAF Digby, remaining until 1 Sep 1940 when they were posted to RAF Stapleford Tawney near RAF North Weald in Essex. He was killed when his plane crashed after a patrol on 11 Sep 1940.

OPS REPORTS
September 1939

2/9/39 The Squadron was accommodated under canvas while on duty by the aircraft. Local flying training carried out.

3/9/39 1100 Hours War was declared on Germany

The Squadron was commanded by SQUADRON LEADER P.R. BARWELL and consisted of 20 officers 6 airmen pilots and 121 other ranks.

The Squadron was equipped with 21 Hawker Hurricane Single Seater Fighter Aircraft.

30/9/39 Local flying training carried out by night. Practice interceptions and attacks were again carried out by night with the co-operation of the OBSERVER CORPS and the SEARCHLIGHT BATTERIES. The Squadron now consisted of 16 officers 6 airman pilots and 154 other ranks.

FIRST ENGAGEMENT WITH THE ENEMY
21/10/39 The Squadron was ordered to NORTH COATES FITTES, and at about 1415 hours “A” Flight was ordered on patrol. This flight consisted of the following pilots:-
Red Section (1) S/LDR P.R. BARWELL
(2) P/O P.J. FROST
(3) F/Sgt E. SHACKLEY

Yellow Section (1) P/O R.M.J. COWLES
(2) P/O R.P. PLUMMER
(3) P/O P.W. LEFEVRE

The flight was controlled by radio telephony from the operations room at DIGBY, assisted by an R/T tender situated at NORTH COATES. After various patrolling positions had been given, the Flight was in position over SPURN HEAD at 5000 feet at about 1450 hours.
At about 1455 hours an order was received, “Twelve enemy float planes approaching convoy from the SOUTH EAST at 1000 feet. Intercept.” The convoy at this time was about 5 miles EAST of SPURN HEAD and it was in sight. S/LDR BARWELL immediately led the Flight to the EAST of the CONVOY, at full speed, decreasing height to 2000 feet. On arriving in this position, he ordered the aircraft into search formation and very shortly afterwards, he was told by R/T by one of the pilots that an aircraft could be seen on the port beam. Just after this S/LDR BARWELL saw a formation of aircraft approaching from the E.S.E., at about 4000 feet. At this time they were about four miles from “A” Flight and just after they had been seen they were fired at by anti-aircraft fire. The enemy formation then did a right hand turn and proceeded to fly away from “A” Flight, who turned towards them and gained height. No difficulty was experienced in catching the enemy aircraft and the Flight managed to get into position slightly above them, with the sun almost behind. By this time S/LDR BARWELL had ordered the formation into “Aircraft astern”, and on approaching he gave instructions for a No. 5 attack. He attacked the left hand aircraft of the formation telling the other pilots to pick their targets, in order, from the left. The enemy formation was ragged and unevenly spaced; there were eight or nine aircraft.

As “A” Flight proceeded to attack from above, the markings on the upper surfaces of the enemy’s main planes could be clearly seen. They consisted of a black cross on a white background. The SQUADRON LEADER opened fire on his target at 400 yards. His rate of approach was rather high, and as one of the enemy aircraft was rather far behind his own formation and almost abreast of the SQUADRON LEADER, the latter did not throttle back. He broke away under the tail of his target at a distance of about 30 yards from it, having seen flames from the starboard engine. After breaking away he turned back and saw this aircraft diving to the water, where the pilot apparently tried to alight. Just after he touched the water, the starboard wing folded back.

RED 2, PILOT OFFICER P.J. FROST, had attacked the aircraft which was almost abreast of the SQUADRON LEADER during his attack. He saw flames from the port engine of this aircraft and watched it crash into the water.

RED 3, FLIGHT SERGEANT E. SHACKLEY, apparently attacked the same aircraft as Red 2, due to the enemy aircraft changing formation during attack.

After the main attack, the enemy formation broke up and just after seeing his target crash onto the water, the SQUADRON LEADER noticed one of the enemy aircraft diving in a southerly direction. He followed it and fired the remainder of his ammunition, which was about one-third of his full amount, from a range of about 300 yards. The aircraft continued to fly and it was then attacked by three other Hurricanes, piloted by PILOT OFFICER R.M.J. COWLES, FLIGHT SERGEANT E. SHACKLEY, PILOT OFFICER R.P. PLUMMER.

The SQUADRON LEADER watched them attack and it appeared that they were firing from rather long range, so he called up on the R/T and told the last aircraft that he saw attacking to get closer. This he did, and after a repeated attack he saw the enemy aircraft crash and turn upside down in the water. This was PILOT OFFICER R.P. PLUMMER.

After the main attack, PILOT OFFICER P.J. FROST and PILOT OFFICER P.W. LEFEVRE followed and attacked one of the enemy aircraft which tried to evade them by flying in and out of cloud. After chasing him for some time and carrying out repeated attacks, the enemy aircraft came to the end of his friendly cloud-layer, when, after a final attack, he was seen to alight on the water, apparently intact, but with both engines stopped.

Picture Captions

1 Digby Hurricanes, taken by my brother Sgt Pilot Stanley ANDREW when he was posted there at the start of the war

2 46 Squadron 39 my copy of the Squadron Formal photo
46 Squadron. November 2nd 1939 during the visit of King George VI
Back Row L - R 1. John F DRUMMOND 6. G H EDWORTHY 8 Stanley ANDREW
Front Row L - R 2 Philip J FROST 5 Pat JAMESON 6 SL Bing CROSS
[ please let me know if you can identify any others ]

3 46 Squadron in Civies [ ? date and who are they ]

4. Squadron Crest, We Rise to Conquor - it was named Uganda Squadron

A very fine shot of 41 Squadron Spitfires sporting the pre-war PN Code.

 


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