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  609 (West Riding) Squadron Royal Air Force

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Updated: 28 Oct 08

Formed: 10 Sep 1939, RAF Yeadon

Disbanded: 15 Sep 1945

Reformed: 10 May 1946, RAF Church Fenton

Disbanded: 10 Mar 1947

Reformed: 1 Oct 1999 (RAF Leeming, renaming of Air Defence Support Sqn RAuxAF)

Squadron was based at:

RAF Yeadon :: 10 Feb 1936 -

RAF Northolt :: - May 1940

RAF Digby :: 19 Nov 1941 - 30 Mar 1942

RAF Duxford :: 30 Mar 1942 -

NW Europe :: Jun 1944 - 15 Sep 1945

RAF Church Fenton :: 10 May 1946 - Sep 1946

RAF Yeadon :: Sep 1946 - 10 Mar 1957?

RAF Leeming :: - today

Squadron code: PR

Aircraft operated:

Hart :: Jun 1936 - < Dec 1938

Hind :: Dec 1938 - Aug 1939

Spitfire Mk? :: Aug 1939 -

Spitfire MkVb :: May 1941 - Apr 1942

Typhoon :: Apr 1942 - 15 Sep 1945

Mosquito :: Jun 1947 - 1948

Spitfire :: 1948 - Oct 1950

Vampire :: Oct 1950 - Dec 1950

Meteor :: Dec 1950 - 10 Mar 1957

No 609 Squadron was formed on 10 February 1936 at Yeadon as a day bomber unit of the Auxiliary Air Force. It began to receive Harts in June and these were replaced by Hinds before the squadron was redesignated a fighter unit on 8 December 1938, although it did not receive its first fighter, the Spitfire, until late Aug 1939.

After defensive duties in the north, No 609 moved to south-east England in May 1940 and flew patrols over Dunkirk to cover the evacuation of the BEF. It remained in the south throughout the Battle of Britain and in Oct 1940, the Squadron became the first to achieve 100 confirmed kills of enemy aircraft. It then began taking part in offensive sweeps over France in February 1941.

In the spring of 1941, a handful Belgians joined the squadron; most of them experienced combat pilots. They formed the nucleus of the continuous Belgian presence in one of the RAF’s most successful fighter units. Read more about the Belgian aircrew in Lincolnshire.

During 609 Sqn's time at Digby they experienced considerable churn, with the period largely taken up with training new pilots away from the busier skies of 11 Gp. They took in many new Belgians and over a dozen new NCOs prior to them being posted on to a number of other squadrons. The Belgian element of 609 Sqn remained undiluted throughout the period, however, as their pilots were exempt from overseas service. This was due to Belgium having no interest in the Mediterranean or Far East Theatre. The character of the Squadron was further preserved as the remaining Yorkshire Auxiliary groundcrew could not be posted out. This was due to the territorial nature of their engagement.

Daily activity at Digby consisted of training flights and operational patrols, the latter task shared with 92 Sqn and 412 Sqn.

On 22 Jan 1942 the Belgian pilot, and B Flight commander, Flight Lieutenant Jean "Peike" Offenberg DFC, was killed in a mid-air collision whilst piloting Supermarine Spitfire AB188, due to a mock attack by a pilot from of 92 Sqn. Offenberg was to be 609 Sqn's only loss whilst at Digby (see Digby's Station history).

In Feb 1942 the Squadron did engage the enemy twice, also managing a successful strike over Holland, but regular sweeps were impossible due to the distance from Digby to any of the enemy-occupied coasts.

Feb 1942 609 Sqn's CO, George "Sheep" Gilroy, announced that his Squadron would be moving out of the mess at RAF Digby into nearby Ashby Hall, due in no small part to the sour faces of the stewards if the pilots were more than a few minutes late for breakfast, regardless of the operational circumstances and delayed returns from dawn patrol. The Squadron's ethos did not wholly accord with life at Digby, a Station where like most other well-founded pre-war bases discipline and 'bull' was still paramount. The station Adjutant was most vocally concerned with William De Goat, whose alleged behaviour did little to foster friendship between the squadron and the station - see the Digby history for further details.

A house-warming party was planned for the 28th March 1942, to celebrate the acquisition of Ashby Hall, and enough alcohol was obtained for the expected guests. 10 days before the party, 609 received orders posting them to Duxford - due the same day as the party. Fortunately, Gilroy managed to postpone the move by two days, and the invitations to what became their leaving do were re-written to read House-Cooling.

609 Sqn moved to RAF Duxford at the end of Mar 1942 and began to re-equip to the Typhoon. In April 1942, Typhoons started to arrive and began operations on 30 June, being used mainly for defensive patrols. Day and night intruder sorties began to be flown in November and on joining Second TAF in March 1944, 609 Sqn adopted rockets as its main weapons. In preparation for the invasion of Europe, the squadron attacked enemy communications and radar stations, moving to Normandy in June to provide the 21st Army Group with air support.

After the breakout from the beachhead, the squadron moved forward to the Low Countries and for the rest of the war flew armed reconnaissance sweeps over Germany. On 15 September 1945, the squadron was disbanded.

Within the year 609 reformed at RAF Church Fenton as a Royal Auxiliary Air Force night fighter squadron, on 10 May 1946, before moving to RAF Yeadon in Sep 1946. It received its first operational aircraft in Jun 1947, then exchanged the Mosquito for the Spitfire in 1948 to become a day fighter unit. These were in turn replaced by the Vampire in Oct 1950, rapidly superseded by the Meteor in Dec 1950. These remained until the Sqn was disbanded on 10 Mar 1957, when all flying squadrons of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force were disbanded.

 

14/11/41 - No. 35
Air Ministry News Service
Air Ministry Bulletin No. 5606

14 Nov 1941 - WEST RIDING SQUADRON GETS ITS CREST

The West Riding Squadron of the R.A.F. was today presented with a crest which has been approved by the King. It shows two hunting horns surmounted by the white rose of Yorkshire. The motto is 'Tally-Ho', which is the phrase used by fighter pilots when they see an enemy in the sky.

The squadron, with 161 enemy aircraft known definitely to have been destroyed, has helped to build up the record score of 811 enemy aircraft destroyed by the station from which it now operates. The presentation of the crest was made by Air Commodore Harald Peake, Director of Public Relations at the Air Ministry, who was the first Commanding Officer of the squadron.

"I see many familiar faces that I knew when I was C.O. of the squadron," said Air Commodore Peake, addressing the squadron on parade. "You are an auxiliary squadron which has had to wait a long time for its crest, but have waited until you have gotr a record in operations to be proud of.

"Your motto of 'Tally-Ho' is a very good one and one which has been heard many times during the air fighting which has taken place. The crest includes a Yorkshire rose and Yorkshiremen are good fighters."

It was a member of the squadron, Flight-Lieutenant Dundas, D.F.C., who shot down Major Wieck, the German fighter ace.

 

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