> Units and Formations
Updated: 14 Jul 04
Group. In 1939 there were ? groups in Coastal Command,
Station. Each station was ...
Squadron. Each squadron was ....
Flight. A Flight would normally be equipped with 8 aircraft and have a Squadron Leader as Officer in Charge.
Coastal Command Strike Wings
In the earlier years of World War II the anti-surface unit element of Coastal Command was bolstered through the transfer of squadrons from both Bomber and Fighter Commands. These Sqns were in the main equipped with the Blenheim, Hudson, Hampdens and Beaufort. Early achievements were highlighted by the award of a Victoria Cross to RAF North Coates and 22 Sqn's Fg Off Kenneth Campbell. Detached to RAF St Eval he crippled Battle Cruiser Gneisenau in Brest Harbour.
In the early years the strike force demonstrated its courage but was hampered in its tactical development by operating in small formations in poorly performing aircraft, with unreliable weapons and poor aiming aids and no fighter cover. Their light armament was extremely outgunned by German heavily-armed convoys and land-based defences. This led to Coastal Command strike formations generating the highest casualty rate in the RAF, losing 648 aircraft. Target sets included the 'Gold Run', cargoes of iron ore from neutral Sweden and other metals from Norway and Finland destined for the munitions complexes of the Ruhr Valley.
Strike Wings reformed
Nov 1942 saw the reforming of Coastal Command's Strike Wings, employing new tactics on the new Beaufighter. They were armed with 4 x 20mm Hispano Suiza Cannon and 1,000 rounds including tracer and 8 rocket projectiles.
A change in command at North Coates 236 Sqn to Wg Cdr Nebbie Wheeler let to the development large formation attack tactics combining 143 Sqn employing cannon and 236 Sqn employing cannon and rocket projectiles to minimise enemy ships' flak, saturating the heavily armed shipping with cannon fire from a height of 1,500ft or below. Below the joint 143 and 236 Sqn formation, 254 Sqn's torpedo-armed Beaufighter had a lesser flak barrage to face and were able to focus on an accurate and smooth run to their release point. Fighter Command was called on to provide escorts to these composite air operations. These tactics were put to practics in 1943 in attacks let by Wg Cdr Wheeler. In a 10 month period 27 000 tonnes of shipping were sunk. They were further adapted to combat a shift in enemy operations whereby shipping was moved from port to port during night hours. Assaults on previously safe harbours were commenced with a Gironde River attack on 24 Aug 1944 by 18 Beaufighter of 236 Sqn and 404 Sqn. Additional attacks were conducted by 143 Sqn.
On 12 Sep 1944 40 aircraft of 236 Sqn, 254 Sqn, 455 Sqn and 489 Sqn entered Den Helder harbour and took losses. On 23 Sep 1944 Flt Lt Bob Pinkerton led 254 Sqn, 455 Sqn and 489 Sqn repeating the attack with 73 aircraft. On 25 Sep 1944 65 Beaufighter from the same three squadrons attacked again. Finally on 17 Jan 1945, 32 aircraft from 236 Sqn and 254 Sqn struck the Helder harbour one last time.
The Strike Wings
Coastal Command Strike Wings on chaseit-now.co.uk
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