Digby - RCAF Digby
'Icarus renatus' - Icarus reborn
Updated: 6 Dec 12
RAF Digby was designated as RAF Scopwick before WWII but was renamed to RAF Digby in 1920 to avoid confusion with RAF Shotwick.
Opened: 28 Mar 1918 - No 59 Training Depot Station RAF
Renamed: Jul 1920 to RAF Digby
Placed in care and maintenance: Apr 1922
Upgraded: 1935/36; 1942 - May 1945 an RCAF base.
Closed: Flying ended 1953 still an active RAF station
Airfield code :: DJ
ICAO Code ::
Squadrons based here:
Due to the number of formations stationed permanently or temporarily at Digby during its history these have been listed on a dedicated Digby Squadrons page.
RAF Digby initially opened as RAF Scopwick on 28 Mar 1918 with the arrival of 3 Handley Page, three days before the formation of the RAF. It had been active since late 1917 as a satellite airfield for RNAS Cranwell. RAF Scopwick was re-named RAF Digby in Apr 1920. The tale is related that this was due to aircraft parts being lost in the system while RAF Shotwick in Flintshire having a surplus of very similar parts. RAF Scopwick became RAF Digby and RAF Shotwick became RAF Sealand.
After the Great War RAF Digby specialised in flying training from 1920 - 1937, except a period of "care and maintenance" from 1922 to 1924 when the station was under "Care and Maintenance". 2 Flying Training School and 3 Flying Training School were based here. RAF Digby took on an operational role in the ramp-up to war becoming Sector Fighter Airfield of 12 Group Fighter Command 13 on Aug 1937. The first squadrons to arrive were 46 Sqn and 73 Sqn equipped with Gloster Gauntlet Mk II and Gloster Gladiator Mk I. They converted to the Hawker Hurricane MkI in Nov 1938.
The station's motto Icarus Renatus means Icarus Reborne and relates to the period when the station was under 'care and maintenance' and then re-activated. The badge depicts a white crane superimposed over a maple leaf which alludes to the Canadian era during World War II.
World War II
The first operational war sortie scrambled at 2134 hrs on 3 Sep 1939, only 34 minutes after Digby was ordered by 12 Group to take on the responsibility for defending its sector area. After war broke Digby was augmented by a third Hurricane squadron, 504 Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force. Later, Digby day and night fighters operated from RAF Wellingore and RAF Coleby Grange satellite airfields. The Digby fighter sector stretched from the Midlands to beyond the coast and operations were generally mounted by 2 day fighter sqns and a night fighter sqn co-ordinated by a fighter controller. 73 Sqn was virtually wiped out during the evacuation from Saint Nazaire on 17 Jun 1940 aboard HMS Lancastria.
RAF Digby was a very Canadian station. The first RCAF squadron arrived in Dec 1940, 112 later 402 Winnipeg Squadron RCAF. In Sep 1942 RAF Digby became Royal Canadian Air Force Station Digby to reflect the special nature of units based there. The station also had an RCAF Group Captain Ernie McNab as station commander. Throughout the remainder of the war 13 RCAF Squadrons would operate from Digby and its satellites at RAF Coleby Grange and RAF Wellingore. 402 Sqn and 416 Sqn formed Digby Wing in 1943 and Feb 1944 saw 144 Wing formed at RCAF Digby from 441 Sqn, 442 Sqn and 443 Sqn. It was commanded by Wg Cdr J E "Johnnie" Johnson, the highest scoring RAF ace of the war.
Cold War and beyond
After the war the station became a training unit and part of the RAF College Cranwell, with its Station Commanders also serving as Assistant Commandants with flying training (19 Flying Training and No 1 and 2 Initial Training Schools) up to 1953 before beginning its specialistion in the signals role. In 1955 399 Signals Unit arrived, to be joined by 591 Signals Unit and the Aerial Erectors School. 399 SU became the Joint Service Signals Unit on 15 Sep 1998
Lima Sector Ops Room, Fighter Command
Digby Oral Histories:
- A History
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