RAF No 185 Squadron

Motto: Ara fejn hu (Look where it is)

Formed at East Fortune in the Torpedo-bomber role on 21 October 1918, it was equipped with the Sopwith Cuckoo.  It was intended to embark the squadron aboard HMS Argus and to launch an attack against the German High Seas Fleet at its anchorage, but the Armistice intervened and the squadron never reached operational status, disbanding on 14 April 1919.

No.185 Squadron went through three very different incarnations during the Second World War. From March 1938 to April 1940 it was a training squadron in Bomber Command, before becoming part of No.14 OTU. During this period it was one of the few squadrons to operate the Handley Page Hereford, an unsuccessful version of the Hampden, powered by Napier Dagger engines. The second incarnation lasted lasted from April-May 1940 and never entered service.

The squadron formed for a third time on 27 April 1941 on Malta, from 'C' Flight of No.251 Squadron. The new unit operated the Hawker Hurricane for nearly a year, before the first Spitfires arrived early in 1942. The squadron took part in the fierce air battles that raged over Malta, suffering increasingly heavy loses late in 1942 when the Bf 109F arrived on Sicily, outclassing the Hurricane.

The arrival of the Spitfires restored the balance, and by the end of 1942 No.185 Squadron had gone onto the offensive, flying sweeps over Sicily, and then in July 1943 helping to support the Allied invasion of Sicily.

In February 1944 the first part of the squadron moved to Italy, operating from Grottaglie (in the Taranto area), and in August 1944 the entire squadron came back together at Perugia. For the rest of the war it operated as a fighter-bomber unit, supporting the Allied advance up the length of Italy.

No 185's second incarnation began on 1 March 1938, when it was reformed in the bomber role at Abingdon from  'B' Flight of No 40 Squadron.  Initially equipped with Hinds, these were replaced by Battles in June 1938 and in their turn by Hampdens in June 1939.  However, it was destined not to become operational, being used as a training squadron and eventually merged into No 14 OTU on 5 April 1940.  The same day a new 185 Squadron began to form but its existence was short-lived, disbanding on 17 May 1940

Just less than a year later on 27 April 1941 No 185 reformed, this time in the fighter role on Malta.  It was equipped with Hurricanes and was immediately thrown into defence of the island.  Spitfires began to arrive in February 1942 and had replaced the Hurricanes by the end of the following month.  Following the 'Torch' landing in November 1942 the squadron began offensive operations against enemy targets on Sicily and in July 1943 acted as part of the fighter cover for Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of the island.

From February 1944 until the following August, the squadron provided a detachment for air defence duties in the Taranto area as well as offensive operations against targets in Albania, when the remainder of the squadron joined it from Malta.  The squadron continued to provide air support to the Allied armies as they advanced up the Italian mainland eventually disbanding at Campoformido on 19 August 1945.

No 185's final incarnation lasted from 15 September 1951 to 1 May 1953, initially on air defence duties of its original home, Malta, equipped with Vampires, however, it moved to Idris in August 1952, Nicosia in September and finally to Habbaniyah in October 1952, where it disbanded..

Squadron Codes used: -
ZM Apr 1939 - Sep 1939
GL Sep 1939 - Apr 1940, May 1942 - Aug 1945

June 1939-April 1940: Handley Page Hampden I
August 1939-April 1940: Handley Page Hereford I
April 1941-March 1942: Hawker Hurricane I, IIA and IIB
February 1942-September 1944: Supermarine Spitfire VB, VC
December 1943-August 1945: Supermarine Spitfire VIII and IX (details unclear)

25 August 1939-17 May 1940: Cottesmore
27 April 1941-5 June 1943: Takali and Hal Far (Malta)
5 June-23 September 1943: Qrendi
23 September 1943-3 August 1944: Hal Far
21 February-2 August 1944: Detachment to Grottaglie (Italy)
3-23 August 1944: Perugia
23 August-4 September 1944: Loreto
4-17 September 1944: Fano
17 September-7 October 1944: Borghetto
7 October-17 November 1944: Fano
17 November 1944-1 January 1945: Peretola
1 January-30 April 1945: Pontedera
30 April-16 May 1945: Villafranca
16 May-19 August 1945: Campoformido

Duty: 26 September 1939: Reserve bomber squadron with No. 5 Group

Web Reference: http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAF/185_wwII.html


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This webpage was updated 25th January 2019