RAF No. 41sqn Observer Corps
No. 41 Squadron (also written as 'No. XLI Squadron') of the Royal Air Force is currently the RAF's Fast Jet and Weapons Operational Evaluation Unit, based at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire. The squadron celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2006, and is one of the oldest RAF squadrons in existence.
First World War
As No. 41 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps it was originally formed at Gosport in mid April 1916 with a nucleus of men from 28 Squadron RFC. However, on 22 May 1916, the squadron was effectively disbanded when it was re-numbered '27 Reserve Squadron'. 41 Squadron was re-formed on 14 July 1916 with a nucleus of men from 27 Reserve Squadron, and equipped with the Vickers F.B.5 'Gun Bus' and Airco D.H.2 'Scout'. These were replaced in early September 1916 with the Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.8, and it is these aircraft which the squadron took on their deployment to France on 15 October 1916. The F.E.8 was already obsolete as a pure fighter, and No. 41 used theirs mainly for ground attack - until July 1917, by which time the unit had become the last 'pusher' fighter squadron in the RFC. At this time the squadron was re-equipped with new DH 5 fighters. With the DH 5, the squadron remained a specialist ground attack unit - giving distinguished service in this role in the Battle of Cambrai, which started in November 1917. In early 1918 the unit finally received S.E.5a fighters and became a 'pure' fighter squadron. After the end of the First World War the unit was reduced to Cadre in February 1919 and returned to the UK, where the squadron was disbanded on 31 December 1919. During the war, some seventeen aces had served in its ranks, including William Gordon Claxton, Frederick McCall, William Ernest Shields, Eric John Stephens, Frank Soden, Russell Winnicott, Geoffrey Hilton Bowman, Roy W. Chappell, Alfred Hemming, Frank H. Taylor, Malcolm MacLeod, Loudoun MacLean, future Air Vice-Marshal Meredith Thomas, and William Gillespie. The unit had a remarkable number of Canadian aces in it--ten out of the seventeen.
Between the wars and Second World War
The squadron reformed at RAF Northolt on 1 April 1923, equipped with the Sopwith Snipe. In 1924, it began receiving the first Armstrong Whitworth Siskin III biplanes. The squadron was sent to the Aden Protectorate during the Abyssinian crisis of 1935-1936, and returned to the UK in August 1936. Based at Catterick, Yorkshire, from September 1936 until May 1940, they were the third RAF squadron to ever be equipped with the Supermarine Spitfire, at the end of December 1938. The squadron continued to fly various versions of the Spitfire throughout the war. They took part in the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940 and the Battle of Britain. The squadron claimed over 100 victories from July 1940 to the end of that year. On February 11, 1942, the squadron took part in the attack on the German Kriegsmarine's Prinz Eugen, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau after they escaped from Brest and made a dash up the Channel to the safety of their home ports. In August 1942, the squadron also supported the ill-fated Canadian landings at Dieppe.
In February 1943, they became the first squadron of only two to ever receive the new Griffon-engined Spitfire Mark XII, and used these with some success against the V1 flying bomb from June-August 1944. In April 1945, the squadron moved forward with the advancing front and made its first base in Germany, just southwest of the town of Celle, and only a short distance south of the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp. After the cessation of hostilities, the squadron was based a short time at Kastrup (Copenhagen) but then returned to Germany where it became a part of the Allied occupying forces, 'BAFO'. By the end of the War, 41 Squadron had claimed 200 aircraft destroyed, 61 probably destroyed, 109 damaged and 53 V-1's destroyed.
In 1947, the squadron was temporarily converted to an instrument training squadron, but received the De Havilland Hornet upon reverting back to fighter defence. The squadron received their first jet aircraft in 1951 when they took delivery of the Gloster Meteor F.4. Four years later, these aircraft were replaced with Hawker Hunters. They again changed aircraft in 1958 to Gloster Javelins. They remained flying this type until their disbandment in 1963. In September of 1965 the squadron reformed as a surface-to-air-missile (SAM) squadron until September 1970 where they again disbanded. In 1972 they reformed at RAF Coningsby with F-4 Phantoms. On 1st July 1976, 41 Sqn Designate formed with the SEPECAT Jaguar, operating in a tactical reconnaissance role, based at RAF Coltishall. The Sqn became operational in 1977. The squadron was involved the first Gulf War (Operation Granby) and Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1993 to 1995.
The Fast Jet and Weapons Operational Evaluation Unit (FJWOEU) was formed before it assumed the 41 Squadron number plate. It was created on 1 April 2004 from the merger of the Strike Attack OEU (SAOEU), the F3 OEU and the Air Guided Weapons OEU (AGWOEU). Due to the retirement of its Jaguars and the start of the drawdown of the Tornado F.3, 41 Squadron currently operates the Harrier GR.9 and GR.9A and Tornado GR.4.
No.41 Squadron operated the Supermarine Spitfire for the entire duration of the Second World War, taking part in the fighting over Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, flying sweeps over occupied France before moving to Europe to join the Second Tactical Air Force.
In September 1939 the squadron was based at Catterick, North Yorkshire. After a brief move to Wick in October, the squadron remained at Catterick until May 1940, flying defensive patrols over the north of England.
In May 1940 the squadron moved to Hornchurch, and took part in the fighting over Dunkirk, the first time that the Luftwaffe encountered the Spitfire in large numbers. The squadron remained in the south during the first part of the Battle of Britain, briefly resting at Catterick from 8 August-3 September, before returning to Hornchurch for the final phase of the battle.
In the summer of 1941 the RAF began to 'lean over the channel', flying sweeps over France in the hope that the Luftwaffe would respond. No.41 Squadron was involved in these sweeps from July 1941-August 1942, often operating under the same disadvantages as the Germans had during the battle of Britain. A relative rest came between August 1942 and April 1943, when the squadron flew patrols over the Irish Sea, but in April 1943 the squadron returned to the south of England, and would remain in the front line for the rest of the war.
For a year from April 1943 to April 1944 the squadron flew a mixture of missions, flying defensive patrols against low level German fighter bomber attacks, conducting shipping reconnaissance and providing bomber escorts to the limit of the Spitfire's range. From April-June 1944 the squadron moved to the south west, and flew sweeps over Brittany. It was then moved back to the south east in June to take part in the campaign against the V-1. From August-October this was combined with a mix of fighter sweeps and bomber escort duties.
On 5 October 1944 the squadron became part of the Second Tactical Air Force, and in December moved to Belgium at part of No.125 Wing. From then until the end of the war the squadron flew armed reconnaissance missions behind the German front lines, attacking any suitable targets they encountered. The squadron remained in Germany after the war, until on 1 April 1946 the wartime squadron was renumbered as No.26 Squadron, while the old No.122 Squadron became No.41.
January 1939-November 1940: Supermarine Spitfire I
October 1940-August 1941: Supermarine Spitfire IIA
March-April 1941: Supermarine Spitfire I
August 1941-March 1943: Supermarine Spitfire VB
February 1943-September 1944: Supermarine Spitfire XII
September 1944-September 1945: Supermarine Spitfire XIV
September 1945-April 1946: Hawker Tempest V
September 1936-October 1939: Catterick
October 1939: Wick
October 1939-May 1940: Catterick
May-June 1940: Hornchurch
June-July 1940: Catterick
July-August 1940: Hornchurch
August-September 1940: Catterick
September 1940-February 1941: Hornchurch
February-July 1941: Catterick
July-December 1941: Merston
December 1941-April 1942: Westhampnett
April-June 1942: Merston
June 1942: Martlesham Heath
June-July 1942: Hawkinge
July-August 1942: Debden
August 1942: Longtown
August 1942: Llanbedr
August 1942: Tangmere
August-September 1942: Llanbedr
September 1942: Eglinton
September 1942: Andreas
September-October 1942: Llanbedr
October 1942: Tangmere
October 1942-March 1943: Llanbedr
March-April 1943: High Ercall
April-May 1943: Hawkinge
May 1943: Biggin Hill
May-June 1943: Friston
June-October 1943: Westhampnett
October 1943-February 1944: Tangmere
February 1944: Tangmere
February-March 1944: Friston
April-May 1944: Bolt Head
May 1944: Fairwood Common
May-June 1944: Bolt Head
June 1944: West Malling
June-July 1944: Westhampnett
July 1944: Friston
July-December 1944: Lympne
December 1944: B.64 Diest/ Schaffen
December 1944-January 1945: Y.32 As/ Ophoven
January-March 1945: B.80 Volkel
March 1945: Warmwell
March-April 1945: B.78 Eindhoven
April 1945: B.106 Twente
April-May 1945: B.118 Celle
May-July 1945: B.160 Kastrup
July 1945-January 1946: B.158 Lubeck
January-April 1945: B.116 Wunstorf
Squadron Codes: EB
1939-1944: Fighter Command
1944-1945: Second Tactical Air Force
Editor for Asisbiz: Matthew Laird Acred
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