RAF No 328 (GC/I/7 'Provence') Squadron

RAF No 328 (GC/I/7 'Provence') Squadron

Aircrew French GC1/7 Provence de larmee de l Air Capt Dorance 01

Aircrew French pilot Capt. Raymond Boillot with his Spitfire 01

French Spitfire flying with the Mediterranean Allied Coastal Air Force 01

French Spitfire taxi for their mission into Germany Vosges France 1944 45 01

Spitfire LFIXc RAF 329Sqn 5AL Raphael Lombaert NH71 TC15015 Supermarine Spitfire MkIX Page 31

Spitfire MkIX FAF 1/4 Dauphine White E MJ671 over Indo China 01

Spitfire MkIX FAF 1/4 Dauphine White E MJ671 over Indo China 0A

Spitfire MkIX FAF 1/4 Dauphine White O over Indo China 01

Spitfire MkIX GC1/7 White O NH306 Stuttgart Sachsenheim 12th April 1945 01

Spitfire MkIX GC1/7 White O NH306 Stuttgart Sachsenheim 12th April 1945 0A

Spitfire MkIX GC2/33 01

Spitfire MkIX RAF 328Sqn GC1/7 MA574 North Africa 1944 01

Spitfire MkIX RAF 328Sqn MA4xx North Africa 1943 01

Spitfire MkIX RAF 328Sqn North Africa 1943 01

Spitfire MkIX RAF 328Sqn North Africa 1943 02

Spitfire MkIX RAF 328Sqn North Africa 1943 03

Spitfire MkVc RAF GR2 EF736 1944 01

Spitfire MkVcTrop GC1/7 White 4 AR524 Djidjeli Taher Algeria 1944 01

Spitfire MkVcTrop GCII/7 White 7 JL244 Bone Les Salines Algeria June 1943 0A

Spitfire White O lies with a broken back after a forced landing 01

Free French Air Force

Free French Air Force

  • No. 326 Squadron 1943–45
  • No. 327 Squadron
  • No. 328 Squadron
  • No. 329 Squadron 1944–45
  • No. 340 Squadron 1941–45
  • No. 341 Squadron 1943–45
  • No. 345 Squadron 1944–45
  • Free French Spitfire Squadrons operated under RAF command, having its RAF squadron number and French Fighter group number:

  • 340 (Free French) Squadron, G.C. IV/2 'Ile de France', was formed in Scotland in November 1941.
  • 341 (Free French) Squadron, G.C. III/2 'Alsace', was formed in January 1943 with Free French Air Forces personnel transferred from various RAF fighter squadrons in North Africa.
  • 345 (Free French) Squadron, G.C. II/2 'Berry', was formed in Scotland in January 1944 with French pilots who had been based in North Africa.
  • 329 (Free French) Squadron, G.C. I/2 'Cicognes', was formed in July 1941.
  • After reunification in July 1943 ex-Vichy Fighter Squadrons (Air Force and Navy) equipped joined former Free French squadrons, inside RAF organization, and converted to Spitfires.

    No.326 Squadron was formed in Calvi, Corsica on 1 December 1943 from GC/II/7 'Nice' squadron and was equipped with British Spitfire aircraft. Its first mission as GC II/7 was an armed reconnaissance mission on April 30, 1943. In June replaced its Mk.Vb Spitfires with Mk.IX variant. First Armée de l'Air unit to be stationed on French soil, when it was based in Corsica at the end of 1943. The squadron followed the Allied advance through Europe from Southern France supporting the Free French Army and by April 1945 was operating from Grossachsenheim, Germany. It was under RAF control until November 1945 when it disbanded upon reversion to French control.

    Aircraft operated by no. 326 Squadron RAF
    From / To Aircraft
    Dec 1943 - Oct 1944 Supermarine Spitfire MkVc
    Apr 1944 - Nov 1945 Supermarine Spitfire MkIX
    Jun 1944 - Nov 1945 Supermarine Spitfire MkVIII

    No.327 Squadron was G.C. I/3 'Corse', created in North Africa in early 1943. At the outbreak of World War II, Groupe de Chasse I/3 (GC I/3) was equipped with the Morane-Saulnier MS.406. After seeing combat during the Phoney War, GC I/3 relocated to southern France. While at Cannes-Mandelieu, the unit converted to the new Dewoitine D.520 fighter. When the Battle of France began in May 1940, it was the only unit to be operationally ready with the D.520, which it first took to battle on May 12 after hastily relocating to Wez-Thuisy. In late June 1940, as the collapse of the French armies was inevitable, GC I/3 crossed the Mediterranean to escape capture. Here it went under control of the Vichy government. After three of its pilots, including ace Marcel Albert, had defected to Gibraltar to join the Free French, the Germans requested GC I/3 to be disbanded. However, the unit was simply renamed GC III/3, using the designation of a squadron that had been disbanded the previous year. Under this guise, the unit briefly faced the Allies during Operation Torch.

    After French forces in North Africa had sided with the Allies, the unit was re-christened GC 1/3 Corse and was re-equipped with Supermarine Spitfire fighters.

    It then operated under the Royal Air Force, which referred to it as No. 327 (French) Squadron. No. 327 Squadron was active from 1 December 1943 until November 1945.

    No.328 Squadron was G.C. I/7 'Provence', created in Corsica in December 1943.

    The three squadrons formed 1ère Escadre de Chasse (1st Fighter Wing), with 20 Spitfires in each squadron. All were initially equipped with Spitfire Vs received from RAF, but later received other versions.

    During the period of the Second World War, a large number of the squadrons of RAF were manned by personnel from countries which had been overwhelmed by German military expansionism. This French Air Force unit was an amalgamation of the two flights SPA 3 and SPA 103, which had been two of the more illustrious units of the Great War. The squadron distinguished itself during the Battle of France in 1940 but was disbanded in August 1940, after the fall of France. It was re-formed in July 1941, flying Dewoitine D.520 aircraft. In May 1942, its transfer to North Africa was begun. In November 1942, Operation Torch opened and gave the squadron and other French forces in North Africa, the opportunity to join the Free French Forces. At the end of 1943, it was embarked in HMS King George V, arriving in Ayr, Scotland in January 1944. Once assembled there, on 5 January, the former escadron became 329 Squadron RAF.

    After assembling at Ayr, it moved to Perranporth, in Cornwall, UK, to begin equipping with Spitfire Vs. By March, these had been replaced by Mark IXs. Becoming operational on 1 March, by which time the mark Vs had been withdrawn. The squadron joined No. 415 Wing RAF Free French units of 2nd Tactical Air Force on 14 April and provided cover for the D Day landings in Normandy in the following June. At this stage, its commanding officer was Lieutenant-colonel (Wing commander) Fleurquin. In August, it moved to Sommervieu, near Bayeux in Normandy, under the command of Capitaine (Flight lieutenant) Ozanne. As a squadron of a tactical wing, it specialized in ground attack of troop movements, road and river supply convoys and V-weapon launch sites. However, the job included air-to-air combat, and after it had moved forward into the Low Countries in September, it met its first jet-propelled opposition in December, 1944. In March 1945, No. 329 returned to the UK. It was stationed at Turnhouse. In May 1945, it was moved to the West of England but fifteen of its aircraft participated in the Victory fly-past in Paris on 14th July 1945. It was disbanded in the UK, at Fairwood Common on 17 November 1945.

    On the fifteenth, it moved to Friedrichshafen via Le Bourget as EC 1/2 Cigognes (Fighter Squadron 1/2 "Storks"), a unit of the newly reconstituted 2nd Fighter Wing of the French Air Force.

    Aircraft operated by No. 329 Squadron RAF
    From / To Aircraft
    Feb 1944 - Mar 1944 Supermarine Spitfire MkVb
    Feb 1944 - Mar 1944 Supermarine Spitfire MkVc
    Feb 1944 - Mar 1945 Supermarine Spitfire MkIX
    Apr 1945 - Nov 1945 Supermarine Spitfire MkIX
    Feb 1945 - Apr 1945 Supermarine Spitfire MkXVI

    Armament - The Mk VA mounted eight 0.303 machine guns. Mk VB had two 20mm canon and four 0.303" machine guns. The Mk VC had a universal wing capable of mounting eight 0.303" machine guns or two 20 mm canon and four machine guns. As well as these options, the VC could carry two 250 lb (113 kg) bombs. In addition, all three had a centre-line rack for carrying either a 500 lb (227 kg) bomb or an external fuel tank. Each was fitted with a Merlin 45 engine: 1,440 horsepower). The Mk IX was essentially a Mk V with a more powerful engine (Merlin 61) and the low-level versions had clipped wings. Likewise, the Mk XVI had a more powerful engine still (Packard Merlin 266: 1,705 hp).

    No.340 Squadron Becoming operational on 29 November with the operational code 'GW', the squadron flew defensive patrols until moving south in April 1942 to begin fighter sweeps over northern France. Between 1 April and 8 April 1942, the squadron was based at Redhill Aerodrome near Gatwick and between 27 July 1942 and 20 March 1943, at RAF Biggin Hill.

    In March 1943, the squadron was withdrawn for rest and returned to Scotland, moving to south-west England in November for fighter sweeps and anti-shipping operations off Brittany. Joining 145 Wing of the Second Tactical Air Force (2 TAF) in April 1944, 340 Squadron helped to provide fighter cover for the Normandy landings, then moved to France that August.

    After moving forward to Belgium in September 1944, the squadron returned to the UK to fly bomber escort missions and was based at Biggin Hill again between 3 November and 19 November 1944. In February 1945, the squadron rejoined 2 TAF in the Netherlands and for the rest of the war flew fighter sweeps over Germany. After a short period with the occupation forces, 340 was transferred to the control of the Armee de l'Air (French Air Force) on 25 November 1945.

    During the war years, 340 flew 7,845 sorties and over 10,000 flight hours. It claimed 37 enemy aircraft destroyed with 5 more 'probables' and over 500 vehicles and locomotives. Thirty of its pilots were killed and 6 became prisoners of war. Many more were injured, some seriously.

    For its gallant actions, 340 Squadron was awarded the French Croix de la Liberation. This was awarded to the heroes of the liberation of France and is an exception honour, second only to the Legion d'Honneur. Only 18 were awarded to French military units. In addition to the unit award, 19 squadron members were appointed to the order with the title Compagnon de la Liberation. Other awards included one Médaille militaire, four Citations a l'Ordre de l'Armee and one Citation a l'Ordre des FAFL.

    In the years since the war, the squadron has become French Air Force Escadron de Chasse 02.005. Over the years, it has been equipped with the Bell P63 Kingcobra, Vampire Mk 1, Vampire Mk 5, SNCASE Mistral, Mystere II, Mystere IV, Super Mystere B2, Mirage IIIC, Mirage F1C and finally the Mirage 2000. The squadron is now based at Orange-Caritat Air Base in southern France and is the Mirage 2000 operational conversion unit.

    340 Squadron of the Air Training Corps is based at Edenbridge (disbanded 2017).

    No. 341 Squadron was formed on 15 January 1943 at RAF Turnhouse, with personnel from the Free French Air Forces (Forces aériennes françaises libres), in particular the personnel of the Free French Flight (also known as Groupe de Chasse n°1 « Alsace » and before as Première Escadrille de Chasse (E.F.C. 1)), which had been operating in the Western Desert alongside various RAF fighter squadrons such as No. 33 and No. 73 squadron from 1940, and had earned an Ordre de la Libération on 21 June 1941. The unit was equipped with Spitfire VBs, its first commander being Squadron Leader René Mouchotte. The squadron moved to RAF Biggin Hill on 21 March 1943 and, re-equipped with Supermarine Spitfire L.F Mk.IXs, began to take part in sweeps over France. The squadron moved to Cornwall on 11 October 1943 for similar operations over Brittany, returning to RAF Merston on 14 April 1944 to join No. 145 Wing. Pierre Clostermann experienced his first aerial combat as a wingman of Sqn Ldr Mouchotte.

    After covering the Allied landings in France in June 1944, No. 341 Squadron moved from Tangmere to Sommervieu (B8 airfield) in Normandy on 19 August and arrived in Belgium in September. Armed reconnaissance sweeps over Germany were directed mainly at enemy communications for the rest of the war, apart from a month at Turnhouse during February 1945 to equip with the Spitfire Mark XVI. On 27 November 1945, the squadron gave up its aircraft on transfer to Friedrichshafen and on the following day passed to the control of the Armée de l'Air. On 28 May 1945 the squadron was presented with the Ordre de la Libération (Cross of Liberation).

    During the war the Squadron flew 5,469 operations, claiming some 30 aircraft shot down, and losing 21 pilots killed and 6 taken prisoner.

    No. 345 Squadron RAF The squadron was formed in Ayr, Scotland on 30 January 1944 from GC II/2 Free French airmen who had been based in the Middle East and was equipped with British Spitfire aircraft. It then moved to RAF stations in England including Shoreham, Fairwood Common and Biggin Hill.

    For Operation Overlord (the Allied invasion of Normandy) it was equipped with the Spitfire V LF operating from RAF Shoreham as part of Air Defence of Great Britain, though under the operational control of RAF Second Tactical Air Force (2nd TAF).

    With 2nd TAF it followed the allied advance from the Normandy beachheads across Europe and by November 1945 was based at Friedrichshafen, Germany. It was under RAF control until 27 November 1945 when it transferred to French control.

    Aircraft operated by No. 345 Squadron RAF
    From / To Aircraft
    Mar 1944 - Sep 1944 Supermarine Spitfire MkVb
    Sep 1944 - Apr 1945 Supermarine Spitfire HFIX
    Apr 1945 - Nov 1945 Supermarine Spitfire MkXVI

    These squadrons were based in Corsica from 1943 and covered the Allied landing in Southern France in August 1944. Later they moved to Alsace-Lorraine, supporting the First French Army advance into Germany.

    Armee de l'Air

    After world War two French Air Force had about 300 Spitfires in Europe. Some more were acquired by refurbishing spitfires found in North Africa scrap depots.

    First French used in Indochina war were spitfires. The RAF transferred 246 Squadron's Spitfire Mk. VIIIs to French Air Force. More were received from RAF surplus or were transferred from France

    Aviation Navale

    The French Aviation purchased Seafires to operate from ex-Royal Navy aircraft carriers H.M.S. Biter (future Dixmude) and Colossus (future Arromanches). France bought a first batch of 50 and a second batch of 65 Seafire Mk IIIs. Some Seafire XV planes were later bought to meet NATO missions. French Navy purchased a total of 179 Mk.III and 15 Mk.XV for Fighter Squadrons 1.F, 12.F and flights 10.S, 11.S, 54.S ; and also Rochefort school flight.

    Two squadrons were deployed on the carrier Arromanches in 1948 to fight in the Indochina War. Aviation Navale Seafires operated from land bases and from Arromanches on ground attack missions until January 1949. After returning to Europe Seafires were replaced with Seafire XVs and in 1950 these were replaced by Grumman F6F Hellcats.

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        Magazine References: +

    • Airfix Magazines (English) - http://www.airfix.com/
    • Avions (French) - http://www.aerostories.org/~aerobiblio/rubrique10.html
    • FlyPast (English) - http://www.flypast.com/
    • Flugzeug Publikations GmbH (German) - http://vdmedien.com/flugzeug-publikations-gmbh-hersteller_verlag-vdm-heinz-nickel-33.html
    • Flugzeug Classic (German) - http://www.flugzeugclassic.de/
    • Klassiker (German) - http://shop.flugrevue.de/abo/klassiker-der-luftfahrt
    • Le Fana de L'Aviation (French) - http://boutique.editions-lariviere.fr/site/abonnement-le-fana-de-l-aviation-626-4-6.html
    • Le Fana de L'Aviation (French) - http://www.pdfmagazines.org/tags/Le+Fana+De+L+Aviation/
    • Osprey (English) - http://www.ospreypublishing.com/
    • Revi Magazines (Czech) - http://www.revi.cz/

        Web References: +

    • History of RAF Organisation: http://www.rafweb.org
    • History of RAAF: http://www.airpages.ru/eng/ot/raaf_01.shtml
    • Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/

    This webpage was updated 1st September 2022

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