1940 – The Squadron departed for France on October 1st 1939 under the command of Squadron Leader Fyfe, flying Blenheim V’s. 59 Squadron carried out photographic reconnaissance of bridges, harbours and convoys. After the German invasion of France in may 1940 the Squadron withdrew to Thorney Island. A typical month’s operations in 1940 (August) for the Squadron consisted of:- 8 convoy escort duties, 10 night bombing raids on Cherbourg and 17 anti-invasion sweeps.
1941 to 1942 – On April 1st 1941, 59 Squadron was redesignated a general reconnaissance squadron under the control of Coastal Command. Re-equipped with Hudsons in July 1941 the Squadron took on anti-shipping strikes under the command of Wing Commander J.A.C.Stratton. A typical month’s operations (January 1941) consisted of:- 35 sorties on a Hipper class Cruiser in dry dock at Brest, 7 sorties against train ferries at Flushing, 6 sorties on an enemy convoy, 2 escorts to convoys, 1 day ‘recce’ of Boulogne, 1 Moon Patrol and 1 Hookos Patrol. Large losses of aircraft and aircrew were sustained in the first half of 1941 – a total of 12 Blenheim crews were lost.
1942 saw 59 Squadron taking part in one of the many 1,000 bomber raids on Germany. On the nights of the 24th, 25th and 26th of June the Squadron led by Wing Commander Bartlett bombed Bremen as part of Operation Millenium II. Click here to view the flying programme for this operation.
On August 5th 1942, Hudson FH426 was badly damaged by anti-aircraft cannon shell fire whilst over the Frisians. Shells hit the wing, flaps and starboard wheel tyre of the aircraft. Click here for a photograph of the crew of FH426 posing in the resultant hole in the wing.
In August 1942, 59 Squadron started training on Liberators which enabled them to start anti-submarine patrols over the Atlantic. For a short time these Liberators were replaced by Flying Fortresses (January 1943) but Liberators (V’s) were re-issued to the Squadron in April 1943.
1943 to 1945 – In May 1943 the Squadron moved to Northern Ireland. It operated out of Aldergrove for a short time but in September moved to Ballykelly where it remained until the end of the war. From Northern Ireland the squadron was engaged in anti-submarine patrols over the Atlantic and convoy escort protection duties. A typical month’s operations (June 1943) consisted of:- 36 convoy escorts (29 met, 6 not), 17 anti-submarine patrols (8 U-Boats sighted) – a total of 53 sorties and 807½ hours of operational flying.
On October 16th 1943, 59 Squadron was credited with the destruction of U470. In addition to U470, 59 Squadron destroyed three other submarines – U844, U990 and U292.
Until British squadrons were equipped with Fortresses and Liberators the German U-Boats enjoyed what was known as ‘happy time’ operating against undefended targets in the mid-Atlantic gap. The new American aircraft operated by the RAF closed this gap once and for all.
1944 saw a record number (98) of sorties achieved but the year also saw the tragic loss of three Liberator V’s with all their crews:-
June 1944 – Liberator ‘A’ Fl.Lt Wade and 7 crew Liberator ‘L’ W/O Langton and 7 crew Liberator ‘H’ P/O Jenkins and 8 crew
June 1944 was a sad month for 59 Squadron and all of Coastal Command.
With the end of the war in Europe the Squadron was transferred in September 1945 to Transport Command and given the task of flying troops to India.