No. 139 Squadron was formed at Villaverla, Italy, on 3rd July 1918, as a fighter-reconnaissance squadron equipped with Bristol Fighters, and between that date and the Armistice it claimed the destruction of 27 enemy aircraft (a further seven were classified as "probably destroyed"). Disbanded in 1919, it was re-formed as a bomber squadron in 1936 except for the period December 1941-April 1942 when it was a general reconnaissance squadron flying Hudsons. At the beginning of the last war it was equipped with Blenheims and flew the first RAF sortie to cross the German frontier; and it won one of the first two decorations of the war.1
After duty in France (during which it suffered very heavy casualties) the squadron returned to England, re-formed, and subsequently made many attacks on fringe targets in NW Europe - including the invasion ports - and many anti-shipping sweeps.
During the early years of the war, a Jamaican newspaper, The Daily Gleaner, started a fund to buy bombers for Britain. The money Jamaica subscribed was the foundation of the "Bombers for Britain" Fund, to which many other Colonies and Dominions subsequently contributed. Jamaica herself contributed enough money to buy twelve Blenheims by 1941 and in recognition of this service it was decided, in the words of Lord Beaverbrook, the wartime Minister of Aircraft Production, "that Jamaica 's name shall evermore be linked with a squadron of the Royal Air Force".
In 1942/43 No. 139 was re-equipped with Mosquitos (it was the second bomber squadron to get them) and with these fast and highly-manoeuvrable aircraft made many daring low- level daylight and dusk precision attacks on targets in enemy-occupied Europe-very often in conjunction with No. 105 Squadron, the first Mosquito unit. One of the most notable operations of this period was the daylight raid on Berlin on 30th January 1943, when two No. 139 Squadron crews tried to interrupt an important speech by Dr. Goebbels, Germany's Propaganda Minister. Although it failed to achieve its aim, this raid made news by occurring only a few hours after No. 105 Squadron had made the RAF's first daylight raid on the German capital and had succeeded in keeping Field Marshal Goering (also scheduled to deliver an important speech) off the air for more than an hour.
In the summer of 1943 No. 139 Squadron changed over to night raiding and joined the Pathfinder Force, its early work with the PFF consisting mainly of preceding waves of heavy bombers to drop Window (thin strips of metal foil) and so confuse the enemy's early warning radar, and making "spoof" raids on other targets to divert enemy night fighters from the primary target attacked by the "heavies". In 1944 it became an H2S-equipped Mosquito marker squadron and during the year visited a long list of the most famous targets in Germany - Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Mannheim, Hanover, Duisburg, Lübeck, and many others. Very many 4,000-lb. "cookies" were dropped on these targets in addition to TIs (target indicators) to guide the main force heavies. Amongst other duties the squadron inaugurated the "Ploughman" raids in which each aircraft dropped a single bomb on each of four different diversionary targets; and it lit the way for minelaying operations in the Kiel Canal.
The New Year saw the Jamaica Squadron working at full pressure and it also saw it make, between 20th/21st February to 27/28th March inclusive, a series of 36 consecutive night attacks on Berlin. On 2nd/3rd May 1945, came the last of the squadron's wartime operations-an attack by 14 Mosquitos (including several Canadian-built Mk. XXs) on Kiel.
1 The first decorations of WW2 - gazetted simultaneously on 10th October 1939 - were two DFCs. One went to Flying Officer A McPherson, the No. 139 Sqdn pilot whose aircraft (Blenheim IV, N6215) was the first to cross the German frontier to reconnoitre and photograph the German Fleet on 3rd September; and the other to Flight Lieutenant KC Doran of No. 110 Sqdn who led the first bombing raid of the war - against German warships near Wilhelmshaven - on 4th September.
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