No. 35 Squadron, RFC, was first formed on 1st February 1916, at Thetford, Norfolk, from a nucleus flight of No.9 (Reserve) Squadron, RFC. It moved to Narborough in June to complete training and towards the end of January 1917 went to France equipped with Armstrong Whitworth FK8s for army co-operation duties. The squadron had the distinction of having been specially trained for co-operation with the cavalry, and some of the cavalry officers attached to it during mobilisation accompanied it overseas. Soon after arrival on the Western Front it was posted for duty with the Cavalry Corps and remained attached until March 1918. It returned to England in March 1919, and in June was disbanded at Netheravon.
When No. 35 re-formed in March 1929, at Bircham Newton, Norfolk, it became a bomber squadron. At first it received DH9As, but these were soon replaced by Fairey IIIFs. Then in 1932 came Gordons. In October 1935, after the Italians had invaded Abyssinia, the squadron was sent to the Sudan to rein force the Middle East Command. It stayed ten months. Back home it settled at Worthy Down and during the latter part of 1937 exchanged its Gordons for Wellesleys. In 1938 the squadron moved to Cottesmore and re-equipped with Battles.
Following the outbreak of the Second World War, No. 35 was for some months employed as a training unit. Then in April 1940 (by which time it was equipped with Blenheims), it lost its identity on being absorbed into No. 17 OTU.
In November 1940, the squadron was re-formed for the express purpose of introducing the new Handley Page Halifax into operational service. It flew its first sorties on Halifaxes on the night of 11/12th March 1941, when the target was Le Havre. Six aircraft were despatched, four of which successfully attacked the primary target whilst another, unable to see either the primary or the alternative target (Boulogne), bombed Dieppe instead. The sixth aircraft, failing to see the target even after repeated circuits and having insufficient fuel to allow it to proceed to the alternative, jettisoned its bombs in the Channel. Unfortunately, one of the aircraft which had bombed Le Havre was mistaken for an enemy aircraft on the return journey and was shot down in flames at Normandy, Surrey, by one of our own night fighters. Only two members of the crew - the pilot and the flight engineer - escaped by parachute and survived.
During the rest of 1941 the squadron bombed a variety of targets in Germany and occupied France, some of the raids being undertaken in daylight. In July No. 35 made its first raid on Berlin (two Halifaxes were despatched and the pilot of the only one known to have reached and bombed the target was none other than Flying Officer - as he then was - GL Cheshire, later Group Captain GL Cheshire VC DSO DFC, and in September made the 1,700-mile trip to Turin in Northern Italy. In February 1942, it was one of the squadrons which attempted to stop the German warships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau during their escape dash from Brest to North German ports. April saw two unsuccessful attacks on the Tirpitz lying near Trondheim fjord, and at the end of May the squadron contributed 18 Halifaxes to the historic 1,000-bomber raid on Cologne.
When the Pathfinder Force was formed in August 1942, with the object of securing more concentrated and effective bombing by marking targets with incendiary bombs and flares dropped from aircraft flown by experienced crews, using the latest navigational equipment, No. 35 was one of the five squadrons selected to form the nucleus of the new force. The first Pathfinder Force (PFF) attack was against Flensburg on 18/19th August 1942, and the new technique soon proved its value. In March 1943, No. 35 Squadron Halifaxes backed up Mosquitoes using the target-finding aid Oboe, and Essen received its most severe damage to date.
And so it continued, with No. 35 playing a major part in historic Bomber Command raids - Le Creusot (19/20th June 1943), Peenemunde (17/18th August 1943) and many others. In March 1944, the squadron converted to Lancasters and in the early hours of D-Day, 6th June, attacked two German coastal batteries - one at Maisy and the other at Longues. Later in the year the gun batteries on Walcheren Island, key to the vital port of Antwerp, and communications centres supporting von Runstedt's Ardennes offensive, felt the weight of the squadron's bombing. The closing months of the war saw a series of successful raids on industrial targets, hastening the enemy's final collapse.
Awards gained by squadron members include 19 DSOs, six bars to DSOs, 1 MC, 295 DFCs, 27 bars to DFCs, 4 CGMs, 173 DFMs and two bars to DFMs.
Bomber Command WWII Bases:
Re-formed 5.11.40 as No. 35(B) Squadron at:
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First Operational Mission in WWII:
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Date Last Updated : Wednesday, April 6, 2005 2:40 AM
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