No. 57 Squadron, RFC, was formed at Copmanthorpe, near York, on 8th June, 1916, from a nucleus flight provided by No. 33 Home Defence Squadron and in December of the same year crossed to France as a fighter-reconnaissance unit equipped with FE2d's. In May 1917, the squadron began to convert to Rolls-Royce Eagle-engined DH4s and in June, on completion of its conversion training, moved up into the Ypres sector and started long-distance reconnaissance, bombing and photography. In July oxygen-breathing apparatus and negative-lens bombsights were fitted to all aircraft and thereafter both bombing and photography improved. In all its work No. 57 met strong opposition from enemy fighters and many successful combats were fought.
The squadron continued photographic reconnaissances and bombing raids on targets behind the enemy's lines, and although it suffered heavy casualties during the summer and autumn of 1918 -its record of achievement was high. During its service in France No. 57 Squadron destroyed 166 enemy aircraft, dropped 285 tons of bombs, exposed 22,030 photographic plates and made 196 successful reconnaissances.
From November 1918 to January 1919 the squadron was engaged on mail-carrying duties under the orders of GHQ, RAF. It returned to England in August 1919, and in the following December was disbanded.
In October 1931, No. 57 Squadron was re-formed at Netheravon as a day-bomber squadron equipped with the famous Hawker Hart, and continued with this type until May, 1936, when it re-equipped with the Hind. Blenheims came next and it was with these that the squadron, then based at Rosières in France, began bombing operations against the Germans when they invaded the Low Countries in May, 1940. With the advance of the German armies the squadron had to retreat, although even in retreat it took every opportunity to hit back. From Rosières it went to Poix, and from Poix to Crécy. Then, on 19th and 20th May, the squadron returned to England and on the 21st reassembled at Wyton. In June it moved to Northern Scotland and from July to October - after having first made an attack on enemy-occupied Norway - was employed on anti-shipping sweeps over the North Sea. It then moved south again, converted to Wellingtons and in January 1941, joined in the strategic night-bombing offensive.
In September 1942, the Wellingtons were replaced by Lancasters and in the following month the squadron contributed ten of its new aircraft to the historic low-level dusk raid on the Schneider works at Le Creusot.
In November 1942, No. 57 Squadron was visited by HM King George VI, this honour being followed, in 1943, by a further Royal visit - this time by both the King and Queen.
Among the targets attacked by the squadron in 1944 were the V1 storage sites in the caves at St. Leu d'Esserent, and the Mondeville steelworks at Caen, situated only two thousand yards ahead of the advancing British troops. In December 1944, the squadron took part in a raid on the German Baltic Fleet at Gdynia and in March 1945, was represented in the bomber force which so pulverised the defences of Wesel just before the crossing of the Rhine that Commandos were able to seize the town with only 36 casualties. Of this last attack Field-Marshal Montgomery later said: "The bombing of Wesel was a masterpiece, and was a decisive factor in making possible our entry into the town before midnight."
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Date Last Updated : Wednesday, April 6, 2005 2:40 AM
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