No. 83 Squadron, RFC, was formed at Montrose, Scotland, on 7th January 1917. Equipped with FE2b's it crossed to France in February/March 1918, and until the end of the First World War it was engaged in night bombing and night reconnaissance.
The squadron returned to England in February 1919, and was subsequently reduced to cadre. On the last day of the year it became a casualty of disarmament and ceased to exist. It was re-formed as a bomber squadron in August 1936, and when war came again was based at Scampton, Lincolnshire and flying Hampdens. In common with other bomber squadrons No.83 found early target restrictions irksome; it was not until April 1940, that it was able to operate regularly and in that month it flew 45 sorties - more than half of them Gardening, or mine- laying. During August of that year some of the squadron's aircraft, with others from No. 49 Squadron, took part in an attack on an aqueduct forming part of the Dortmund-Ems Canal. Flight Lieutenant RAB Learoyd of No. 49 Squadron, who won a VC for his part in this operation, later commanded No.83 Squadron.
During the same month No. 83 Squadron made its first raids on Berlin and also attacked the battleships Scharnhorst, Tirpitz, and von Scheer.
In September 1940, No. 83 gained its own VC. It was awarded to Wireless Operator/Air Gunner Flight Sergeant John Hannah for bravery when his aircraft was set on fire during a moonlight attack on invasion barges at Antwerp on the night of 15/l6th September - one of many such attacks made by the squadron during the late summer and autumn of that year.
The squadron was re-equipped with Manchesters early in 1942 but within a few months these, in turn, were replaced by Lancasters within a matter of months. However, this was not before it had used Manchesters in the 1,000-bomber raids against Cologne and Essen and had also used them to deliver its first 4,000-lb bombs to Germany.
In mid-August 1942, No. 83 moved to Wyton and became part of the newly-formed Pathfinder Force, its first operation in this role being a raid against Flensburg on the night of 18/19th August. During the last three months of 1942 the squadron took part in ten attacks against Northern Italy; the targets were Genoa and Turin and involved flights of about 1,400 miles.
The tempo of operations rose throughout 1943. The year began with the dropping of the first 250-lb TIs (target indicators) on Berlin. The squadron was prominent in the Battle of the Ruhr which began in March and also in the Battle of Hamburg which was fought in July and August. Fifteen Lancasters of No. 83 Squadron took part in the heavy raid against the German V-weapons experimental station at Peenemunde on 17/18th August. They were led by the CO, Group Captain JH Searby who was master bomber on the raid.
In April 1944, by which time it had also played its part in the Battle of Berlin, the squadron was transferred from No. 8 Group and Wyton to No. 5 Group and Coningsby. Up to this time all pathfinding had been done by No. 8 Group, but now No. 83 was to lead its old parent Group, No. 5, against separate targets. The squadron became concerned with attacks on railway targets in France, Belgium and Western Germany in preparation for the Allied invasion of the Continent and on the eve of the invasion - the night of 5/6th June 1944 - bombed gun emplacements at La Pernelle on the Normandy coast. On 8/9th June, four of the squadron's Lancasters acted as a target illuminating force in the highly successful operation in which No. 617 Squadron, using 12,000-lb bombs or Tallboys, blocked the Saumur tunnel.
In April 1945, came the last of the squadron's 5,117 sorties against the enemy - an attack on an oil refinery at Tonsberg (Vallo), in Norway.
During World War 2 No. 83 Squadron won 429 decorations and honours comprising one VC (Sergeant John Hannah), one OBE, one MBE, 29 DSOs, 209 DFCs, 36 bars to DFCs, one CGM 147 DFMs, 3 bars to DFMs and one DCM.
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Date Last Updated : Wednesday, April 6, 2005 2:40 AM
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