Bomber Command No.139 Squadron
No. 139 Squadron
Motto: "Si placet necamus" ("We destroy at will").
Badge: In front of a crescent a fasces. The fasces is taken from the badge of No. 28 Squadron to which the nucleus flight of No. 139 Squadron was originally attached for a short period following its arrival in Italy (from England) where No. 28 was then based. This flight was later transferred to No. 34 Squadron (in whose badge a crescent appears) and operated with No. 34 until July 1918, when - together with another flight - it became No. 139 Squadron. The bulk of the personnel for No. 139 Squadron was supplied by No. 34 Squadron.
Authority: King George VI, December 1938.
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.
Bomber Command WWII Bases:
- Wyton : Sep 1936-Dec 1939
- Bétheniville, France : Dec 1939-Feb 1940
- Plivot, France : Feb 1940-May 1940
- West Raynham : May 1940-Jun 1940
- Horsham St. Faith : Jun 1940-Jul 1941
- Detachment in Malta, May/Jun 1941.
- Oulton : Jul 1941-Oct 1941
- Horsham St. Faith : Oct 1941-Dec 1941
- Oulton : Dec 1941- ?
No sqdn records exist for period Jan 1942-May 1942, but it is known that by Feb 1942 sqdn was operating Hudsons on general reconnaissance in the Far East. On 30.4.42 it was re-numbered No. 62 (GR) Sqdn in India.
Re-formed as No. 39(B) Sqdn. 8.6.42 at:
- Horsham St. Faith : Jun 1942
- Oulton : Jun 1942
- Horsham St. Faith : Jun 1942-Sep 1942
- Marham : Sep 1942-Jul 1943
- Wyton : Jul 1943-Feb 1944
- Upwood : Feb 1944 onwards
Bomber Command WWII Aircraft:
- Bristol Blenheim I, IV and V : Jul 1937-Dec 1941
- de Havilland Mosquito B.IV, B.IX, PR.IX, B.XVI, B.XX and B.XXV : late 1942 onwards
- During the 1938 Munich crisis No. 139 was allotted the code letters "SY". In WW2 the sqdn's a/c were coded "XD"
First Operational Mission in WWII:
- 3rd September 1939 : Photo reconnaissance of Wilhelmshaven and airfields in NW Germany by one Blenheim.
First Bombing Mission in WWII:
- 12th May 1940 : 9 Blenheims dive-bombed German troops advancing along the Maastricht- Tongres road. The formation was subsequently attacked by enemy fighters and only 2 a/c returned. 2 of missing a/c believed shot down in flames. 2 crews later rejoined sqdn after having forced-landed near enemy lines.
Last Operational Mission in WWII:
- 2nd May 1945 : 14 Mosquitos bombed Kiel.