Bomber Command No.149 Squadron
No. 149 Squadron
Motto: "Fortis nocte" ("Strong by night").
Badge: A horseshoe and a flash of lightning interlaced. The horseshoe is indicative of good fortune in the First World War when the squadron flew extensive operations with the loss of only one pilot and observer. A further reason for the horseshoe is that much of the squadron's work was in connection with the cavalry. The flash of lightning is symbolic of the speed with which work was done during a comparatively brief history.
Authority: King George VI, February 1938.
No. 149 Squadron, RFC, was formed at Yapton, Sussex, on 3rd March 1918, as a night-bomber unit and three months later went to France equipped with FE2b's. Engaged in bombing enemy communications, airfields, etc., as well as on reconnaissance duties on the Second Army Front, it dropped more than 80 tons of bombs and made 161 reconnaissances.
Two interesting details worthy of mention concern the squadron's equipment. All the FEs were fitted with a "flame reducer" designed by an officer of the squadron - Captain CES RusseIl. This successfully damped all exhaust flame, an important requirement for night-flying aircraft. All aircraft were fitted with special racks, designed by one of the squadron's mechanics which could carry either Michelin flares or bombs without modification. The FEs were thus instantly adaptable for either bombing or reconnaissance. Of the squadron's original 18 FEs which flew to France in June 1918, seven were still in service on Armistice Day.
After the Armistice No. 149 was the only FE squadron chosen to accompany the Army of Occupation into Germany. It returned to the United Kingdom in March 1919, and was disbanded at Tallaght, Co. Dublin, the following August.
The squadron was re-formed in 1937 at Mildenhall - again as a night-bomber unit - and now equipped with Heyford aircraft. Wellingtons were received early in 1939 and on 4th September that year No. 149 shared with No. 9 Squadron the distinction of making the RAF's second bombing raid of World War 2; the targets were German warships at Brunsbüttel.
The squadron played a prominent part in the early offensive against Germany, Italy and enemy-occupied territory and, after having re-equipped with Stirlings, took part in the first 1,000-bomber raids. In 1943 it made a significant contribution to the Battle of the Ruhr, and also took part in the Battle of Hamburg and the famous raid against the German V-weapons experimental station at Peenemunde. Between February and July 1944 - and in addition to dropping high explosives on the enemy - the squadron helped supply the French Maquis with supplies, arms and ammunition by parachute.
Towards the end of 1944 the Stirlings were replaced by Lancasters and with these the squadron continued its offensive until late April 1945. It then dropped food to the starving people of Holland and later, after the German surrender, ferried many ex-POWs back to England from the Continent.
During December 1943 the squadron was responsible for introducing a new technique of high-level mining. Among the many decorations won by its members was a Victoria Cross awarded posthumously to Flight Sergeant RH Middleton, RAAF, for his part in a raid on Turin on the night of 28/29th November 1942.
Bomber Command WWII Bases:
- Mildenhall : Apr 1937-Apr 1942
- Detachment in southern France (Salon) in Jun 1940.
- Detachment at Lakenheath in Jan/Feb 1942.
- Lakenheath : Apr 1942-May 1944
- Detachment at Tempsford in Jan/Feb 1944.
- Methwold : May 1944 onwards
Bomber Command WWII Aircraft:
- Vickers Wellington I, IC and II : Jan 1939-Dec 1941
- Short Stirling I and III : Nov 1941-Sep 1944
- Avro Lancaster B.I and B.III : Aug 1944-Nov 1949
- During the 1938 Munich crisis No. 149 was allotted the code letters "LY". In WW2 its a/c were coded "OJ" or, in the case of certain Lancasters and possibly Stirlings, "TK".
First Operational Mission in WWII:
- 3rd September 1939 : Armed reconnaissance over North Sea by 3 Wellingtons.
First Bombing Mission in WWII:
- 4th September 1939 : 8 Wellingtons despatched to bomb German warships at Brunsbüttel. 1 claimed to have released bombs over target area and rest jettisoned bombs in sea elsewhere.
Last Operational Mission in WWII:
- 22nd April 1945 : 21 Lancasters bombed Bremen.
Last Mission before VE Day:
- 7th May 1945 : 24 Lancasters dropped food supplies to Dutch at Gouda.