Bomber Command No.44 Squadron
No. 44 Squadron
Motto: Motto: "Fulmina regis iusta" ("The King's thunderbolts are righteous").
Badge: On a mount an elephant. The badge is based upon the seal of Lo Bengula, the chief of the Matabeles on conquest. The seal shows an elephant which, in the case of this unit, is intended to indicate heavy attacks.
Authority: King George VI, October 1941.
No. 44 Squadron, RFC, was formed at Hainault Farm, Essex, on 24th July 1917, as a Home Defence Squadron and gained fame in the First World War by pioneering the use of the Sopwith Camel single-seat fighter aircraft for night operations (August/September 1917) and achieving the first unqualified victory in combat between aircraft flying at night (two Camels versus a German Gotha, 28/29th January 1918). One of the squadron's early commanding officers was Major AT Harris who, as Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, was to direct the greatest aerial assault in history on the German homeland a quarter of a century later.
Disbanded in 1919, No.44 was re-formed at Wyton in March 1937, as a bomber squadron with Hawker Hinds, moving later in the year to Waddington, where it re-equipped with Blenheims and then Hampdens.
Commanded at the outbreak of the Second World War by Wing Commander JN Boothman of Schneider Trophy fame, the squadron's early operations consisted mainly of North Sea sweeps, security patrols and minelaying. There followed raids on land communications, on Hitler's concentrations of invasion barges in the Channel and North Sea ports, on Luftwaffe airfields and naval targets, as well as the first raids on German industrial centres.
In September 1941, the squadron's title was altered to "No. 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron" in recognition of that country's generous donations to the war effort. This was particularly appropriate as about a quarter of the squadron's personnel were Rhodesian. The association is preserved in the squadron's badge which features an African elephant.
In December 1941, the squadron's Hampdens were withdrawn and early in 1942 No.44 became the first squadron to convert completely to Lancasters. It quickly made this aircraft's vastly increased striking power felt by the enemy. In a memorable low-level unescorted daylight raid on the MAN Diesel factory at Augsburg in Southern Bavaria on 17th April, Squadron Leader JD Nettleton, leading a combined force with No.97 Squadron, won the VC. For a brief period No.44 enjoyed the distinction of having on its strength two recipients of the supreme award for valour, since the CO at this period was Wing Commander RAB Learoyd VC.
Pressure on the enemy steadily increased. Not only did No. 44 Squadron throw all its weight into Bomber Command's relentless assault on German industry, but it also raided ports and U-boat shelters, as well as the Peenemunde V-weapons experimental station and targets in Northern Italy.
As the war approached its climax, with the Allied invasion of Europe, No.44 Squadron played its part in the disruption of communications in France, in the bombing of enemy coastal defences and semi-tactical support of the ground forces, before turning its attention to V1 launching sites in the Pas de Calais. Concentration now turned to starving the enemy of his oil supplies and wrecking his transport system, coupled with the reduction of hostile garrisons in the path of our armies.
Bomber Command WWII Bases:
- Waddington : Jun 1937-May 1943
- Detachments at Lossiemouth in Jan/Feb 1940 & Nutts Corner in Jun/Jul 1942 for ops with Coastal Command.
- Detachment at Lossiemouth in Apr 1942 for ops against the Tirpitz in Foetten fjord, Norway.
- Dunholme Lodge : May 1943-Sep 1944
- Spilsby : Sep 1944 onwards
Bomber Command WWII Aircraft:
- Handley Page Hampden I : Feb 1939-Dec 1941
- Avro Lancaster B.I and B.III : Dec 1941 onwards
- During the 1938 Munich crisis No.44 was allotted the code letters "JW". In WW2, the sqdn's a/c were coded "KM".
First Operational Mission in WWII:
- 19/20th March 1940 : 1 Hampden bombed seaplane base at Hornum, & 4 more Hampdens aborted.
First Bombing Mission in WWII:
- 3rd September 1939 : Armed reconnaissance over North Sea in area north of Heligoland by 9 Hampdens.
Last Operational Mission in WWII:
- 25th April 1945 : 6 Lancasters bombed SS barracks at Berchtesgaden & 2 more Lancasters aborted.
Last Mission before VE Day:
- 4th May 1945 : 13 Lancasters ferried ex-P0Ws home to UK from Brussels.