Bomber Command No.61 Squadron
No. 61 Squadron
Motto: "Per purum tonantes" ("Thundering through the clear air").
Badge: The Lincoln Imp. The Lincoln Imp associates the squadron with the district in which it was re-formed in 1937.
Authority: King George VI, March 1940.
No. 61 Squadron, RFC, was formed at Rochford, Essex, on 2nd August 1917, as one of the first three single-seater fighter squadrons of the London Air Defence Area intended to counter the daylight air raids. It was equipped with the Sopwith Pup.
The squadron first went into action on 12th August when a formation of 10 Gotha bombers came in over the mouth of the Thames. Sixteen Pups of No. 61 Squadron took off to intercept them and succeeded in turning the enemy back, but not before two bombs had been dropped near No. 61's hangars on Rochford aerodrome. In 1918 the squadron was re-equipped with SE5s but before the Armistice was signed it began to change over to Sopwith Camels.
Disbanded in 1919, No. 61 was re-formed in 1937 as a bomber squadron and in World War 2 flew with No. 5 Group, Bomber Command, and took part in many notable operations including: the first bombing raid on a German land target (Hornum, 19/20th March 1940), the first big bombing raid on the German mainland (Monchengladbach, 11/12th May 1940), the first bombing raid on Berlin (25/26th August 1940), the epic attacks on Le Creusot and Peenemunde (17th October 1942 and 17/18th August 1943, respectively), the successive drainings of the Dortmund-Ems and Mitteland Canals (late 1944), and the attack on Wesel just before the crossing of the Rhine (23rd/24th March 1945). Beginning operations with Hampdens, the squadron was given Manchesters towards the end of 1941 and later (spring 1942), Lancasters. Four of its Lancasters - ED860 "N-Nan", EE176, JB138 and LL483 each became veterans of more than 100 operational sorties. Records show that in the case of the first three aircraft, the long road to their centuries included participation in the raid on 3rd/4th November 1943, when Flight Lieutenant William Reid of No. 61 Squadron won the Victoria Cross.
In the summer of 1942 No. 61 was twice loaned to Coastal Command for anti-submarine operations in the Bay of Biscay. It was detached from its base in Rutland to St. Eval in Cornwall and on the very first occasion that it operated from there - on 17th July - a crew captained by Flight Lieutenant PR Casement (Lancaster I R5724) became the first Bomber Command crew to bring back irrefutable evidence that they had destroyed a U-boat at sea - a photograph showing the U-boat crew in the water swimming away from their sinking vessel.
Bomber Command WWII Bases:
- Hemswell : Mar 1937-Jul 1941
- Detachment at Wick (Nov/Dec 1939) for ops with Coastal Command.
- North Luffenham : Jul 1941-Oct 1941
- Woolfox Lodge : Oct 1941-May 1942
- Syerston : May 1942-Nov 1943
- Detached to St. Eval on loan to Coastal Command in Jul and again in Aug 1942.
- Skellingthorpe : Nov 1943-Feb 1944
- Coningsby : Feb 1944-Apr 1944
- Skellingthorpe : Apr 1944 onwards
Bomber Command WWII Aircraft:
- Handley Page Hampden : Feb 1939-Oct 1941
- Avro Manchester : Jun 1941-Jun 1942
- Avro Lancaster B.I, B.II and B.III : Apr 1942 onwards
- During the 1938 Munich crisis No. 61 was allotted the code letters "LS". In WW2 the sqdn's a/c were coded "QR".
First Operational Mission in WWII:
- 25th December 1939 : Armed reconnaissance over North Sea by 11 Hampdens. Another Hampden aborted.
First Bombing Mission in WWII:
- 7/8th March 1940 : 1 Hampden, during a security patrol of Sylt-Borkum-Norderney, bombed an enemy destroyer which opened fire on it.
Last Operational Mission in WWII:
- 25/26th April 1945 : 10 Lancasters bombed oil refinery and tankerage at Vallo (Tonsberg) & 4 other Lancasters aborted.
Last Mission before VE Day:
- 6th May 1945 : Lancasters ferried 336 ex-POWs home to UK from Continent.