Bomber Command

Bomber Command No.78 Squadron

No. 78 Squadron

Motto: "Nemo non paratus" ("Nobody unprepared").
Badge: A heraldic tiger, rampant and double queued. The tiger double queued has reference to the squadron's aircraft at that time - Whitleys - having two rudders and two Tiger engines.
Authority: King George VI, November 1939.

No. 78 Squadron was originally a Home Defence unit. It was formed at Harrietsham, Kent, on 1st November 1916, and its first CO was Major Pierre Van Ryneve1d who, in 1920 - as Colonel Van Ryneveld - made the first successful flight from England to South Africa with Flight Lieutenant CJ Quintin Brand1. (In honour of this achievement both officers received knighthoods.)

Disbanded in 1919, No. 78 re-formed in 1936 as a heavy-bomber squadron and in the second world conflict served with the Yorkshire-based No.4 Group. Beginning operations with Whitleys in 1940, it converted to Halifaxes in 1942 and continued with that type of aircraft for the rest of the European war. Among the highlights of No. 78's war record was its participation in the historic 1,000-bomber raid on Cologne on 30/31st May 1942; the epic raid on Peenemunde on 17/18th August 1943; and the attack on the coastal gun battery at Mont Fleury on 5/6th June 1944, in direct support of the invasion of Normandy. In February 1941, No. 78 Squadron supplied the Whitleys and some of the crews (other crews were provided by No. 51 Squadron) which figured in Operation Colossus, the first Allied airborne operation of the war and the one in which British paratroops destroyed a large aqueduct at Tragino in southern Italy.

From July to October 1942, No.78 Squadron was commanded by Wing Commander JB Tait, who later led the combined force of Lancasters from Nos. 617 (the squadron he then commanded) and 9 Squadrons which, using 12,000Ib Tallboy bombs, destroyed the Tirpitz in Tromso fjord.

According to a statistical summary of No. 78's wartime effort in the squadron ORB, No. 78 flew, a total of 6,337 sorties comprising 6,017 bombing sorties and 320 minelaying sorties; made 302 bombing raids and bombed 167 different targets; dropped approximately 17,000 tons of bombs - 7,000 tons (i.e. more than a third of the total) between D-Day and VE Day; successfully laid 1,064 mines; and destroyed 31 enemy aircraft (11 more were classified as "probably destroyed ") and damaged 35. The squadron's own losses totalled 182 aircraft.

On 7th May 1945, No.78 Squadron was transferred from Bomber Command to Transport Command.

1. Brand later went on to command No. 10 Group during the Battle of Britain.

Bomber Command WWII Bases:

  • Dishforth : Feb 1937-Dec 1939
  • Detachment at Ternhill in Sep 1939. During same month
  • No. 78 became 4 Group's reserve sqdn, its role being to supplement the Group pool by training crews and also by acting as a reservoir between the operational sqdns and Group pool stations.
  • Detachment at Linton-on-Ouse from Oct 1939 and in
  • Dec entire sqdn became based there.
  • Linton-on-Ouse : Dec 1939-Jul 1940
  • Detachment at Brackley, Feb 1940-May 1940.
  • Dishforth : Jul 1940-Apr 1941
  • Detachment to Ringway and then in Feb 1941 to Malta
  • for Operation Colossus.
  • Middleton St. George : Apr 1941-Oct 1941
  • Croft : Oct 1941-Jun 1942
  • Middleton St. George : Jun 1942-Sep 1942
  • Linton-on-Ouse : Sep 1942-Jun 1943
  • Breighton : Jun 1943-May 1945

Transferred to Transport Command 7.5.45.

Bomber Command WWII Aircraft:

  • Armstrong Whitworth Whitley I, IV, IVA and V : Jul
  • 1937-Mar 1942
  • Handley Page Halifax B.II, B.III and B.VI : Mar
  • 1942-May 1945

Code Letters:

  • During the 1938 Munich crisis No. 78 was allotted the code
  • letters "YY". In WW2 its codes became "EY".

First Operational Mission in WWII:

  • 19/20th July 1940 : 4 Whitleys despatched to bomb
  • Gelsenkirchen-Buer. 1 bombed primary & rest bombed alternative.

Last Operational Mission in WWII:

  • 25th April 1945 : 20 Halifaxes bombed gun batteries on
  • island of Wangerooge.
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