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[RAF Elsham Wolds] [Fighter Command Lincolnshire] [255 Squadron]

255 Squadron – Fighter Command


Active from 6 July 1918 the squadron was formed from 519, 520, 521, 522, 523 & 524 (Special Duty) Flights at Pembroke equipped with DH6 aircraft, which were used to carry out anti-submarine patrols over St George's Channel and the Western Bristol Channel.

Initially, the squadron operated within a zone defined as "10 miles north west of Fishguard to 10 miles south of Caldey Island. This was extended to 15 miles south of Caldey Island. The squadron's aircraft did not have wireless telegraphy radio so were consequently restricted to inshore patrols.

On 10 July 1918, a patrol by a 255 Squadron aircraft reported sighting a hostile periscope. The following day a target in the same area was attacked by Short seaplanes from another squadron.

No. 255 Squadron's first claimed strike against the enemy occurred on 14 August 1918 when Lt Peebles in a DH.6 attacked a submarine at periscope depth at 09:35 with a 100 lb bomb. This resulted in air bubbles and an oil slick. Peebles returned to Pembroke and was later involved in another attack against the submarine which resulted in further oil being brought to the surface. The Admiralty's assessment at the time classified the result of the strike as "U-boat possibly damaged". The Squadron disbanded on 14 January 1919.

DH6 Early version

DH6 Early version

255 reformed on 23 November 1940 at RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey as a night fighter unit equipped with Boulton Paul Defiants and began operations on 5 January 1941. The night of 10/11 February 1941 saw their first combat successes with pilots claiming two Heinkel He 111s as probably destroyed.

Boulton Paul Defiant night fighter card

Boulton Paul Defiant night fighter

On the night of 9 May the Luftwaffe launched a series of raids against targets in England's north-east and the Midlands, with 129 bombers attacking Hull, 95 attacking Nottingham and 34 being sent against Sheffield. In response, the squadron shot down six enemy bombers (five He 111s and one Ju 88) and damaged a seventh within the space of half an hour, all achieved without loss to the squadron's personnel or aircraft. This was the most confirmed kills by a British night-fighter squadron in a single night of the whole war.

255 acquired some Hawker Hurricanes at this time before moving to RAF Hibaldstow on the 15 May 1941.  At Hibaldstow it began conversion to Bristol Beaufighters IIFs with twin Merlin engines in July. The Squadron then moved to RAF Coltishall in September 1941. The Merlin powered Beaufighters suffered an unacceptable number of crashes due to engine failures at this time resulting in the loss of 8 experienced aircrew. A further move followed to RAF High Ercall in March 1942 where the Squadron converted to Beaufighter VIFs fitted with twin Hercules engines which proved much more suited to the role. This was followed by a move to RAF Honiley in June 1942 and then RAF Portreath which preceded a move to North Africa in November 1942.

Bristol Beaufighter NF VI 272 Squadron Malta

 Bristol Beaufighter NF VI. This example is a 272 Squadron Malta

In North Africa the Squadron provided night defence of Allied bases in Algeria and Tunisia and also engaged in convoy protection and experimental night intruder operations over Sardinia with some success before moving to Sicily in August 1943. The Squadron arrived on the Italian mainland in November, resuming its night intruder role against transport links in the Balkans. De Havilland Mosquito XIXs replaced the Beaufighters in January 1945, which were taken to Hal Far in Malta in September.

De Havilland Mosquito XIII night fighter

De Havilland Mosquito XIII night fighter

Another move came in January 1946 to Egypt, but on 30 April 1946 the squadron was disbanded.

Compiled by David Fell. Photos from my archive


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