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[RAF Elsham Wolds] [Fighter Command Lincolnshire] [85 Squadron]

85 Squadron RAF Fighter Command

85 Squadron crest


Formed as a fighter squadron at Upavon on 1 August 1917 the squadron was equipped with SE5As, which it took to France in May 1918. In March 1918 Major W A Bishop VC was its CO who in turn was replaced by Major 'Mick' Mannock VC making it one of the few squadrons to be commanded by two VC holders. The squadron operated for the remainder of the war on fighter and ground attacks sweeps until returning to Britain in February 1919 and disbanding on 3 July the same year.

85 Squadron St Omer France

85 Squadron St Omer France

SE5a card


Interwar and WW2

The squadron reformed at RAF Debden on 1 June 1938 from 'A' Flight of 87 Squadron. Following two temporary CO's, it's first regular CO was S/L D F W Atcherley one of the famous Atcherley twins , both distinguished RAF officers.

Initially equipped with Gloster Gladiators these were replaced by Hawker Hurricanes in September 1938.

Gloster Gladiator card

Gloster Gladiator

Hawker Hurricane I card

Hawker Hurricane I

 The Squadron moved to France as part of the Air Component of the BEF in September 1939. Following the German attack on France the Squadron was involved heavily involved the continuous air battles over France until it only possessed four serviceable aircraft. It then returned to Britain to re-equip and retrain.

In the summer of 1940 85 Squadron was very active during the Battle of Britain but in September moved to RAF Church Fenton for a rest and in October to RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey where it commenced its new role as a night fighter squadron still equipped with Hurricanes.

These operations continued on its return to the south but success was hampered by the lack of radar so Boulton Paul Defiants were received in January 1941.

Boulton Paul Defiant card

Boulton Paul Defiant

These were replaced in turn by Douglas Havocs the following month.

Douglas DB7 Havoc

Douglas DB7 Havoc

The squadron continued in the night fighter role with De Havilland Mosquitos from August 1942 until March 1943 when it began intruder operations over occupied Europe. On 1 May 1944 the squadron became part of 100 Group and whilst continuing the intruder role and also took on the bomber support role accompanying the Main Force heavy bombers on deep penetration operations into Germany.

De Havilland Mosquito NF36

De Havilland Mosquito NF36

Post War

Post war the Squadron was retained as part of the UK based night fighter defences continuing to use the Mosquito NF Mk 36 at RAF West Malling until 1951 when the jet powered Armstrong Whitworth Meteor NF Mk 11 arrived. These were replaced by NF Mk 12s and 14s with both types being flown until disbandment on 31 October 1958 at RAF Church Fenton where the squadron had moved in September 1957.

The Squadron reformed less than month later on 30 November 1957 when 89 Squadron was re-numbered. The unit was now based at RAF Stradishall and was equipped with the Gloster Javelin. Initially equipped with the FAW Mk 2 and 6 these were superseded by the FAW Mk 8 in May 1960 by which time the squadron was based at RAF West Malling and these remained its sole equipment until 31 March 1963 when the squadron was disbanded again at RAF West Raynham where it had moved in September 1960.

Gloster Javelin FAW2 85 Squadron

Gloster Javelin FAW2 85 Squadron

In April 1963 the number was revived by renaming the Target Facilities Squadron at West Raynham equipped with a mixture of Meteor F Mk 8s until 1970, and various models of English Electric Canberra and these were used to provide target facilities for ground and air based requirements. The Squadron was eventually disbanded by being absorbed by 100 Squadron on 19 December 1975.

The same day 85 Squadron was revived as a Bristol Bloodhound SAM unit with its HQ at RAF West Raynham and operational flights at RAF North Coates ('B') and RAF Bawdsey ('C') as well as RAF West Raynham ('A'). On 1 October 1989, 85 absorbed 25 Squadron and added Flights at RAF Barkston Heath ('D'), RAF Wattisham (E') and RAF Wyton ('F'). On 1 December 1990 the Flights at RAF North Coates, RAF Bawdsey, RAF Barkston Heath and RAF Wyton were disbanded, the remaining Flights and Squadron HQ finally following on 1 July 1991. In 2008 the number was allocated to the Yorkshire Universities Air Squadron and 9 Air Experience Flight at RAF Church Fenton but disbanded in late 2011.

Bloodhounds on launchers 2

Bloodhounds on launchers

Compiled by David Fell. Photos courtesy of IWM, WWP and my own archive



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