No. 340 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

No. 340 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

No. 340 Squadron (RAF) during the Second World War

Aircraft - Locations - Group and Duty - Books

No.340 'Ile-de-France' Squadron was a Free French fighter squadron that spent most of its existence on offensive duties, ending the war as part of Second Tactical Air Force.

The squadron was formed in Scotland on 7 November 1941. It spent the winter of 1941-42 flying defensive patrols from Scotland, before moving to southern England to begin its first period of fighter sweeps. This lasted until March 1943, when the squadron moved back to Scotland to rest.

In November 1943 the squadron moved to the south-west of England and flew fighter sweeps over northern France. In April 1944 it joined No.145 Wing, Second Tactical Air Force, a wing made up of French fighter squadrons. With this wing the squadron helped cover the D-Day landings, before moving to the bridgehead in August. The squadron moved east with the advancing armies, reaching Belgium in September.

A brief change of role then followed, when in November 1944 the squadron returned to England to provide fighter escorts for daylight bombing raids. The squadron rejoined Second Tactical Air Force on the continent in February 1945, and flew offensive sweeps over German until the end of the war.

The squadron served with the occupation forces in Germany, before on 25 November 1945 being transferred to the Armée de l'Air.

Aircraft
November 1941-March 1941: Supermarine Spitfire IIA
March-October 1942: Supermarine Spitfire VB
October 1942-March 1943: Supermarine Spitfire IXB
March 1943-February 1944: Supermarine Spitfire VB
January 1944-February 1945: Supermarine Spitfire IXB
February-November 1945: Supermarine Spitfire XVI

Location
November-December 1941: Turnhouse
December 1941: Drem
December 1941-April 1942: Ayr
April 1942: Redhill
April-July 1942: Westhampnett
July 1942: Ipswich
July 1942: Westhampnett
July-September 1942: Hornchurch
September 1942-March 1943: Biggin Hill
March-April 1943: Turnhouse
April-November 1943: Drem
August-September 1943: Detachment to Ayr
November 1943-April 1944: Perranporth
April-May 1944: Merston
May 1944: Llandedr
May-June 1944: Merston
June-July 1944: Funtington
July-August 1944: Selsey
August 1944: Tangmere
August-September 1944: B.8 Sommervieu
September 1944: B.29 Bernay
September 1944: B.37 Gamaches
September 1944: B.51 Lille/ Vendeville
September-November 1944: B.55 Wevelghem
November-December 1944: Biggin Hill
December 1944-January 1945: Drem
January-February 1945: Turnhouse
February-April 1945: B.85 Schijndel
April-June 1945: B.105 Drope
June 1945: A.41 Dreux
June-July 1945: B.105 Drope
July-September 1945: B.152 Fassberg
September 1945: Tangmere
September 1945: Warmwell
September-November 1945: B.152 Fassberg

Squadron Codes: GW

Duty
November 1941-April 1942: Defensive fighter squadron
April 1942-March 1943: Fighter sweeps, France
March-November 1943: Defensive duties, Scotland
November 1943-April 1944: Fighter sweeps from south-west England
April 1944-November 1944: 2nd Tactical Air Force
November 1944-February 1945: Bomber escort duties
February 1945 onwards: 2nd Tactical Air Force

Part of
6 June 1944: No.145 Wing; No.84 Group; Second Tactical Air Force; Allied Expeditionary Air Force

Books

Links

Fondation de la France Libre: French language site of the Foundation for the Free French.

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Free French RAF Squadron 340 (GC Ile de France) Spitfire bearing the Cross of Lorraine marking in the Paris Le Bourget museum.

Becoming operational on 29 November with the operational code 'GW', the squadron flew defensive patrols until moving south in April 1942 to begin fighter sweeps over northern France. Between 1 April and 8 April 1942, the squadron based based at Redhill Aerodrome near Gatwick and between 27 July 1942 and 20 March 1943, at RAF Biggin Hill.

In March 1943, the squadron was withdrawn for rest and returned to Scotland, moving to south-west England in November for fighter sweeps and anti-shipping operations off Brittany. Joining 145 Wing of the Second Tactical Air Force (2 TAF) in April 1944, 340 Squadron helped to provide fighter cover for the Normandy landings, then moved to France that August.

After moving forward to Belgium in September 1944, the squadron returned to the UK to fly bomber escort missions and was based at Biggin Hill again between 3 November and 19 November 1944. In February 1945, the squadron rejoined 2 TAF in the Netherlands and for the rest of the war flew fighter sweeps over Germany. After a short period with the occupation forces, 340 was transferred to the control of the Armee de l'Air (French Air Force) on 25 November 1945.

During the war years, 340 flew 7,845 sorties and over 10,000 flight hours. It claimed 37 enemy aircraft destroyed with 5 more 'probables' and over 500 vehicles and locomotives. Thirty of its pilots were killed and 6 became prisoners of war. Many more were injured, some seriously.

For its gallant actions, 340 Squadron was awarded the French Croix de la Liberation. This was awarded to the heroes of the liberation of France and is an exception honour, second only to the Legion d'Honneur. Only 18 were awarded to French military units. In addition to the unit award, 19 squadron members were appointed to the order with the title Compagnon de la Liberation. Other awards included one Médaille militaire, four Citations a l'Ordre de l'Armee and one Citation a l'Ordre des FAFL. Ώ]

In the years since the war, the squadron has become French Air Force Escadron de Chasse 02.005. Over the years, it has been equipped with the Bell P63 Kingcobra, Vampire Mk 1, Vampire Mk 5, SNCASE Mistral, Mystere II, Mystere IV, Super Mystere B2, Mirage IIIC, Mirage F1C and finally the Mirage 2000. The squadron is now based at Orange-Caritat Air Base in southern France and is the Mirage 2000 operational conversion unit. ΐ]


History [ edit | edit source ]

Formation and World War II [ edit | edit source ]

The squadron was formed on 19 October 1942 ΐ] Α] Δ] from 'H' and 'L' flights of No. 1 PRU ΐ] Ε] at RAF Leuchars as a photoreconnaissance unit with the de Havilland Mosquito. It operated from Leuchars to carry out missions over Norway and Germany, while a detachment based at RAF Benson carried out similar missions over France and Italy. Another detachment, based at RAF Gibraltar covered the south of France and Algeria, but from 1944 on the unit was wholly based at RAF Benson, the range of the later Mosquito permitting missions deep in Austria or to the Canary Islands. In March 1945 the squadron went overseas, to France, coming back to the UK in November, again at RAF Benson where the unit was disbanded on 30 September 1946, Α] when it was renumbered to 58 Squadron. Δ]

Post-war [ edit | edit source ]

540 Squadron Canberra PR.3 at London Heathrow airport in June 1953

On 1 December 1947 no. 540 squadron was reformed at Benson, Α] from the Mosquito element of 58 Squadron, Δ] taking up its old role and still flying Mosquitoes again as well. In December 1952 these gave way to English Electric Canberras, the last Mosquito leaving in September 1953. By that time the squadron had moved to RAF Wyton, where the unit disbanded on 31 March 1956. Α] Δ]