No. 217 Squadron RAF


No. 217 Squadron RAF

No. 217 Squadron RAF was originally formed on 1 April 1918, from the No. 17 Naval Squadron at Bergues, near Dunkerque[1]. It conducted daylight raids using Airco DH.4s on enemy bases and airfields in Belgium. The squadron was disbanded on 18 October 1919, after the end of World War I.

No. 217 Squadron was re-formed by Coastal Command of the Royal Air Force on 15 March 1937 at Boscombe Down, equipped with Avro Ansons, performing general reconnaissance duties until the start of World War II, when it moved to the newly-built airfield RAF St Eval, conducting coastal patrols until October 1939. From May 1940, it was equipped with the Bristol Beaufort torpedo bomber, but because of problems with its Taurus engines, the Ansons remained in service until December 1940.

The squadron was ordered to Ceylon, via Gibraltar and Malta, in May 1940[2]. En route, it conducted anti-shipping and mine-laying attacks for two months in the Mediterranean. In one incident, on 28 June 1942, the crew of a ditched Beaufort were rescued by an Italian CANT Z.506 seaplane. The Italian crew were overpowered and the Cant was flown to Malta where the Italians were made prisoners of war[3]. Crew losses were quite severe, with the remainder of the force arriving in Ceylon in July, with the ground echelon arriving by sea in August.

The Beauforts were retained for action in the Middle East, leaving 217 Squadron with Lockheed Hudsons for anti-submarine patrol. New Bristol Beaufort planes started arriving in Ceylon from April 1943, and the squadron reverted to a strike unit from July. It was equipped with the more powerful Bristol Beaufighter TFX "Torbeau" torpedo fighter-bomber from April 1944, in anticipation of an imminent assault on Ceylon by the same Japanese battle fleet that had attacked Pearl Harbor. However, this did not transpire and the squadron prepared for a daring assault on the Japanese battle fleet in Singapore harbour, known as Operation Jinx[4], which involved flying by dead-reckoning to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, then embarking on a one-way trip over Sumatra to the attack in Singapore, abandoning the surviving planes on the island of Phuket, which was yet to be captured. This suicide mission was tabled for July 1945, but at the last moment was postponed until September, when unexpected advances were made by Wingate's Chindits in Burma and the squadron was temporarily re-tasked to a ground support role. The dropping of the atomic bomb on 6 August and Japanese surrender on 14 August 1945 meant that Operation Jinx never eventually took place. The squadron was disbanded again on 30 September 1945.

No. 217 Squadron re-formed once again on 14 January 1952 as a Maritime Reconnaissance Squadron, trialling two Lockheed Neptune MR Mark 1s[5] at RAF St Eval, then moving their base of operations to RAF Kinloss in April, being fully equipped with Neptunes by July that year. The squadron disbanded again on 31 March 1957.

The last brief re-formation of No. 217 Squadron out of No. 1630 Flight was from 1 February 1958 until 13 November 1959, when it flew Westland Whirlwind HAR Mark 2 helicopters, as part of the air support for the British hydrogen bomb tests on Christmas Island in the Pacific, codenamed Operation Grapple.

Squadron motto: Woe to the unwary

Squadron badge: A demi-shark erased

References

External links


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