No. 112 Squadron RAF

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No. 112 Squadron
TR 000978 kittyhawk.jpg
1943: A Kittyhawk Mark III of 112 Squadron, taxiing through scrub at Medenine, Tunisia. The "erk" sitting on the wing is directing the pilot, whose view ahead is hindered by the aircraft's nose.
Active 30 July 1917 – 13 June 1919
16 May 1939 – 30 December 1946
12 May 1951 – 31 May 1957
1 August 1960 – 31 March 1964
2 November 1964 – 1 July 1975
Country United Kingdom
Branch Royal Flying Corps then Royal Air Force
Nickname "The Shark Squadron"
Motto "Swift in Destruction"
Battle honours Home Defence 1917–1918, Egypt 1940, Greece 1941, Western Desert 1941–43, Italy 1943
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Clive Caldwell; Billy Drake
Insignia
Squadron Badge "A cat sejant".[1]

No. 112 Squadron was a squadron of the Royal Air Force. It served in both the First World War and Second World War and was active for three periods during the Cold War. It is nicknamed "The Shark Squadron", an allusion to the fact that it was the first unit from any Allied air force to use the famous "shark mouth" logo on Curtiss P-40s.[2]

First World War[edit]

The squadron was formed as No. 112 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps on 30 July 1917 at Throwley Aerodrome, Kent, England for air defence duties protecting the London area. It was equipped initially with Sopwith Pups and received Sopwith Camels in 1918. One of its first commanding officers was Major Quintin Brand (who would become a group commander with RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain). Following the end of the war, the squadron was disbanded on 13 June 1919.

Second World War[edit]

As war loomed again, the squadron was re-formed 16 May 1939 on board the aircraft carrier HMS Argus for service in Egypt. It was based initially at RAF Helwan at Helwan, Cairo Governorate. On 26 May, "B" Flight was detached and sent to Sudan. The squadron did not receive its aircraft, obsolescent Gloster Gladiator biplane fighters, until June. After Italy entered the war, on 10 June 1940, the squadron was almost immediately in action, defending Egypt from Italian bombers.[3] "B" Flight became part of No. 14 Squadron RAF on 30 June.

In January 1941, the squadron joined Allied forces defending Greece, providing air cover and offensive support over Albania. It later took part in fierce dogfights as part of the air defence of the Athens area. With the collapse of the Allied campaign on the Greek mainland, 112 Sqn withdrew to Crete and then to Egypt, from where it rejoined the North African Campaign, supporting the Eighth Army.

For much of the remainder of the war, the squadron was part of No. 239 Wing, along with No. 3 Squadron RAAF, No. 250 Squadron RAF, No. 260 Squadron RAF and No. 450 Squadron RAAF.

During July 1941, the squadron was one of the first in the world to become operational with the P-40 Tomahawk, which it used in both the fighter and ground attack role. Inspired by the unusually large air inlet on the P-40, the squadron began to emulate the "shark mouth" logo used on some German Messerschmitt Bf 110s of Zerstörer Geschwader 76 earlier in the war. (This practice was later followed by P-40 units in other parts of the world, including the Flying Tigers, American volunteers serving with the Chinese Air Force.) In December, the Tomahawks were replaced by the updated P-40 Kittyhawk, which the squadron used for the remainder of its time with the Desert Air Force, often as a fighter bomber.

The squadron during this time included a significant number of personnel from the air forces of Poland, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Another member was the English ace Neville Duke (later prominent as a test pilot). For most of 1942, it was commanded by the highest-scoring Australian ace of World War II, Clive Caldwell, the first Empire Air Training Scheme graduate to command a British unit. He was succeeded by Billy Drake, the highest-scoring RAF P-40 pilot and the second-highest-scoring British Commonwealth P-40 pilot, behind Caldwell. Later in the war, an increasing number of South African pilots joined the unit.

After the invasion of Sicily on July 10, 1943, the squadron moved to bases there, in July 1943, and onto the Italian mainland in September. In June 1944 the Kittyhawks were replaced by the Mustang Mark III and, from February 1945, Mustang Mk IVs. The squadron remained in Italy at Lavariano as part of the occupying forces until disbanding on 30 December 1946 at Treviso.

By the end of the war some 206 air victories had been claimed by the Squadron, and 62 destroyed on the ground.[4]

Cold War[edit]

The squadron re-formed at RAF Fassberg in Germany on 12 May 1951, in the fighter bomber role, equipped with de Havilland Vampire Mk 5s. It later moved to Jever and then RAF Bruggen. In January 1954 it assumed the day fighter role, when its Vampires were replaced by Canadair Sabre F Mk IVs. Hawker Hunters were delivered to 112 Sqn in April 1956, but the unit was disbanded at Bruggen on 31 May 1957.

On 1 August 1960, the squadron was re-formed as a Bloodhound surface-to-air missile unit, at RAF Church Fenton, defending Thor IRBM sites in the area. The squadron's operational base was at RAF Breighton. Following withdrawal of the Thor from service, the need for the unit was reduced, and it disbanded on 31 March 1964.

However, 112 Sqn was re-formed on 2 November 1964, at RAF Woodhall Spa, equipped with Bloodhound Mk 2s. The squadron moved to Cyprus on 1 October 1967 and remained there until it was disbanded on 1 July 1975.

Aircraft operated[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Black cat facing left within circle "Fighter Squadron Royal Air Force" surrounded by laurel wreath. Source: RAF Heraldry Trust
  2. ^ Crawford 1977 p. 14.
  3. ^ Gustavsson, Håkan. "Squadron Leader Homer Powell Cochrane DFC, RAF no. 40991". Biplane Fighter Aces from the Second World War. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  4. ^ 'Aces High'; Shores & Williams, (grub street) page 38

Bibliography[edit]

  • Brown, Robin. Shark Squadron: The History of 112 Squadron, 1917–1975. Manchester, UK: Crecy Publishing, 1997. ISBN 0-947554-33-5.
  • Crawford, Jerry L. Messerschmitt BF 110 Zerstörer in Action. Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1977. ISBN 0-89747-029-X.
  • Jefford, Wing Commander C.G. MBE, BA, RAF (Retd). RAF Squadrons: A comprehensive record of the movement and equipment of all RAF squadrons and their antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife, 1988, 2nd edition 2001. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
  • Zbiegniewski, Andre R. 112 Sqn "Shark Squadron", 1939–1941 (bi-lingual Polish/English text). Lublin, Poland: Oficyna Wydawnicza Kagero, 2003. ISBN 83-89088-55-X.
  • Zbiegniewski, Andre R. 112 Sqn "Shark Squadron", 1942–1945 (bi-lingual Polish/English text). Lublin, Poland: Oficyna Wydawnicza Kagero, 2003. ISBN 83-89088-75-4.

External links[edit]