No. 297 Squadron RAF

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No 297 Squadron RAF
Active 22 January 1942 – 1 April 1946
1 April 1946 – 15 November 1950
Country United Kingdom United Kingdom
Branch Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Royal Air Force
Role Airborne forces
Transport
Part of No 38 Group RAF
Engagements Sicily, Normandy, Arnhem
Insignia
Squadron Codes P5 (Jul 1943 – 1945)[1][2]
L5 (Apr 1944 – 1946)[3][4]

No 297 Squadron was a squadron of the Royal Air Force. It was notable for being the first airborne forces squadron formed.[5] With sister No 296 Squadron it formed No 38 Wing RAF -soon to be expanded with sister No 295 Squadron, which expanded later to become No 38 Group RAF.

History[edit]

Formation and World War II[edit]

The squadron originally formed as the parachute exercise squadron at RAF Ringway on 15 December 1941 and moved to RAF Netheravon on 22 January 1942, then officially becoming No 297 Squadron RAF.[6][7][8] In February 1942 they were equipped with Whitley Mk.V aircraft. The squadron moved to RAF Hurn on 5 June 1942 and later to RAF Thruxton on 24 October 1942. In July 1943 the squadron was equipped with the first of the Albemarle Mk.I aircraft, which they kept until December 1944 while being supplemented with the Albemarle Mk.II in February 1944, the Albemarle Mk.V in April 1944 and the Albemarle Mk.VI in July 1944. In 1943 the squadron flew Albemarles to Algeria to take part in Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily, returning to Britain the same year.

An example of the Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle as used by 297 Sqn.

The squadron moved to RAF Station Stoney Cross on 25 August 1943, where they practised parachute drops with the 8th Battalion parachute regiment and 22 independent parachute regiment in preparation for the D-Day invasion.[5] They then moved to RAF Station Brize Norton on 14 March 1944 to practice towing Horsa gliders in preparation for Operation Deadstick the deployment to capture the now famous Pegasus Bridge and the Merville Battery located on the Normandy coast overlooking Sword Beach. Their involvement in the D-Day operation was :

  • At 11:00 PM on Mon 5 June 1944 four Albemarles dropped ten men of the 22nd Independent Parachute Company and thirty paratroopers comprising the Advance Party of the 5th Parachute Brigade near Ranville
  • Later that night nine Albemarles dropped paratroops of the 5th Parachute Brigade as part of the main force
  • At 3:30 AM on D-Day itself a further 8 Horsa gliders were towed to the drop zone
  • Three Horsas were towed over manned by elements of 9th Parachute Battalion and engineers of the 591st Parachute Squadron to attack and silence the Merville Battery.
  • Later that day 19 more Horsas were towed across. One aircraft was shot down.

In September 1944 the squadron played its part in Operation Market Garden after temporarily moving to RAF Station Manston. They towed 29 Horsa and 2 Waco gliders in the first wave and 24 Horsas in the second, all without loss. On 30 September 1944 the squadron moved to RAF Station Earls Colne where the process of changing the Albemarles for the Halifax Mk.V was started, the squadron received additional Halifax Mk.III aircraft in February 1945 and Halifax A.7 in December 1945. On 24 Mar 1945 thirty Halifax aircraft towed Horsas manned with 6th Airborne paratroops to effect a successful Rhine crossing.[9] The squadron was disbanded on 1 April 1946.[7][8][10]

Post-war[edit]

The Squadron was reformed in a peacetime role on 1 April 1946 at RAF Station Tarrant Rushton and merged with 295 squadron, keeping the 297 Squadron markings. The reformed squadron kept the Halifax A.7 aircraft and moved to RAF Brize Norton on 5 September 1946. In January 1947 the squadron was re-equipped with Halifax A.9 aircraft which they kept until October 1948, during this time they moved to RAF Station Fairford on 21 August 1947 and to RAF Station Dishforth on 1 November 1948.[7][8][10] In November 1948 the Squadron was equipped with Hastings C.1 aircraft until November 1950. During this time the squadron moved as a detachment to Schleswig returning to RAF Station Topcliffe on 22 August 1949 where they stayed until 15 November 1950 when the squadron was disbanded.[7][8][10]

Aircraft operated[edit]

Aircraft operated by No 297 Squadron RAF, data from[7][8][10]
From To Aircraft Variant
January 1942 March 1942 de Havilland Tiger Moth Mk.II
February 1942 February 1944 Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mk.V
July 1943 December 1944 Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle Mk.I
February 1944 December 1944 Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle Mk.II
April 1944 December 1944 Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle Mk.V
July 1944 December 1944 Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle Mk.VI
October 1944 February 1945 Handley Page Halifax Mk.V
February 1945 April 1946 Handley Page Halifax Mk.III
December 1945 March 1947 Handley Page Halifax A.7
January 1947 October 1948 Handley Page Halifax A.9
November 1948 November 1950 Handley Page Hastings C.1

Squadron station[edit]

Stations and airfields used by No 297 Squadron RAF, data from[7][8][10]
From To Station Remark
22 January 1942 5 June 1942 RAF Netheravon, Wiltshire
5 June 1942 24 October 1942 RAF Hurn, Dorset
24 October 1942 25 August 1943 RAF Thruxton, Hampshire
25 August 1943 14 March 1944 RAF Stoney Cross, Hampshire
14 March 1944 30 September 1944 RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire
30 September 1944 1 April 1946 RAF Earls Colne, Essex
1 April 1946 5 September 1946 RAF Tarrant Rushton, Dorset No. 295 Squadron RAF renumbered
5 September 1946 21 August 1947 RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire
21 August 1947 1 November 1948 RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire
1 November 1948 22 August 1949 RAF Dishforth, North Yorkshire Det. at RAF Schleswigland, Germany for Berlin air lift
22 August 1949 15 November 1950 RAF Topcliffe, North Yorkshire

Commanding officers[edit]

Officers Commanding No 297 Squadron RAF, data from[5][10]
From To Name
22 January 1942 27 April 1942 W/Cdr. B.A. Oakley
27 April 1942 1 February 1943 W/Cdr. R.B. Wardman, AFC
1 February 1943 13 August 1943 W/Cdr. G.F.K. Donaldson, DFC, AFC, DFC(US)
13 August 1943 31 August 1943 W/Cdr. N.B. Hallmark, AFC (acting)
31 August 1943 4 November 1943 W/Cdr. R.W.G. Kitley
4 November 1943 29 December 1943 S/Ldr. P.B.N. Davis, DSO
29 December 1943 14 September 1944 W/Cdr. J.G. Minifie
14 September 1944 4 December 1944 W/Cdr. J.R. Grice
4 December 1944 1946 W/Cdr. E.G. Dean, DFC

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Bowyer, Michael J.F. and John D.R. Rawlings. Squadron Codes, 1937–56. Cambridge, UK: Patrick Stephens Ltd., 1979. ISBN 0-85059-364-6.
  • Flintham, Vic and Andrew Thomas. Combat Codes: A full explanation and listing of British, Commonwealth and Allied air force unit codes since 1938. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing Ltd., 2003. ISBN 1-84037-281-8.
  • Halley, James J. The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth 1918–1988. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1988. ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
  • 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, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 1988 (second edition 2001). ISBN 1-85310-053-6.
  • Rawlings, John D.R. Coastal, Support and Special Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Jane's Publishing Company Ltd., 1982. ISBN 0-7106-0187-5.

External links[edit]