No. 37 Squadron RAF

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No. 37 Squadron RAF
Active15 April 1916 - May 1916,
15 September 1916 – 1 July 1919,
26 April 1937 – 31 March 1946,
15 April 1946 – 1 April 1947,
14 September 1947 – 7 September 1967
CountryUnited Kingdom
Motto(s)"Wise without eyes"[1]
Battle honoursHome Defence, 1916-18*: Norway 1940: Dunkirk*: Channel & North Sea, 1939-40: Fortress Europe, 1940*: Malta, 1940,1942*: Greece, 1941*: El Alamein*: Italy, 1943-45*: South-East Europe, 1943-45* Honours marked with an asterisk are those emblazoned on the Squadron Standard
Squadron badge heraldryA hawk hooded, belled and fessed, wings elevated and addorsed
Squadron codes37 Apr 1937 - Apr 1939
FJ Apr 1939 - Sep 1939
LF Sep 1939 - Mar 1946

No. 37 Squadron was a Royal Air Force squadron of the First and Second World Wars.


First World War[edit]

No. 37 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps was formed at RFC Orfordness, Suffolk, on 15 April 1916 as an experimental squadron, but it was disbanded a month later when it was absorbed back into the experimental station at Orfordness.[2] On 15 September of that year, it was re-formed, with its headquarters at Woodham Mortimer, and detachments at Rochford, Stow Maries and Goldhanger, all in Essex.[3] The squadron operated a mixture of aircraft,[2] including B.E.2s, B.E.12s and F.E.2bs.[4][5] Its responsibilities included defending London against aerial attack,[4] both by German Zeppelins at night and by aircraft during the day.[6]

As a result of the start of large-scale attacks by German Gotha bombers, the squadron received several Sopwith 1½ Strutters in May 1917, with better performance than its existing aircraft, which struggled to catch the Gothas,[7] and Sopwith Pup fighters were also received to counter the Gothas,[8] although by August, the Pups had been withdrawn to form new Home Defence squadrons.[9] On the night of 16/17 June 1917, one of the squadron's B.E.12s, flown by Lieutenant Pierce Watkins, attacked the Zeppelin L48, which caught fire and crashed. While the airship was also attacked almost simultaneously by an F.E.2 and a DH.2 from the Orfordness experimental station, Watkin was officially given sole credit for shooting down L48.[10][11] In August the squadron (together with 50 Squadron) experimented with using radio equipped B.E.12s to report on the movements of enemy aircraft, to allow the daytime Gotha raids to be tracked.[12]

The squadron became part of the new Royal Air Force on 1 April 1918.[13] As it was assigned to patrol to the north of London where attacks were less likely, it retained its obsolete B.E.12s well into 1918, receiving its first modern S.E.5s in May.[14] In October 1918, the squadron re-equipped with Sopwith Camels and in December replaced these by Sopwith Snipes. The squadron moved to Biggin Hill in March 1919 and in July 1919 it was renumbered as No. 39 Squadron RAF.[4]

Bomber squadron[edit]

In April 1937, the squadron was re-formed as No. 37 (Bomber) Squadron at RAF Feltwell in Norfolk, East Anglia from a nucleus provided by No. 214 Squadron RAF, equipped with the Handley Page Harrow heavy bomber. It re-equipped with Vickers Wellingtons in May 1939, retaining them at the outbreak of World War II,[2][15] when it formed part of 3 Group.[16][17] The squadron flew its first operational mission of the war on 3 September 1939, an unsuccessful armed reconnaissance mission by six Wellingtons to the Schillig Roads to search for German warships.[15][18] On 18 December 1939, 37 Squadron contributed six aircraft to a sortie by 24 Wellingtons against shipping in the Heligoland Bight. The formation came under heavy attack by German fighters, with five out of 37 Squadron's six Wellingtons shot down, with 21 men killed. In total, twelve Wellingtons were shot down.[15][19]

37 Squadron Wellington in Egypt

In November 1940, the squadron moved to the Middle East, with the squadron's aircraft being flown via Malta, from where they flew a few missions before arriving in Egypt on 14 November.[2] The squadrons ground crew were sent to Egypt by ship, being ferried from Gibraltar to Alexandria aboard the cruiser HMS Manchester, which took part in the Battle of Cape Spartivento on 27 November and came under air attack the next day before reaching Egypt and disembarking the squadron's personnel.[20] The Wellingtons of 37 Squadron, together with the other two Egypt-based Wellington squadrons, 38 and 70 Squadrons, were deployed in support of Operation Compass, the British offensive against Italian forces in the Western Desert from 8/9 December, operating against airfields used by the Italians.[21]

In February 1941 the squadron was transferred to Greece to support Greek resistance to the Italian invasion.[22][23] It was used to attack targets in Albania and Italy,[24] and also for supply dropping to Greek troops.[25] Following the German invasion of Greece in April 1941, the squadron's Wellingtons were used to carry out attacks on Bulgaria,[26] but by 17 April the German advance forced the squadron to be evacuated back to Egypt.[27][28] On 1 May 1941, a detachment of eight Wellingtons from 37 Squadron were deployed to RAF Aqir in Palestine as a response to Iraqi threats to the British airbase at Habbaniya,[29][30] and the next day took part in bombing raids against Iraqi positions outside Habbaniya in the opening moves of the Anglo-Iraqi War. The detachment moved to Shaibah in Iraq later that day, and continued to raid Iraqi positions and airfields for the next few days.[31] The remainder of the squadron, meanwhile, continued to fly raids against German and Italian airfields in southern Greece and the Dodecanese.[29] The Iraqi-based detachment returned to Egypt on 12 May.[32] Following the German invasion of Crete, the squadron flew in support of the defenders of the island until its fall.[33] From 18 June the RAF's Egypt-based Wellington squadrons, including 37, carried out attacks on Aleppo and Beirut as part of the Syria–Lebanon campaign.[34] The squadron continued to attack targets in Greece and North Africa (such as ports like Benghazi and Derna) and from November 1941, operated increasingly against airfields in preparation for Operation Crusader.[35]

On 27 December 1941, as part of a re-organisation of the RAF's Egypt based-bomber force, 37 Squadron joined the newly established 231 (Bomber) Wing, based at RAF Shallufa and part of 205 Group.[36] From January 1942, the squadron was reinforced by aircraft and aircrew from 458 Squadron RAAF, whose aircraft had been flown from the Britain to Egypt via Gibraltar and Malta and on arrival had been split between 37, 70, 104, 108 and 148 Squadrons.[37] In February 1942, part of the squadron was detached to Malta,[38] with six aircraft arriving at RAF Luqa on 21 February and seven more on 22 February.[39] On the night of 1/2 March, Malta-based Wellingtons of the squadron attacked Tripoli harbour, hitting and damaging the 5324 GRT freighter Monginevro. On the night of 2/3 March, 10 of the Squadron's Wellingtons raided Palermo, sinking the 5945 GRT German freighter Rhur, and badly damaging the 6600 GRT German freighter Cuma, the Italian 5365 GRT steamer Securitas and the Italian torpedo boat Partenope. On 4 March, Cuma's cargo of ammunition exploded, sinking Cuma and Securitas and damaging many more ships. In total 42 vessels were sunk or damaged during the raid on 2/3 March or the explosion on 4 March.[40] Losses were heavy, however,[41] and by 18 March the detachment had been virtually wiped out by German attacks and accidents. Only one Wellington was still airworthy and could be flown back to Egypt.[42] In April that year the squadron was forward deployed to LG-09, (between El Daba and Fuka) to reduce the range to the squadron's main targets, but the advance of German and Italian forces after the Battle of Gazala forced the squadron to be withdrawn to the Nile Delta in June.[43] During the Second Battle of El Alamein, the British bomber force, including 37 Squadron, continued to attack the key port of Tobruk as a priority, while also attacking enemy airfields and concentrations of troops and vehicles on the El Alamein battlefield.[44] After the Allied victory in the battle, the squadron was moved westwards to aid attacks on the supply lines of the retreating German and Italian forces, moving first to El Daba and then in late November to Kambut in Eastern Libya.[45]

In February 1943, the squadron moved to Gardabia in Tunisia, replacing its elderly Wellington Ic aircraft with more powerful and better performing Wellington Xs.[46] On 18 February, 37 Squadron, together with most of the rest of the RAF's night bomber force in the Mediterranean and American day bombers, joined the newly established Northwest African Strategic Air Force.[47][48] While designated as a Strategic force, the distance to strategic targets from the airfields in North Africa meant that they were at first mainly employed on tactical operations.[49][50] The squadron flew operations against targets in Sicily during the Allied invasion of that island in July–August 1943.[51]

In December 1943, the squadron moved to southern Italy, settling at Foggia Tortorella (Foggia 2) later that month, sharing the base with USAAF B17 Fortresses of the 99th Bombardment Group.[15][52][53] The Wellingtons were replaced by Consolidated Liberators from November 1944, with the squadron flying its last mission with Wellingtons on 13 December 1944. Operations included bombing raids against targets in Northern Italy and the Balkans, together with supply drops to Yugoslav Partisans and dropping mines on the River Danube to disrupt German shipping.[52] The squadron flew its last missions of the Second World War on the night of 25/26 April 1945, against marshalling yards North West of Salzburg, Austria.[54]

On 2 October 1945 37 Squadron moved to Aqir, moving again to Shallufa in Egypt in December, disbanding there on 31 March 1946.[52] On 15 April 1946, 214 Squadron, an Avro Lancaster-equipped bomber squadron based at RAF Fayid in Egypt, was renumbered No. 37 which flew bombers until it was disbanded again on 1 April 1947.[52]

Maritime reconnaissance[edit]

The squadron reformed again at Ein Shemer Airfield in Palestine on 14 September 1947, as a maritime reconnaissance squadron equipped with Lancaster GR3s and with responsibility for patrols over the Eastern Mediterranean, and in particular the location of ships carrying Jewish illegal immigrants to Palestine.[52][55] In May 1948, at the time of the British withdrawal from Palestine, the squadron moved to RAF Luqa in Malta, coming under the control of AHQ Malta.[56] In May–August 1953 the squadron replaced its Lancasters with Avro Shackletons.[55][57] It flew in support of the Anglo-French invasion of Egypt in 1956 (the Suez Crisis), and in July 1957 the squadron moved to RAF Khormaksar in Aden, for patrols over the Red Sea and Indian Ocean,[55] with a secondary role of air support, including bombing fortified positions and strafing using the Shackleton's nose-mounted guns in counterinsurgency operations during the Aden Emergency.[58][59] A detachment was based at Bahrain in an attempt to stop gun running from Oman.[60] In 1961 the squadron flew in support of Operation Vantage, the British response to Iraqi threats against Kuwait,[61] and from 1966, as a result of Rhodesia's Unilateral Declaration of Independence, supplied regular detachments to Mahajanga in Madagascar as part of the Beira Patrol, a British blockade of ships carrying oil to Rhodesia via Mozambique.[61][62] The squadron disbanded at Khormaksar on 7 September 1967.[63]

The colours of 37 Squadron are in All Saints' Church, Stamford.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pine 1983, p. 265
  2. ^ a b c d Halley 1980, p. 69
  3. ^ Jones 1931, pp. 167, 169
  4. ^ a b c Rawlings 1969, p. 103
  5. ^ Cole & Cheesman 1984, p. 198
  6. ^ Cole & Cheesman 1984, pp. 186–187
  7. ^ Cole & Cheesman 1984, p. 210
  8. ^ Cole & Cheesman 1984, p. 212
  9. ^ Cole & Cheesman 1984, p. 280
  10. ^ Cole & Cheesman 1984, pp. 250–254
  11. ^ "The History of Stow Maries". Anglia Model Flying Club. Archived from the original on 10 July 2008. Retrieved 29 January 2007.
  12. ^ Cole & Cheesman 1984, pp. 224–225
  13. ^ Pitchfork 2008, p. 90
  14. ^ Cole & Cheesman 1984, p. 416
  15. ^ a b c d Moyes 1964, p. 55
  16. ^ Moyes 1964, p. 301
  17. ^ Ward & Smith 2008, p. 3
  18. ^ Ward & Smith 2008, p. 4
  19. ^ Ward & Smith 2008, p. 7
  20. ^ Shores, Massimello & Guest 2012, pp. 449–450
  21. ^ Shores, Massimello & Guest 2012, pp. 450–451
  22. ^ Shores, Massimello & Guest 2012, p. 128
  23. ^ Shores, Cull & Malizia 1987, p. 81
  24. ^ Shores, Cull & Malizia 1987, pp. 81–83
  25. ^ Shores, Cull & Malizia 1987, p. 86
  26. ^ Shores, Cull & Malizia 1987, p. 232
  27. ^ Richards 1953, p. 298
  28. ^ Shores, Cull & Malizia 1987, p. 259
  29. ^ a b Shores, Massimello & Guest 2012, p. 455
  30. ^ Shores 1996, p. 168
  31. ^ Shores 1996, pp. 171–172, 174–176
  32. ^ Shores 1996, p. 180
  33. ^ Shores, Massimello & Guest 2012, pp. 455–457
  34. ^ Shores 1996, p. 229
  35. ^ Shores, Massimello & Guest 2012, pp. 459–463
  36. ^ Shores et al. 2012, p. 641
  37. ^ Shores et al. 2012, p. 642
  38. ^ Shores et al. 2012, p. 188
  39. ^ Shores, Cull & Malizia 1991, p. 90
  40. ^ Shores, Cull & Malizia 1991, pp. 100–101, 679–680
  41. ^ Shores et al. 2012, pp. 647, 649–651
  42. ^ Shores, Cull & Malizia 1991, pp. 127–128
  43. ^ Shores et al. 2012, pp. 176, 660
  44. ^ Shores et al. 2012, p. 684
  45. ^ Shores et al. 2012, p. 686
  46. ^ Shores et al. 2012, p. 694
  47. ^ Shores et al. 2018, pp. 16, 154
  48. ^ Craven & Cate 1983, pp. 162–163
  49. ^ Shores et al. 2018, pp. 7, 16
  50. ^ Craven & Cate 1983, p. 418
  51. ^ Shores et al. 2018, pp. 162, 274, 278
  52. ^ a b c d e Halley 1980, p. 70
  53. ^ Maurer 1983, p. 171
  54. ^ Moyes 1964, p. 57
  55. ^ a b c Rawlings 1982, p. 61
  56. ^ Lee 1989, p. 165
  57. ^ Jones 2002, p. 170
  58. ^ Rawlings 1982, pp. 61–62
  59. ^ Jones 2002, pp. 124–127
  60. ^ Jones 2002, p. 125
  61. ^ a b Rawlings 1982, p. 62
  62. ^ Jones 2002, pp. 122–123
  63. ^ Jones 2002, p. 123
  • Cole, Christopher; Cheesman, E. F. (1984). The Air Defence of Britain 1914–1918. London: Putnam. ISBN 0-370-30538-8.
  • Craven, Wesley Frank; Cate, James Lea (1983) [1949]. The Army Air Forces in World War II: Volume Two, Europe: Torch to Pointblank: August 1942 to December 1943 (PDF). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-03-X.
  • Halley, James J. (1980). The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air Britain (Historians) Ltd. ISBN 0-85130-083-9.
  • Jones, Barry (2002). Avro Shackleton. Ramsbury, UK: The Crowood Press. ISBN 1-86126-449-6.
  • Jones, H. A. (1931). The War In The Air: Being the Story of the part played in the Great War by the Royal Air Force: Volume III. Oxford: The Clarendon Press.
  • Lee, David (1989). Wings in the sun : a history of Royal Air Force in the Mediterranean 1945-1986. London: HMSO. ISBN 0117726206.
  • Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1983). Air Force Combat Units of World War II (PDF). Washington DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-02-1.
  • Moyes, Philip (1964). Bomber Squadrons of the R.A.F. and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald & Co. (Publishers) Ltd.
  • Pine, L.G. (1983). A dictionary of mottoes (1 ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. ISBN 0-7100-9339-X.
  • Pitchfork, Graham (2008). The Royal Air Force Day By Day. Stroud, UK: Sutton Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7509-4309-3.
  • Rawlings, John D. R. (1969). Fighter Squadrons of the R.A.F. and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald & Co., Ltd.
  • Rawlings, John D. R. (1982). Coastal, Support and Special Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Jane's Publishing Company. ISBN 0-7106-0187-5.
  • Richards, Denis (1953). Royal Air Force 1939–1945: Volume I: The Fight at Odds. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office.
  • Shores, Christopher (1996). Dust Clouds in the Middle East: The Air War for East Africa, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Madagascar, 1940–42. London: Grub Street. ISBN 1-898697-37-X.
  • Shores, Christopher; Cull, Brian; Malizia, Nicola (1987). Air War for Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete: 1940–1941. London: Grub Street. ISBN 0-948817-07-0.
  • Shores, Christopher; Cull, Brian; Malizia, Nicola (1991). Malta: The Spitfire Year 1942. London: Grub Street. ISBN 0-948817-16-X.
  • Shores, Christopher; Massimello, Giovanni; Guest, Russell (2012). A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940–1945: Volume One: North Africa: June 1940 – January 1942. London: Grub Street. ISBN 978-1-908117-07-6.
  • Shores, Christopher; Massimello, Giovanni; Guest, Russell; Olynyk, Frank; Bock, Winfried (2012). A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940–1945: Volume Two: North African Desert: February 1942 – March 1943. London: Grub Street. ISBN 978-1-909166-12-7.
  • Shores, Christopher; Massimello, Giovanni; Guest, Russell; Olynyk, Frank; Bock, Winfried; Thomas, Andy (2018). A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940–1945: Volume Four: Sicily and Italy to the Fall of Rome: 14 May, 1943 – 5 June 1944. London: Grub Street. ISBN 978-1-911621-10-2.
  • Ward, Chris; Smith, Steve (2008). 3 Group Bomber Command: An Operational Record. Barnsley, UK: Pen and Sword Aviation. ISBN 978-1-84415-796-9.

External links[edit]