35 Squadron RAF


No.35 Squadron formed at Thetford on 1 February 1916 from a nucleus of No. 9 (Reserve) Squadron. It was given various types of training aircraft and used initially for aircrew training, simultaneously trying to work up for service on the Western Front. After moving to Narborough in June the squadron concentrated more fully on this latter task, becoming entirely equipped with Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8s., and eventually went to France in January 1917.

In France No.35 was attached to the Cavalry Corps, a fact commemorated in its badge, and soon developed acceptable means of working with this arm. The squadron's primary task was reconnaissance ahead of the corps, but it was inevitably drawn into all the other tasks which confronted a corps squadron in World War 1, such as artillery co-operation and low-level bombing and gunnery. This latter was especially the task of No.35 in the spring of 1918, when it joined almost every other unit in attacking the German advance.

It had just received a flight of Bristol Fighters, and these were particularly effective in the low-level role. They were also used as escort to the Big-Ack-Ws', as the F.K.8s were known. There were periods in 1917 when No.35 Squadron took to the night air laden with bombs to attack targets of particular importance behind the German lines. This, then, was the pattern of operations flown consistently by the unit until hostilities ended in 1918. The squadron remained in France until the spring of 1919, when it returned to England and disbanded at Netheravon on 26 June 1919.

A couple of months under 10 years later, No. 35 Squadron was re-formed, this time as a light bomber squadron. The place was Bircham Newton and the date 1 March 1929. At first it was given de Havilland D.H.9As and on these it worked up, but in nine months they were replaced by Fairey IIIFs. With liquid-cooled close-cowled Napier Lions, the Fairey IIIFs were an advance and enabled the squadron to get into its stride in the RAF of the early 1930s. Whilst this was happening Fairey was re-engining IIIFs with Armstrong Siddeley Panther radials and this type, named the Gordon, succeeded the IIIFs in the squadron during 1932.

This was interrupted in 1935 by Mussolini, who invaded Abyssinia, and many squadrons of the RAF were sent to the Middle East in case Italian ambitions became too great. No.35 took its Gordons to the Sudan, where they flew patrols on the watch for enemy aircraft crossing the border.

The squadron returned to the United Kingdom in 1936 and to a new base at Worthy Down. By now the Gordons were distinctly too old and slow for the pace of modern aerial warfare, and it was with some relief to the squadron's personnel that, in 1937, Vickers Wellesley monoplanes took their place. The Wellesley was a single engine long range bomber, and No.35 quickly worked upon this type. The squadron then fell foul of changes in RAF policy, for in the middle of 1938 it was decreed that the Wellesley would be more useful in overseas theatres, leaving faster, more potent aircraft in the European region. So No.35 lost its aircraft and began to re-equip with Fairey Battles.

As war drew nearer it was apparent that the training organization was indequate to cope with great numbers of aircrew coming through, so some squadrons were designated as advanced training units. As No.35 was in process of working up, and this had been set back by a change of station, the squadron used its Battles for training air gunners and observers from the early summer of 1939 onwards.

Avro Ansons joined the fleet, and before the year was out No.35 had changed bases twice and added Blenheims to its equipment. In early 1940 it moved yet again, to Upwood, where it was joined with No. 90 Squadron to form No. 17 Operational Training Unit on 8 April 1940.

The squadron was re-formed 5 November 1940 at Boscombe Down with an important role, charged with bringing into operational service the second of the RAF's four-engine bombers, the Handley Page Halifax. All the prototype flying had been carried out at Boscombe Down, and the squadron collected its first aircraft here and soon after flew up to Linton-on-Ouse in No.4 Group country; this group, then flying Whitleys, had been designated to re-equip with the Halifax. Progress was slow as aircraft and crews were not quickly forthcoming. By early January the squadron had three aircraft for training purposes and one was lost during that month in a fatal crash. However, by March the unit was ready for operations, and on the night of 10 January flew its first raid, against Le Havre. Some success was achieved, although on its return one aircraft was shot down by a British night-fighter over Surrey, due to unfamiliarity with the type. Thereafter raids continued, although the unit was hampered by a spate of hydraulic failures which led to grounding until June.

By then the squadron could put up nine or 10 aircraft each night, and even took part in a daylight raid on Kiel in which only one aircraft was lost. Night raids became the regular thing for No.35 Squadron, although another daylight raid was flown on 24 July against the Scharnhorst at Brest.

Halifax Mk IIs were introduced in the autumn, and No.35 slowly re-placed its Mk Is with this more improved version. Another daylight attempt on the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau was made on 18 December and a further one at the end of the month, but the losses from the latter discouraged regular daylight operations.

By 1942 No.35 Squadron was part of the regular Bomber Command nightly offensive against Germany, but in April it was heavly involved in attacks on the Tirpitz in Trondheim fjord. Its aircraft were being equipped with 'Gee', giving a greater navigational accuracy, and by summer it was carrying 4.000-lb (1814-kg) bombs on some raids. In August 1942 a new formation was established in Bomber Command, No.8 Group, with the express task of expanding the pathfinder techniques already employed and providing a force to mark targets for the Main Force on each Bomber Command raid.

No.35 Squadron was transferred to this group, the first Halifax squadron to be included, and moved south to Graveley. Its first attack in this role was on 18 August 1942 against Flensburg. A typical effort by No.35 Squadron would see some aircraft leading to identify the target and lay marker flares across it. Others following would then use different flares to illuminate the whole area and the rest of the squadron would be amongst the first to bomb the target.

As the year wore on the squadron, with gradually improved aircraft, flew farther afield and in November the long dark nights made trips to Italy possible, Turin being a favourite target. At the end of the year Halifax Mk Ills were received, the most successful variant yet, giving the squadron greater opportunities of putting up a full force.

These aircraft only remained for a few months, however, for in March 1944 the squadron reequipped with Avro Lancasters. With these it continued the pathfinder task, marking and bombing regularly. The locale for raids changed to northern France before and around D-Day, and on that day the squadron was busy bombing gun emplacements before the landings took place. From then on the bomber offensive was largely against German targets until the end of the war in the spring of 1945.

The squadron was then allocated to 'Tiger Force', a new organization training up to take a significiant bomber force out to the Pacific war, but this was forstalled by Japans surrender.

Many squadrons were disbanded, but No. 35 remained alive and in 1946 was augmented by crews and aircraft from other squadrons to fly a successful goodwill tour of the USA. Many people were keen to see the famous Avro Lancaster and the squadron was well received all over the continent. Graveley had closed by the time No.35 returned, so it moved to Stradishall, from where it flew several detachments to Malta and Egypt in the next few years. Avro Lincolns replaced the Lancasters in 1949.

But two years later the squadron moved to Marham where it virtually became a conversion unit for the Boeing Washington B.Mk Is which were coming into RAF service. After providing crews for all the Washington squadrons, No. 35 became operational on the type in its own right as part of the Marham Wing. The Washingtons were only a temporary expedient, and the squadron received English Electric Canberra jet bombers in 1954. It flew these for seven years as part of the RAF's bomber force, going to Cyprus in the autumn of 1956 to back up the squadrons operating in the Suez Crisis. Although the Canberra force was cut down after this, No.35 remained in existence until 11 September 1961, when it disbanded at Upwood.

On 1 December 1962 No.35 re-formed once more as part of the new Avro Vulcan B.Mk 2 V-bomber wing at Coningsby. It received its first aircraft in January 1963 and immediately painted its winged horse motif on the fins. It was soon operational and flew as a standard V-bomber unit from there until moving to Cottesmore in 1964. Here it transferred to the low-level bombing role, then joined No. 9 Squadron in Cyprus in 1969 to form the Near East Bomber Wing. Its task was as part of CENTO, to attack any future enemy forces in the 'soft underbelly' of Europe, and it remained in this role until the move from Cyprus in 1975. It then re-turned to Scampton where it formed an integral part of Scampton's wing until final disbandment on 28 February 1982.

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