No. 60 Squadron RAF

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No. 60 (Reserve) Squadron of the Royal Air Force was formed in 1916 at Gosport. It is currently part of the Defence Helicopter Flying School based at RAF Shawbury in Shropshire.

RFC Morane-Saulnier Type N Bullet

The Squadron crest is a markhor's head and was approved by King George VI in December 1937. Chosen to commemorate many years of service in North-West India, the markhor being a mountain goat frequenting the Khyber Pass. The horns of a markhor were presented to the Squadron in 1964.1

The Squadron motto is Per ardua ad aethera tendo - 'I strive through difficulties to the sky'.

World War I service

Formed at Gosport on 30 April 1916, barely a month had passed before the unit and its Morane-Saulnier N's were despatched to France. After suffering heavy losses during the Battle of the Somme, the Squadron re-equipped with Nieuport Scouts and soon acquired a first-class reputation for itself. On 2 June 1917, Captain WA "Billy" Bishop received the Victoria Cross for his solo attack on a German aerodrome destroying three enemy aircraft in the air and several 'probables' on the ground before returning unhurt in a badly damaged aircraft. A month later, S.E.5 fighters arrived and these remained with the Squadron until it was disbanded on 22 January 1920.1

The squadron claimed 320 aerial victories. Twenty-six flying aces served in the squadron during the war; notable among them were:

Bishop and a Nieuport 17 fighter
S.E.5a aircraft of No. 32 Squadron RAF. Similar to those operated by No 60 Squadron

The interwar years

Reformed at Lahore in India from the disbanded No. 97 Squadron RAF on 1 April 1920, the Squadron, now equipped with Airco DH10 bombers, began an association with the Middle and Far East that was to last for 48 years. Between the wars, the unit found itself involved in many conflicts along the North West Frontier, including Pink's War, flying Airco DH.9A and Westland Wapiti general-purpose aircraft until Bristol Blenheims arrived six months before the start of World War II.1

World War II

Burma and Malaya

Blenheims of No. 60 Squadron flying at low level for a mast-head attack on a Japanese coaster off Akyab, Burma on 11 October 1942

The squadron moved to Burma in February 1941. After the outbreak of war against Japan the squadron fought in Malaya. Two aircraft, L4912 and L4915, remained in Burma. Both were Blenheim Mk 1's and they were destroyed on 20 and 21 January 1942 respectively. L4912 had been damaged beyond repair during a mission in Burma and L4915 was destroyed by enemy bombing.

When the war against Japan broke out on 8 December 1941 No. 60 Squadron was ordered to attack Japanese shipping near Kota Baru. L4913 was shot down by Japanese anti-aircraft fire over the Gulf of Siam while attacking the Awagisan Maru. The pilot, Flight Lieutenant William Bowden, survived the crash and taken prisoner. He was the first allied airman captured by the Japanese.4 He was imprisoned at the Zentsuji POW Camp where he remained until late June 1945. He was then transferred to Tokyo No 12D Camp at Mitsushima where he was eventually freed in September 1945.5

On 24 December 1941 the remnant of squadrons ground crew and a few of its air crew, having lost all their aircraft in action, sailed from Singapore on the SS Darvel to Burma. They arrived in Rangoon on 1 January 1942 and were joined on 7 January 1942 by No. 113 squadron and a couple of No. 45 squadron's Blenheim Mk IV's. No. 60 Squadron's spare aircrew were assigned to No 113 Squadron as needed.

Because the three squadrons lacked both aircraft and supplies they were seldom able to put more than seven aircraft up at one time, meaning they tended to operate as one.6 No 60 Squadron's Blenheim aircrews manned No 113 squadrons planes for the first bombing raid on Bangkok and participated again in the second one later in January.

India

Nakajima Ki-43-IIa

The Squadron had suffered heavily at the hands of the advancing Japanese forces and was declared non-operational and moved to Asansol, India along with 45 and 113 Squadrons. Once in India the Squadron was re-equipped with Blenhiem Mk IV's. While returning to India from Burma after a bombing mission to Sitwe, Burma on 22 May a Blenheim the Squadron was attacked by Ki-43 fighter's from 64 Sentai. Flight Sergeant Jock McLuckie was one of the Blenheim's gunners. McLuckie shot down Japanese ace Lt Colonel Tateo Katō who commanded the Sentai and damaged 2 other Ki-43s.7

60 Squadron Hurricane and crewmen. This definitely was 60 squadron, probably in Burma. I have an original of the photo - Crouching on the right, partially hidden, is my Dad, John Fisher (Jack) Bell. He always maintained the chap centre-stage with the big smile was Guy Gibson's cousin.

On 30 March 1943 an English Argentinian from Estancia Dos Hermanos, Los Pinos, Richard (Ricardo) Campbell Lindsell, who had joined the RCAF, was appointed Squadron Leader. Lindsell had been educated at Stowe College England and had been based with No. 139 Squadron RAF. By the time Lindsell joined No 60 Squadron its Blenheim's had flown numerous missions against the Japanese in Burma and were reaching the end of their useful operational life and needed replacing.8

In May the Squadron was stood down while replacement aircraft were sought. By August the decision had been made to re-equip the Squadron with Hawker Hurricane IIc fighter-bombers. Training was commenced in August at Madras and by November the Hurricanes were providing escort duties. In January 1944 the Squadron began ground attack missions and troop support against the Japanese in Burma. During one month in 1944 the Squadron completed 728 sorties and also received considerable praise for the accuracy of its bombing by allied ground troops. For their efforts and his leadership Lindsell was awarded the DFC.9

In May 1945 the Hurricanes were replaced by Thunderbolt fighters.1 These remained in service with the Squadron until 1946.

Post World War II

Andover CC.2 of 60 Squadron in 1987

Shortly after the Japanese surrender, the Squadron moved to Java and was soon in action against Indonesian rebels. A year later, No 60 transferred to Singapore prior to converting to Supermarine Spitfire F18s and these were employed in attacks against Communist guerrillas in Malayan Emergency until the arrival of Vampires in late 1950 and then Venoms in 1955.1

By the time Meteor night-fighters arrived in October 1959, the unit had returned to RAF Tengah in Singapore. A change followed in July 1961 when Javelin fighters arrived and these remained until April 1968 when the Squadron was disbanded. On 3 February 1969, the Royal Air Force Communications Squadron based at RAF Wildenrath in Germany was retitled No 60 Squadron and the unit found itself flying ancient Pembroke transports until more modern Andovers arrived in 1987.

Percival Pembroke C.1

No 60 Squadron's Pembroke's were modified versions of No. 81 Squadron RAF's C(PR).1 photo-reconnaissance Pembroke's. Their use as a Cold War surveillance aircraft was highly classified until the late 1990s. Pembrokes of No. 60 Squadron RAF often flew along the air corridors between West Germany and Berlin, established during the 1948-49 Berlin Blockade during which the West mounted a massive year-long airlift of supplies to the beleaguered city. While they were widely used as transport aircraft by the RAF, their true function along that particular route was known only to a few within military and intelligence circles. These aircraft were employed for Operation Hallmark, a sensitive intelligence operation in which the Pembrokes were fitted with high-powered reconnaissance cameras to acquire imagery of Soviet and East German military installations and airfields below the tightly controlled air corridors. These were subsequently analyzed by photo intelligence and imagery experts, who recorded any changes in the Warsaw Pact forces facing the West. Alterations in the order of battle, appearance of new equipment and movement of military units were all items of great interest. At the time of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, it was Percival Pembrokes that provided Western analysts with some of the first indications as to where the Soviet ground forces had come from.1011

As with many other Germany-based units, the end of the Cold War saw many moves. No 60 disbanded at Wildenrath on 1 April 1992 but reformed two months on 1 June 1992 at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire with Westland Wessex helicopters. This proved a short-lived stay and the Squadron was disbanded on 31 March 1997 and the numberplate passed on to the RAF element of the Defence Helicopter Flying School at RAF Shawbury on 1 May 1997.1

References

  • Above the Trenches: A Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the British Empire Air Forces 1915–1920. Christopher F. Shores, Norman Franks, Russell Guest. Grub Street, 1990. ISBN 0948817194, 9780948817199.

Endnotes

Further reading

See also