RAF Units
The Royal Air Force / Commonwealth
Photographic Reconnaissance Squadrons

1939 - 1946

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Squadrons

 
2 Sqn
Having served already as a reconnaissance Squadron during WW1, at the outbreak of WW2 the Squadron was equipped with the Westland Lysander and employed in the Army Co-operation Role, in 1939 it was sent to France as part of the BEF. From 1940 the Squadron truly switched to the reconnaissance role. Equipped in 1941 with a small number of Tomahawks for the tactical recce role, the Squadron undertook low-level reconnaissance sorties over mainland Europe. In early 1942 its aircraft were replaced with Mustang Is and they undertook operational sorties later that year flying low-level reconnaissance looking for radar sites on the French coast. They moved to France in July 1944 tasked with general reconnaissance duties, later that year they re-equipped with Spitfires along side their Mustangs. Later the Squadron received the Spitfire FR.XIV and then the Mustangs left in early 1945. At the end of the war the Squadron was re-formed into two flights, one equipped with Spitfire PR.XIXs from No.4 Squadron and the other with its FR.XIVs.
 
4 Sqn

Another Army Cooperation Squadron, it was equipped with the Westland Lysander, they deployed to France with the BEF and then returned to the England in 1940. By early 1942 the Squadron was re-equipped with Tomahawks and Mustangs for the tactical reconnaissance role. However they were totally re-equipped with Mustangs by later that year. They became part of the 2nd Tactical Air Force (2TAF) in August 1943 and by 1944 the Squadron underwent a fundamental change, two flights were formed, A Flight was re-equipped with both the Spitfire PR.XI and PR.XIII and B Flight with the Mosquito PR.XVI for both high and low-level reconnaissance. In October of 1944 they received a small number of Typhoon IBs to develop a low-level capability alongside the Spitfires, however, by February they were phased out and then at this time the Unit was based in Holland until the end of the war. In August 1945 the Squadron was disbanded as a reconnaissance Unit with its PR.XIX Spitfires moving to No. 2 Squadron.

 
16 Sqn
In June 1938 the Squadron became the first to operate a new type aircraft in the RAF, that being the Westland Lysander. The Unit stayed in Britain until April 1940 then moved over to France, but within days it had become obvious that the Lysander was not able to operate in the modern war role and they were evacuated to Lympne.  Continuing to use the Lysander for coastal patrols along the East coast and later the coasts of Devon and Cornwall,  but it was obvious from the time in France that before undertaking operations again, the Squadron would need to update its equipment. The Lysanders were replaced in April 1942 by US Mustang Is; however, the Lysanders remained in use until May 1943. The Mustangs were used on shipping reconnaissance and low level interceptions of German bombers.  Spitfires started to replaced the Mustangs in late 1943, with which the Squadron undertook photographic reconnaissance missions for the build up for Operation Overlord (D-Day).  A year later the Squadron transferred to 2nd Tactical Air Force, again carrying out the reconnaissance role, which it continued until the end of war.  Spitfires used by the Squadron were the Mk V, PR XI, FR IX, PR XIX, Mk XIV and Mk XVI.  After June 1945, the Squadron was used as high-speed mail service between the UK and Germany.
 
26 Sqn
By the out-break of WW2 the Squadron had been equipped, like others before, with Lysanders and in late 1939 it was moved to France. When Germans forces invaded Belgium in May 1940 it was forced to move to Lympne where it flew reconnaissance, bombing and resupply missions over northern France. Undertaking coastal patrols and training with the army took up most of the squadrons time for the next few years. In February 1941 Tomahawks began to arrive to replace the Lysanders for tactical reconnaissance missions, however, these were replaced with Mustangs in early 1942. The Squadron moved to Yorkshire in 1943 and then onto Scotland in March 1943. For a very short period of its history the Squadron was equipped with Spitfires and undertook spotting missions for naval gunners during D-Day. Converting back to Mustangs at the end of 1944, the Squadron was tasked with missions of Holland and in April 1945, it undertook spotting tasking for the French navy around Bordeaux.
 
28 Sqn
In 1939 the Squadron was equipped with Hawker Audexes flying operations in India. They were re-equipped with Lysanders in September 1941 and then moved to Burma in December of that year. After a short stay, the Squadron was again moved to Lahore in 1942 to re-form. In December 1942 the Squadron took delivery of Hurricanes undertook tactical reconnaissance duties over Burma and in 1945 they were re-equipped with Spitfires. At the end of the war the Squadron became a permanent part of the Far East Air Force with its Spitfire FR.XIVs and FR.XVIIs.
 
63 Sqn
Reformed in June 1942 from an element of 239 Squadron, it was equipped with the Mustang I and started undertaking tactical reconnaissance missions along the French coast in early 1943. Being re-equipped with Hurricanes in March 1944 and then Spitfires in May of that year, the Squadron went on to provide gunnery spotting for warships during the landings at Normandy on D-Day. Disbanding in early 1945.
 
69 Sqn
Formed from 431 Flight in Malta in January 1941, It went on to carry out reconnaissance duties over Italy, Sicily and North Africa using Hurricanes, Marylands and Beaufighters. It converted to Spitfires in May 1942 and Baltimores a month later. The Squadron moved back to the RAF Northolt, in 1944 and became a pert of 34 Wing 2nd TAF, re-equipped with Wellingtons, it undertook night reconnaissance with its first mission on the eve of D-Day. The Squadron then moved to France, later onto Belgium and carried on with reconnaissance duties until the 7th May 1945.
 
139 Sqn
Equipped with Blenheim Is in 1937 and then upgrading to the mark IV variant in September 1939, this Squadron undertook the first RAF operation mission of WW2, a reconnaissance over flight of the German fleet in Wilhelmshaven. At the end of 1939, it moved to France, beginning attacks against enemy columns as soon as the German invasion began on 10 May 1940.  In December 1941 the Squadron was moved to the Far East.  Arriving in Burma in early 1942,  equipping itself with Lockheed Hudsons it carried out general reconnaissance missions.  However, it was soon involved in operations against the Japanese and on 30 April was renumbered as No 62 Squadron. Later it returned to the UK and became part of the pathfinder force.
 
140 Sqn
Formed from 1416 Flight at RAF Benson on the 17th September 1941, equipped with Spitfires PR Type G, the armed photographic reconnaissance variant, and Blenheims, the Squadron becoming operational on its first day. The Spitfires were used for daylight sorties over Northern France and the Blenheims for night reconnaissance over Belgium and the Low Countries. In 1943 the Blenheims were slowly replaced by Lockheed Venturas. In July 1943 the Squadron became a part of 34 PR Wing of 2nd TAF and its missions centred around the forthcoming invasion of Europe. In late 1943 the Venturas started to be phased out and replaced with PR Mosquitos by January 1944 and by April of that year the Squadron was wholly equipped with Mosquitos after they replaced the Spitfires in the daylight role. The Squadron moved to Belgium in late 1944 and then returned to the UK in November 1945.
 
168 Sqn
Formed on 15 June 1942 as tactical reconnaissance unit with Army Cooperation Command, the Squadron was built around a detachment from No. 268 Squadron.  Equipped with Tomahawks at first, but these were replaced with  Mustang Is in November of that year. Most of the squadrons missions involved exercises with the Army in the build up for the invasion of Europe.  Joining the 2nd Tactical Air Force in July 1943, becoming part of No 123 Wing, it began reconnaissance operations over Europe in October. After D-Day, the Squadron moved to France and carried out tactical reconnaissance to 21 Army Group as it moved through France and then on into Holland.  In late 1944, its Mustangs were replaced with Typhoons and it again undertook armed reconnaissance sorties over Germany and also escorts to daylight bombing raids.  The Squadron disbanded on 28 February 1945.
 
169 Sqn
Another Squadron that was formed on 15 June 1942, in the tactical reconnaissance role and equipped with Mustang Is. Moving to Duxford in December 1942 it began operations covering shipping reconnaissance and ground attacks sorties.  From July 1943 it was also employed in combating low level intrusions by German bombers. But after only a short history the Squadron was disbanded on 30 September 1943. Re-forming later in the night-fighter role.
 
170 Sqn
Also formed in June 1942, the Squadron carried out tactical reconnaissance duties equipped with Mustang I aircraft. Reconnaissance missions were flown throughout 1943, also it carried out attacks on German fighter-bombers. Joining 2nd Tactical Air Force  in July 1943, the Squadron disbanded in January the following year.
 
171 Sqn
Like the previous three squadrons, 171 was formed on the 15 June 1942 in the tactical reconnaissance role, its first issue of aircraft was the Tomahawk, however, this was quickly replaced by Mustangs and carried out missions along the French coast. On the 31 December 1942, the Squadron was disbanded and all of its equipped was transferred to 430 Squadron.
 
208 Sqn
In September 1939n this Squadron was equipped with Lysanders and after Italy in entered the war served in the Western Desert. In late 1940 they started to received Hurricane aircraft for their reconnaissance role. Moving to Greece in April 1941, however by the end of the month they had to leave due to the German invasion. For a short period they were based in Palestine, the Squadron was again posted back to the Western Desert in October 1941. Then again on the move in December 1942 to Iraq and converting to Spitfires in late 1943.
 
212 Sqn
Experiments by the Photographic Development Unit (PDU) with Spitfires for photographic reconnaissance had lead to early examples being sent to France in February 1940.  On the 10th February 1940 the detachment was given the designation No 212 Squadron and  continued to operate from continental bases until its evacuation in June of that year.  During this period it operated its Spitfire and Blenheim aircraft on strategic reconnaissance sorties over Germany. On its return to Britain it was absorbed back into the PDU and disbanded on 18 June 1940.
 
225 Sqn
As an Army Cooperation Squadron it was firstly equipped with Lysanders. In early 1942 Hurricanes were added for tactical reconnaissance and in May of that year, the Squadron started to receive Mustangs, with the Lysanders being withdrawn. In late 1942 the Squadron moved to North Africa in support of the 1st Army in Tunisia. After being re-equip with Spitfires, the Squadron was on the move again this time to Sicily and then onto the Italian mainland in late 1943. In August 1944 the unit provided support for the invasion of the South of France, before returning back to Italy for the remainder of the war in Europe.
 
239 Sqn
Formed in September 1940 from a flight from each of  16 and 225 Squadrons at Hatfield, it was equipped with Lysanders.  It trained heavily with the army and from June 1941 saw the arrival of Tomahawks to complement its Lysanders. By early 1942 the Lysander, which was unsuited for tactical reconnaissance mission was retired and the Squadron was re-equipped with Tomahawks and Hurricanes. May 1942 saw the Squadron change to Mustangs and these were used in ground attack and tactical-recce operation over Northern France.  In June 1943 the Squadron was transferred from Army Co-operation Command to the 2nd Tactical Air Force. However, its move to 2 TAF was short, as in September it lost all of its Mustangs and the Squadron moved to Ayr in Scotland where it began training fin the night fighter role. 
 
268 Sqn
Formed as an Lysander Army Cooperation unit in September 1940 from A flight of 2 Squadron and B flight of 26 Squadron. In May of 1941 a Tomahawk flight was added to the Squadron for the role of tactical reconnaissance, which it carried out over northern France. In mid 1942 the Squadron converted over to Mustangs and the following year it joined the 2nd Tactical Air Force. During the D-Day attacks the Squadron carried out 'spotting' for Naval gunners. In August 1944 it moved to the French mainland and was equipped with a number of Typhoons, again in the Tac-Recce role. By April 1954 the Squadron had converted to Spitfires and it flow these until the end of the war.
 

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