No. 237 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No.237 (Rhodesian) Squadron began the Second World War as an army co-operation squadron based in Kenya, and took part in the invasion of Italian East Africa, the campaign in the Western Desert and the invasions of Italy and Southern France.

No.237 (Rhodesian) Squadron was formed on 22 April 1940 by the re-designation of No.1 Squadron, Southern Rhodesian Air Force. The squadron was based at Nairobi, from where it looked north towards Italian occupied Ethiopia. Once it became obvious that Italy was about to enter the war the squadron moved forward to a number of landing strips on the Ethiopian border, and prepared to use its mix of obsolete biplanes for reconnaissance and army reconnaissance.

At the start of the war the squadron operated a mix of Audex, Hart and Hardy army co-operation biplanes, but by September only the Hardys were left. The squadron took these aircraft to the Sudan to take part in the successful invasion of Ethiopia and Eritrea, a campaign that ended with one of the first British land victories of the war.

During this period the squadron slowly updated its aircraft, receiving the Lysander in November 1940 and a number of Gladiators in March 1941. April saw the last Hardy sorties, but in the next month the squadron was withdrawn to Kufra Oasis in Egypt.

In mid August the Lysanders and Gladiators were passed onto No.6 Squadron, and No.237 finally received a modern aircraft, converting to the Hawker Hurricane. These were used for tactical reconnaissance over the Western Desert from 21 November 1941 until February 1942. The squadron was then moved again, this time to Iraq. The German summer offensive of 1942 had brought them to Stalingrad and deep into the Caucuses, and there was a real danger that they would invade the Middle East from the north, attacking on the same route used by the Russians during the First World War.  No.237 Squadron formed part of a force that was created to counter any German breakthrough, although if Soviet resistance had collapsed to the extent that would have allowed the Germans to invade Iran then the small Allied force involved would have been swept away.

After the Soviet victory at Stalingrad the threat to Persia disappeared, and the squadron moved back to Egypt, where it was used to provide air defence and on convoy protection. Spitfires were received in December 1943, and in April 1944 the squadron took its new aircraft to Corsica, from where it operated over northern Italy and the south of France.

In August 1944 the Allies invaded the south of France (Operation Dragoon), and No.237 followed the armies into liberated France. The invading armies moved very rapidly to the north to join up with the forces advancing from Normandy, leaving the associated air forces to return to Italy. No.237 moved back to Italy, and flew fighter sweeps over Northern Italy for the rest of the war. On 1 January 1946 the squadron was renumbered as No.93 Squadron, still based in Italy.

Aircraft
April-September 1940: Hawker Audax
April 1940-April 1941: Hawker Hardy
June-September 1940: Hawker Hart
November 1940-August 1941: Westland Lysander I and II
March-August 1941: Gloster Gladiator II
September 1941-February 1943: Hawker Hurricane I
February-December 1943: Hawker Hurricane IIC
December 1943-March 1944: Supermarine Spitfire VC
March 1944-December 1945: Supermarine Spitfire IX

Location
April-September 1940: Nairobi
September 1940-January 1941: Gordons Tree
January-March 1941: Umtali
March 1941: Barentu
March -April 1941: Umritsar
April-June 1941: Asmara
June-August 1941: Wadi Halfa
August-September 1941: Kasfareet
September-October 1941: LG.Y
October-November 1941: LG.10
November 1941: LG.75
November-December 1941: LG.128
December 1941: Gambut
December 1941: Tmimi
December 1941-January 1942: Berka
January 1942: Tmimi
January-February 1942: El Firdan
February 1942: Ismailia
March-July 1942: Mosul
July-September 1942: Qaiyara
September-November 1942: Kermanshah
November 1942-February 1943: Kirkuk
February 1943: Shandur
February-June 1943: LG.106
June-September 1943: Bersis
September-December 1493: Idku
December 1943-January 1944: Savoia
January-February 1944: Sidi Barrani
February-March 1944: Idku
April-May 1944: Poretta
May-July 1944: Serragia
July-August 1944: St. Catharines
August-October 1944: Cuers/ Pierrefeu
October 1944-February 1945: Falconara
February-October 1945: Rossignano
October 1945-January 1946: Lavariano

Squadron Codes: none

Duty
1940: Army co-operation, Kenya
1940-1941: Army co-operation, invasion of Eritrea and Northern Ethiopia
1941-1942: Tactical Reconnaissance, Western Desert
1942: Iraq and Iran
1943: Air Defence and Convoy Protection, Egypt and Libya
1944-1945: Fighter squadron, northern Italy and southern France.

Part of
11 November 1942: No.253 Wing; AHQ Western Desert; RAF Middle East
27 October 1942: No.214 Group; AHQ Iraq; RAF Middle East
No.212 Group; HQ Air Defences Eastern Mediterranean; RAF Middle East; Mediterranean Air Command

Books
Gloster Gladiator Aces, Andrew Thomas. A look at the wartime career of the only biplane fighter still in RAF service during the Second World War. Covers the Gladiator's service in Finland, Malta, North Africa, Greece, Aden, East Africa and Iraq, where despite being outdated it performed surprisingly well. cover cover cover

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (11 March 2011), No. 237 Squadron (RAF): Second World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAF/237_wwII.html

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