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No.500 ‘County of Kent’ Squadron was a pre-war Special Reserve unit that served with Coastal Command for most of the Second World War before being reformed as a bomber squadron in 1944.
The squadron was originally formed in March 1931, with a mix of regular and part time personnel. It was equipped with the Vickers Virginia, and was to serve as a reserve for twin engined bomber squadrons. In January 1936 the twin engine aircraft were replaced with single engined Hawker Harts, which were believed to be more suitable for part-time personnel, before in May the squadron became part of the Auxiliary Air Force.
On 7 November 1938 the squadron was transferred from the Auxiliary Air Force to Coastal Command, and in March 1939 the single engine Hinds were replaced with twin engined Avro Ansons.
The squadron was mobilised just before the start of the Second World War, and was used for patrols over the English Channel and the North Sea. In April 1941 the squadron converted to the Bristol Blenheim, using its new aircraft for the existing patrol duties, as well as reconnaissance flights and bombing raids on coastal targets. The squadron continued to perform this role after the squadron converted to the Lockheed Hudson in November 1941.
In March 1942 the squadron took its Hudsons to Scotland, and began to fly patrols over the Atlantic Ocean and the coastal waters off western Scotland (including the approaches to the Clyde and to the Irish Sea and thus the port of Liverpool). The squadron didn’t stay in Scotland for long, and in August 1942 it moved south to Cornwall.
In November 1942 the squadron made a more dramatic move, transferring to Algeria to support the landings in North Africa. Its role was to fly anti-submarine patrols over the Western Mediterranean, and during this period it sank two U-boats. On 13 November 1942, just after the move, U-411 was sunk south-west of Gibraltar, while on 4 March 1943 U-83 was sunk east of Cartagena. In late September 1943 one of the squadron's Hudsons was the first Allied aircraft to land on Ghisonaccia airfield, Corsica, arriving just after the Germans evacuated the area.
After that the squadron settled down to more routine patrolling, converting to the Ventura between December 1943 and April 1944. This incarnation of the squadron was disbanded at La Senia on 11 July 1944, and its aircraft taken over by No.27 Squadron, SAAF.
No.500 Squadron was reformed at the same base on 1 August 1944, using many of the same personnel. This time the squadron served as a bomber squadron, using Baltimore bombers from its base in Italy. Operations began on 10 December 1944, and at first the squadron was used for daylight raids against transport targets. Allied airpower soon forced the Germans to move at night, and the squadron changed to night operations to counter this move. This continued until the end of the war.
In September 1945 No.500 Squadron moved to Kenya, where in October it was renumbered as No.249 Squadron. In the following year No.500 Squadron was reformed as part of the new Auxiliary Air Force, this time as a night fighter squadron
March 1939-April 1941: Avro Anson I
April-November 1941: Bristol Blenheim IV
November 1941-April 1944: Lockheed Hudson III and V
December 1943-July 1944: Lockheed Ventura V
September 1944-September 1945: Martin Baltimore IV and V
March 1931-September 1938: Manston
September 1938-July 1939: Detling
July-August 1939: Warmwell
August 1939-May 1941: Detling
May 1941-April 1942: Bircham Newton
April-August 1942: Stornoway
August-November 1942: St. Eval
November 1942: Gibraltar
November 1942: Tafaraoui
November 1942-May 1943: Blida
May 1943-January 1944: Tafaraoui
September 1943-December 1943: Detachment at Ghisonaccia, Corsica
January-July 1944: La Senia
August 1944: La Senia
September-October 1944: Pescara
October-December 1944: Perugia
December 1944-May 1945: Cesenatico
May-September 1945: Villaorba
September-October 1945: Eastleigh
Squadron Codes: MK