No. 604 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No.604 (County of Middlesex) Squadron spent most of the Second World War as a night fighter squadron, flying a mix of defensive and offensive duties.

The squadron was formed as a day bomber squadron in the Auxiliary Air Force in 1930. It became a fighter squadron in 1934 and was equipped with two-seat fighters from then on, first the Hawker Hart and then the Demon. More modern aircraft, in the shape of Blenheim fighters, arrived just before the start of the Second World War.

In the first months of the war the squadron was used on defensive patrols, and also for experiments with airborne radar. This changed when the Germans invaded the Low Countries in May 1940. In May the squadron was used to fly night patrols over the Pas de Calais. In June it began to fly night patrols over German occupied airfields in France, in the hope that it could intercept returning German bombers. This was an early example of the 'intruder' tactics that would be used to great success later in the war, but the squadron didn't return to this tactic itself until 1943.

In July 1941 the squadron returned to defensive night patrols. During this period its crews included that of John Cunningham and C.F. Rawnsley, one of the best British night fighter crews of the war. Between them they won nine British decorations, and Rawnsley went on to write an excellent book about his experiences.

The squadron converted to the Beaufighter between September 1940 and January 1941. It flew defensive duties for the next two years, before early in 1943 it added intruder missions to its duties. The squadron flew a mix of defensive and intruder missions for the rest of 1943.

In February 1944 the squadron converted to the Mosquito, and then joined 2nd Tactical Air Force. Its role was to provide night fighter cover for the invasion fleet and then for the Normandy bridgehead and the squadron moved to France from August-September 1944. It then returned to the UK, before in January 1945 moving back to France to provide defensive night cover over Allied airfields and other bases in liberated Europe. The squadron was disbanded on 18 April 1945, but was reformed as part of the revived Auxiliary Air Force in 1946.

Aircraft
January 1939-January 1941: Bristol Blenheim IF
September 1940-April 1943: Bristol Beaufighter I
April 1943-April 1944: Bristol Beaufighter VI
February-September 1944: de Havilland Mosquito XII
April 1944-April 1945: de Havilland Mosquito XIII

Location
March 1930-September 1938: Hendon
September-October 1938: North Weald
October 1938-September 1939: Hendon
September 1939-January 1940: North Weald
January-May 1940: Northolt
May-July 1940: Manston
July 1940: Gravesend
July 1940-December 1942: Middle Wallop
December 1942-February 1943: Predannack
February-April 1943: Ford
April 1943-April 1944: Scorton
April-May 1944: Church Fenton
May-June 1944: Hurn
June-August 1944: Colerne
August-September 1944: A.8 Picauville
September 1944: B.17 Carpiquet
September-December 1944: Predannack
December 1944: Odiham
December 1944-April 1945: B.51 Lille/ Vendeville

Squadron Codes: NG

Duty
1939-May 1940: Blenheim fighter squadron
May-June 1940: Sweeps over Low Countries
July 1940-Early 1943: Defensive night fighter squadron
Early 1943-Early 1944: Mix of defensive and intruder missions
Early 1944-September 1944: 2nd Tactical Air Force
January-April 1945: Defensive night fighter, Low Countries and France

Part of
September 1939: No.11 Group, Fighter Command
8 August 1940: No.10 Group, Fighter Command
6 June 1944: No.85 Group; Second Tactical Air Force; Allied Expeditionary Air Force

Books

 

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (30 March 2012), No. 604 Squadron (RAF): Second World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAF/604_wwII.html

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