Sunday, July 26, 2015

No 112 Sqn

Shark-mouthed Kittyhawks of 112SQN RAF. 

The squadron was re-formed 16 May 1939 on board the aircraft carrier HMS Argus for service in Egypt. It was based initially at RAF Helwan. On 26 May, "B" Flight was detached and sent to Sudan. The squadron did not receive its aircraft, obsolescent Gloster Gladiator biplane fighters, until June. After Italy  entered the war, on 10 June 1940, the squadron was almost immediately in action, defending Egypt from Italian bombers. "B" Flight became part of No. 14 Squadron RAF on 30 June.

In January 1941, the squadron joined Allied forces defending Greece, providing air cover and offensive support over Albania. It later took part in fierce dogfights as part of the air defence of the Athens area. With the collapse of the Allied campaign on the Greek mainland, 112 Sqn withdrew to Crete and then to Egypt, from where it rejoined the North African Campaign, supporting the Eighth Army.

For much of the remainder of the war, the squadron was part of No. 239 Wing, along with No. 3 Squadron RAAF, No. 250 Squadron RAF and/or No. 450 Squadron RAAF. For the Allied invasion of Sicily (Operation Husky) on July 10, 1943, No. 239 Wing consisted of these four squadrons and No.260 Squadron as part of Air Vice Marshal Harry Broadhurst's Desert Air Force, an element of Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham's Northwest African Tactical Air Force in the Northwest African Air Forces of Lt. Gen. Carl Spaatz, one of the major sub-commands of the Mediterranean Air Command under Air Commander-in-Chief Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder.

During July 1941, the squadron was one of the first in the world to become operational with the P-40 Tomahawk, which it used in both the fighter and ground attack role, with the Air Headquarters, Western Desert. Inspired by the unusually large air inlet on the P-40, the squadron began to emulate the "shark mouth" logo used on some German Messerschmitt Bf 110s of Zerstörer Geschwader 76 earlier in the war. This practice was later followed by P-40 units in other parts of the world (including the Flying Tigers, American volunteers serving with the Chinese Air Force). In December, the Tomahawks were replaced by the updated P-40 Kittyhawk, which the squadron used for the remainder of its time in North Africa, often as a fighter bomber.

The squadron during this time included a significant number of personnel from the air forces of Poland, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Another member was the English ace Neville Duke (later prominent as a test pilot). For most of 1942, it was commanded by the highest-scoring Australian ace of World War II, Clive Caldwell, the first Empire Air Training Scheme graduate to command a British unit. He was succeeded by Billy Drake, the highest-scoring RAF P-40 pilot and the second-highest-scoring British Commonwealth P-40 pilot, behind Caldwell.

Later in the war, an increasing number of South African pilots joined the unit.

After the invasion of Sicily the squadron moved to bases there, in July 1943, and onto the Italian mainland in September. In June 1944 the Kittyhawks were replaced by the Mustang Mark III and, from February 1945, Mustang Mk IVs. The squadron remained in Italy as part of the occupying forces until disbanding on 30 December 1946 at Treviso.

By the end of the war some 206 air victories had been claimed by the Squadron, and 62 destroyed on the ground.

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