50 Squadron

50 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, was formed at Dover in Kent, on 15 May 1916, as a Home Defence squadron. The squadron first went into action in August 1916 against a German airship raid and was instrumental in driving one of the airships (the Zeppelin L.ll) out to sea. In a daylight aeroplane raid eleven months later, one of the attacking Gothas was shot down off the North Foreland by a pilot of 50 Squadron. At the time of the Armistice 50 Squadron was based at Bekesbourne and it was there that the unit was eventually disbanded in June 1919.

50 Squadron was re-formed in May 1937, as a bomber squadron. 50 Squadron was flying Handley Page Hampdens from RAF Waddington at the outbreak of the Second World War and the first operational sortie was in March 1940, when it participated in RAF Bomber Command's first attack on a German land target - the mine-laying seaplane base at Hornum on the island of Sylt.

In December 1940, by which time it had attacked many other enemy targets, including Berlin, the squadron took part in the first area-bombing attack on a German industrial centre (Mannheim). A year later, to the month, it took part in the Combined Operation against the German-held Norwegian island of Vågsøy, its Hampdens - operating from an advanced base in Northern Scotland - dropping smoke bombs to provide a smoke screen for troops and landing craft, and also bombing a gun battery.

In 1942, 50 Squadron converted to Avro Manchesters, then to Avro Lancasters, and in October of that year contributed twelve Lancasters to No. 5 Group's celebrated low-level dusk raid on the Schneider works at Le Creusot. In 1943 it took part in the first shuttle-bombing raid (when the targets were a radar factory at Friedrichshafen and the Italian naval base at Spezia), and the epic raid on the German V-weapons experimental establishment at Peenemünde. Among the targets that it attacked in 1944 were the V1 storage sites in the caves at St. Leu d'Esserent in the oise valley, and the dykes at Flushing on the German-held Dutch island of Walcheren. In December 1944, it took part in a raid on the German Baltic Fleet at Gdynia, and in March 1945, was represented in the bomber force that pulverised the defences of Wesel just before the crossing of the Rhine that Commandos were able to seize the town with only 36 casualties. In April 1945, came the last of the squadron's operations against the enemy - an attack on an oil refinery at Vallo (Tonsberg) in Norway.

Among the many decorations won 50 Squadron in the Second World War were a Victoria Cross (awarded posthumously to Flying Officer Leslie Thomas Manser), 6 DSOs, 70 DFCs and 114 DFMs.

Post WWII, the Squadron flew Lancasters until they were replaced with Avro Lincolns in 1946 which were flown until the Squadron disbanded on 31 January 1951.

50 Squadron reformed on 15 August 1952 at RAF Binbrook with Canberras which were flown until disbandment on 1 October 1959. The Squadron was reformed again on 1 August 1961 at RAF Waddington as a V-bomber Squadron equipped with Avro Vulcans. During the Falklands War No. 50's Vulcans were converted to flight refuelling duties and the Squadron was disbanded on 31 March 1984.

Lincolnshire ~ RAF Waddington
(c) Keith Parkins 2009 -- February 2009 rev 1