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SEPTEMBER 1939

 

September 2

A general mobilisation of the Royal Air Force was ordered, this bringing into front line service the Squadrons of the Auxiliary Air Force (A.A.F.) and the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (R.A.F.V.R.).

 

September 3

War was declared.

The strength of 151 Squadron was 20 pilots, the Squadron being based at North Weald as a defensive day fighter squadron equipped with Hawker Hurricane fighters.

The Hawker Hurricane was designed and built as a private venture by the Hawker Company, the designer being Sydney Camm. The aircraft fuselage was covered with a fabric skin, World War I experience showing that this type of covering was least vulnerable to bullets and anti—aircraft shell fragmentations, allowing repairs to be undertaken without complex skills being required. The aircraft was classed as being up to date and the forerunner of monoplane combat aircraft. Concurrently with the development of the new fighters, Germany was also proceeding with designs along similar lines with the Messerschmitt Company being involved.

The winter of 1939-1940 has generally been referred to as the "phoney war" when very little happened between the two sides involved in the confrontation, but the duty of 151 Squadron was always to be operational the main role being to maintain standing patrols over the shipping lanes in the English Channel. Although many interceptions were made as a result of these patrols, the "targets" were generally aircraft of Bomber Command returning from leaflet dropping sorties over enemy territory. They also intercepted and shot down barrage balloons which had broken loose from their moorings.

In spite of the artificial atmosphere of the "phoney war", black-out and other privations, morale amongst the pilots and their ground crews was extremely high, but events in Norway soon gave the squadron a rough idea of what was to come in operations over France and the Low Countries.

At the outbreak of war the operational strength of the Squadron was as follows.

 

Officer Commanding: S/Ldr E.M. Donaldson.

 

"A" Flight

"B" Flight

Commanded by:

F/Lt J.M.Thompson

F/O E.A.Ives

Sub Flight Leader:

F/O Walch

F/O Todd White

Pilots:

F/O Newton

P/O Allen

 

P/O Milne

P/O Ward

 

P/O Hamar

P/O Courtney

 

P/O Merrick

P/O Lovell

 

Sgt Muirhead

P/O Wright

 

Sgt Current

Sgt Badger

 

Sgt Atkinson

Sgt Trice

 

 

Sgt Aslin

 

September 6

151 Squadron was ordered to readiness, this demanding that aircraft and crews were available to take off at very short notice. Aircraft were kept serviceable, fully fuelled, fully armed and with starter trolleys at the ready. Aircrews were in the crew room with Mae West fitted, their parachutes in the bait in" position in the cockpits and everything ready to SCRAMBLE.

 

Frequent patrols were ordered to engage "bogeys" shown up by the Control Room plots. The "bogeys" turned out to be friendly aircraft at this stage of the war. Radio Telephone (R/T) was in use but its serviceability was a constant problem. During this period visual signals were still used as the stand-by communication procedure between aircraft in flight.

Tactical exercises and the training of new pilots up to operational standards were carried out concurrent with patrols from dawn to dusk. Some night flying to get pilots used to the intense black-out conditions was undertaken.

Tactical flying by the Luftwaffe in their local operations over France had been of the low level type on nearly every sortie that they had made. To meet this tactic, interception and combat techniques were developed and numerous exercises were carried out by the Squadron to become fully proficient.

 

NOVEMBER 1939

By November a realisation that enemy air activity was likely to increase was developing. Pilots were posted out from the Squadron and new ones posted in. A revised flying plan was developed and introduced by S/Ldr Donaldson, and this was to arrange readiness programmes by having one section of three pilots stand down every day for 21+ hours. This allowed for four sections on duty with one stood down. the sections were:-

Section 1

S/Ldr Donaldson

(1)

P/O Ward

(2)

Sgt Badger

(3)

Section 2

F/Lt Thompson

(1)

P/O Hamar

(2)

F/Sgt Muirhead

(3)

Section 3

F/Lt Ives

(1)

P/O Allen

(2)

Sgt Trice

(3)

Section 4

F/O Welch

(1)

P/O Milne

(2)

Sgt Current

(3)

Section 5

F/O Todd White

(1)

P/O Newton

(2)

P/O Courtney

(3)

 

 

DECEMBER 1939

 

December 3

The whole squadron was brought to readiness, cancelling the flight system set up in November. This was a Group instruction put out on information that large numbers of German aircraft were in operation over Belgium.

During the month patrols and exercises were maintained.

 

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