World War II
In May 1938, the Hawker Hurricane arrived. It was with this aircraft that the Squadron fought in the Battle of France, provided air cover for the Dunkirk evacuation and flew for the entire period of the Battle of Britain. On 1 Sep 39 at 2230 a mobilisation order received. On that date, the pilots and officers were:
On 3 Sep 39, 1215, the Squadron received a "Signal from A.M. - War has broken out with Germany only 1115. All crews standing by aircraft and pilots at "Readiness"." On 4 Sep 39, 0300, the raid alarm sounded and B Flight launched. It turned out to be a false alarm. On 5 Sep 39, 1215, the raid alarm sounded again; the entire Squadron launched and was airborne 8 minutes from being "available"." Tragically, the Squadron and the RAF would suffer its first casualty the next day, when Pilot Officer Hulton-Harrop was shot down by Spitfire friendly fire. Pilot Officer Rose's aircraft was also shot, but survived. This incident became known as the Battle of Barking Creek.
As with World War I, the Squadron lived a nomadic life, flying operations for a variety of RAF airbases throughout the UK. The Squadron started to convert to the Hawker Typhoon in September 1941. Reminiscent of the work required in 1917 as the first unit to accept the S.E.5a, the Squadron suffered the teething problems of the being the first unit to accept the Typhoon. This included dealing with carbon monoxide emissions into the cockpit. The full potential of the aircraft was not realised until fighter-bomber operations started in November 1943. After a short stint with the Supermarine Spitfire IX, the Squadron converted to the Hawker Tempest in the summer of 1944. With both the Spitfire and the Tempest, the unit concentrated on anti-V1 ('flying bomb') patrols before moving to Belgium in September. The next two years saw a lot of movement around Europe, as No 56 deployed to locations such as Volkel in the Netherlands, Copenhagen and numerous airfields in Germany. On 31 March 1946, whilst at Fassberg, Germany, the unit gave up its No 56 (Punjab) Squadron name plate, and took over the No 16 Squadron name plate.
Continue to: Jet Fighter Years
Information taken from Operations Records available at the National Archives, the raf.mod.uk website and, with kind permission, the 56(R) Squadron archives. UK Crown copyright.