35 Squadron

35 Squadron Pathfinders (8 group) moved to Graveley from Linton-on-Ouse.

A Brief History of 35 Squadron

First formed in February 1916 as 35 Squadron RFC (Royal Flying Corps), it was disbanded in June 1919 at Netheravon. Ten years later in March 1929, 35 Squadron was reformed at Bircham Newton in Norfolk. The first aircraft the newly reformed squadron flew were DH 9 A’s and then Fairey III F’s. By 1932 the Squadron were flying Gordon’s.

October 1935 saw the Squadron despatched to Sudan to reinforce the Middle East Command where they were to remain for the following 10 months before returning to the UK where they were then based at Worthy Down. 1938 saw the Squadron on the move once again, this time to Cottesmore where the aircraft used were Battles.

With the outbreak of WW2 in 1939, 35 Squadron became a training unit until in April 1940 it merged with 17 Operational Training Unit and ceased once more to exist as a squadron.

In the latter months of 1940, the RAF required a squadron with which to introduce their latest heavy bomber, The Handley Page Halifax, in an operational role. Consequently, 35 Squadron once again reformed and took delivery of the first Halifax MkI Bombers produced.

Their first operational sortie was flown on the night of March 11/12th 1941. The target was Le Havre. Seven aircraft from 35 Squadron were detailed to participate, but in the event only six took off. The seventh aircraft, flown by Pilot Officer Murray, did not take off due to a hydraulics failure. Sadly, one of the six aircraft that had bombed Le Havre failed to return to base. It was shot down by a British night fighter on the return journey and crashed in flames at Normandy in Surrey. The Pilot and the Flight Engineer managed to parachute to safety, but the rest of the crew were killed.

As the war in Europe intensified during 1941, 35 Squadron made raids by day and night over Germany and occupied France. In 1942 they were involved in several attacks on the German Cruisers, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau during their Channel dash, and in March and April made three attacks on the German Battleship, Tirpitz, in Norway. They also participated in the 1,000 bomber raids over Germany.

In August 1942 they moved from their base at Linton-on-Ouse to Gravely and were one of the several squadrons drawn from to form the Pathfinder Force. Pathfinder aircraft lead the way on operations and dropped flares and incendiary bombs to mark the targets clearly for the following aircraft.

The Squadron continued to operate after the war, moving from Gravely to Stradishall in 1946 and to Mildenhall in 1949. In February 1950 it was again disbanded and became the basis of the B-29 Conversion Unit. Reformed once more in September 1951 at Marham as a Washington Conversion Unit redesignated they moved to Upwood in July 1956. Once more in September 1961 the Squadron was disbanded, only to be reformed again in December 1962 at Coningsby with Vulcan aircraft. Between 1964 and 1975 they were to move three more times to Cottesmore, Akrotiri and Scampton before being disbanded for the final time in March 1982.