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Old 18th February 2014, 18:54
Allan125 Allan125 is offline
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Query on the formation of No. 125 Airfield HQ - June 1943

I am seeking some clarification of what exactly is meant by the residue of 65 and 122 Squadrons in the formation of No. 125 Airfield Headquarters in June 1943

Up until recently I have always accepted the formation date – from the 125 Airfield ORB – as 24 June 1943, with the knowledge that on 20 June 1943 19 Squadron flew in from Matlaske in Norfolk, and 132 (City of Bombay) Squadron flew in from Perranporth in Cornwall and No. 125 Airfield was formed on 24 June 1943, within No. 83 Group at RAF Gravesend, the two Squadrons both operating Spitfire Vb’s and Vc’s – but now I have sourced the RAF Gravesend ORB which tells a slightly different story, with, to me an intriguing question.

125 Airfield ORB


At R.A.F. Station, GRAVESEND, on 24th June 1943, No. 125 Airfield Headquarters was formed incorporating No’s 19 and 132 Squadrons. The following officers had reported on posting:- S/Ldr E. J. Praill, C.T.O. – F/O’s W. J. Watts, E. J. D. Young, Engineer Duties – P/O G. R. Curry, Adjutant, and P/O E. G. Burkett, M.T. Duties – S/Ldr C. H. Hartley S.Admin.O. – F/Lt H. L. Humm, Equipment. F/Lt Green, Records Officer, Gloucester, visited the Station for the purpose of arranging the posting of airmen personnel. A preliminary Conference was held in the Station Commander’s office, at which Group Captain Eeles, Org.H.Q.F.C. gave a rough outline of the functions of an Airfield Headquarters to the officers already assembled of No. 125 Airfield Headquarters, including the Squadron Commanders, S/Ldr. V. H. Ekins, DFC, No.19 Squadron and S/Ldr J. R. Ritchie, No. 132 Squadron, and stated that the target date aimed for was July 1st when it was hoped that the Airfield would be in a position to move. No Establishment had yet been issued, but for guidance a copy of the establishment of No. 121 Airfield Headquarters was supplied with certain amendments. S/Ldr Mahoney, P2 Headquarters No. 83 Group was present. R.A.F. Station, GRAVESEND, were particularly helpful and furnished every facility that would assist in the formation of this new Airfield Headquarters.

But I have now sourced the RAF Gravesend ORB, which on 20 June 1943 states:

RAF Gravesend ORB

20th June 1943 Movements.

Formation of No. 125 Airfield at Gravesend. No. 132 Squadron with residue of 65 Squadron, and 3056 S.Echelon moved from Perranporth. No. 19 Squadron with residue of No. 122 Squadron and No. 3020 S. Echelon moved from Matlaske.
The residue of No’s 65 and 122 Squadrons and 3056 and 3020 S.Echelons to be medically examined ‘fit averaged’ and drafted by Records on the Station to form No. 125 Airfield Headquarters.

According to Jeffords “RAF Squadrons” 65 Squadron were at Selsey from 31 May 1943, moving to Kingsnorth on 1 July 1943 and for 122 Squadron, they were at Bognor from 1 June 1943, moving to Kingsnorth as well on 1 July 1943 – so I don’t have any clues as to why the respective Squadrons had residue at Perranporth and Matlaske – nor do I have any clues as to why the RAF Gravesend ORB gives the formation date as 20th June 1943, whereas the 125 Airfield ORB quite clearly shows the formation date as “At R.A.F. Station, GRAVESEND, on 24th June 1943, No. 125 Airfield Headquarters was formed incorporating No’s 19 and 132 Squadrons” but with no mention of any residue from either 65 or 122 Squadrons?

I am also placing this query on the RAF Commands forum.

many thanks

Allan Hillman
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Old 24th February 2014, 14:50
Allan125 Allan125 is offline
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Re: Query on the formation of No. 125 Airfield HQ - June 1943

With no further input to my “residue” query I did some further research amongst my own books and documents – I now believe that when the squadron ground crews were taken away from them and placed in service echelons, with just the basics sticking with the squadrons, that this is where the “residue” has come from.

Doug Tidy covers it off perfectly in his book “I fear no man” – the history of 74 Squadron, and it is also covered off in the 122 Wing history, and the two squadrons adopted a new establishment when they were allocated to 122 Airfield when it formed in February 1943.

“On 4th May 1944 a new establishment came into force on 74 Squadron by which the Squadron strength became sixteen officers, twelve senior non-commissioned officers and one other rank. The only non-flying personnel were the Medical officer, Intelligence officer one sergeant and the clerk. Of the rest of the squadron personnel, 173 were attached to 6074 servicing echelon and 62 to North Weald, pending posting. F/O Rex Fround, a pilot, took over the duties of Adjutant. So the Squadron died as an autonomous entity.

The new arrangements came at an inconvenient moment, as everyone had to make new working arrangements and the system, says the Operations Record Book, “had to shake down”. It is questionable if it ever did, for the corporate spirit of the Squadron was lost to the ground crews in the echelon. The days of the great teams of pilots, air gunners and ground crew seemed far away indeed”.

Now I realise that this took place 10 months after the formation of 125 Airfield HQ, it’s squadrons and their servicing echelons, but it still produced 62 spare bods – the residue – who stayed at North Weald “pending posting”, an identical situation to that of the “residue” of 65 and 122 Squadrons that arrived at Gravesend with 19 and 132 Squadrons, and their own service echelons

And the reason for the delay, 74 Squadron had been out of the UK from approx April 1942 – April 1944, so they took on board the 2TAF establishment as soon as settled back here.

Steve Brooking has kindly supplied me with ORB extracts from July 1943, that tell a similar tale to that which happened when 125 Airfield was formed in June 1943:

No 168 Sqn 7 July 1943: A large number of postings of airmen and NCOs has come through - to Airfields and elsewhere...our work has been seriously handicapped and the result will be less flying, both operational and non-operational until we go on to an Airfield Establishment ourselves.

No 231 Sqn 9 July 1943: New establishment for squadron reduced strength from 300 odd other ranks to 10. We are to retain W/Cdr, S/Ldr, 4 F/Lts and three flights of 8 pilots. All maintenance, arming and rearming etc is to be done centrally by the Airfield organisation...with the purely operational flying units with no organisation or administrative responsibilities.

No 430 Sqn 15 July 1943: New Establishment dated 1 July 1943 calls for 16 pilots, one adjutant, one MO, one clerk: GD, one sgt fitter I.(E) and 6 photographers.

No 168 Sqn 17 July 1943: Except for air testing operational aircraft, no flying... owing to the Airfield not being able to maintain aircraft... The Squadron...has only its aircraft, Pilots and 10 men... Servicing personnel...attached to the Squadron from the Airfield...are under the Command of the Airfield CO and not the Squadron CO. The problem of sorting the...influx of men...arrived into the Airfield and then re-distributing them to Squadrons was a big task and the Squadrons are finding it difficult to adjust these new men and the lack of them to meet operational requirements which come from HQ 35 Wing.

My sincere thanks to Steve Brooking for his helpful research on the subject

Allan Hillman
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