About This Unit
No. 238 Squadron (RAF)
No. 238 Squadron is featured on this site because it was one of many in which Australians lived fought and often died during WW2. No. 238 Squadron in had been originally raised in WW1 as a flying boat unit.
The squadron was reformed on 16 May 1940 in its WW2 guise, initially as as a Spitfire squadron at RAF Tangmere, but it was converted to the Hurricane in June of 1940. The squadron was posted to Middle Wallop in late June, and remained there during the first two phases of the Battle of Britain - the period of convoy battles known as the "Kanalkampf" and the German attacks on RAF bases near the coast.
It was to be heavily engaged throughout the Battle of Britain and among its casualties would be two Australians serving in the RAF.
It was during this period that the Luftwaffe attacked English Channel convoys in an attempt to draw Fighter Command into combat and deplete its strength, attain air superiority, so it could then begin an amphibious invasion of England, codenamed Operation Sea Lion.
On 2 July 1940 the squadron had been declared 'operational'. The following day 238 Squadron experienced its first aerial combat with Flight Lieutenant J.C Kennedy, an Australian serving in the RAF and one of 238's Flight Commanders, damaged a Junkers Ju 88 on a reconnaissance mission south of Middle Wallop. The Ju 88 piloted by Leutnant Wachtel suffered minor damage and Kennedy was hit by return-fire.
On 13 July Flight Lieutenant J.C Kennedy, became the first pilot killed in action. Once again in action with the same squadron to which the Ju88 had belonged, Kennedy shot down Leutnant Weinbauer's Dornier Do 17P over Chesil Beach killing the crew. Kennedy appeared to have suffered battle damage. He stalled on approach to RAF Warmwell, trying to avoid power lines, crash-landed and was killed. A Do 17M from 4./Aufklärungsgruppe 123 crash-landed back in Caen, France after being damaged in the same engagement. According to records, three pilots were credited with a shared Do 17, six more claimed two Bf 110s between them but this was recorded as unconfirmed.
Seven days later the squadron flew standing combat patrols over convoy Bosom. Sergeant C Parkinson was killed in combat with Messerschmitt Bf 109s from JG 27, while the squadron destroyed a Heinkel He 59 floatplane from Seenotflugkommando 1; all four crew were killed. Parkinson was rescued by HMS Acheron but had suffered fatal burns. 238 pilots were credited with two Bf 110s destroyed, one shared between two pilots, one Do 17 destroyed two shared amongst four pilots and one Bf 110 went unconfirmed.
In an unusual incident, a Bf 110 of 4(F)/14 (the Luftwaffe unit designation) was downed by 238 in July 1940. The aircraft landed with minor damage and was captured.
On 22 July further combat patrols enabled 238 Squadron, now led by Squadron Leader Harold Fenton to destroy two 4(F)/14 aircraft; a Do 17 and Messerschmitt Bf 110 with four crews posted missing in action in exchange for one damaged Hurricane. The squadron accounted for a Bf 109 from I./JG 27 on 26 July patrols. Twenty four hours later the unit flew as escort for Cconvoy 'Bacon'. The pilots claimed one Junkers Ju 87 Stuka shot down from a 40-strong formation, but could not penetrate the fighter escort further.
On 1 August Fighter Command's order of battle placed 238 under the operational level command of No. 10 Group RAF, headquarters at Rudloe Manor in Wiltshire. Only three of the squadron's 12 Hurricanes were operational. 238 shared Middle Wallop with 152, 604 and 609 Squadrons. 152 could field five of the 10 Supermarine Spitfires available, 604 had five from 11 Bristol Blenheims serviceable while 609 listed six of its 10 Spitfires combat ready.
Events on 8 August illustrate the intensity of this often overlooked phase of the Battle.
A series of naval and air actions occurred around convoy 'Peewit'. In the late morning StG 2, StG 3 and StG 77 from Angers, Caen and St. Malo set out with their V./LG 1 escort, to attack the convoy south of the Isle of Wight, with approximately 30 Bf 109s from II. and III./JG 27 for high cover. From 12:20, Spitfires of 609 Squadron and Hurricanes from 257 and 145 squadrons attacked the German formations, joined later by 238 Squadron. The Ju 87s severely damaged SS Surte, MV Scheldt and SS Omlandia and sank SS Balmaha soon after. SS Tres was sunk by StG 77. SS Empire Crusader, in the lead, was hit by StG 2 and sank several hours later; four ships were sunk and four were damaged in the attacks. From 20 to 30 RAF fighters attacked the German aircraft and I. and II./StG 2 suffered one damaged Ju 87 each, StG 3 lost three Stukas from I. Gruppe and two damaged. LG 1 lost one Bf 110 and three damaged, JG 27 lost three Bf 109s and two damaged, the three lost pilots coming from II. Gruppe. Three Hurricanes from 238 Squadron were shot down and two pilots were killed by Bf 109s. Squadron Leader H. A. Fenton was wounded while shooting down a He 59 floatplane and rescued by the trawler HMS Basset.
On 11th August another Australian Flight Commander, F/Lt Stuart Walch, was lost in action, as part of a major action around another Convoy. All of Wlach's 'Blue section' were lost.
From 14 August to 10 September the squadron was posted to St. Eval in Cornwall, thus missing the main German assault on Fighter Command, but it returned to Middle Wallop on 10 September, at the start of the period of daylight raids on London.
238 continued to be heavily engaged during the remainder of the Battle of Britain. A very detailed account is provided in this Wikipedia feature
In May 1941 the squadron began to move to the Middle East. The ground echelon sailed around the Cape of Good Hope, while the aircraft embarked on HMS Victorious for the trip to the Mediterranean. They were then flown off to Malta where they refuelled, before flying on to the Western Desert. The aircraft arrived before the ground crews, and operated with No.274 Squadron until the two halves of the squadron were reunited. Independent operations resumed at the end of July 1941.
The squadron was used for bomber escort missions and fighter patrols from then until after the battle of El Alamein. During the pursuit that followed El Alamein Nos.213 and 238 Squadrons took part in a daring operation when they were moved to a position behind enemy line. In two days in mid-November they claimed to have destroyed nearly 300 vehicles, and they were then removed on 16 November before the Germans could react.
After this dramatic operation the squadron was pulled back to provide part of the air defence of Egypt, where in September 1943 it converted to the Spitfire. In March 1944 the squadron moved to Corsica, where it flew fighter sweeps across northern Italy. In August 1944 the squadron covered the Allied landings in the south of France, moving onto French bases soon after the invasion. It remained there for two months before being withdrawn to Naples. The squadron was disbanded on 31 October 1944.