No. 120 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

No. 120 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

No. 120 Squadron (RAF) during the Second World War

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No.120 Squadron was the first squadron in Coastal Command to receive the Very Long Range Liberator, the aircraft that closed the Atlantic Gap and played a major part in the defeat of the U-boats.

The squadron was reformed at Nutts Corner on 2 June 1941, and was equipped with the Liberator from the start. Anti-submarine patrols began on 20 September, and had an immediate impact. One example was the journey of convoy HG76 (home bound from Gibraltar). For four days the convoy sailed across the air gap between Gibraltar and home-based aircraft, and came under persistent U-boat attack. On the morning of 22 December a Liberator from No.120 Squadron arrived over the convoy when it was still 750 miles from Nutts Corner. One U-boat was attacked by this first aircraft, and three more were forced to submerge by second, effectively ending the attack on the convoy.

No.120 Squadron remained the only Liberator squadron in Coastal Command for much of 1942. Even here the supply of the very long range Liberator Is was limited, and by August 1942 the squadron only had five of these aircraft, with the rest made up of long range Liberator IIs and IIIs, which had 600 miles less range.

The value of the Liberator was demonstrated on a regular basis. On 8 December 1942 one Liberator from No.120 reached convoy HX.217 in the mid-Atlantic just as a wolf-pack was attacking. The aircraft dropped its depth charges on U-611, which sank, and then drove six more U-boats off with its cannons.

By February 1943 the number of Liberator squadrons in Coastal Command had finally started to rise. Nos.86 and 224 Squadrons of the RAF had the type, and the US 1st and 2nd Antisubmarine Squadrons were also operating with the Command. By this point a detachment from No.120 was operating from Iceland, and in April the entire squadron moved there, helping to close the Atlantic gap.

1943 was the key year in the Battle of the Atlantic, and No.120 Squadron at Iceland played its part. In March the Germans achieved one of their greatest successes, during the attacks on convoys HX.229 and SC.122 (16-20 March). No.120 Squadron managed to get aircraft over this battle, although not until 1655 hours on the 17th, bad weather on Iceland causing a delay.

The squadron had more success during the Allied victory around convoys ONS.5 and SC.130 in May, and during the battles around ONS.18 and ON.202 in September.

The squadron moved from Iceland to Ireland in March 1944, and continued to fly anti-submarine patrols until the end of the war, achieving one certain victory in 1944 and two in 1945. The squadron was disbanded on 4 June 1945.

The squadron was credited with sinking nineteen U-boats, fifteen of which can be traced:


23 April 1943

East of Cape Farewell


24 June 1943

SW of Iceland


15 February 1942

North Atlantic


20 May 1943

North Atlantic


22 March 1945

Irish Sea


28 May 1943

SE of Cape Farewell


4 October 1943

Denmark Straits


16 October 1943

SW of Iceland*


17 October 1943

E of Cape Farewell*


12 October 1942

SW of Iceland


8 December 1942

N Atlantic


21 February 1943

N Atlantic #


6 April 1943

SW of Iceland


8 October 1943

S of Iceland*


9 June 1944

SW of Scilly


28 April 1945


* Shared Victories
# Possible

June 1941-February 1943: Consolidated Liberator I
December 1941-December 1942: Consolidated Liberator II
June 1942-January 1944: Consolidated Liberator III
December 1943-January 1945: Consolidated Liberator V
December 1944-June 1945: Consolidated Liberator VI and VIII

June 1941-July 1942: Nutts Corner
July 1942-February 1943: Ballykelly
September 1942-April 1943: Detachment to Reykjavik
February-April 1943: Aldergrove
13 April-March 1944: Reykjavik
March 1944-June 1945: Ballykelly

Squadron Codes: OH, J, K

February 1943: No.15 Group, Coastal Command


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No. 137 Squadron RAF

No. 137 Squadron RAF existed briefly as a day bomber unit in World War I but it never became operational. During World War II it flew as one of the two Whirlwind squadrons before converting to Hurricane Mk.IV fighter-bombers and later the Hawker Typhoon in the same role. The squadron was disbanded in August 1945.

No. 137 Squadron RAF
Active1 Apr 1918 – 4 Jul 1918
20 Sep 1941 – 25 Aug 1945
Country United Kingdom
Branch Royal Air Force
Part ofRAF Fighter Command
Motto(s)Do right, fear naught [1] [2]
Squadron Badge heraldryA horse's head couped [1] [2]
Squadron CodesSF (Feb 1941 – Aug 1945) [3] [4]

World War II Database

ww2dbase The Avro Type 652 Anson was designed in August 1933 to meet an Imperial Airways requirement for a light transport with accommodation for four passengers. The A. V. Roe design team, led by Roy Chadwick soon produced a plan for a sleek low wing monoplane with retractable undercarriage and powered by two Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah V radial engines. Imperial Airways placed an order for two machines in April 1934 and the first of these flew on the 7th January 1935. The two aircraft were delivered to Imperial Airways on the 11th March of that year.

ww2dbase Meanwhile the Air Ministry had notified the company of their requirement for a new twin engine land-based plane for the Coastal Reconnaissance role. Rather than create a new design, the Avro design team based their proposal on a military version of the Imperial Airways aircraft. This was given the designation Type 652A and differed from the Civilian machines in having a revised tail unit, larger cabin window area, a dorsal turret, Cheetah IX engines, and full Military equipment. This flew for the first time on the 24th March 1935.

ww2dbase After service trials, series production began on the 31st December 1935 with initial RAF deliveries commencing on the 6th March 1936. No.38 Squadron RAF based at Manton becoming the first (and ultimately the last to employ the Anson on Front Line Service) began receiving the Anson Is (later Anson GR.I) on the 6th March 1936. Further RAF orders followed, culminating in some twenty-one Coastal Command Squadrons being equipped with the Anson I, primarily in the Coastal Reconnaissance and Search and Rescue role. Foreign orders for the type were also received from Australia, Egypt, Estonoia, Finland, Greece and Ireland. By the outbreak of World War II over 1,000 machines had been manufactured of which some were Trainers (which would eventually become the Ansons major contribution to the War effort).

ww2dbase In Janury 1942 the Coastal Command Ansons began to be replaced with the Lockheed Hudson. Many of the replaced aircraft being later converted for training, ambulance and transport duties.

ww2dbase The five seat trainer with dual controls and different equipment was selected to be one of the standard training aircraft under the Commonwealth Air Training plan (18 Decmber 1939) and was soon equipping OTU training units, navigation, army co-operation and air gunnery schools.

ww2dbase Whilst the Mark I was the most numerous Anson (6,742 built) before and during the Second World War, other notable variants included:

  • Anson Mk II Canadian built Anson with 330hp Jacobs L-6MB radial engines (1,050 Aircraft produced)
  • Anson Mk III Engineless British built airframes shipped to Canada where they were fitted with 330hp Jacobs L-6MB radial engines (559 Aircraft produced)
  • Anson Mk IV Engineless British built airframes shipped to Canada where they were fitted with 300hp Wright R-760-EI/E3 Whirlwind engines (223 aircraft produced)
  • Anson Mk V Canadian built Anson with the fuselage constructed of molded plywood and powered by 450hp Pratt and Whitney R-985-AN-12B/14B Wasp Junior Engines (1,080 Navigation Trainers and one Gunner Trainer-with Bristol BI Mark VI dorsal turret built)
  • Anson X British built Anson Mk.1s converted as Transport aircraft with a strengthened floor (103 aircraft produced)
  • Anson XI British built Transport aircraft with raised cabin roof for passenger comfort, and powered by 395hp Cheetah XIX engines. (91 aircraft produced)
  • Anson XII British built Transport aircraft with raised cabin roof, metal wings, and 420hp Cheetah XV engines (254 aircraft produced).

ww2dbase Fifty Anson IIs (which made its first flight in the 21st August 1941) were also supplied to the USAAF as AT-20 crew trainers.

ww2dbase The Anson remained in production for both civilian and military customers world wide following the end of the war, and by the end of its production life in May 1952, the Anson spanned nine variants with a total of 8,138 built in Britain by Avro and, from 1941, a further 2,882 by the Canadian Federal Aircraft Ltd. After some 32 years service the RAF officially ended its association with the Anson on the 28th June 1968. A handful of Ansons are still flying with two currently known to be operating in the United Kingdom.

ww2dbase Sources: Aircraft of World War II by Chris Chant (Dempsey-Parr, 1999), Airlife's World Aircraft (Airlife Publishing, 2001), World Aircraft Information Files (Aerospace Publishing Peridical).

Last Major Revision: Sep 2007

24 Mar 1935 Avro Type 652 Anson took its first flight.
5 Sep 1939 An Avro Anson aircraft of No. 500 Squadron RAF made the first attack of the war on an enemy submarine.

Mk I

MachineryTwo Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah IX or XIX seven cylinder radials rated at 335hp or 395hp
Armament1x0.303in fixed forward machine gun, 1x0.303in dorsal machine gun, 360-lb of bombs internally
Span17.22 m
Length12.88 m
Height3.99 m
Wing Area43.10 m²
Weight, Empty2,500 kg
Weight, Loaded3,608 kg
Weight, Maximum4,000 kg
Speed, Maximum303 km/h
Rate of Climb3.80 m/s
Service Ceiling5,791 m
Range, Maximum1,300 km

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Lynn McR. Hawkins says:
4 Jan 2009 04:59:51 PM

Enjoyed this article related to the Anson aircraft.

My cousin, LAC Norman McReynolds, was a wireless operator/aerial gunner on a Anson assigned to the 269 Squadron at Wick, Scotland RAF Base. He and his fellow crewmates were killed in action on 8 April 1940, returning from a mission over Norway, the day Germany invaded Norway. Only some wreckage of his Anson in the sea.

Would like to hear from anyone who served with LAC Norman McReynolds,in the 269 Squadron and would love information, pictures, etc. related to the 269 Squadron at Wick, Scotland RAF Base.

Capt. Lynn McR. Hawkins, Ret., FSA Scot
Tennessee, USA

2. WPF says:
14 May 2009 11:44:49 AM

I may have some information for you.

3. Alan Chanter says:
29 Aug 2017 08:14:27 AM

One unique feature of the “Faithful Annie” was its ability to float longer in the sea than it could fly! On one occasion an Anson which had ditched survived for five hours –half an hour longer than what was considered to be its safe working limit!

All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.

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