No. 576 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

No. 576 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No. 576 Squadron (RAF) during the Second World War

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No.576 Squadron was a Lancaster bomber squadron that served with No.1 Group from its formation late in 1943 until the end of the Second World War.

The squadron was formed at Elsham Wolds on 25 November 1943 around C Flight, No.103 Squadron. It became operational on 2 December and formed part of Bomber Command's main force from then until the end of the war.

During this period No.576 Squadron flew on 189 bombing raids and two mine laying raids, losing 66 aircraft from a total of 2,788 sorties.

The loss of one of those aircraft nearly caused a major disaster. On the night of 6/7 May 1944 Air Commodore R. Ivelaw-Chapman, a former staff officer who had just taken command of a 'base' (several airfields) in No.1 Group, decided to fly as second pilot. His aircraft was the only one lost during an attack on Aubigne. Because of his previous staff role, in which he had been involving in the planning for D-Day, Ivelaw-Chapman wasn't meant to take part in raids over hostile territory. He survived the loss of his aircraft, and for some time afterwards there was a great deal of concern that he would be identified and handed over to the Gestapo for interrogation. Luckily he was never identified as a former staff officer and spent the rest of the war in a normal POW camp.

November 1943-September 1945: Avro Lancaster I and III

November 1943-October 1944: Elsham Wolds
October 1944-September 1945: Fiskerton

Squadron Codes: UL

November 1943-September 1945: Bomber Command main force

Part of
November 1943-September 1945: No.1 Group, Bomber Command


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576 Squadron was formed on 25 November 1943 at RAF Elsham Wolds in Lincolnshire under the command of Wing Commander G.T.B Clayton DFC. "A" Flight was formed under Squadron Leader Dilworth and composed of 4 experienced aircrews drawn from 101 Squadron, with the remainder drawn from the Group 1 Heavy Conversion Units. "B" Flight was formed under Squadron Leader Attwater and consisted of 13 experienced aircrew and 9 aircraft from "C" Flight of 103 squadron.

576 Squadron commenced operations in the night of 2/3 December 1943, when seven Avro Lancasters were sent out to bomb Berlin. FSGT John Booth RAAF and crew in UL-R2 (W4123) failed to return from this operation. Eleven months later 576 Squadron moved to RAF Fiskerton, a little way outside Lincoln. During its brief period of existence 576 Squadron operated only one type of aircraft, the Avro Lancaster four-engined heavy bomber. It carried out 2,788 operation sorties with the Lancaster, with the loss of 66 aircraft. The last bombs of the squadron were dropped on 25 April 1945, when 23 of the squadrons aircraft bombed Obersalzberg with no loss of personnel. During this period, 576 Squadron flew 2,788 operational sorties 67 aircraft were lost, including two abandoned over France in February 1945.

576 then took part in Operation Manna - the dropping of food supplies to the Dutch Operation Exodus - repatriation of British ex-POWs to Great Britain Operation Post Mortem - testing the efficiency of captured German early-warning radar and Operation Dodge-the transport of British troops to Great Britain from Italy. 576 Squadron's last operation was part of Operation Manna in which 28 aircraft were detailed to drop food to the starving Dutch people in Rotterdam on 7 May 1945.

576 Squadron was disbanded at Fiskerton on 13 September 1945.

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