501 Squadron pilots on standby during the battle of Britain
When war was declared in September 1939, 501 Squadron was based at RAF Filton, near Bristol. On 10 May 1940, with the attack on France, the Squadron became part of the Advanced Air Striking Force and moved to France where it saw extensive action, stationed at airfields as Bétheniville, Anglure, Le Mans and Dinard. Sgt. J.H. ‘Ginger’ Lacey of 501 Squadron shot down three enemy aircraft in a single day to win the Croix de Guerre. (He later returned to England with five victories). After the retreat from France through Saint Helier, Jersey, its battle-hardened pilots were reorganised at RAF Croydon and then moved on to RAF Middle Wallop and later RAF Gravesend (now Gravesend Airport). It subsequently served at RAF Kenley, south London, commanded by S/L. Harry Hogan, until 17 December 1940 by which time the squadron had claimed 149 enemy aircraft destroyed.
501 Squadron pilots on standby during the battle of Britain – The squadron re-equipped with the Supermarine Spitfire in April 1941 and the squadron moved to Northern Ireland in October 1942. In April 1943 the squadron returned to Tangmere for bomber escort work – some pilots being issued with the Spitfire Mk IXc and in August 1944 converted to the Hawker Tempest Mk V at Manston. Between November 1943 and October 1944 the squadron formed part of Air Defence of Great Britain and flew the Tempest Mk.V on “Anti-Diver” patrols.
The squadron was disbanded at RAF Hunsdon at the end of the war on 20 April 1945. During World War II the pilots of No. 501 Squadron had flown 11,140 operational sorties, in which they shot down 201 enemy aircraft and at least 84 V-1 flying bombs.
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