Monday 8th October saw the 70th Anniversary of 77 Squadron’s arrival at the newly opened RAF Elvington, the historic wartime Bomber Command base that is now home to the Allied Air Forces Memorial & Yorkshire Air Museum.
Elvington’s first ‘home’ Squadron was originally formed during the height of WWI in 1916, in Edinburgh, on 1st October. Their first role was in home defence against airships and co-operation with the Forth Garrison in case of enemy landings. It was disbanded in 1919, but with the threat of war rising again, it was re-formed in June 1937, at Finningley, beginning a long association with Yorkshire. By the time war broke out, the Squadron was at RAF Driffield, flying Whitley twin engine bombers, dropping the propoganda ‘Nickel’ leaflets. This was usually a two-phase operation from advanced air bases in France, as the already obsolete Whitley could not make the full return journey to Germany comfortably. The Squadron took part in the first on an enemy land target on Hornum on the island of Sylt on the 19th/20th March 1940 and and on 11th/12th may 1940 took part in the first attack on the German mainland at Munchen-Gladbach.
In May 1942 the Squadron was transferred to 19 Group, Coastal Command at Chivenor, North Devon, flying anti-submarine patrols. It returned to North Yorkshire to the newly opened RAF Elvington, with the first detachments arriving on 8th October 1942. The Squadron were now undergoing conversion to the mighty four engine Halifax and indeed, 14 airmen lost their lives during this conversion, before the Squadron joined the bombing missions on the German industrial heartland of the Ruhr in February 1943.
In fact, the Squadron suffered horrific losses, due in no small part to the staggering number of sorties flown. During the Whitley period, 77 Squadron flew the most sorties 1909 and lost more aircraft, 107 with 285 casualties, than any other Squadron. During the 2-year Halifax period, at Elvington and then Full Sutton, 3954 sorties took off and in total 103 aircraft were lost, with 577 airmen killed or missing presumed dead.
Museum Director, Ian Reed, commented: “The fascinating 77 Squadron Memorial Room and exhibition can be seen at the Yorkshire Air Museum, within the original wartime buildings, where the brave young aircrews and operations staff once trod.”
In May 1945 the Squadron transferred to transport Command to Mauripur, India and later took part in the Berlin Airlift.