49 Squadron crest
|Branch||Royal Air Force|
|Part of||Bomber Command|
|Equipment||Handley Page Hampden, Vickers Valiant|
No. 49 Squadron was a bomber squadron of the Royal Air Force from 1938 to 1965. They received their first Hampdens in September 1938. They were a famous Hampden squadron; with the only Victoria Cross awarded Rod Learoyd amongst the ones who served on the type.
They carried out the attack on the Dortmund-Ems Canal in 12 August 1940. In 1942 No.49 Squadron converted to Manchesters, then Lancasters, and in October led No.5 Group's epic dusk attack on the Schneider armament and locomotive works at Le Creusot. In 1943 the squadron took part in the first "shuttle-bombing" raid (when the targets were Friedrichshafen and Spezia), and the famous raid on Peenemunde. Among the targets which it attacked during 1944 were the coastal gun battery at La Pernelle on the Normandy coast, and the V1 storage sites in the caves at St. Leu d'Esserent on the River Loire, some 30 miles north-west of Paris. In December 1944, it took part in a raid on the German Baltic Fleet at Gdynia and in March 1945, was represented in the bomber force which so pulverised the defences of Wesel just before the crossing of the Rhine that Commandos were able to seize the town with only 36 casualties.
The Squadron remained with Lancasters until it was re-equipped with Lincolns in November 1949. They carried out 2 tours of duty during the Kenyan Mau Mau Uprising from November 1953 to January 1954 and from November 1954 to July 1955. During both these tours it was commanded by Squadron Leader Alan E. Newitt DFC.
During their second tour of operation Avro Lincoln SX984 was lost in an accident.
The sole remaining Vickers Valiant (XD818) - the one that dropped the first British hydrogen bomb at Christmas Island with 49 Sqn as part of Operation Grapple - is preserved at the RAF Museum Cosford, near Wolverhampton.
SX984 Avro Lincoln
The SX984 was lost in a crash on 19 February 1955 while serving in Kenya during the Mau Mau Uprising.
On returning from an operational bombing sortie at 1540 hours, some 1hr 25mins flying time (total airborne time to the moment of the crash was 1hr 33mins), the pilot of SX984 carried out several unauthorized low passes over the police hut at Githunguri, where another 49 squadron crew was paying a visit. On the third such pass SX984 struck the roof of the hut and a telegraph pole, breaking off part of the wing and some of its nose. It went into a steep climb, stalled and crashed to the ground 8 miles north north west of Kiambu killing five members of the crew and four civilians on the ground. A visiting crew member called Pierson managed to pull the Rear Gunner from the wreckage but he died a few hours later of his injuries.
The finding of the Board of Inquiry was that the accident was caused by wilful disobedience of orders and unauthorized low flying.
There is a memorial window to the crew and civilians killed in the crash in St Leonard's Church, Sandridge in Hertfordshire, UK.
- Mike Garbutt & Brian Goulding. Lincoln at War 1944–66. London: Ian Allan Ltd.
- Richard Bartlett-May, son of Rear Gunner Sgt S A G Bartlett from information provided by the Historical Air Branch, Ministry of Defence, London and the 49 Squadron Association
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