78 SQUADRON - Bomber, Armstrong Whitworth AW38 Whitley
Bomber Command, 4 Group
History | Operations and losses | Sources | Links | Books | Questions and/or remarks
In the Summer of 1937, No 78 began converting to Whitleys, and following the outbreak of World War II, was tasked with the training of newly formed crews prior to posting on to operational squadrons. The unit joined the front line bomber force in July of 1940, taking up night bomber duties until re-equipping with Halifaxes in 1942.
Among the highlights of No. 78's war record was its participation in the historic 1,000-bomber raid on Cologne on 30/31st May 1942; the epic raid on Peenemunde on 17/18th August 1943; and the attack on the coastal gun battery at Mont Fleury on 5/6th June 1944, in direct support of the invasion of Normandy. In February 1941, No. 78 Squadron supplied the Whitleys and some of the crews (other crews were provided by No. 51 Squadron) which figured in Operation Colossus, the first Allied airborne operation of the war and the one in which British paratroops destroyed a large aqueduct at Tragino in southern Italy.
From July to October 1942, No.78 Squadron was commanded by Wing Commander J.B. Tait, who later led the combined force of Lancasters from Nos. 617 (the squadron he then commanded) and 9 Squadrons which, using 12,000Ib Tallboy bombs, destroyed the Tirpitz in Tromso fjord.
According to a statistical summary of No. 78's wartime effort in the squadron ORB, No. 78 flew, a total of 6,337 sorties comprising 6,017 bombing sorties and 320 minelaying sorties; made 302 bombing raids and bombed 167 different targets; dropped approximately 17,000 tons of bombs - 7,000 tons (i.e. more than a third of the total) between D-Day and VE Day; successfully laid 1,064 mines; and destroyed 31 enemy aircraft (11 more were classified as "probably destroyed ") and damaged 35. The squadron's own losses totalled 182 aircraft.
On 7th May 1945, No.78 Squadron was transferred from Bomber Command to Transport Command.
Operations and losses 10/05/1940 - 31/05/1940
Not all operations listed; those with losses are.
23/05/1940: ? 1 KIA
19-20/07/1940: Gelsenkirchen-Buer, D
Flight Lieutenant (Pilot) Ian L. McLaren, RAF 35151, 78 Sqdn., Mentioned in Despatches, age 24, 23/05/1940, Hotton War Cemetery, B
4 Whitleys despatched to bomb Gelsenkirchen-Buer. One bombed primary and rest bombed alternative
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Royal Air Force - 78 Squadron
RAF Bomber Command - 78 Squadron
RAF - Campaign Diary - The Battle of France (May-June 1940)
RAF Museum: British Military Aviation in 1940
RAF Order of Battle, France, 10th May 1940
Royal Air Force History Section
The Royal Air Force, 1939-1945
The Second World War - a day by day account
War over Holland
Richard Binns 'RSC' (Self published)
W.R. Chorley, Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War, Volume 1, 1939/40, Midland Counties Publications, ISBN 0 904597 85 7
V Holland 'Nobody unprepared: 78 Squadron RAF' (Woodfield 2002)
Tom Sawyer 'Only owls & bloody fools fly at night'
Chris Ward '78 Squadron' (Bomber Command Profile no. 23)
Airwar over Denmark
Allied World War II Casualties in the Netherlands
De Belgen in Engeland 1940-1945 (in Dutch)
Belgian Aviation History Association Archaeological Team
British Aviation Archaeological Council - Books and research links
CWGC Cemeteries Netherlands
Jagdgeschwader 27 (in German)
The National Ex-Prisoners of War Association
Pilotfriend.com: aircraft of WW2
Polish Air Force 1940-1947 Operations Record Books
RAF Battle of Britain
De Slag om de Grebbeberg (Dutch)
The Aerodrome -
Aces and Aircraft of World War 1
This page is dedicated to the men of 78 Squadron.
© Bart FM Droog / Rottend Staal Online 2008. Permission granted for use of the data gathered here for non commercial purposes, if this source is mentioned with a link to http://www.epibreren.com/ww2/raf/index.html