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No. 121 Squadron RAF was initially formed at RAF Narborough on the 1st January 1918 as part of an expanding force of day bomber squadrons which was to be equip with the new Airco D.H.9. Work-up to combat readiness began but, as with many other such squadrons, progress was slow because of faults with the aircraft and the subsequent delays with production deliveries. During the summer of 1918 it became apparent that World War 1's end was in sight, subsequently, those squadrons which were not at operational standard were disbanded, and this fate befell No.121 Sqn on 17th August 1918. 121 Sqn began to reform again, at RAF Bracebridge Heath, on 14th October 1918 but the Armistice some 27 days later ensured that the squadron proceeded no further.

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Airco D.H.9

When No. 121 Sqn reformed once again in World War II, it was in a completely different role. The unit became the second of three American 'Eagle' Squadrons, which formed at RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey on 14th May 1941. It was equipped with Hawker Hurricane Mk Is and later Mk IIBs, and worked up with these types. Then it re-equipped with Supermarine Spitfire Mk IIAs and moved south to RAF North Weald, where it became operational on channel sweeps. On 15th September 1941, it destroyed its first German aircraft (although it had already inflicted damage on others with Hurricanes when on East Cost convoy patrol in July 1941).

In November the Sqn received cannon armed Spitfire Mk VBs. In 1942 it increased its offensive activities over the channel, with bomber escorts taking a much bigger part in its schedules. It was during this type of activity that 121 began to meet the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 and, although the Spitfire Mk VB was really no match for it, they managed to shoot several down.

In September 1942 the squadron moved to Dabden, where it met up with the other two 'Eagle' Squadrons No's 71 and 133. Six days later on the 29th September 1942 all three squadrons were disbanded as RAF units and transferred to the USAAF and thereafter flew as part of the 335th Pursuit Squadron over Europe.

US Pilots of the RAF's 121 Squadron, photographed in 1941 discussing aerobatics

The 'Eagle' Squadrons, were manned by volunteers from the United States, who enlisted into the RAF before their country entered the war. The first 'Eagle' Sqn. being No.71 Sqn which was formed in September 1940, the second No. 121 formed on 14th May 1941 and the third being No.133 Sqn). Some 244 American volunteer pilots joined the RAF to fly with the 'Eagle' Squadrons of Fighter Command. The 'Eagle' Squadrons were credited with destroying 73 ½ German planes as well as the destruction of several German navy vessels during convoy patrol missions and numerous ground targets during missions known as Rhubarbs, which were two plain low level ground attack missions. Unfortunately, the 'Eagle' Squadrons also sustained many casualties, some 77 American and 5 British airman were killed.

The members of 121 Sqn. ATC, have always, quite understandably had an interest in the history of 121 Squadron RAF. In resent years we have made contact with the Eagle Squadron Association in the United States which represents former WW2 members of the RAF Eagle Squadrons.

To find out more visit the 'Eagle' Squadrons website, its well worth a look, but do come back and visit us again soon

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121 Sqn Spitfire
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121 'Eagle' Squadron pilots
in the crew room
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USAAF pilots, former 'Eagle' squadrons members
 

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Page last updated, Monday, 14 July, 2008 9:15 PM .