32 Squadron RAF



No 32 Squadron RFC/RAF 1918

A brief history

No 32 squadron RFC formed in January 1916 from a nucleus of 21 Sqn and was equipped with single seat DH2's. The first CO Maj. L W B Rees VC MC joined the squadron on 1 Feb 1916. Rees was replaced by Maj. T A E Cairnes DSO on 7 Jul 1916 following Rees' wounding in action (for which he received the VC). 32 Sqn later re-equipped in May 1917 with DH5's and these were then replaced from late December 1917 by SE5a's, the change being completed by 8 March 1918.

Major John Russell, took command of the squadron on 11 September 1917, a popular CO, he remained in command for the rest of the war. In March 1918 as the squadron completed its re-equipment with SE5a's it was based at Bailleul. The Squadron joined 9th Wing RFC on 26 March 1918 from 11th Wing RFC, becoming part of IX Brigade RAF on 1 April.

32 Sqn moved to Belleville Farm (SE of Hesdin) on 27 March and then to Beauvois on 29 March withdrawing in front of the German advance on the Somme. Lt. Proctor achieved the first victory for an SE5a with the squadron on 29 March destroying an Albatross DV south of Proyart, however two aircraft were damaged in action the same day, one by AA, the other in combat (2nd Lt. Tyrrell).

On the first day of the RAF, 1 April, Lt. Viscount Glentworth observed four enemy scouts attacking two SE5s and dived on them destroying 1 EA N of Beaucourt. The same day Lt. Proctor drove down an Albatros DV out of control but was himself wounded. Capt. Faure was shot up and forced to land. The first few days of April were taken up with attacking troops and transport with 25lb bombs and machine guns in the area around Moreuil SE of Amiens (the only single seat Sqn of 9th Wing carrying bombs in the first three days). On 7 April 2nd Lt. Tyrrell on a morning patrol destroyed a Fokker Dr1, an Albatros DV and claimed a further Albatros OOC, the last two NE of La Motte. Attacks on troops in trenches continued with 28 25lb bombs being dropped and 4950 rounds being fired. 

On April 10th, the Germans broke through on the Armentieres front. Offensive patrols by 32 Sqn switched from the Somme sector to the Lys. IX Brigade Squadrons were assigned missions to meet the German push toward Merville on the Lys. 32 Sqn along with other fighter units of IX Brigade provided high level cover for the I Brigade attacking targets between La Bassee and the Lys.  IX Brigade pilots averaged 6-7 hours flying each in the 24 hours from 4pm on the 11 April. Poor weather had limited action by the RAF on the Lys before the 12 April. The German advance was eventually held and the battle of the Lys came to an end with actions on 29 April.

Note: EA = enemy aircraft

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