No. 159 Squadron RAF

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No. 159 Squadron RAF
No. 159 Squadron RAF (crest).png
Active1 June 1918 - 4 July 1918
2 July 1942 – 1 June 1946
CountryUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
BranchAir Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Air Force
RoleBombing, mining, reconnaissance, transport
Motto(s)Latin: Quo non, quando non
(Translated: "Whither not, When not?")[1][2]
EngagementsFar East 1942-45
James Blackburn
Squadron Badge heraldryIn Front of logs inflamed, a peacocks head erased, in the beak a woodmans axe.[1][2]
Aircraft flown
BomberConsolidated Liberator
PatrolConsolidated Liberator
ReconnaissanceConsolidated Liberator
TransportConsolidated Liberator

No. 159 Squadron RAF was a Royal Air Force squadron that was active as a bomber, mine-laying, reconnaissance and transport unit in World War II.


Formation in World War I[edit]

The original 159 Squadron was to be formed during the First World War, but the idea was disbanded so that reinforcements could be sent to France.[3]

Reformation in World War II[edit]

No. 159 Squadron was reformed at RAF Molesworth on 2 July 1942 during the Second World War and its ground crew personnel were posted, without aircraft, to the Middle East on 12 February 1942 and then to India on 18 May 1942. Flying B-24 Liberators, the squadron was posted to Palestine in July 1942 and carried out bombing raids in North Africa, Italy and Greece. No. 159 then flew to India on 30 September 1942. The first operation against the Japanese was on 17 November 1942, and during the rest of the war, the squadron flew mine-laying, bombing, and reconnaissance missions over Burma, Siam, Malaya, Indo-China and the Dutch East Indies.

In October 1944, the Squadron mounted an audacious minelaying raid on the Japanese held port of Penang. The mission entailed a round trip of over 3,000 miles, which at the time was the longest distance bombing raid in history. Eric Burchmore was in charge of the modification and preparation of the Consolidated Liberator aircraft used for the mission. The raid was led by Wing Commander James Blackburn and was a complete success, with the port of Penang completely blocked by mines and all of the aircraft and crews returning safely. Burchmore was awarded a military MBE in recognition of his contribution to the operation, whilst Wing Commander Blackburn was awarded a Bar to his DSO and was also awarded the American DFC by the United States Air Force.

After the war, No.159 converted to transport and survey duties before disbanding on 1 June 1946.

Notable squadron members[edit]

Stanley James Woodbridge, GC[edit]

Flight Sergeant Stanley James Woodbridge, a wireless operator who served with 159 squadron, was awarded the George Cross posthumously in 1948. Woodbridge had steadfastly refused to divulge his codes and other details of his radio equipment to his Japanese captors. Woodbridge was tortured and eventually beheaded along with three other members of his crew

James Blackburn DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar, DFC (US)[edit]

Wing Commander James Blackburn DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar, DFC (US)[1] (1916–1993) was a Royal Air Force officer who completed a record five tours of operations during World War II.

See also[edit]

Aircraft operated[edit]

Aircraft operated by no. 159 Squadron RAF, data from[2][4][5]
From To Aircraft Variant
July 1942 August 1943 Consolidated Liberator Mk.II
August 1943 February 1945 Consolidated Liberator Mks.III, V
March 1944 July 1945 Consolidated Liberator Mk.VI
June 1945 May 1946 Consolidated Liberator Mk.VIII

Squadron bases[edit]

Bases and airfields used by no. 159 Squadron RAF, data from[2][4][5]
From To Base Remark
2 January 1942 12 February 1942 RAF Molesworth, Cambridgeshire Air echelon training at RAF Polebrook (1653 HCU)
12 February 1942 15 April 1942 En route to Middle East (Ground echelon)
15 April 1942 10 May 1942 RAF Fayid, Egypt (Ground Echelon, Air echelon 26 April to RAF Lyneham)
10 May 1942 24 May 1942 En route to India (Ground echelon, one element remained at Fayid)
24 May 1942 1 June 1942 RAF Deolali, Maharashtra, British India
1 June 1942 27 September 1942 RAF Chakrata, Uttarakhand, British India (Ground echelon, Air echelon 7 June to RAF Fayid, Egypt;
2 July to RAF St Jean, Palestine and 12 August to RAF Aqir, Palestine)
27 September 1942 24 October 1943 RAF Salbani, West Bengal, British India Ground and Air echelons joined
24 October 1943 9 March 1944 RAF Digri, Bengal, British India Det. at RAF Dhubalia, Bengal
9 March 1944 15 April 1944 RAF Dhubalia, Bengal, British India Det. at Madhaiganj, United Provinces
15 April 1944 2 October 1945 RAF Digri, Bengal, British India Dets. at Jessore, Akyab, Chian Bay, Drigh Road and Pegu
2 October 1945 1 June 1946 RAF Salbani, West Bengal, British India Dets. at Pegu, RAF Santacruz and Sookerating

Commanding officers[edit]

Officers commanding no. 159 squadron RAF, data from
June 1944 December 1944 W/Cdr. James Blackburn DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar
December 1944 April 1945 W/Cdr. Byron Francis Burbridge
April 1945 ? W/Cdr. Lucian Brett Ercolani, DSO & Bar, DFC



  1. ^ a b Moyes 1976, p. 181.
  2. ^ a b c d Halley 1988, p. 230.
  3. ^ Jefford 2001, p. 113.
  4. ^ a b Moyes 1976, p. 182.
  5. ^ a b Jefford 2001, p. 66.


  • Halley, James J. The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth, 1918-88. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1988. ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
  • Jefford, Wing Commander C.G., MBE,BA,RAF (Retd). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
  • Moyes, Philip J.R. Bomber Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald and Jane's (Publishers) Ltd., 1976. ISBN 0-354-01027-1.

External links[edit]