570 Squadron was formed as an Airborne Forces unit at Hurn on the 15th November 1943. Training exercises began promptly, with their Albemarle aircraft being used to tow gliders and drop parachutists. The Squadron's first operational sorties were carried out over France in February 1944, dropping supplies of arms to the French Resistance in coordination with the Special Operations Executive (SOE).
570 Squadron, together with its neighbour at RAF Harwell, 295 Squadron, played a prominent role on the first night of the Normandy landings, largely by carrying the pathfinders and advance parties whose task it was to mark the drop and landing zones thirty minutes ahead of the arrival of the main force. To this end, both Squadrons each provided three aircraft operating in pairs, one from 295 and the other from 570, to carry forty pathfinders of the 22nd Independent Parachute Company and twenty men of the 8th Parachute Battalion to DZ-K, near Touffreville. The drop was not entirely a success as navigational difficulties resulted in a large part of the force being mistakenly dropped at another zone near Ranville, four miles to the north, and as a consequence more than a third of the 8th Battalion's aircraft dropped their paratroopers there instead. Warrant Officer Balmer's aircraft released its passengers on target, however, and for this he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
At DZ-V, near Varaville, aircraft from other units dropped the pathfinders, however seven of 570 and eight of 295 Squadron's Albemarles accompanied them, carrying between them one hundred and seventeen men of "C" Company the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, and forty-two supply containers. Again due to navigational difficulties, it was a scattered drop and the Canadians experienced great difficulty in forming up on the ground. All but one of 570 Squadron's aircraft dropped their troops; Flight Lieutenant Brierley made no fewer than seven passes over the drop zone before returning to base with a full stick of ten paratroopers, the first man to jump had become stuck as he tried to exit and in spite all attempts to free him he could not be dislodged. A further two Albemarles were to have flown to DZ-V, each towing a Horsa glider containing a Jeep and trailer, however both of these were forced to ditch in the English Channel, two miles short of the French coast.
Several hours after the initial landings had taken place, having given time to enable engineers to clear a landing strip of anti-glider obstacles, ten of 570 Squadron's aircraft towed Horsas to LZ-N, near Ranville. One of these was forced to cast off over England, but the remainder arrived safely despite of loose anti-aircraft fire around the landing zone.
On the following evening, 6th June, Wing Commander Bangay led twenty of 570 Squadron's aircraft back to Normandy, each towing a Horsa glider carrying soldiers and equipment of the 6th Airlanding Brigade. In something of a rarity for such an operation, the Squadron managed to deliver all of its charges to the landing zone without mishap, although one aircraft was damaged by flak. This lift completed the Squadron's contribution to the landings, which had been achieved without loss or damage to any of their aircraft or crews.
570 Squadron's chief concern over the following months were sorties in support of the SAS and Special Operations Executive. On the 7th June, two Albemarles took part in Operation Cooney, to deploy French SAS forces between Redon and St. Malo, with the intention of disrupting enemy communications between West Brittany and the remainder of France. With a further seven aircraft involved from other Squadrons, a total of fifty-eight members of the SAS were dropped on no fewer than seventeen undefended drop zones. Although having reached the zone safely, one of 570 Squadron's aircraft had to return to base with its troops because they could not locate the expected signal from the ground.
In July 1944, the Squadron's Albemarle aircraft were exchanged for the more powerful Stirlings.
570 Squadron had two tasks to perform on the First Lift of Operation Market Garden, on Sunday 17th September. Twelve of their Stirlings were to tow Horsa gliders to Arnhem while eight more carried elements of 1st British Airborne Corps HQ to Nijmegen. The Arnhem contingent delivered all of their charges without loss, although one aircraft sustained slight flak damage, however only seven Horsas arrived at Nijmegen as one Stirling had crashed on take-off due to engine failure. The glider that this aircraft had in tow was airborne at the time of the crash and so it was able to put down safely, and although the Stirling was a wreck, all aboard survived, though one man was injured.
On Monday 18th September, the Squadron brought in a further ten Horsas, one of which safely cast-off when its tug aircraft was shot down; killing all six aircrew and one passenger. On the same day, a further fifteen aircraft participated in the first resupply mission, during which one Stirling was damaged and two were shot down; resulting in a fatality. 570 Squadron also carried out an SOE/SAS mission on this day, with one Stirling delivering twenty-four supply containers and two packages to SOE agents operating to the south of Orleans, while another aircraft dropped the same number of containers to SAS troops in the area.
On the 19th September, the Squadron delivered a single Horsa to Arnhem whilst seventeen other aircraft brought in supplies, each carrying twenty-four containers and four packages. Flak over the route was severe, especially over the drop zone, and although all supplies were dropped it was felt to be an unsatisfactory outing as the accuracy of the drop was doubtful. Furthermore, three Stirlings were shot down and most of the remainder had sustained some form of damage, though only two of any great note, one of which was on fire when it landed at Harwell.
Sixteen aircraft completed the resupply flight on Wednesday, resulting in one aircraft being badly damaged and forced to land prematurely at Benson, with flat tyres and damage to both engines. Eleven Stirlings flew to Arnhem without loss on Thursday 21st September, but on Saturday 23rd, four of the fourteen aircraft involved in the resupply effort were lost and a further two were compelled to make forced landings, one at Antwerp and the other at Manston. Fatalities were suffered on three of the four Stirlings shot down; in total fifteen aircrew and four RASC despatchers were killed, with only three crew and two despatchers escaping from these aircraft.
On the same day, 570 Squadron received eight new aircraft to replace their losses. A resupply effort was to have taken place on Sunday 24th September, but this was cancelled due to high winds. 570 Squadron played no further part in Operation Market Garden, which had cost them eleven aircraft and the lives of twenty-three aircrew and four despatchers. Sixteen men who had bailed out were taken prisoner, though a further eighteen men shot down over Arnhem returned to the Allied lines when the 1st Airborne Division withdrew on the 25th/26th September.
The Rhine Crossing
In February 1945, 570 Squadron carried out a number of tactical bombing raids on the German frontier in support of Allied units on the front line. On the 24th March, thirty Stirlings participated in Operation Varsity by carrying elements of the 6th Airborne Division to Hamminkeln to facilitate a crossing of the Rhine. When the war came to an end, 570 Squadron flew troops of the 1st Airborne Division to Norway to oversee the German surrender. Thereafter the Squadron was employed in numerous transport duties across Europe and beyond. In September their aircraft carried mail to the Middle East and India. 570 Squadron was disbanded on the 8th January 1946.
Commanders of 570 Squadron
Wing Commander K. R. Slater