295 Squadron was formed as an Airborne Forces unit at Netheravon on the 3rd August 1942. Consisting of three Flights of Whitley aircraft, training in glider-towing commenced shortly after. Experimentation in night-time parachute drops followed in November, and on the 6th of that month, the Squadron's first operational sorties were carried out over France in the form of leaflet dropping.
In February 1943, 295 Squadron began to receive a number of Halifax aircraft to operate alongside their ageing Whitleys. On the 1st May, the Squadron was transferred to Holmsley South, and it was from here, with further aircraft operating out of Portreath, that their programme of Airborne Forces training was accelerated. From June until September of that year, the Halifax contingent towed a number of gliders to North Africa, a flight lasting some eight hours, to equip the 1st Airborne Division who were preparing themselves for the invasions of Sicily and Italy. On the 1st November 1943, 295 Squadron moved to Hurn and converted to Albemarles. On the 3rd February 1944, some of these aircraft were involved in a Special Operations Executive (SOE) resupply mission to resistance forces in France.
On the 14th March, with D-Day approaching, 295 Squadron moved to RAF Harwell. They shared this base with 570 Squadron, and the two units played a prominent role in the first night of the 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 some 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. However, two aircraft of 295 Squadron released their troops on target, and in token of this success their pilots, Squadron Leader Merricks and Flight Lieutenant Kingdon, and their respective navigators, Warrant Officer Farrow and Flight Lieutenant Richardson, were each awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
At DZ-V, near Varaville, other aircraft dropped the pathfinders, however eight of the Squadron's Albemarles accompanied them, carrying one hundred and seventeen men of "C" Company the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, and forty-six supply containers. Again due to navigational difficulties, it was a scattered drop and the Canadians experienced great difficulty in forming up on the ground. For various reasons eighteen of their soldiers had not been able to jump and so were taken back to Harwell, along with six containers which could not be released. The Squadron also provided a further two aircraft to tow Horsa gliders to this same zone, carrying Jeeps and trailers, however the tow rope broke on one of these just short of the French coast and it either landed in the sea or on a beach.
Several hours after the initial landings had taken place, having given time to enable engineers to clear a landing strip of anti-glider obstacles, eleven of 295 Squadron's aircraft towed Horsas to LZ-N, near Ranville. One of these was forced to cast-off over England, and another, piloted by the Commanding Officer, Wing Commander MacNamara, had the honour of carrying Major-General Richard Gale and some of the staff of his Divisional Headquarters into battle. On the following evening, with the Invasion in full swing, 295 Squadron flew twenty sorties without loss to bring Horsas of the 6th Airlanding Brigade to their landing zones, all but one of which reached its destination.
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. Further missions in support of the SAS and Special Operations Executive became the Squadron's chief concern over the coming months.
In the intervening period 295 Squadron had converted to Stirling aircraft, and on Sunday 17th September, twenty-five of these were provided to transport 1st British Airborne Corps HQ to Nijmegen. Three of the Horsas were compelled to cast-off at various stages along the route, but the remainder reached LZ-N safely. On the following day, the Squadron rejoined the remainder of 38 Group for the Second Lift to Arnhem, with three aircraft towing Horsas and a further seventeen carrying out the first supply drop of the battle. Two of the resupply aircraft failed to take-off and one of the gliders was lost en-route, but the remaining aircraft performed their tasks without further incident.
On the 19th September, seventeen Stirlings participated in the resupply drop in the face of increasingly heavy ground fire. Flight-Sergeant Hall's aircraft was shot down, at the loss of all six aircrew and two RASC despatchers, and another Stirling had to make a forced landing at Woodbridge, but no one on board was injured. All but three aircraft were reported as having received damage, though only two of these were in a serious condition, one of which was a victim of flak whilst the other had been struck by containers dropped from another aircraft.
Another seventeen aircraft were deployed on the following day, all of which completed their run, except for one Stirling which was hit over the drop zone and had to make a crash-landing. Pilot Officer Couper was killed during this incident, but the remaining crew survived; one man and two despatchers were taken prisoner, but four men reached the Allied lines. On Thursday 21st September, one aircraft was lost out of the eleven used, however all the crew survived.
In total 295 Squadron had flown one hundred and six sorties to Nijmegen and Arnhem, resulting in the loss of three aircraft, seven aircrew, two despatchers, and seven men taken prisoner.
The Rhine Crossing
The Squadron relocated to Rivenhall on the 11th October 1944, and over the coming months they flew numerous sorties in support of SOE and SAS personnel. On the 24th March 1945, they returned to their Airborne Forces role, towing thirty Horsas on the first and only lift of the 6th Airborne Division to their landing zones around Hamminkeln. Two of these gliders were forced to cast-off before reaching their destination, one of them so early that they were able to land on the airfield from which they had taken-off and so were soon back in the air again. Moderate yet accurate flak was encountered over the zones, and this resulted in the loss of one aircraft and the damaging of six others, but all twenty-nine Horsas were successfully delivered in what proved to be a very satisfactory, if extremely costly deployment.
Following the German surrender, twenty-two of 295 Squadron's Stirlings were used to help transport the majority of the 1st Airborne Division to Norway to oversee the disarmament. Transport Command was considerably busy at this time and so the Squadron was used to fly assorted freight and personnel all over Europe.
295 Squadron was disbanded on the 21st January 1946, although it was technically reformed on the same day with the renaming of 190 Squadron, a fellow unit in 38 Group. This unit, with its Halifax aircraft, was itself disbanded two months later on the 31st March, but was reformed at Fairford, with the same type of aircraft and as an Airborne Forces unit, on the 10th September 1947. 295 Squadron was finally disbanded on the 31st October 1948.
Commanders of 295 Squadron
Wing Commander B. R. MacNamara
Wing Commander H. E. Angell