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217 Squadron, Coastal Command, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. 1942
Details supplied by Ian Dennis, further information Martin Edwards

The Beaufort aircraft of 217 squadron were en-route to Ceylon with the first nine aircraft leaving RAF Leuchars, Fife in May 1942, proceeding via Gibraltar and Malta and arriving in Malta in the afternoon of 10th June. Due to unservicabilities with the Torperdo loading and dropping systems, all nine aircraft were grounded to sort out the problems and the Squadron was then kept in Malta to take part in a number of missions against enemy convoys. One of these missions occurred on Friday, 3rd July 1942, when seven Beaufort aircraft escorted by five Beaufighters were due to depart Ta Qali airfield in Malta to attack a convoy south of Zante Island of the coast of Greece. Two of the Beauforts failed to start and the remaining five took off at 18:30, but of these, two aircraft developed engine trouble and turned back leaving three aircraft to press on with the attack. Two of these 4-man crewed aicraft, L9893 and AW240, were shot down in the sea by flak, the third, DD993, was hit in the tail but managed to reach Malta again where it crashed at 01:00. The members of the three crews are listed below.

  Beaufort L9893  
HUTCHESON James Sergeant (Pilot) 1115654, 217 Squadron, Coastal Command, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Died 3rd July 1942. Age 30. Son of Thomas and Mabel D. Hutcheson, of Newcastle-on-Tyne. Commemorated on MALTA MEMORIAL, Malta. Panel 3, Column 1.
DENNIS Fredrick Kenneth Sergeant (Air Observer) 959648, 217 Squadron, Coastal Command, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Died 3rd July 1942. Age 25. Son of Mr Christopher & Mess Ellen, Dennis of 5 Bedford Road, Clapham; younger brother of Christopher George Dennis and three elder sisters. Commemorated on MALTA MEMORIAL, Malta. Panel 3, Column 2.
WEAVER Frank Stuart Sergeant (Wirelss Operator/Air Gunner) NZ404713, 217 Squadron, Coastal Command, Royal New Zealand Air Force. Died 3rd July 1942. Age 26. Son of Frank Stuart and Annie Weaver; husband of Edna Joyce Weaver, of Mount Roskill, Auckland, New Zealand. Commemorated on MALTA MEMORIAL, Malta. Panel 5, Column 2.
DAVIS Dennis Melville Sergeant (Wirelss Operator/Air Gunner) 923060, 217 Squadron, Coastal Command, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Died 3rd July 1942. Commemorated on MALTA MEMORIAL, Malta. Panel 3, Column 2.
  Beaufort AW240  
MERCER Russell George Sergeant (Pilot) 1179715, 217 Squadron, Coastal Command, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Died 3rd July 1942. Age 21. Son of Arthur George and Ethel Mary Mercer, of Knowle, Bristol. Commemorated on MALTA MEMORIAL, Malta. Panel 4, Column 1.
HODSON George Leonard Sergeant 1259043, 217 Squadron, Coastal Command, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Died 3rd July 1942. Age 19. Son of L. P. and Ann Hodson, of Hudson, Province of Quebec, Canada. Commemorated on MALTA MEMORIAL, Malta. Panel 4, Column 1.
HOLE Harold Sergeant 1186282, 217 Squadron, Coastal Command, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Died 3rd July 1942. Age 29. Son of Mr. and Mrs. H. S. Hole; husband of E. Hole, of Blaina, Monmouthshire. Commemorated on MALTA MEMORIAL, Malta. Panel 4, Column 1.
YORK Leonard Alwyn Sergeant 952913, 217 Squadron, Coastal Command, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Died 3rd July 1942. Age 22. Son of Francis G. and Mary Ellen York, of Raunds, Northamptonshire. Commemorated on MALTA MEMORIAL, Malta. Panel 4, Column 2.
  Beaufort DD993  
GIBBS Unknown Squadron Leader (Pilot)
Unknown Unknown Unknown
Unknown Unknown Unknown
Unknown Unknown Unknown


History 217 Squadron

No. 217 Squadron was formed on 1 April 1918, from No. 17 (Naval) Squadron at Bergues, near Dunkerque a formation which traced its ancestry back to the RNAS seaplane station formed at Dunkerque on 31 October 1914. Equipped with D.H.4s it took part in daylight raids on enemy bases and airfields in Belgium until the end of the war, returning to the UK in March 1919, where it disbanded on 18 October 1919.

On 15 March 1937, No. 217 reformed as a general reconnaissance squadron at Boscombe Down equipped with Ansons. On the outbreak of World War Two, it took up its station and bagan flying patrols over the western approaches to the English Channel. For the next two years it was based at St. Eval which it occupied in an unfinished state in October 1939. In May 1940 No.217 began to receive Beauforts but teething troubles prevented these from being used operationally until 25 September and the Ansons did not end their patrols until December. The Beauforts concentrated on attacks on enemy shipping and minelaying until transferred to Ceylon in May. The aircraft flew out via Gibraltar and Malta where they spent two months attacking enemy shipping in the Mediterranean.

 

The ground echelon arrived in Ceylon in August where it received Hudsons for anti-submarine patrols, the Beauforts having been retained in the Middle East. New Beauforts began to arrive in April 1943, and by July the squadron had reverted to a strike unit, re-equipping with Beaufighters in July 1944. The Japanese made no further attempts to attack Ceylon and No. 217 spent its time defensively until May 1945, when it was posted to Cocos Island to prepare for invasion in Malaya. This was forestalled by the Japanese surrender and the squadrons aircraft never did get to Coco's but moved from Vavuniya in Ceylon to Gannavram in Southern India in June 945 where it stayed until disbanded on 30 September 1945.

On 14 January 1952, No. 217 reformed at St. Eval as a maritime reconnaissance squadron and received two Neptunes for trials. In April it moved to Kinloss where it equipped fully in July 1952, flying Neptunes until disbanded on 31 March 1957. On 1 February 1958, the squadron reformed from No. 1360 Flight with Whirlwinds and moved to Christmas Island as part of a combined force of Shackeltons, Canberras and Whirlwinds supporting the Nuclear trials being carried out there. On 13 November 1959, the squadron disbanded.

Last updated 15 August, 2008

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