No. 206 Squadron moved to Bircham Newton from Manston in mid 1936. It was initially equipped with Avro Ansons, which were replaced with Lockheed Hudsons beginning in March 1940. The squadron was employed on general reconnaissance and ant-shipping operations off the Danish, German and Dutch coasts, including the Frisian Islands. It also operated in the eastern Channel area, particularly during the D-Day landings.
An Anson from No. 206 Squadron was credited with the first recorded strike of the war against a U-boat off the Dutch coast. Another Anson from the squadron was involved in the first ‘friendly fire’ incident of the war. In early December 1939, an Anson, piloted by P/O R.H. Harper, attacked a U-boat seen on the surface of the North Sea. The pilot claimed a hit on the base of the conning tower, but the submarine dived and disappeared before the damage could be properly assessed. It later transpired that HMS Snapper had been the unlucky victim of this attack due to mistaken identity by the aircrew. Fortunately little damage was done on this occasion.
After conversion to the Hudson aircraft, the squadron provided air cover during the Dunkirk evacuation, and one of its pilots, Flight Lieutenant Biddell, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his bravery. When leading a flight of three Hudsons on an offensive patrol over the ships evacuating the British Expeditionary Force. On the evening of 31st May 1940, Biddel saw a squadron of Skuas being attacked by eleven ME 109s. The Skuas were being hard pressed and two were shot down. Without hesitation Biddel led his flight between the Skuas and the ME 109s and though the result of the action was indecisive, it is known that at least one ME 109 was severely damaged, and the remainder broke off the engagement. The Skuas, who had expended all their ammunition, were able to withdraw without further loss.
Later in 1940, Flight Lieutenant Biddell flew the Hudson aircraft in which General Sikorski and his staff were evacuated from Bordeaux to England, to form a new Polish Government in exile. For this he was decorated with the Polish Cross of Valour by General Sikorski himself.
No. 206 Squadron moved from Bircham Newton to St Eval, Cornwall in mid 1941.
The photograph shows 206 Squadron personnel with a Hudson aircraft at Docking in 1940. The Squadron made extensive use of the Docking satellite from the summer of 1940
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© D. Jacklin 2017. This website is owned by the RAF Bircham Newton Memorial Project.