No. 521 Squadron had a complicated history, beginning as two meteorological (Met) Flights. No. 1401 Met Flight moved to Bircham Newton from Mildenhall in October 1941, joining No. 1403 Met Flight, which had formed there in late 1940, originally as 403 Met Flight. An expanded 1401 Flight was established in February 1942 by combining 1401 and 1403 flights. Typical Met sorties were coded as follows: Thermal Upper-Air Measurement (THUM) ascents above the airfield; Pressure and Temperature Ascent (PRATA) performed to a higher altitude close to the airfield; Long-range reconnaissance sorties across the North Sea (RHOMBUS); and dangerous sorties over enemy-occupied territory to obtain meteorological data related to target areas (PAMPA). The first PAMPA sorties were undertaken by Spitfires, beginning in early November 1941, but these were replaced by Mosquitos in May 1942. In August 1942, No. 1401 Met Flight was disbanded and reformed as No. 521 Squadron. At the end of March 1943 the Squadron was disbanded and became 1401 Flight again, losing its PAMPA role and Mosquito aircraft, which moved to the Pathfinder Force. At the beginning of September 1943 the Squadron reformed again at Docking, staying for a year before moving to Langham at the beginning of November 1944 to convert to the Fortress aircraft.
The squadron operated from Docking during 1943 and 1944 with a wide range of aircraft types including Gloster Gladiators, for local THUM sorties, Spitfires, for high-level PRATA ascents, and Blenheims, Hampdens, Hudsons and Venturas, for the long-range RHOMBUS operations across the North Sea. The photograph shows the radio aerial of one of Docking's Gladiators being used to dry the pilot's clothes prior to a THUM sortie.
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© D. Jacklin 2017. This website is owned by the RAF Bircham Newton Memorial Project.