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No. 79 (Madras Presidency) Squadron
No. 79 Squadron was formed in 1917 as a fighter unit, disbanding in 1919. In 1937, B Flight of No 32 Squadron at Biggin Hill became No 79 Squadron.
After the outbreak of war, No. 79 flew defensive patrols and in May 1940 was sent to France for ten days when the German offensive opened. After taking part in the Battle of Britain the squadron moved to South Wales until the end of 1941, when it began to prepare for a move to India. On 4 March 1942 it sailed for the Far East arriving in India on 20 June. Until December it flew defensive patrols before beginning to take part in sweeps over Burma. These continued until July 1943 and were resumed in December after a period of rest and refitting. In May 1944, No. 79 was withdrawn for re-equipment with Thunderbolts which were taken into action in September. Ground attack and escort missions occupied the Squadron until the end of the war and it disbanded on 30 December 1945.
Airfields No. 79 Squadron flew from.
- RAF Manston, Kent from 12th November 1939 to 11th May 1940
- France from 11th May 1940 to 21st May 1940
- RAF Biggin Hill from 21st May 1940
- RAF Digby, Lincolnshire from 27th May 1940
- RAF Biggin Hill from 5th June 1940
- RAF Hawkinge, Kent from 1st July 1040
- RAF Sealand, Flintshire from 11th July 1940
- RAF Acklington, Northumberland from 13th July 1940
- RAF Biggin Hill from 27th August 1940
- RAF Pembrey, Camarthenshire from 8th September 1940
- RAF Fairwood Common, Glamorganshire from 14th June 1941
- RAF Baginton, Warwickshire from 24th December 1941 to 4th March 1942
- Bombay from 4th March 1942
List of those who served with No. 79 Squadron during The Second World War
Sgt. John Wright pilot 79 Squadron (d.5th Sep 1940)
Sgt.Wright joined 79 Sqdn in July 1940 at Acklington. The squadron was posted to Biggin Hill on the 28th August 1940. At 1315 hrs on 4th Sept 1940 with Plt.Off.D.Stones DFC, (leading Blue Section) they made a head on attack against a formation of 20+ Me 110s approx 10 miles inland from Beachy head, on a northerly heading. Stones records a direct hit on one ME 110 and then chases the others. At 1325hrs Stones is in the area of Biggin Hiil - lands to refuel and rearm. At the same time, Sgt. John Wright is attempting an emergency landing in a sportsfield at Tolworth - 9 miles west of Biggin Hill. He aborts because children are playing. 2 mins later he crashes at the end of a cul-de-sac - Wentworth Close, Ditton Hill. There were no civilian casualties on the ground.
Sgt Wright was pulled from the wreckage of his Hurricane but died from his injuries the next day. The Hurricane certainly had 'engine damage' before the crash. It is assummed that he was 'shot up' by one of the Me 110s as they forced their way north. He must have 'headed' on a fast descent - on a north westerley course to 'escape' - taking him to Tolworth where he was probably lost? Reports suggest that Sgt. Wright was wounded before the crash, but I have been unable to confirm this. It was a brave decision to abort the landing at Tolworth with a damaged aircraft which only stayed airborne for another couple of minutes. But it may have saved the lives of several children
Ironically the assumption made was that Sgt. Wright was part of the squadron attacking another raid on Brooklands (7 miles west) at the same time. But that squadron was No 253 from Kenley.
F/Lt. Richard Willoughby Reynolds 79 Sqn (d.11th Sept 1939)
Richard Willoughby Reynolds is buried in our local churchyard. We are curious to know how he died.
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