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No. 161 Squadron Royal Air Force in the Second World War 1939-1945 - The Wartime Memories Project -

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- No. 161 Squadron Royal Air Force during the Second World War -

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No. 161 Squadron Royal Air Force

   No 161 Squadron was originally formed as a day bomber unit in June 1918, but disbanded in July to provide personnel for other units.

It re-formed at Newmarket in February 1942 from a nucleus from No 138 Squadron and the King's Flight. It was a highly secretive unit used by the Special Operations Executive to drop supplies and agents over Europe, using Lysanders, Havocs and Hudsons. It also escorted convoys under the control of Fighter or Coastal Command. It received Halifaxes in November 1942 and Stirlings in 1944, continuing its covert tasks until the end of the war when No 161 was disbanded.

Airfields No. 161 Squadron flew from:

  • RAF Newmarket, Cambridgeshire from 15th February 1942 (Lysander IIIA, Hudson I, Whitley V)
  • RAF Graveley, Huntingdonshire from the 1st March 1942 (Special Duties)
  • RAF Tempsford, Bedfordshire from the 11th April 1942 (Halifax II, Halifax V, Albemarle II, Havoc I, Hudson III, Hudson V, Stirling III, Stirling IV. to 38 Group March 1945)


27th Aug 1940 Training

25th Sep 1942 161 Squadron Whitley lost

11th Nov 1943 

29th Aug 1944 161 Squadron Halifax lost

22nd Feb 1945 161 Squadron Hudson lost

21st Mar 1945 Hudson Lost

If you can provide any additional information, please add it here.

Those known to have served with

No. 161 Squadron Royal Air Force

during the Second World War 1939-1945.

  • Bicknell George Harold Allan. Sgt.
  • Brewer William Henry.
  • Brown Stanley Victor Douglas. WO (d.28th July 1945)
  • Clarke Norman. FO (d.5th March 1945)
  • Gray Eric Edward. WO (d.5th March 1945)
  • Johns Stephen Joshua. F/Lt.
  • Mahoney Frederick. WO (d.5th March 1945)
  • Morgan Ken. (d.5th Aug 1944)
  • Mott Arnold John. Sqd.Ldr.
  • Philp Ross Perrier. PO (d.7th Oct 1944)
  • Pulton James Ansford. F/O (d.21st April 1942)
  • Watson Frederick John. F/O. (d.5th March 1945)
  • Watts Arthur Henry. Fl.Sgt. (d.2nd August 1945)
  • Wigley Henry Thomas. F/O. (d.5th March 1945)

The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List

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F/Lt. Stephen Joshua "Johnnie" Johns DFC. 115 Squadron

My father, Flight Lieutenant Johns DFC, flew 30 sorties with 115 Squadron in 1941/1942 as an air gunner including first 1000 bomber raid on Cologne. He transferred to Honeybourne as a gunnery instructor then in 1943 to SOE and 161 squadron based in Tempsford, flying 22 secret missions into France, Norway, Denmark etc.

Stephen David johns

William Henry Brewer 161 Squadron

May 1942

Bill Brewer was posted to 11 OTU as Staff Wireless Operator in January 1944 after serving with 161 Squadron.

Alan Brewer

Sgt. George Harold Allan Bicknell 161 Squadron

George Bicknell served with 161 Squadon flying from RAF Tempsford. He flew with:

  • WM Bennett
  • Tommy Pocock
  • Paddy O'Connor Redge
  • W.H. Wilson
  • George Norris
He never talked about the War. We found out later from his keepsakes in trunk after he passed away. Never told his mother or wife either. We visited Tempsford. Very moving to be there and know how these men were so brave and dedicated.

Brenda Armstrong

Ken Morgan 161 Sqdn. (d.5th Aug 1944)

Pilot Officer Ken Morgan (wireless operator) from New Zealand was assigned to 161 Squadron at Tempsford near Waterbeach. He was shot down and killed on 5th August 1944, age 21. My understanding is that they were to pick up some French resistance members but the French were late at the pickup point and their plane had to circle for a while, giving the German plane time to find them and shoot them down. Ken is buried in Huiron Churchyard, Marne, France.

David Ballantyne

Sqd.Ldr. Arnold John Mott MBE. 78 Squadron

John Mott was an Evader and Escaper.

In the New Year of 1941 Sergeant Mott was piloting a two-engine Armstrong Whitworth Whitley of No 78 Squadron, after attacking the U-boat pens at Lorient on the French Atlantic coast, when he was shot down over Brittany. Baling out of his burning bomber over Lanvallon, Mott was hidden by the Delavignes, a staunchly anti-Boche couple, at their home at Nantes for four months. During this time he learned sufficient French from Tantine, his hostess, to be accepted as a local; he also assisted Resistance communications with London until he learned that a fellow airman, who knew his whereabouts, was being interrogated by the Gestapo. Fearing the worst, Mott walked into Spain in November and, as he put it, "thumbed a lift home from Gibraltar in an Australian Sunderland flying-boat".

Mott was debriefed and then posted to No 138, later 161, both special duties squadrons designated to SOE. Piloting a Westland Lysander, he began to fly agents and others in and out of occupied France. On the 28th of May 1942 Mott, by now a flight lieutenant, John was forced to abandon his Lysander, bogged down in a field at Chateauroux, after landing his passenger - a Belgian fighter pilot who, having been shot down and lost an eye, had volunteered to join the MI9 escape line which had helped him back to Britain. The two men split up, Mott making his way to La Chartre, where he fell into the hands of the French police. It did not help that the town was strongly pro-Vichy. Mott was held in French prisons until he was passed on to Genoa, from where, following the Italian armistice in September 1943, he was put on a train to Austria. After cutting a hole in their cattle truck, Mott and some fellow officers escaped but encountered a band of Yugoslav partisans who mistook them for Germans; Mott was being forced to dig his own grave when a British liaison officer arrived and intervened. The partisans were attacked by German troops and Mott, anxious to distance himself from the enemy, made his way back to Italy where, in February 1944, he was befriended by a Contessa Cancellucia and provided with forged papers. In the company of a small group of others who were escaping, which had pooled borrowed money, Mott put to sea aboard a German whaler which he dragged to the water with the help of some cows. Naming the boat Pitch and Toss, Mott and his friends reached advancing Allied troops at Porto San Giorgio, south of Monte Cassino, on March 19 1944. Half-starved and seasick, Mott landed just as Mount Vesuvius was erupting. The first British officer to welcome and interrogate him was his younger brother Pip, whom he had not seen since 1937.

Arnold John Mott was born on 12th of May 1916, and was educated at Christ's Hospital, it was here that his determination to fly was inspired by the sight of a Zeppelin overhead. He joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in 1938, and was mobilised on the outbreak of war, remaining in the regular Service until 1959 when he retired and joined the Inland Revenue as a tax inspector.

Stella Marsh

Fl.Sgt. Arthur Henry Watts 165 Sqdn. (d.2nd August 1945)

Flight Sergeant Watts was killed when his Spitfire PL262 crashed into a river one mile east of Vaernes by Trondheim. He is buried in Vaernes Churchyard, Norway.

WO Stanley Victor Douglas Brown 165 Sqdn. (d.28th July 1945)

Warrant Officer Brown died flying his Spitfire MJ785 in Norway. He is buried in Vaernes Churchyard, Norway.

F/O James Ansford Pulton 138 Sqdn. (d.21st April 1942)

138 Squadron flew on Special Operations duties in WWII, and lost an aircraft on 21st April 1942 over Austria. The crew were:
  • Wing Co W.R. Farley DFC, RAF (2nd pilot)
  • F/O J.A. Pulton, RAFVR (airgunner) (CWG information states "161 Sqdn")
  • F/O R. Zygmuntowicz, PAF (pilot)
  • Sgt C. Madracki, PAF (navigator)
  • F/Sgt B Karbowski, PAF (rear gunner)
  • Capt. A.H. Voellnagel, RAF
  • Sgt L. Wilmanski, PAF (airbomber)
  • Sgt M. Wojciechowski, PAF (wop/airgunner)

    All the crew were buried in Durnbach War Cemetery, Collective Grave 9.H.20-24.

  • PO Ross Perrier Philp 161 Squadron (d.7th Oct 1944)

    Pilot Officer Ross Philp was the Son of Roslyn Foster Bowie Philp and Marjorie Alice Hewson Philp, of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. He was 21 when he died and is buried in the Gording Churchyard in Denmark.

    s flynn

    FO Norman Clarke 161 Sqdn. (d.5th March 1945)

    Flying Officer (Navigator) Clarke was the Son of Charles William and Sarah Ellen Clarke, of West Bromwich, Staffordshire; husband of Fanny Irene Clarke, of West Bromwich.

    He was 37 when he died and is buried in Grave 16 in the Logstar General Cemetery in Denmark.

    His Stirling LK312 was hit by flak and crashed into Limfjorden, off Livo Island, Denmark.

    S Flynn

    WO Eric Edward Gray 161 Sqdn. (d.5th March 1945)

    Warrant Officer (Air Gunner) Gray was the Son of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Gray, of Stoke Newington, London.

    He was 21 when he died and is buried in Grave 18 in the Logstar General Cemetery in Denmark.

    His Stirling LK312 was hit by flak and crashed into Limfjorden, off Livo Island, Denmark.

    S Flynn

    WO Frederick Mahoney 161 Squadron (d.5th March 1945)

    Warrant Officer (Air Gunner) Frederick Mahoney is buried in the Logstar General Cemetery in Denmark.

    S Flynn

    F/O. Henry Thomas Wigley DFC. 161 Squadron (d.5th March 1945)

    Flying Officer (Air Bomber) Henry Wigley was the Son of Frederick Henry Wigley and Dorothy Clarice Wigley, of Winchester. He was aged 23 when he died and is buried in the Logstar General Cemetery in Denmark.

    S Flynn

    F/O. Frederick John Watson DFM. 161 Squadron (d.5th March 1945)

    Flying Officer (Flight Engineer) Frederick Watson was the son of Frederick John and Margret Watson, husband of Marjorie Maria Watson of Orpington, Kent. He was 26 years old when he died and is buried in the Sejerslev Churchyard in Denmark.

    S Flynn

    Recomended Reading.

    Available at discounted prices.

    Runways to Freedom

    Robert Body

    The Nazi occupation of much of Western Europe in early 1940 posed many challenges for the British Secret Services. A high priority was to find an effective means of infiltrating and exfiltrating agents and, later, reliable methods for supplying the growing resistance movements with arms and ammunition. The work fell outside the normal duties of Raf squadrons so, in March 1940, RAF Tempsford in Bedfordshire became the base for No.138 (Sd) Squadron and No. 161 (Sd) Squadrons. Flying mainly by the light of the full moon, these two squadrons operated throughout the length and breadth of Western Europe, delivering agents and supplies. Without the agents the secret services would have been hamstrung, and without the supplies the resistance movements would have been unable to participate in the armed struggle. By the end of the war, the Squadrons had, between them, lost in excess of 600 men. This Is Their Story.
    More information on:

    Runways to Freedom


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