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No. 250 Squadron Royal Air Force in the Second World War 1939-1945 - The Wartime Memories Project -

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World War 2 Two II WW2 WWII

No. 250 Squadron Royal Air Force



 250 Squadron  250 Squadron was operational from 10 May 1918 until 31st May 1919 and based at Padstow. The squadron undertook anti-submarine patrols in the Bristol Channel and coastal reconnaissance. It was reformed in March 1940 at RAF Finningley as a training unit. In November 1940 the Squadron was sent abroad. They embarked at Liverpool on the Duchess of Richmond, sailing round the north of Ireland, then zig zagging south through the Atlantic to avoid enemy ships. They called in at Freetown, Cape Town & Durban. They were allowed off the boat in Durban for the first time. Local people came to meet the boat to offer hospitality & Ralph & a friend went back to a house for a meal. They embarked again the next day & sailed up to Tawfiq at the south end of the Suez Canal. From there they were taken by train to a transit camp in the desert and then crossed the Sinai Desert to Aqabah in Palestine. There they were assigned to operations on defensive duties in Syria and Palestine equipped with US Curtis P-40 Warhawk fighter planes - known in the RAF as 'Tomahawks'. The Squadron was moved down to Suez posted just outside Alexandria to defend it. From there they were sent to Mersa Matruh in the desert. They bulldozed airstrips in the desert & then chased Rommel across the desert for 6 months back & forth between Libya & Tunis. The Squadron was withdrawn from operations in February 1942 to undertake conversion to the upgraded P-40D 'Kittyhawk' fighter-bombers, and then returned to the desert in April as a fighter bomber unit. They provided support for the 8th Army, advancing with it through Libya into Tunisia to end the North African campaign. The German army was trapped in a pincer movement with the British moving in from one direction & the US from the other. In July 1943, the squadron flew to Malta to support the landings in Sicily moving there a few days afterwards. By mid-September it had occupied airfields in Italy where it spent the rest of the war flying fighter bomber missions. They were initially at Taranto (in the heel of Italy) and later in Bari and Foggia, where they faced sustained resistance by Italian resistance soldiers still holding out there. The Squadron returned to Britain at the end of hostilities and was disbanded on 30 December 1946.

 250 Squadron


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Those known to have served with

No. 250 Squadron Royal Air Force

during the Second World War 1939-1945.

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Cpl. Ralph Henry "Hop" Hopper 250 Squadron

Ralph - with moustache!

Ralph and Helen Hoppers wedding 29 June 1940

60th Wedding Anniversary, 29 June 2000

Ralph Hooper joined the RAF Reserve Force in 1938 at the time of the Munich Crisis. There was a radio call up of all reserve troops at the end of August 1939 when it became apparent that war could not be avoided.

Ralph & his friend Ray Gerrard were both called up. Ralph went to London as instructed & queued all night & next day without food. They were eventually sent to Ternhill in Shropshire to a training centre. They arrived in the evening when no one expected them. They were taken to a Nissan hut & given 3 trestles, a board, straw & a mattress case to make up a mattress! Eventually they were fed (after 24 hours.) People arrived daily & the room became more & more crowded. One night 30 people arrived. There was just one sink between all of them! Ralph was transferred to Harrowgate from December 1939 to March 1940. He went to Blackpool for a 6 week driving course. He was made up to Corporal & transferred to RAF Finningley near Doncaster from March to November 1940. He was in the 250 Squadron

Ralph & Helen Russ knew he would be posted abroard later in the year & planned to marry before he left. They originally planned to marry in early June, but with the crisis at Dunkirk, all leave was cancelled. He was given a weekend's leave (at 48 hours notice) at the end of June. He had to hitch a lift to London from Doncaster to get home. The RAF Sgt. who stopped to pick him up asked if he could drive - & Dad drove them to Nth. London while the Sgt. slept all the way! He took the Underground to Sth. London. A policeman stopped him & gave him a lift home to Hatch Rd. They married on the 29 June. Denis was best man & Violet Symons was the bridesmaid. Helen was given away by her Uncle Ebernezer Blowers - then an elderly man. His wife Georgina came to the reception. Afterwards they stayed overnight at their flat & then went to Ockham to Winnie Welford for the Sunday. On the Monday Ralph went back to the RAF Station.

In November 1940 Ralph's Squadron were sent abroad. They embarked at Liverpool on the Duchess of Richmond, sailing round the north of Ireland, then zig zagging south through the Atlantic to avoid enemy ships. They called in at Freetown, Cape Town & Durban. They were allowed off the boat in Durban for the first time. Local people came to meet the boat to offer hospitality & Ralph & a friend went back to a house for a meal. They embarked again the next day & sailed up to Tawfiq at the south end of the Suez Canal. From there they were taken by train to a transit camp in the desert. From there they crossed the Sinai Desert to Aqabah in Palestine where they stayed for 2 months as part of the 250 Sudan Squadron (see photo.) The first of the US built Tomahawks to be used by the RAF were there. Ralph & a friend were given a few days leave & were able to briefly visit some of the famous Christian sites in Palestine.

The Squadron was moved down to Suez again, this time posted just outside Alexandria to defend it. From there they were sent to Mersa Matruh in the desert. They bulldozed airstrips in the desert & then chased Rommel across the desert for 6 months back & forth between Libya & Tunis. Finally the Americans joined the War & they cornered the Germans in a pincer movement with the British moving in from one direction & the US from the other. Ralph especially remembers entering Tripoli after months in the desert & seeing the Highland Regiments march into the town in full Highland dress uniform to the swirl of bagpipes.

They were transferred to Malta & from there joined the invasion fleet landing on the beaches of Sicily. They moved right across Sicily. Throughout the war Ralph had driven supply lorries & because he had office experience he was given clerical work - including producing the Squadron Newsletter on an ancient typewriter. In Sicily a new Adjutant joined them. He had been the Editor of the Sth. African Daily Mail before the war. He "captured" a small printing press & things went "high tec." for a bit with the newsletter being printed off on it. It didn't last long! The Sicilian owner complained bitterly & it had to be returned!

After Italy surrendered they were transferred to Taranto (in the heel of Italy.) They progressed up Italy & were quartered in Bari. A group of them asked some local boys where the Casinos were - & were taken to the brothels instead! They moved on to Foggia, but could not go over the mountains because of Italian resistance soldiers still holding them.

The longest posting abroard was supposed to be 3 years. Ralph was playing cricket in Foggia when he heard that he was to be posted home! He'd been abroad for 4 years & hadn't seen Helen in all that time. They had corresponded throughout, often with passages deleted by the official censor. They sent each other telegrams when mail couldn't get through . Ralph was sent to Naples to transit camp & joined a ship. Ralph helped out in the orderly room. Once they found he could type he was in demand & was given documents to type - including secret ones. This meant he had plenty of coffee & cigarettes provided by the officers! They sailed back through the Straits of Gibraltar. D Day had already taken place by the time they landed in Greenock on the Clyde. They were stuck on the boat for 3 days, then eventually transferred to Morecombe by boat & train. Ralph disembarked still wearing his dirty tropical Khaki uniform & without luggage. He was kitted out, given leave & took a train to London. When he had left England 4 years previously, he had been clean shaven. He returned with a moustache. On arrival at their flat, the first loving words of greeting he heard were "Well you can take that dirty thing off!!"

He was posted to the RAF Police Training Station in Weeton near Blackpool. He was in charge of the orderly room, organising travel & travel permits. Helen gave up her post in London & joined him. She found a job with the MOD & they got digs. He was transferred to RAF Police HQ in Winchester - the Provo - Marshall's Office in June 1945 . Again he was in charge of routine orders, leave passes, warrants etc. This meant he was free to go home to London at weekends, so Helen returned to their flat. He stayed at HQ until December 1945 & then was sent to work at the RAF Special Investigation Unit at Princes Gate, Kensington. This meant he could live at home & travel daily to work. In February 1946 he was de-mobbed.

He returned to Accountancy, working for Matheson Kings from 1946 - 1950. He never took the exams that had been interrupted by the war, but because of his experience he became an Accountant with Cooper Brothers in the City in 1950. He stayed with them until we moved to Edinburgh in 1965, when he took up the appointment of Accountancy Manager with the Distillers Company. Ralph died, aged 91 on 5 April 2008 - 6 years after his beloved Helen.

Sheila Appleton







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