Thursday, 28 April 2011

War comes to the RAF in Sussex

Despite its designated role as a second line of defence, Sussex got off to a flying start when the war actually broke out. Within hours of the news breaking that Germany had invaded Poland, the head of Fighter Command, Sir Hugh Dowding, was in Tangmere. He had come to see squadron Leader P.  “Bull” Halahan, the commander of No.1 Squadron and he had a lot to say.

No.1 Squadron was one of those Hurricane squadrons earmarked for service in France. Preparations had been made weeks before to transport the squadron staff and all its ground equipment to France. Now Dowding came to give Bull Halahan some very specific instructions personally. He was not, Dowding said, to risk his aircraft or men unnecessarily. There was to be no fancy flying, just workmanlike missions. Above all, Halahan should expect no reinforcements. He had his 12 aircraft and 12 pilots which was what Dowding had been forced to promise the French. No more would go to France. Every fighter was going to be needed at home to protect British cities and British bases from attack.

Halahan did not record his reactions to this news. He led his squadron out to France to await the German onslaught. That left only No.43 Squadron at Tangmere, though they were soon joined by No.92 Squadron.


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