World War I
No 46 Squadron was formed at Wyton on 19 April 1916 from a nucleus trained in No 2 Reserve Squadron and, after a brief period of training, went to France in October 1916 equipped with Nieuport 2-seaters.
The Squadron's duties consisted of artillery co-operation, photography and reconnaissance until May 1917, when it took on a more offensive role after re-arming with the Sopwith
The change from a corps to a fighter squadron came at a moment when Allied air superiority was being seriously challenged by Germans, in particular by the introduction of the "circuses" which were formed and led by Baron Von Richthofen. Operating under the 11th Army Wing, the Squadron was intensively engaged and had many combats with the enemy. In July 1917, No 46 Squadron returned to Suttons Farm, Essex for the defence of London, which had been heavily raided by Gothas a short time previously; no enemy aircraft penetrated its patrol area however, and the Squadron returned to France at the end of August.
In addition to offensive patrol work, the Squadron undertook extensive ground strafing and did excellent close support work in the attack on Messines Ridges.
In November 1917, the Squadron was re-equipped with Sopwith Camels and gave valuable assistance to the infantry in the Cambrai attack. During the closing stages of the War, the Squadron was very active bombing lines of communication and ammunition dumps in the Enemy rear areas. It also did excellent work in the Great German Retreat in the few weeks before the signing of the Armistice. During 1918 Lt Victor Yeates the author of "Winged Victory" served on the Squadron. The book is considered one of finest of the First World War. Squadron aces are listed in following websites; English 1,
Towards the end of January 1919, No 46 Squadron was reduced to a cadre and returned to England early in February, being finally disbanded on the last day of the year.
World War II
The Squadron was reformed at Kenley under the RAF expansion scheme 1936, 3 years to a day before the outbreak of World War II. Gloster Gauntlets were the first type to be allocated to the Squadron and with these aircraft normal peacetime training activities were carried out.
The outbreak of war found No
46 Squadron at Digby,
equipped with Hawker
Hurricanes. Action with the Enemy quickly when, at the end
of October 1939, Squadron Leader Barwell and Pilot Officer Plummer attached a formation of 12 Heinkel 115s, destroying one each, and scattering the remainder. The next 6 months were uneventful, consisting in the main of providing air cover for the shipping convoys steaming along the East Coast; a few enemy aircraft were sighted but no contacts were made.
In May 1940, the Squadron was selected to form part of the Expeditionary Force in Norway, which had been invaded by the Germans on 9 April.
The Hurricanes were embarked on HMS Glorious and, despite doubts that a Hurricane could take off from a carrier flight deck in a flat calm, they all took off without difficulty thanks to the efforts of the ship's engineers who managed to get the Glorious up to a speed of 30 knots. No 46 Squadron assembled at Bardufoss and began operation on 26 May; patrols were maintained over the land and naval forces at Narvik without respite, some of the pilots going without sleep for more than 2 days.
Many air combats took place, and in its brief campaign in Norway the Squadron accounted for no less than 14 enemy aircraft, besides probably destroying many others. On 7 June the Squadron was ordered to evacuate Norway immediately and, on the night 7/8 June, the Hurricanes were successfully flown back to HMS Glorious - a dangerous procedure as none of the aircraft were fitted with deck arrester hooks.
The ground parties embarked on HMS Vindictive and SS Monarch of Bermuda and reached the UK safely, but the Squadron's aircraft and 8 of the pilots were lost when HMS Glorious was sunk by German warships on 9 June 1940. The 2 pilots who survived were the Squadron Commander Sqn Ldr (latter ACM) "Bing" Cross and the Flight Commander, Flt Lt (later Air Cdre) "Jamie" Jameson.