Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   
RAF, No. 125 (Newfoundland) Squadron

Royal Air Force No. 125 (Newfoundland) Squadron

Fitters working on the 1,030hp Rolls-Royce Merlin III of a No 125 (Newfoundland) Squadron Defiant at Fairwood Common, January 1942.  (IWM Photo)

In 1938 and 1939 the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company, in co-operation with the Daily Mail newspaper, subsidized 29 men from Newfoundland to cross the Atlantic and join the RAF.  When the Second World War began, they became the first Newfoundland airmen to serve in the war. 

Vickers Wellington in flight.  (RCAF Photo).  The first fatal casualty was F/O Philip F. Templeman of St. John’s.  He had joined the RAF in May 1937 and was shot down on 24 March 1940, while piloting a Wellington bomber of No. 37 Squadron.  At the time he was engaged in a leaflet dropping mission over northern Germany.  He died of his wounds 31 March 1940.

Supermarine Spitfire Mk. V, RCAF (Serial No. X4492), in flight, 26 Feb 1944.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3523323).  F/O George D. Ayre of St. John’s, a member of the RAF since May 1938, was fatally wounded flying a Spitfire of No. 609 Sqn over Dunkirk on 30 May 1940.


Boulton Paul P.82 Defiant, ca. 1941.  One is on display in the RAF Museum, London, UK.  (RAF Photo).  Pilot Officer Richard A. Howley of St. John’s, was shot down and killed on 19 July 1940, while piloting a Defiant fighter of No. 141 Sqn.  The retirement of the Defiant meant posting air gunners, many of whom were Newfoundlanders, to bomber and coastal squadrons, to be replaced by specialist radar operators.  During the war a total of 429 men were sent to Canada, trained either as aircrew or groundcrew, then posted overseas as members of the RAF. 

No. 125 Squadron (Newfoundland) was a Royal Air Force squadron active during and after the Second World War.  Like a number of Squadrons, No. 125 was initially formed during the later months of the First World War but never became operational before the Armistice.  No. 125 Squadron was reformed on 16 June 1941 at RAF Colerne in England where it was initially equipped with Boulton-Paul Defiant Mk. Is operating in a night fighter role with the Squadron Code VA on its aircraft.  The squadron became operational at the end of September covering western England and South Wales.

The squadron was raised as a result of a War Loan raised by the Newfoundland Commission on Government.  The Commission presented the British Government with $500,000 to establish the squadron with the hope that it would be manned by Newfoundlanders.

In September 1941 the squadron moved to RAF Fairwood Common and became fully operational with the Defiant proving to be a more than effective night fighter.

Bristol Beaufighter Mark VIF, MM849 'VA-I', of No. 125 Squadron RAF, being prepared for a night sortie at Exeter, Devon as aircrews stand by.  Note the VA Squadron identification letters.  (IWM Photo).  Inn the second photo, the navigator/radar operator of a No. 125 Squadron Beaufighter VIF settles into his position, ready for another night patrol from Exeter, 14 September 1943.  (IWM Photo)

Bristol Beaufighter TF.Xs (NV427 'EO-L' nearest) of RCAF No. 404 Squadron based at Dallachy, Morayshire, England, breaking formation during a flight along the Scottish coast.  (Flt Lt B.J. Daventry, RAF Photo).  By March 1942, No. 125 Squadron started converting to the twin-engined Bristol Beaufighter Mk. IIF and later Mk. VI.

Hawker Hurricane Mk. XII, No. 127 (F) Sqn, Gander, Newfoundland, May 1943.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3592489).  Defiants and Hawker Hurricanes were also used to supplement the Beaufighters.  Aircrews named some of their aircraft in recognition of its Newfoundland heritage.  St, John's, Corner Brook, Deer Lake and Buchans, Harbour Grace, Grand Falls, Bell Island, Bonavista, St. George’s, Heart’s Content, Grand Bank and Botwood were some of the names used.  November 1943 saw the squadron move to RAF Valley in Wales to enable patrols to take place over the Irish Sea. 


De Havilland Canada DH 98 Mosquito in flight.  (RAF Photo).  With a conversion to de Havilland Mosquito Mk. XVII and later Mk. 30s in February 1944, No. 125 moved to RAF Hurn in preparation to cover the Operation Overlord landings in Normandy.

German Second World War Fieseler FZG-76/Fi-103 V-1 Flying Bomb War Prize in the Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum, near the airport for Halifax, Nova Scotia.  With the commencement of V-1 attacks on London the squadron moved to RAF Middle Wallop to assist in the City's defence and to fly patrols from RAF Bradwell Bay over the Low Countries.  A Newfoundlander, Flight Sergeant Royle Cooper of Trinity Bay shot down the first V-1 flying bomb claimed by No. 125 Squadron on the night of 28 July 1944. 

A move to RAF Coltishall saw the squadron defend against enemy intruders and flying bomb carriers whilst undertaking reconnaissance to locate the remainder of German shipping.  Before the war ended, the squadron destroyed some 44 enemy aircraft, and damaged 20.  Although airmen from other countries accounted for the majority of these attacks, volunteers from Newfoundland and Labrador also played their part.  Internet:

Gloster Meteor in flight.  (RAF Photo).  After the war, No. 125 squadron was reformed with Gloster Meteor night fighters on 31 March 1955 at RAF Stradishall. 

De Havilland Venom.  (RAF Photo).  De Havilland Venoms replaced the Meteors in late 1955 and remained with the squadron until it was disbanded on 10 May 1957.