Saturday, 14 February 1942

161 Squadron

No. 161 Squadron is officially formed at RAF Newmarket Heath. It is to take over the Lysander Flight and one Flight of Whitleys from No. 138 Squadron. It will receive more Whitleys as well. The squadron’s Commanding Officer is to be W/Cdr E.H. Fielden, MVO, who has been the King’s personal pilot and commander of the King’s Flight, which has been disbanded. The King’s Flight’s Royal responsibilities will now be carried out by No. 24 (Communications) Squadron, based at Hendon.

The existence of the new squadron will ensure that the relatively small operational requirements of the Secret Intelligence Service SIS are not swamped by the rapid expansion of SOE. SIS has always enjoyed official priority over SOE when it comes to allocating scarce air resources, and this policy has caused considerable resentment. The Lysanders have always been (officially at least) exclusively allocated for SIS purposes, and only two sorties (‘Night Embarkation’ in September 1941, and STOAT in December) have involved SOE personnel. The Whitley Flight is intended for parachuting SIS agents, but in practice it will also take on a fair share of the burden of SOE parachuting operations. In fact No. 138 Squadron does drop a few SIS agents; these operations are marked in the operations summary books.

A Lockheed Hudson belonging to the King’s Flight is to join No. 161 Squadron; the purpose is not clear, for at this stage there is no intention to use this twin-engined aircraft for clandestine operations into Occupied Europe, or indeed into Unoccupied France. In fact it is another year before Hudsons are used operationally in this role.


The 138 Squadron Operations Record Book notes that S/Ldr A.M. ‘Sticky’ Murphy is posted to the newly-formed 161 Squadron, RAF Gravelly, but the 161 Squadron ORB records 161 Squadron’s formation at Newmarket on the same date. The 138 Squadron ORB will be written up from scratch at some time in the future: the fact that it gets Murphy’s destination and rank wrong — he is atill a Flight Lieutenant — is one of many pointers towards 138 Squadron’s ORB being created after the move to Tempsford.