59 History
- Post WWII - No. 59 Squadron Service History -
....:::: 59 Sqn Jet Bombers - English Electric Canberra - 1956-61::::....
This page is dedicated to Flying Officers Harrop & Brown - who lost their lives in 59 Squadron XH207 after a training accident near the Sorpe Dam in Germany, on 4th March, 1959. The two officers were laid to rest on the 11th March, at Rheindahlen Military Cemetery with full military honours. Sections of the entire Station were represented and the service was officiated by Wing Commander T.E. Warner, the Station Chaplin. Rest In Peace.

The Final Hoorah! (for now)... After duties during the Berlin Airlift ended, the squadron was disbanded but reformed again in August 1956 when No. 102 Squadron was re-numbered 59. The 're-numbering' of squadrons: Each squadron has a level of 'seniority' in terms of service, past and present. This is measured by not only the length of time served but also duties undertaken, previous or current designation of duty and I guess, the level of 'recognition' it has throughout the RAF... This 'seniority' is applicable to both operational, currently serving units and those stood-down. This is shown by the coming and going of 59 Squadron whilst flying the Canberra. In 1956, when 102 Sqn was renumbered to '59'... this is an example of '59's seniority having precedence over other squadrons stood-down at the time, their history with 'bombers' and previous designation of duty, perhaps playing a role too in the decision to resurrect the unit, to fly the Canberra Jet Bomber. Then in late 1960, when the very long serving No.3 Squadron lost their Javelins, to keep the more senior No.3 alive, 59 was renumbered... According to this source, this is possibly the last instance that a squadron was renumbered in such a fashion (at least up until 2010, when it was posted)... A quick note on the the renumbering of 102 Sqn in 1956... this may have been due to the phasing out of the Canberra aircraft equipped for high-level bombing by Bomber Command, after the introduction of the Vickers Valiant. With the new B.(I).8 on it's way, and the new task of low level bombing at hand, perhaps it was an opportunity to resurrect an old number plate...

I have recently been contacted by JP Speirs (aka Jock) who sent me the image above of a Canberra 8 XH231. He served with 59 from 1959 through to 1961. He also informed me that his pilot Les Bywater has sadly passed away. Les built a site dedicated to the Canberra and all those that flew it. Please take the time to visit the site here

Flying the Canberra! By Oct the newly reformed Squadron were stationed at RAFG Bruggen (Germany) were they began flying the Canberra B(2). The Canberra was a jet bomber essentially built on the design of two WWII veterans, the De Havilland Mosquito and the Gloster Meteor. It was designed to be fast enough and be able to climb to a high enough altitude to avoid enemy confrontation. Legible ORB summary notes begin Dec. 1956 at RAF Glutersloh, under the command of Wing Commander A. Ashworth, DSO, DFC, AFC. At this time, the Squadron had 106 airmen ground crew on force and the listed flight personnel below. Aircraft establishment was 1 Canberra T.4 (for transport & training purposes) and 16 Canberra B.2's, however by the end of the year this was reduced to 12. As also noted by Brian Molloy below, the Squadron was part of the 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force, designated as a night ground attack unit. Operations during Dec. included a N.A.T.O high level interception exercise code named 'Argua" and three Army Co-Op exercises, which is somewhat a return to former designation for the Squadron, as a past Army Co-Operation unit prior to and during early 1940. Training was undertaken in the new shallow dive bombing technique with good results (LABS perhaps?). One Canberra was damaged with F/O J. Law at the controls, after the turbo starter of WH658 jammed and disintegrated causing severe damage to the engine cowling and minor damage to the fuselage and No.1 fuel tank. A piece od the starter also pierced the fuselage of Canberra WJ613 causing Cat.3 damage. The Squadron Commanders Remarks for the month notes that the aircraft were modified with a new canopy and that 254 Bombs were dropped and that the form of weapons training (which was new to all) proved stimulating to all who took part... I'm assuming that this means that a good level of progression was made...

....:::: Nominal Roll of Officers - January 1957 ::::....
Rank Name Muster
Wing Commander A. Ashworth DSO, DFC, AFC Pilot
Squadron Leader E. Stephenson - O.C. 'A' Flight Pilot
Squadron Leader B.H Reece - O.C. 'B' Flight Pilot
Squadron Leader K.R. Lang O.C. 'A' Flight (prior to the above) Pilot
Squadron Leader J. Mackintosh (Bombing Leader) Navigator
Squadron Leader R. Whittington (Navigation Leader) Navigator
Flight Lt. C.H. Brooke Pilot
Flight Lt. W.C. Cox Pilot
Flight Lt. P.J. Giddens Pilot
Flight Lt. I.L.H Hamage DFM Navigator
Flight Lt. F. Harcliffe (Station Flight Safety Officer) Pilot
Flight Lt. A.W. Paterson Pilot
Flight Lt. W.J.H. Powell (became 'A' Flight O.C in June 57) Pilot
Flight Lt. C.S. Ruddy Pilot
Flight Lt. D.M. Stevenson Pilot
Flight Lt. D. Winterbottom Pilot
Flying Officer P.B. Adams Navigator
Flying Officer N.W. Blanchard Navigator
Flying Officer J.B. Boss Navigator
Flying Officer J.M. Boyd Navigator
Flying Officer J.B. Clapham Navigator
Flying Officer J.P. Clarke Navigator
Flying Officer J.R. Davies Navigator
Flying Officer J.D. Davis Pilot
Flying Officer N. Dodd Navigator
Flying Officer T.H. Dury Navigator
Flying Officer K. Eacott Navigator
Flying Officer E.W. Edwards Navigator
Flying Officer C.H. Hill Pilot
Flying Officer M. Hudson Navigator
Flying Officer C.G. Hodkinson Pilot
Flying Officer J. Law Pilot
Flying Officer P.G.W. Lewis Pilot
Flying Officer P.G. Masterman Navigator
Flying Officer C.J. Newton Navigator
Flying Officer W.R. Rankin Pilot
Flying Officer D. Sawden Pilot
Flying Officer A.O. Smythe Pilot
Flying Officer J.P.S Thirkell Navigator
Flying Officer J. Taylor Navigator
Flying Officer J. Tindell Navigator
Flying Officer R. Turner Navigator
Flying Officer B. Wildig Navigator
Rank Name Muster
Corporal M.F. Eggelton Unknown
....:::: JOINED SQUADRON POST JANUARY 1957 ::::....
Rank Name Muster
Flight Lt. G.A. Coatesworth (07/57) Pilot
Flight Lt. S.A. Curtis (07/57) Navigator
....:::: KNOW OF ANYONE MISSED FROM 59 SQDN? ::::....

The Last Post! A few months later they were posted to RAFG Geilenkirchen in Feb. 1946, where they would stay until being disbanded for the last time on new years day, 1961and at that time operating the newer B(1)8. March 1946, saw a downscaling in the Aircraft Establishment in anticipation of the arrival of the newer model Canberra. It is unknown at this stage exactly when the first B(1)8's arrived but on the 25th April, W/C Ashton and S/Ldr Stephenson were the first to test run the first two, delivered from NO. 23 M.U, at Aldergrove. Wing Commanders Remarks for May, state that five more B(I)8's arrived during the month. The conversion program started on the 6th May. On the 14th, a review of the conversion progress notes:

"The Canberra B.8 conversion program continues, but not, unfortunately, at a very rapid rate, the number of aircraft available seriously curtailing it..."


14th May 1961 - WJ680 damaged: F/O J. Law & navigator (possibly F/L P.D. Adams), operating Canberra B.2 WJ680, collided with a bird at 2500ft, at 300knots. The bird struck & shattered the canopy, causing Cat.3 damage. Fortunately, neither occupant was injured and the pilot did a commendable job in bringing the aircraft safely back to base at a reduced speed.

To Australia! Temora Aviation Museum acquired the aircraft in May 2001. The Museum repainted the aircraft to represent those flown by the Royal Australian Air Force 2 Squadron during the Vietnam conflict (pictured above). The aircraft is maintained in an airworthy condition and regularly flown at Museum Showcase Days and airshows. read more

On the 17th, the A.O.C. I/C. 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force, Air Marshal, The Earl of Bandon, KBE, CB, CVO, DSO, visited the base and was given a farewell luncheon, upon relinquishing his duties and taking up a new post as CinC, Far East Air Force. After lunch, he was towed by officers of the mess, in a locally made chariot to his awaiting aircraft. On the 30th May, 59 Squadron won the inter-squadron sports competition. The ORB notes that it was in part, due to the athletic ability of Corporal M.F. Eggelton.

In June, conversion continues and on the 4th, there is an interesting note that states:

"complaints have been lodged by navigators that their crew space is extremely cramped, and that the temperature control unit belches forth showers of ice and snow when the pilot selects, what is for him, a comfortable temperature level..."

More to follow soon...

(left) 59 Sqn B(1)8 XH207 - served from Oct 1956 until March 1959, when it crashed (killing both crew) in bad weather, 3 miles sth of the Sorpe Dam (one of the targets attacked by 617 Sqn "Dambusters" during Operation Chastise, 1943). This photo taken by Mick Crewe, shows XH207, fitted with a gun-pack, during an Open Day at RAFG Jever in 1958.

June 2013:

I have recently been contacted by Brian Molloy, who served with 59 Sqn from 1959-61.

I served on 59 Sqdn in the years of 1959 to 1961. At that time the Sqdn was based at RAF Geilenkirchen(?) in Germany. The airforce, in Germany, was part of the 2nd Tactical Air Force—2TAF. At this time we were flying Canberra B8’s. The Sqdn was frequently sent to Cyprus for bombing practice, and the aircrew showed their skills with many on target drops. Also the stood-down aircrew would take cine films of the aircraft flying below them ( they were standing on the balcony of the air traffic tower-40 feet above the ground). Highly impressive looking at the top of a flying Canberra!

Thanks for getting in touch Brian.


:::: XH204 - Goes Missing ::::...

(above) XH204 - in service with 59 Sqn at RAF Gutersloh, Germany. XH204 would later continue its service with No.3 Squadron in 1961.


In October 1957, J/T John Neville, a young Electrical Fitter - Stole XH204 - read more
:::: 59 Squadron Canberra's ::::...
The following aircraft served with 59 Squadron: WT330 - WT345 - WT363 - WT364 - WT366 - XH204 - XH207 - XH208 - XH209 - XH228 - XH234 - XK952 - XM271 - XM936. (more info)


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This site was created by and information compiled by L.Del Mann - © 2008