A History of 39 Squadron RAF and the 39th Squadron Marauder Association

  1916 - Formed at Hounslow with a range of fighters in an attempt to defend against German Zeppelin raids on London.
  1958 - Started operating Canberra – its last manned aircraft
  2006 - Last RAF Squadron flying Canberra PR9 – squadron disbanded.
  2007 - Reformed at Creech AFB to operate unmanned Predator MQ-9.

Current Aircraft and Location:
Current Aircraft: Predator MQ-9 Reaper
Current Location: Creech AFB, Nevada, USA

Battle Honours:

  • Home Defence, 1916-1918
  • North West Frontier, 1930-1931
  • Mohmand, 1933
  • North West Frontier, 1935-1939
  • East Africa, 1940
  • Egypt & Libya, 1940-1943
  • South East Europe, 1944-45
  • Iraq 2003

The History of 39 Squadron RAF to date
One of the Home Defence squadrons, No 39 was formed at Hounslow on 15 April 1916 and operated detachments at Hainault Farm and Sutton's Farm. In August a detachment was established at North Weald. Operations against Zeppelins and later Gotha bombers continued until November 1918, with no success, initially with BE2s and from September 1917, Bristol F2Bs. In November 1918 the squadron was sent to France but five days later the Armistice came along and the squadron disbanded on 16 November 1918.

However, 39 was soon back when No 37 was re-numbered on 1 July 1919 at Biggin Hill but remained a cadre (no aircraft) until February 1923 when DH9As were received at Spittlegate near Grantham. The squadron transferred to India in December 1928 and received Wapitis in February 1929 which were used for patrolling the North-West Frontier. Harts arrived in November 1931 and Blenheims in August 1939, following which the squadron transferred to Singapore. Returning to India in April 1940, it was intended that the squadron should carry on to the Middle East but was diverted to Aden instead. From here it operated against Italian targets in East Africa until November 1940 when it moved to Egypt.

New equipment arrived in January 1941 in the form of Marylands, which it used for strategic reconnaissance duties until January 1942. Beauforts were also operated in the anti-shipping role from August 1941 and this became its main role following the withdrawal of the Marylands in January 1942. Early in 1942 it kept a detachment in Malta and on 20 August this element amalgamated with similar elements of No's 86 and 217 Squadrons to become 39, whilst the rest of 39 joined No 47 Squadron. Continuing in the torpedo bomber role its Beauforts were replaced by Beaufighters in June 1943. With the Beaufighter it added night intruder sorties to its list of roles, operating all around the Central Mediterranean area. A move to Italy in July 1944 allowed it to operate over the Balkans as well as the coasts of Italy and French coasts. Marauders began to arrive in December 1944 and it resumed operations in February 1945, but in October it was transferred to the Sudan and re-equipped with Mosquitos, where it disbanded on 8 September 1946.

Reformed at Nairobi in Kenya on 1 April 1948 the squadron flew Tempests in the area until disbanding on 28 February 1949. The following day it reformed at Fayid in the Canal Zone as a Mosquito night fighter unit tasked with the defence of the Suez Canal. It received Meteors in March 1953, moving to Malta in January 1955, disbanding at Luqa on 30 June 1958. Another 39 Squadron appeared the next day when No 69 Squadron at Luqa was re-numbered. It operated Canberra PR Mk 3s in the photo-reconnaissance role from Malta until Oct 1962 when PR Mk 9s were received.

In September 1970, the Squadron returned to RAF Wyton where it continued to operate in the same role until disbanding on 1 June 1982.  Its final Canberra incarnation began on 1 July 1992 when No 1 PRU at Wyton, equipped with Canberra PR Mk 9 aircraft was re-numbered 39 (1 PRU) and moved to RAF Marham in December 1993.  During its latter years of Canberra operations, the Squadron remained busy in support of UK forces operating in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  Indeed, its last aircraft only returned from operations over Afghanistan 5 weeks before the Squadron was disbanded on 31 July 2006. 

No 39 Sqn was reformed on 1 January 2007, at Creech AFB, and became the first RAF Squadron to be equipped with unmanned aerial vehicles, operating the Predator MQ-9, REAPER, aircraft.  Additionally, the Sqn provides administrative support to UK personnel operating Predator MQ-1, under the auspices of the Combined Joint Predator Task Force, also from Creech AFB.  A new Squadron Standard was presented on 23 January 2008 and the ceremony was presided over by the Reverend Richard Lee, who also officiated when the previous Standard was hung in St Clement Dane’s, in London, on 30 July 2006.

The 39th Squadron Marauder Association
The 39th Squadron Marauder Association was formally created in 1981-2. Informal Marauder men reunions had been held at infrequent intervals since 1951, when Pete Hatcher wrote to a number of his contacts and arranged the first reunion at the Crown Hotel in London, to which it appears from the records, thirty four attended. Further reunions were held in 1952, 1953, 1954 and 1955-in the latter year some fifty-four attended, the best ever attendance. Some "empty" years occurred, and the next reunion was not until 1969, and then not until 1972 when wives attended for the first time. A second "barren" period now ensued, and it was not until 1981 that another reunion took place at RAF Wyton, with the 39 Squadron RAF hosting the event. The following year a second visit to Wyton occurred with the Squadron hosting Trente Novan's from WW1 to the present day. Marauder Men from 1945 were the biggest contingent, apart from the then flying Canberra crews.

Since 1982, with the formal organisation in place, annual reunions were started and from 1984 to 1993 they were held at RAF West Drayton. 1993 was the 19th. In 1994, RAF Sealand was the venue, and in 1995 it was decided to hold two reunions each year, one at Sealand and one at the Falcon Hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon. Since 2001 the reunions have reverted to Stratford alone. The Association currently has upwards of one hundred and twenty members and the Association's Newsletter-The Trente Nova Marauder-is distributed four times a year by post.

Although many WW2 organisations are, or already have, "folded their tents" 39 Trente Nova has every intention of continuing and the current membership contains a number of Honorary and Second Generation members and besides this website has a Facebook site that enables every member to add photos and updates. This website is the main historical archive of the Marauder years as Peter Hatcher would have desired.


This photo shows the sixth 39 squadron (BAF) reunion at The RAF Club, Piccadilly, London on May 13th 1972

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