No. 211 Squadron RAF

Toujours à propos

The story of No. 211 (Bomber) Squadron RAF in World War II, as recorded at the time and as recalled today by surviving members. This site was launched on Easter Sunday 2001, on the 60th anniversary of the Squadron’s most significant operation in Greece.

Some five years ago, I set out to make a simple copy of my father’s notes of his service with 211 Squadron from 1940 to 1942. As the puzzles revealed by those notes and by the available books led to more and more research, the simple copy became a little book, now revised and greatly extended as a website.

As a developing record of 211 Squadron history, the site now covers the whole World War II period from the re-forming of the Squadron in 1937 to its final disbandment in 1946. Much of the background and the unit history are now covered in some detail, with extensive notes on the Bristol Blenheim, the Middle East and Far East campaigns, and the narratives and photographs not only of my father but of many other members of the Squadron. The order of material is a sensible compromise between background, chronology, theatre, and the individual narratives. There is still much of the official record that could be added.

In the matter of recording the Squadron's story there are very differing views on what might be the right thing to be done. The history of 211 Squadron in World War II is told rarely, obscurely or incompletely on the Web and until recently, in few books. Putting some of the story on record has also meant dealing with numerous requests for information, many poignantly sincere and some frankly thoughtless. These factors led in the end to this website.

As a respectful archive from those who wished to record, for all who wish to seek for themselves, this site does not aim to romanticise or glorify war. Many years have now passed since young men went to fight against awful things. Their service was not in vain, despite the waste of war, yet none of those who returned were untouched by what they had survived. As for those who went but were never to return:

"They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the Sun and in the morning,
We will remember them."
Lest we forget

The Squadron badge
“Argent an azure lion rampant disjoint ducally crowned or”.
The badge, awarded and approved by HM King George VI in July 1938, recalls the origins of the Squadron in the latter part of World War I. Taken from the coat of arms of the Belgian city of Bruges (Brugge), seat of the Dukes of Burgundy and a port since mediaeval times, the blue lion wears the crown of a Duke but appears with his paws and head severed - in symbolic acknowledgement of the squadron's success in its main task, the destruction of Bruges docks.

The Squadron motto
Toujours à propos
Generally taken to mean Always at the right moment, but equally might be understood as Always to the purpose.

The Ode
For the Fallen (Laurence Binyon 1869-1943) was published in The Times in 1914. This, the fourth stanza, was recited at the dedication of the London Cenotaph in 1919. Among English-speaking peoples, it has become part of the custom and usage of Armistice Day and like solemnities, where the young and the old gather to give thanks and to reflect.

Acknowledgements
The valuable research facilities of the National Archives of Australia, the National Library of Australia and the Australian War Memorial Research Centre and the expert, kindly and cheerful assistance of their highly professional staff made the compiling of the original book possible and very absorbing. Other assistance came from Tim Hughes, the UK Public Records Office and the Imperial War Museum.

I came to know the story of the 211s in the Far East through the indefatigable Hugh Campbell. I am proud too, to have made acquaintance with the redoubtable Bill Baird and with Ron McKnight both of 211 Squadron. Adrian Fryatt, son of another 211 and a tireless correspondent, has cheerfully wheedled stories and photographs from many of the boys. And without their wonderful pictures and stories, none of these later developments would have occurred. Along the way I have made contact with many others, too numerous to mention but whom I also thank.

Don Clark
Latham
Australian Capital Territory
March 2002

 

Created: 28 Apr, 2002 Updated: 28 Apr, 2002