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WWII Patch, RAF 121st Eagle Squadron No.121 Dumbo Battle of Brittan

WWII Patch, RAF 121st Eagle Squadron No.121 Dumbo Battle of Brittan

Product Information
WWII US AAF / RAF 121st Eagle Squadron Patch
RAF Eagle Squadron No. 121
Royal Air Force Fighter Squadron 121
an American volunteer group of pilots flying for the UK
Battle of Brittan

Walt Disney Design - Dumbo the elephant
4.75 inches
 

Eagle Squadron History
The Eagle Squadrons were made up of volunteers from the United States who served under the RAF prior to the U.S. entry into the war.
The Eagle Squadrons were 3 separate fighter squadrons - No. 71, No. 121 and No. 133 - of the Royal Air Force formed during World War II with volunteer pilots from the United States. While many US recruits simply crossed the border and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force  to learn to fly and fight, many of the early recruits had originally come to Europe to fight for Finland against the Soviets in the Winter War. Charles Sweeny, a wealthy businessman living in London, began recruiting American citizens to fight as a US volunteer detachment in the French Air force, echoing the Lafayette Escadrille of the Great War. With the fall of France a dozen of these recruits joined the RAF. Sweeny's efforts were also coordinated in Canada by World War I air ace Billy Bishop and with artist Clayton Knight who formed the Clayton Knight Committee, who, by the time the USA entered the war in December 1941, had processed and approved 6,700 applications from Americans to join the RCAF or RAF. Sweeny and his rich society contacts bore the cost (over $100,000) of processing and bringing the US trainees to the UK for training. 
The Battle of Britain raged from May though October 1940. Most Americans followed the battle in the news and knew that in time the US would become involved in the war. The stories of the RAF pilots flying their Hurricanes and Spitfires inspired many to look into joining the RAF. As a result of the Battle of Britain the RAF was short on pilots so a call went out for pilots to replace the RAF's depleted ranks. Of the thousands that volunteered, 244 American pilots were to fly for the Eagle Squadrons; Number 71, 121, and 133 Squadrons of the Royal Air Force Fighter Command. It was the RAF's policy to pick Englishmen as squadron and flight commanders and 16 of these British pilots served with the Eagle Squadrons. From the time the first Eagle Squadron was formed in September 1940 until all three squadrons were disbanded and incorporated into the USAAF in September 1942, they destroyed 73 1/2 German planes while 77 American and 5 British members were killed.

The first Eagle Squadron (No. 71) was formed in September 1940, and became operational for defensive duties on 5 February 1941. The three Eagle Squadrons were numbered 71, 121, and 133. Of the thousands that volunteered, 244 Americans served with the three Eagle Squadrons; 16 Britons also served as Squadron and Flight commanders.

71 Squadron commenced operations base at RAF Church Fenton in early 1941, before a move to Kirton-in-Lindsay. In April the Squadron transferred to RAF Martlesham Heath in Suffolk for operations over Europe. During May they suffered their first loss when Mike Kolendorski was killed during a fighter sweep over Holland. Intensity of operations stepped up with a move into No 11 Group of Fighter Command, being based at RAF North Weald by June 1941. On 2 July William J. Hall became the first 'Eagle' pilot to become a POW when he was shot down during an escort mission. The squadron's first confirmed victory came on 21 July 1941 when P/O W. Dunn destroyed a Messerschmitt Bf 109-F over Lille. In August the Spitfire Mk II replaced their Hurricanes, before quickly re-equipping with the latest Spitfire Mk V. The unit soon established a high reputation, and numerous air kill claims were made in RAF fighter sweeps over the continent during the summer and autumn of 1941. In December the Squadron was rested back at Martlesham Heath, before a move to Debden in May 1942.

121 Squadron was formed at RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey in May 1941, flying Hurricanes on coastal convoy escort duties. On 15 September 1941 it destroyed its first German aircraft. The Hurricanes were replaced with Spitfires and the Mk V arrived in November 1941. The following month the Squadron moved to North Weald, replacing 71 Squadron. In 1942 it its offensive activities over the channel included bomber escorts and fighter sweeps.

133 Squadron was the last Eagle unit to be formed , at RAF Coltishall in July 1941 flying the Hurricane Mk IIb. A move to RAF Duxford followed in August, and re-equipment with the Spitfire Mk V early in 1942. In May the Squadron became part of the famed RAF Biggin Hill Wing. On 31 July 1942 during a bomber escort mission to Abbeville, 52-kill 'ace' Oblt. Rudolf Pflanz of 11./JG 2 engaged in combat with 133's Spitfires, and after shooting down one was then shot down and killed in his Bf 109 G-1 over Berck-sur-Mer, France; 133 claimed 3 destroyed and one probable while losing 3 aircraft. P/O "Jessie" Taylor accounted for 2 of the claims (a 109F and a FW 190) and P/O W. Baker was credited with a FW 190 destroyed. On 26 September 1942 11 of the unit's 12 brand new Spitfire Mk Ixs were lost on a mission over Morlaix, when escorting B-17s in heavy cloud. Strong winds blew the unit further South than realised and short of fuel the Squadron let down directly over Brest. Six of the squadron were shot down and taken prisoner, four were killed, one bailed and evaded capture while one crash landed in England. One of the British pilots taken prisoner, Flt Lt Gordon Brettell, was to be shot as one of the escapees in The Great Escape from Stalag Luft III in 1944.
The Dieppe Raid was the only occasion that all three Eagle Squadrons saw action operating together. No. 71 moved from Debden to Gravesend in mid August in anticipation of the Dieppe action, while No. 121 operated from Southend. 133 Squadron moved with No. 401 RCAF from Biggin Hill to Lympne, on the English south coast. 71 Squadron claimed a JU 88 shot down, 121 a single FW 190, while 133 claimed 4 FW190s, a Ju 88 and a Dornier Do 217 downed. Six 'Eagle' Spitfires were lost, with one pilot taken prisoner and one killed.  Through to the end of September 1942, the squadrons claimed to have destroyed 73½ German planes while 77 American and 5 British members were killed. 71 Squadron claimed 41 kills, 121 Squadron 18 kills, and 133 squadron 14½ kills.

When informed of the attack on Pearl Harbor, most of the Eagle Squadron pilots wanted to immediately join the fight against Japan. Representatives from 71 and 121 Squadrons went to the American Embassy in London and offered their services to the United States. The pilots from 71 Squadron decided they wanted to go to Singapore to fight the Japanese and a proposal was put to RAF Fighter Command, but it was turned down.

On 29 September 1942 the Eagle Squadrons were incorporated into the Fourth Fighter Group, USAAF as the 334th(71), 335th(121), and 336th(133).
The three squadrons were officially turned over by the RAF to the fledgling Eighth Air Force of the USAAF and became the 4th Fighter Group. Negotiations regarding the transfer between the Eagle Squadrons, USAAF, and the RAF had to resolve a number of issues. The RAF wanted some compensation for losing three front-line squadrons in which they had heavily invested. Determining what rank each pilot would assume in the USAAF had to be negotiated, with most being given a rank equivalent to their RAF rank. None of the Eagle Squadron pilots had served in the USAAF and did not have US pilot wings. It was decided to give them US pilot wings upon their transfer.

Major General Carl Spaatz, head of the USAAF in Europe, wanted to spread the experience of the Eagles amongst various new US fighter squadrons. However, the pilots of the three Eagle Squadrons wanted to stay together. The squadrons (No. 71; No. 121; and No. 133) were respectively designated by the USAAF as the 334th, 335th, and 336th and transferred as complete units, retaining their Spitfires until P-47 Thunderbolts became available in January 1943. The 4th Fighter Group flew Spitfires until its conversion to P-47s was completed in April 1943.

Price: $250.00 $175.00


Product Code: PatchX.RAF.121EagleSquadron
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