On 19 September 1940, at the height of the Battle of Britain, No. 71 was reformed at Church Fenton as the first 'Eagle' Squadron to be manned by American personnel.
Six of the original members were already members of the RAF. Eugene Quimby 'Red' Tobin, Andy Mamedoff, and Vernon Charles 'Shorty' Keough had all been in France, had escaped, and had subsequently seen combat with No.609 Squadron. Gregory 'Gus' Daymond had also been in France, but joined No.71 Squadron straight from training. Two other pilots also had combat experience: Arthur 'Art' Donahue with No.64 Squadron and Philip 'Zeke' Leckrone with No.616.
The coming months were difficult for these combat veterans. Most of the Squadron had only just arrived from America, and were still under training. The Squadron was equipped with Miles Master training aircraft, although they soon began to receive out-dated Brewster Buffalo fighters. Within weeks Art Donahue had requested and received a transfer back to No.64 Squadron. Meanwhile a concerted effort was made to 'prang' as many Buffaloes as possible to speed up the conversion onto a more modern types.
Image: IWM UPL 18234
American pilots of No. 71 (Eagle) Squadron RAF gathered in front of one of their Hawker Hurricanes at Kirton-in-Lindsey, Lincolnshire, 17 March 1941.
L to R:1.(83703) Charles Edward ‘Ed’ Bateman 2. (86619) William Henry ‘Bill’ Nichols – POW 3. +(84875) Stanley Michel ‘Mike’ Kolendorski 4. William Ervin G. ‘Bill’ Taylor 5. +(81621) Andrew B. ‘Andy’ Mamedoff 6. +(81622) Eugene Quimby ‘Red’ Tobin 7. (86617) Nathaniel ‘Nat’ Maranz 8. Luke Elbert Allen 9. +(83701) Kenneth Samson Taylor 10. Reginald Tongue (RAF) 11. (84657) Gregory Augustus Daymond – Fred Beaty 12. (87010) Sam Alfred Mauriello.
The Squadron received Hurricanes in November and became operational on defensive duties on 5 February 1941, flying defensive patrols out of RAF Kirton-on-Lindsay. In August they converted to Supermarine Spitfires, and began to take part in offensive patrols over northern Europe.
By this time two more Eagle Squadrons had been formed. On 14 May, 1941 No.121 Squadron had been formed at RAF Kirton-on-Lindsay, and in July No.133 Squadron was established at RAF Coltishall. Both were equipped with Hawker Hurricanes. No.133 became operational first, in September, 1941, followed in October by No.121. Both units were bolstered with experienced personnel posted from No.71 Squadron. Both squadrons were initially put onto home defence duties, patrolling the coast line against German raiders or protecting convoys.
In October, 1941, No.133 began to receive Supermarine Spitfires, as did No.121 the following month. By early 1942 all three Eagle Squadrons were equipped with Supermarine Spitfires, and were regularly taking part in 'sweeps' over France. Some of these were fighter patrols, seeking out air or ground targets, while others were escort operations for bombing raids.
Their greatest test came on 19 August, 1942, when all three squadrons were involved in Operation Jubilee - the landings at Dieppe. This large-scale raid by British and Canadian troops on the French coast was supported by a huge RAF effort. Nos.71 and 133 Squadrons both took part in four operations over the beaches, and No.121 made three sweeps. Between them, they were to claim nine enemy aircraft destroyed, four probably destroyed and fourteen damaged, for the loss of one pilot killed and one prisoner of war, both from No.121.