No. 222 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

No. 222 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No. 222 Squadron (RAF) during the Second World War

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No.222 Squadron was a fighter squadron that took part in the Dunkirk evacuations, the Battle of Britain and the invasion of North West Europe, before becoming one of the first jet fighter squadrons in the RAF in the summer of 1945.

The squadron reformed on 5 October 1939 at Duxford as a shipping protection squadron equipped with the Blenheim bomber, but this was a short-lived role, and in March 1940 the squadron converted to the Spitfire and became a day fighter squadron in No.12 Group. The squadron moved south to Essex in May to help cover the Dunkirk evacuation, before returning to Lincolnshire where it remained during the first part of the Battle of Britain.

At the end of August the squadron moved south to join No.11 Group, arriving at Hornchurch on 29 August and remaining there until mid November. This meant that the squadron was involved in the most dangerous part of the Battle of Britain, the assault on Fighter Command's inland airfields that lasted from 24 August until 6 September. Hornchurch was the target of repeated raids, including one on 31 August in which three aircraft from No.54 Squadron were destroyed while taking to the air!

The squadron remained at Hornchurch during the fourth phase of the battle (the period of day and night attacks on London) and the fifth and final phase (night raids on London and daylight fighter-bomber raids). By mid-November, when the squadron moved to East Anglia, the daylight raids had stopped, and the Luftwaffe was concentrating on the night time blitz.

Early in 1941 the squadron began to fly offensive sweeps over occupied Europe, part of the RAF's policy of 'leaning over the channel'. This period lasted until August 1942 when the squadron moved to Scotland, although it did return south briefly in the same month to take part in the Dieppe raid. In March 1943 the squadron moved back to Essex again, becoming an early member of 2nd Tactical Air Force.

In April 1944 the squadron moved to Selsey Bill, where it became part of No.136 Airfield (later No.135 Wing). The wing's role was to provide fighter cover over the invasion convoys and the D-Day beaches. In August the squadron moved to Normandy, and it followed the armies east until it reached Belgium. In December the squadron returned to the UK to convert to the Hawker Tempest, returning to the continent in February 1945 to rejoin No.135 wing at Gilze-Rijen. The squadron continued to support the army until the end of the war. In June 1945 it returned to the UK and converted to the Meteor jet fighter.

November 1939-March 1940: Bristol Blenheim IF
March 1940-March 1941: Supermarine Spitfire I
March-August 1941: Supermarine Spitfire IIA and IIB
August 1941-May 1943: Supermarine Spitfire VB
May 1943-December 1944: Supermarine Spitfire IX
December 1944-October 1945: Hawker Tempest V

October 1939-May 1940: Duxford
May 1940: Digby
May 1940: Kirton-in-Lindsey
May-June 1940: Hornchurch
June-August 1940: Kirton-in-Lindsey
August-November 1940: Hornchurch
November 1940-June 1941: Coltishall
June-July 1941: Matlask
July 1941: Manston
July-August 1941: Southend
August 1941-May 1942: North Weald
May-July 1942: Manston
July-August 1942: North Weald
August 1942: Winfield
August 1942: Drem
August 1942: Biggin Hull
August-October 1942: Drem
October 1942-March 1943: Ayr
March-April 1943: Southend
April 1943: Martlesham Heath
April-December 1943: Hornchurch
December 1943-February 1944: Woodvale
February 1944: Catterick
February-March 1944: Acklington
March-April 1944: Hornchurch
April 1944: Southend
April-June 1944: Selsey
June-July 1944: Coolham
July-August 1944: Funtington
August 1944: Selsey
August 1944: Tangmere
August-September 1944: B.17 Carpiquet
September 1944: B.35 Baromesnil
September-November 1944: B.53 Merville
November-December 1944: B.65 Maldeghem
December 1944-February 1945: Predannack
February-April 1945: B.77 Gilze-Rijen
April 1945: B.91 Kluis
April-June 1945: B.109 Quackenbruck

Squadron Codes: ZD

8 August 1940: No.12 Group; Fighter Command
29 August-11 November 1940: No.11 Group; Fighter Command
11 November-: No.12 Group; Fighter Command
6 June 1944: No.135 Wing; No.84 Group; 2nd Tactical Air Force; Allied Expeditionary Air Force

1939-1940: Shipping protection
1940: Defensive fighter squadron
1941-1945: Offensive fighter squadron


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Naval/Maritime History 18th of June - Today in Naval History - Naval / Maritime Events in History

Pigot was an East Indiaman that made five voyages to India, China, and the East Indies for the British East India Company (EIC) between 1780 and 1794. Oh her fifth voyage, which occurred early in the French Revolutionary Wars, the French captured her during the Sunda Strait campaign of 1794.

Voyage #1 (1780-1782)
Captain Robert Morgan left Portsmouth on 3 June 1780, bound for China and Benkulen. Pigot reached Whampoa on 2 February 1781. For her return voyage she crossed the Second Bar, about 20 miles before Whampoa, on 8 April, and was at Macao on 23 April. She reached Benkulen, where the EIC had a factory, on 1 August and Padang on 19 August, and returned to Benkulen on 25 September. She then reached St Helena on 17 December, and Plymouth on 10 March 1782. She arrived at the Downs on 31 March.

Voyage #2 (1783-85)
Morgan left Portsmouth on 11 March 1783, bound for Madras and Bengal. Pigot reached São Tiago on 31 March and Johanna on 17 July.

On 24 August Duke of Kingston caught fire off Ceylon and was destroyed. Duke of Kingston was in company with Pigot, Earl of Oxford, and Vansittart, all of which were safe. Some 65 passengers, crew, troops, and their dependents died.

Pigot reached Madras on 26 August. She arrived at Kedgeree on 10 October. Homeward bound, she passed Saugor on 15 February 1784 and reached Vizagapatam on 14 March. She stopped in again at Madras on 3 April, went to Coringa on 5 June, returned to Madras on 2 October, reached Coringa again on 25 November, was at Masulipatam on 5 January 1785, and was again at Madras on 10 January.

On 2 May she was at the Kromme River, where Morgan took the latitude and longitude as 34°09′S 26°03′E, with the longitude being 7° 38' east of Cape Town.[6] The correct figures for the river's mouth are 34°09′S 24°51′E, indicating the ongoing difficulty of calculating longitude.

Pigot reached False Bay on 8 June and St Helena on 19 July. She arrived at the Downs on 9 October.

Voyage #3 (1786-87)
George Ballantyne (or Ballantine), was Pigot's captain for this and the next two voyages. He left the Downs on 26 March 1786, bound for China. Pigot reached Whampoa on 11 September. Homeward bound, she crossed the Second Bar on 5 January 1787, reached North Island - the northmost of three islands in the bay that formed the principle anchorage of Enggano Island - on 2 March, and St Helena on 2 June. She arrived back at the Downs on 12 August.

Voyage #4 (1789-1790)
Ballantyne left the Downs on 6 March 1789, bound for Madras and Bengal. Pigot reached Madras on 28 June and arrived at Diamond Harbour on 8 July. Homeward bound, she passed Saugor on 23 December, reached Madras on 2 February 1790, and St Helena on 29 August. She arrived back at the Downs on 29 June.[1]

Voyage #5 (1793 and loss)
Ballantyne left Portsmouth on 22 May 1793, bound for Bengal and Benkulen. War with France had broken out almost four months earlier, so as became the common practice for EIC vessels, he received a letter of marque on 17 April. This authorized him to engage in offensive action against the French, not just defensive. Pigot was part of a convoy that included the East Indiamen Prince William, Lord Thurlow, William Pitt, Glatton, Barwell, Earl of Oxford, Ostereley, Fort William, London, Houghton, Marquis of Landsdown, Hillsborough, Ceres, and Earl of Abergavenny, amongst numerous other vessels, merchant and military, most of the non-Indiamen travelling to the Mediterranean.

On 24 June, Pigot captured the French brig La France, which was sailing from "the Mauritius" to France.[8] The account in the London Gazette refers to the brig as Le Franc.[9] From the number of vessels named in separate accounts as sharing in the prize money, it is clear that the fleet shared the capture. Ceres took possession.

Pigot reached Diamond Harbour on 14 September.

The withdrawal of the Royal Navy squadron from Indian waters had left the EIC's trade vulnerable to privateers from Île de France (Mauritius). The EIC therefore decided to equip a squadron of its merchantmen as cruisers to protect its trade.

The squadron consisted of the East Indiamen William Pitt, Houghton, Nonsuch, and the Bombay Marine (EIC) 14-gun brig Nautilus, all under the overall command of Commodore Charles Mitchell of William Pitt. Contemporary accounts of the composition of squadron vary widely. One account lists the vessels as Britannia, Pigot, Houghton, Nonsuch, and the cruiser Viper. It states their task would be to cruise the Malacca and Sunda Straits, and the Bay of Bengal, when not actually convoying the trade. Lloyd's List lists the squadron as consisting of William Pitt, Oxford, Houghton, Nonsuch, Britannia, and the "Nancy Grab". They were armed and believed to be cruising the Straits. Pigot was to accompany them to Benkulen.

Pigot passed Saugor on 27 November, and reached Penang on 21 December. She left Penang three days later with a large supply of military stores for Bencoolen. She arrived at Benkulen on 12 January 1794.

In the meantime, the EIC squadron under Commodore Charles Mitchell passed Singapore on 2 January 1794, sailing eastwards in search of French raiders. As the British squadron travelled along the northern coast of Sumatra, two French privateers attacked Bencoolen on the southern coast. The privateers were the 30-gun Vengeur and the 26-gun Résolu. On 17 January they approached the mouth of Rat Island Basin close to Bencoolen where Pigot lay at anchor, completely unprepared for action. At 08:15 Vengeur opened fire at 150 yards (137 m), maintaining the battle for an hour and 45 minutes before hauling off so that Résolu could continue the combat. Ballantyne defended his vessel intelligently, positioning Pigot so that the French could only approach one at a time through the narrow mouth of the bay. This allowed him to drive off each ship in turn, the privateers falling back together at 10:20 with damaged rigging. Pigot too had suffered, with one man mortally wounded and sufficient damage to the rigging to require several weeks of repairs. After immediate repairs had been completed, next day Corosin abandoned Bencoolen and retreated to the Sunda Strait in search of weaker targets. The governor at Bencoolen sent over reinforcements to Pigot in the form of a lieutenant, 40 sepoys, and two 18-pounder guns. They arrived too late to assist, and Ballantayne sent them to Rat Island to establish a battery as he could not use the guns.

Early on 22 January, Mitchell's squadron stopped a merchant ship for inspection and as the ship was searched two new sails appeared to the southwest near Shown Rock in the Zuften Islands. Suspicious of the identity of the new arrivals, Mitchell sent Britannia and Nonsuch in pursuit and the ships turned away. As the East Indiamen closed with the fleeing ships, they were identified as Vengeur and Résolu. The British vessels soon outran the French and the French opened fire to which the larger British vessels responded. Captain Thomas Cheap of Britannia engaged Vengeur while Captain John Canning of Nonsuch attacked Résolu at 10:45 and were soon supported by William Pitt and Houghton. The overwhelming numbers and size of the British squadron soon convinced Corosin and Jallineaux that further resistance was pointless and 45 minutes after the first shots were fired both surrendered.

On 25 January in the Sunda strait, Mitchell engaged a French naval squadron under the overall command of Captain Jean-Marie Renaud. The squadron had sailed from the Île de France and consisted of the frigates Prudenteand Cybèle, the brig Vulcain, and the captured Princess Royal, now renamed Duguay-Trouin. The combat was inconclusive and both sides withdrew, Mitchell to Batavia.

The French squadron under Renaud withdrew into the Indian Ocean via Bencoolen, which they reached on 6 February. Pigot was still there, undergoing repairs in the Rat Island basin. The attack did not take place until the next day. Although Ballantyne resisted for half-an-hour, he was so outnumbered and outgunned that at 4pm he was forced to strike. As the French maneuvered Pigot out of the bay, Renaud demanded that the small Fort Marlborough nearby surrender. Actually, Renaud demanded 300,000 dollars as a ransom in lieu of surrender. Captain Thomas Brown, commander of the garrison of 20 Europeans and 300 sepoys, declined. He, his two officers, and the garrison showed such energy in preparing the defenses, heating shot, etc., that Renaud withdrew. The French then returned to Île de France.

Lloyd's List reported, "The Pigot (Ballantine), of London the Sacramento, a Portuguese Ship and the Ceres, ---- -----, the latter from Manilla to Bengal, have been taken by the French and carried into the Mauritius." The EIC reported that there was no cargo aboard.

On 1 June a snow from Mauritius arrived at the Danish exclave of Tranquebar. She brought the news that Pigot had arrived at Mauritius on 14 March. Ballantayne, his first officer, two midshipmen, and four crew were aboard her. Her captors had divided up the rest of the crew over the vessels of their squadron. The French permitted Ballantyne to return to England on his own parole. Ballantyne left in an American ship for New York.

The rest of the officers and crew, who reported that the French had treated them well, were waiting for a cartel that would take them to Madras. At the end of March, the Danish ship Minerva, Coulthard, master, was to take 50 British prisoners at the end of March. The Times reported that "the remainder of the crew of the Pigot with some Dutchmen taken in a packet from Batavia were in a cartel Ship bound to Madras but which was prevented from sailing by the people on shore who suspecting the Captain was an Aristocrat unhung her rudder and carried him on shore for trial." As it was, the prisoners were freed at Bombay in August.


Today in Naval History - Naval / Maritime Events in History
9 February 1799 - USS Constellation, (1797 - 38) Cptn. Thomas Truxtun, captures French l'Insurgente (36), Captain Barreaut, off the island of Nevis.

USS Constellation vs L'Insurgente, or the Action of 9 February 1799 , was a single-ship action fought between frigates of the French Navy and the United States Navy during the Quasi-War, an undeclared war that lasted from 1798 to 1800. The battle resulted in USS Constellation 's capture of L'Insurgente.

The frigate USS Constellation unleashes a broadside upon the French frigate L'Insurgente in the open sea

French privateering attacks against American vessels, begun a year prior, caused the conflict between the United States and France. An American squadron under Commodore Thomas Truxtun had been sent to patrol the Caribbean waters between Puerto Rico and Saint Kitts with orders to engage any French forces they found in the area. While Truxtun was sailing independently of his squadron in Constellation, his flagship, he met and engaged L'Insurgente. After chasing the French ship through a storm, Constellation forced L'Insurgente into an engagement that lasted an hour and fourteen minutes before the French frigate surrendered. The French sustained heavy casualties in the action, while the numbers of American dead and wounded were low.

After the action, L'Insurgente was taken to Saint Kitts and commissioned into the United States Navy as USS Insurgent. With this and later victories, American morale soared, and Truxtun returned home to honor and praise from the American government and the public at large.

In 1798, an undeclared war between the United States and France began due to French privateering attacks against American vessels. These attacks were sanctioned due to the failure of the United States to repay its considerable debts to France, incurred during the American War of Independence. In response to the attacks, the United States government decided to go on the offensive by sending four naval squadrons to the Caribbean with orders to seize armed French vessels and prevent privateers from attacking American ships. One of the squadrons, under the command of Commodore Thomas Truxtun, was dispatched to cruise between Puerto Rico and Saint Kitts. Truxtun's squadron consisted of his flagship, the frigate USS Constellation, the 20-gun Baltimore, the brigs Richmond and Norfolk, and the revenue cutter Virginia. Opposing Truxtun were several French vessels based in Guadeloupe, among them a number of privateers as well as two French naval frigates and a smaller, 20-gun corvette. One of the French frigates, L'Insurgente, sortied from Guadeloupe on 8 February, commanded by Michel-Pierre Barreaut.

Though the 1,265-ton Constellation was officially classified by the United States Navy as a 36-gun frigate, during the Quasi-War she carried a heavier armament of 38 guns. This consisted of twenty-eight 24-pounders on her main deck and ten 12-pounders on her spar deck, Constellation's main armament had a combined throwing weight of 396 pounds (180 kg). In contrast, L'Insurgente, rated a 32-gun Sémillante-class frigate, was armed with 40 cannons. The armament of Barreaut's 950-ton ship consisted of twenty-four 12-pounders, two 18-pounders, eight 6-pounders, four 32-pounder carronades, and two 24-pounder carronades, totalling a combined throwing weight of only 282 pounds (128 kg). Thus, although Barreaut's vessel carried two more guns in total, Truxtun's frigate had a more powerful armament due to shot weight. In a boarding action, the French frigate's crew of 409 men would have had an advantage over the American ship's 309, but in a gunnery duel the Americans were superior.

A diagram of Constellation'sengagement with L'Insurgente

At noon on 9 February, while cruising independently, Truxtun's men sighted a frigate off the coast of Nevis. Upon approach it was evident that the vessel was flying American colors, and Constellation attempted to move closer to investigate. Unknown to Truxtun, the frigate was the French L'Insurgente under Michel-Pierre Barreaut. Nearing the still-unidentified L'Insurgente, Truxtun attempted to signal her to discern her nationality by displaying first British signals and then American signals. Unable to send the correct reply, L'Insurgente replaced the American colors with French and fired a gun. Upon sighting Constellation at 12:30 pm, Barreaut mistook the ship for a British corvette and began to flee toward the Dutch islands of Saba and Sint Eustatius to evade his assailant. Truxtun gave chase, but was hampered at 1:30 p.m. when the two vessels ran into a gale. As a result of the storm, L'Insurgente lost her main topmast and was severely damaged, while Constellation managed to avoid significant damage and was able to close in on Barreaut.

Though Truxtun's ship initially held an advantageous position in the wind known as the weather gauge, she was over-armed, and as a result her leeward side heeled so much that the gunports on that side of the vessel could not be opened. Truxtun decided to cede the weather gauge to the French by sailing around L'Insurgente's leeward side and bringing Constellation near the French frigate's port side. In such a position Constellation was disadvantaged by the wind, but was able to avoid some of the heeling effect on her guns. With Constellation approaching his frigate fast, Barreaut tried to communicate with the Americans in order to avoid a fight. The American frigate ignored the French attempt at hailing her and closed to within fifty yards of L'Insurgente before opening up on her with a broadside. The double-shotted American salvo severely damaged the French frigate's quarterdeck. Barreaut's vessel replied with her own broadsides that damaged Constellation's fore topmast. Midshipman David Porter, stationed in the rigging of Constellation's damaged mast, managed to relieve pressure from it and prevented its collapse. L'Insurgente attempted to close on the American frigate to board her. With less damage to her rigging, Constellation was easily able to avoid Barreaut's attempts at boarding.

Constellation crossed L'Insurgente's bow and raked her with a broadside. Truxtun then maneuvered Constellation to L'Insurgente's starboard side and fired further broadsides into the French frigate, but received damage to her rigging in return. Constellation slipped ahead of L'Insurgente, again crossing her bow and raking her. Once more Constellation slipped next to L'Insurgente's leeward side and fired into her, disabling the French vessel's 18-pounder guns. Constellation crossed the frigate's bow a third time, but the French ship had by then sustained massive damage. Attempts by Barreaut's crew to repair L'Insurgente's rigging were fruitless and the French captain struck his colors to surrender the vessel. The engagement had lasted 74 minutes.

The end of the action signaled the first victory over an enemy warship for the newly formed United States Navy. After Barreaut had struck his colors, Truxtun sent a boat over to board, identify, and take possession of the French vessel. It was only upon boarding L'Insurgente that the Americans learned the identity of their opponents. The storm and the battle had caused immense damage to the French frigate. In comparison, Constellation had suffered moderate damage to her rigging, but was otherwise still intact. French casualties included 29 killed and 41 wounded, while the Americans suffered two dead and two wounded. One American died shortly after the action ended, of wounds received from French fire another was executed for cowardice by Constellation's Lieutenant Andrew Sterett after the man deserted his gun at the start of the action.

Constellation began taking on prisoners of war from L'Insurgente, but by nightfall the two ships had become separated in a storm. Left aboard L'Insurgente were Constellation's First Lieutenant John Rodgers, Midshipman David Porter, and 11 enlisted men, along with 170 French prisoners. The Americans were forced to sail the vessel short-handed while guarding the French prisoners. As the prisoners outnumbered their captors and no gear to secure them could be found aboard, the Frenchmen were driven into L'Insurgente's lower holds. Finally, after three nights, L'Insurgente was brought in to Saint Kitts where Constellation was waiting for her While at the American naval depot at Saint Kitts, Constellation's troublesome 24-pounder guns were removed and replaced with 18-pounder cannons. At the American prize court in Norfolk, Virginia, L'Insurgente was condemned to be sold as a war prize, with the proceeds distributed to the crew of Constellation. Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Stoddert managed to negotiate the prize award down from $120,000 to $84,000 before purchasing L'Insurgente and commissioning her in the United States Navy as USS Insurgent.

Naval encounter during the Quasi-War between USS Constellation and French ship Insurgente (right) on 9 February 1799.

For his victory over L'Insurgente, Truxtun received honors both at home and abroad. When accounts of the action reached London, Truxtun was fêted by the merchants there who sent him a piece of silver plate to commemorate his victory. In the United States, morale soared upon hearing of the first American victory over the French. Truxtun was cited by Stoddert for his excellent conduct during the action, and songs and poems such as Brave Yankee Boys were later written about the event. In contrast, when Barreaut returned to France he was accused of failing to put up sufficient resistance in the engagement and was given a court-martial. Despite the accusations, he had been praised by Truxtun after the action for his bravery and was acquitted during the court-martial. The French were infuriated upon hearing the results of the action because the two countries were not officially at war Governor Edme Étienne Borne Desfourneaux of Guadeloupe demanded that Insurgent be returned to French control. Upon learning of the American refusal to repatriate Insurgent, Desfourneaux was outraged and ordered all American vessels and property to be seized, while also declaring that a state of war existed between the United States and Guadeloupe.[29] After continuing their cruise for a few weeks, both Insurgent and Constellation were forced to return to Norfolk by the end of March due to the expiration of the terms of enlistment of their crews. On her next cruise Constellation prevailed in another action against La Vengeance, although her own casualties were heavy this time, and that French frigate escaped L'Insurgente's fate.

USS Constellation was a nominally rated 38-gun wooden-hulled, three-masted frigate of the United States Navy. She was named by George Washington to reflect a principle of the United States Constitution. She was built under the direction of David Stodder at his naval shipyard on Harris Creek in Baltimore's Fell's Point maritime community, and she was launched on 7 September 1797. She was one of the original six frigates whose construction the Naval Act of 1794 had authorized. Joshua Humphreys designed these frigates to be the young Navy's capital ships, and so Constellation and her sisters were larger and more heavily armed and built than standard frigates of the period. Her first duties with the newly formed US Navy were to provide protection for American merchant shipping during the Quasi-War with France and to defeat the Barbary pirates in the First Barbary War.

The Insurgente was a 40-gun Sémillante -class frigate of the French Navy, launched in 1793. USS Constellation, Captain Thomas Truxtun in command, captured her off the island of Nevis during the Quasi-War. After her capture she served in the US Navy, patrolling the waters in the West Indies. In September 1800 she was caught up in a severe storm and was presumed lost at sea.

An incident from the beginning of the French Revolutionary Wars, 1793-1815. The British ship ‘Venus’ commanded by Captain Jonathan Faulkner, sighted a strange sail at 03:00 when 120 miles south-west of Cape Finisterre. About 07:00 the ship put out blue colours and the ‘Venus’ answered by signalling a private code to which the other ship made no reply. The first shots were fired about 07:30 and then a close action from 08:00 to about 10:00. By this time the French frigate ‘Semillante’ was almost silenced, her captain and first lieutenant were killed and she had five feet of water in her hold. The ‘Venus’ was trying to close her to take possession when she bore away towards another ship that had appeared and which proved to be another French frigate. The sails, rigging and spars of the British frigate had taken the brunt of the enemy fire and were extremely cut up so that a further engagement was inadvisable. Indeed she was lucky to escape an encounter with a fresh opponent. In the right centre foreground, both frigates are shown starboard quarter view, with the ‘Semillante’ on the right. Most of her port lids have fallen shut, her main topgallant mast seems about to fall, and her colours are being struck. The ‘Venus’ is shown still firing although she is shot through and there are gaping holes in her main topsail. A seaman on the gunwhale of the quarter-deck can be seen putting out a small fire. In the left background of the painting is another French frigate, highlighting the precarious plight of the ‘Venus’. The painting is signed ‘T Elliott Pinxt’.

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