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Royal Air Force groups

Entries are listed alphabetically. The first line (in bold) is the term used to describe the subject, which is also a hyperlink to every item in the IBCC Digital Archive described with that tag. The second line (in italics) contains alternative forms, such as spelling variants, abbreviations or colloquialisms. Each entry is supplemented with a definition, background information, applicability, and links to related concepts.

1 Group

1 Group Bomber Command was formed in May 1936. In September 1939 it operated Battles and moved to France to form the Advanced Air Striking Force. In June 1940 it returned to Britain and reformed as a main force bomber group, converting to Wellingtons. It had stations in south Yorkshire and north Lincolnshire. In 1942 it briefly operated Halifaxes, only with 103 Squadron, before it became an all Lancaster Group from late 1942 onwards.

2 Group

2 Group Bomber Command formed in March 1936. With stations in north Norfolk 2 Group was mainly a medium daylight bomber group targeting shipping, ports and specialised objectives such as the Philips electrical works in Eindhoven. 2 Group operated Blenheims, Venturas, Bostons, Mosquitos and B-25s. Uniquely 90 Squadron operated B-17s in a daylight heavy bomber role from May to September 1941. In June 1943 2 Group was transferred to the Second Tactical Air Force in preparation for the Normandy campaign.

3 Group

3 Group Bomber Command was formed in 1936.  With bomber stations in Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk it operated as part of the main force throughout the war. It initially had Wellingtons but in August 1940 it started operating Stirlings. During 1943 it began converting to becoming an all Lancaster group. The Gee-H blind bombing system came into operation during 1943 allowing 3 Group to operate independently from the Pathfinders. 3 Group also administered special duties squadrons supporting resistance groups.

4 Group

4 Group Bomber Command was based in Yorkshire and in September 1939 was equipped with Whitleys, at that time classified as heavy bombers. 4 Group operated as part of the main force for the entire war. Two Wellington squadrons served in the group 1941-1942 but Halifaxes started arriving in 1941 and 4 Group became an all Halifax group. In 1944 346 Squadron and 347 Squadron joined 4 Group, the only two Free French Squadrons to serve in Bomber Command.

5 Group

5 Group Bomber Command had stations in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. Initially equipped with Hampdens it started to use Manchesters in late 1940. From 1942 onwards Lancasters were used apart from one P-51 and 627 Squadron Mosquitos. 5 Group pioneered use of a master bomber, time-and-distance bombing and low level marking. It carried out the bombing of Augsburg, the Eder, Möhne and Sorpe operation, attacked V-weapon sites and sank the Tirpitz. It was the only Group that used Tallboy and Grand Slam bombs.

6 Group

6 (Royal Canadian Air Force) Group was formed in October 1942 with stations in north Yorkshire and County Durham. Uniquely in Bomber Command it was paid for by the Canadian Government and manned mainly by Canadians. A main force group it was initially equipped with Wellingtons and some Halifaxes. It became a mixed Halifax and Lancaster Group, especially from early 1944 when Canadian-built Lancasters started arriving.

7 Group

7 (Training) Group was formed in July 1940 due to the increasing need for operational training. Based initially in Oxfordshire and then in Buckinghamshire the group was responsible for some Operational Training Units (OTUs). The Group was renumbered 92 (OTU) Group in May 1942 which continued to administer OTUs until 1945. 7 (Training) Group reformed in September 1944 in Lincolnshire to control the increasing number of Heavy Conversion Units, previously under the charge of individual groups.

8 Group
See also: Pathfinders

The original incarnation of 8 Group was formed in September 1941 to use B-17s and B-24s as RAF high altitude daylight bombers. The Group was disbanded in February 1942 after trials with B-17s in 90 Squadron at RAF Polebrook. The Pathfinder force was established in August 1942 and elevated to 8 (Pathfinder) Group in January 1943. Under the command of Donald Bennett it was located in Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire. Initially with mix of aircraft types the Group later standardised into a Lancaster and Mosquito force. The Group utilised Gee, Oboe, H2S, target indicators and the use of a master bomber to mark targets for the main force. 8 Group Mosquitos also formed the Light Night Striking Force to conduct nuisance raids.

100 Group

100 (Bomber Support Group) was formed in November 1943 and utilised stations in north Norfolk vacated by 2 Group. 100 Group was a specialised force deploying electronic and radio countermeasures against German defences in order to protect the main bomber force. The group also deployed night fighters as intruders against German airfields and Luftwaffe night fighters. Aircraft used included Halifaxes, Stirlings, Wellingtons, B-17s, B-24s, P-38s, Mosquitos and Beaufighters.

Second Tactical Air Force
Used for: 2 TAF

The Second Tactical Air Force was created in June 1943 in order to support the Army during the Normandy campaign. Most units came from Fighter Command but 2 Group Bomber Command was also transferred in mainly with B-25s and Bostons to provide tactical medium bombing capability. The Second Tactical Air Force was charged with establishing air superiority and to attack ground targets involved either in the land battle or behind the battlefield to hinder German troop movements. 

Tiger Force
Used for: Very Long Range Bomber Force, VLRBF

Following the defeat of Nazi Germany the Tiger Force was a Bomber Command unit planned for the Far East to help defeat the Japanese.  Originally three groups of ten squadrons were planned. Lancasters were modified for tropical climates, in-flight refuelling trials commenced as did long leg navigation training. Lancasters were due to fly to the Pacific by November 1945 but the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 and the surrender of Japan made the Tiger Force redundant.