Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation

 

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RAF Timeline 1939 - 1945


To view further details of each main Command development click on the Command title on the right of the timeline

For a summary click here

January 1939   Vickers Wellington and North American Harvard enter service
February 1939  
 
 
May 1939   20 - Last Empire Air Day. 

Lockheed Hudson entered service

June 1939   WAAF formed
 
August 1939   21 - Russo-German Pact announced. 

24 - Mobilisation notices sent out to AuxAF and RAFVR.

September 1939   1 - Germany invades Poland.  1- RAFVR and AuxAF mobilised. 

2 - Advanced Air Striking Force and Air Component of BEF move to France. 

3 - UK declares war on Germany,

3/4 - First RAF Raid over Germany,

4 - First RAF losses, five Wellingtons of No 9 Sqn on a raid against shipping in the Elbe Estuary,

6 - 'Battle of Barking Creek'.

October 1939   Operational trials of VHF radio begun. 

Bristol Beaufort entered service.

November 1939   Nos 602 and 603 Sqns shoot down first German aircraft over the UK
December 1939   17 - Ottawa agreement signed bringing into existence the Empire Air Training Scheme,

18 - 12 Wellingtons shot down during a daylight attack on Wilhelmshaven resulting in the adoption of night raids. 

Boulton Paul Defiant and Saro Lerwick entered service.

January 1940   IFF and VHF radio introduced.  PDU formed at Heston. 

31 - ASV radar fitted to a few Coastal Command aircraft 

 
March 1940   19/20 - Bomber Command's first raid on a German land target - the island of Sylt.
April 1940   14 - British forces land in Norway. 

22 - RAF units arrive in Norway. 

29 - EATS training began in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

May 1940   10 - Germany invades Holland, Belgium and France. 

12 - RAF's first VC of WW2 won by Fg Off Garland and Sgt Gray.

17 - Ministry of Aircraft Production formed. 

26 - Dunkirk evacuation ordered to begin (Operation Dynamo).  

27 - Training Command split into Flying Training Command and Technical Training Command. 

27 - Reserve Command absorbed into FTC.

June 1940   4 - Completion of the evacuation of the BEF. 

5 - First German attacks on targets in South-East Britain. 

10 - Italy declares war on Britain. 

10 - RAF carries out first attacks against Italian forces in Lybia. 

11 - Bomber Command conducted its first raid on targets in Italy.

22 - Parachute Training School formed at Ringway

July 1940   10 - Battle of Britain starts. 

14 - G/C Thorold arrives at Takoradi in West Africa to establish an aircraft ferrying service to Egypt. 

Westland Whirlwind entered service. 

22 - First enemy aircraft shot down by an AI equipped fighter (Blenheim).

August 1940   24/25 - First bombs fall on central London. 

25/26 - Bomber Command conducts first raid on Berlin.  Short Stirling entered service

September 1940   19 - First 'Eagle' Squadron (No 71) formed from American volunteers.

Bristol Beaufighters equipped with AI radar entered service.

October 1940   Battle of Britain ends, but the night 'Blitz' begins. 

7 - No 80 Wing formed. 

25 - ACM Portal assumes post of CAS.

28 - Italy invades Greece, RAF units dispatched to assist. 

Martin Maryland entered service.

November 1940   13/14 - First attack made on an enemy radar installation by homing on the signals from the station. 

Avro Manchester and Handley Page Halifax entered service.

December 1940   1 - Army Co-operation Command formed. 

20 - First 'Rhubarb' carried out by Spitfires of No 66 Sqn.

January 1941   10 - First 'Circus' operation carried out by Fighter and Bomber Commands.
February 1941   5 - Air Training Corps formed from Air Defence Cadet Corps. 

11 - First raid conducted by Stirlings of No 7 Sqn. 

Douglas Boston/Havoc entered service

 
April 1941   1 - Bomber Command dropped first 4,000ib bomb during a raid on Enden24 - Last RAF fighters left Greece. 

6 - Fg Off Campbell awarded VC for attack on Gneisenau in Brest harbour

15 Coastal Command placed under operational control of the Admiralty

30 - Iraqi troops move against RAF Habbaniya. 

Consolidated Catalina entered service.

May 1941   Evacuation of Greece completed.  

20 - Germans invade Crete. 

31 - Battle of Habbaniya ends. 

Observer Corps became Royal Observer Corps.

Boeing Fortress entered service.

June 1941   8 - Allied forces invade Syria. 

22 -  Free French take control of Syria.  22 - Germany attacks USSR (Operation Barbarossa).  Consolidated Liberator entered service.

July 1941   4 - Wg Cdr H I Edwards awarded the VC for a daylight attack on Bremen

Ferry Command formed

August 1941   11/12 - 'GEE' used by Bomber Command for the first time

27 - Hudson of No 269 Sqn, 'captured' a German U-boat

Curtiss Tomahawk and De Havilland Mosquito entered service

September 1941   1 - No 151 Wing arrived in Russia

Hawker Typhoon entered service

October 1941   9 - Western Desert Air Force formed. 

22 - AHQ West Africa formed.

November 1941   29 - A Whitley of No 502 Sqn sunk U-206, Coastal Command's first successful sinking.
December 1941   7/8 - Singapore and Pearl Harbour attacked by Japanese.

USA enters the war on Allied side.  

Avro Lancaster entered service

January 1942   Japan invades Java and Burma. 

Martin Baltimore entered service.

February 1942   1 - RAF Regiment formed.

11/12 - Operation 'Fuller', the failed attempt to prevent German battleships escaping to Germany through the English Channel.

15 - Japan captures Singapore.

22 - AM Sir Arthur Harris appointed AOC-in-C, Bomber Command

March 1942   8 - Japanese forces enter Rangoon

13/14 - First major raid lead by aircraft equipped with GEE against Cologne.

April 1942   10/11 - Bomber Command dropped the fist 8,000ib bomb during a raid on Essen.

Navigator and Air Bomber categories introduced. 

North American Mustang entered service.

May 1942   30/31 - First 'Thousand Bomber' Raid against Cologne.

Plt Off L Manser awarded the VC during this raid.

June 1942   1/2 - Second 'Thousand Bomber' Raid against Essen.

25/26 - Third 'Thousand Bomber' Raid against Bremen.

Douglas Dakota entered service

July 1942   6 - First U-boat 'kill' at night using the Leigh Light.

Martin Marauder entered service

August 1942   15 - Pathfinder Force formed. 

18/19 - First raid lead by the Pathfinder Force.

19 - Operation 'Jubilee', the amphibious raid against the port of Dieppe.

Vultee Vengence entered service

September 1942   North American Mitchell entered service.
October 1942   23 - Air operations in support of the upcoming Battle of Alamein begin.

25 - No 6 (RCAF) Group formed in Bomber Command

Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle and Lockheed Ventura entered service.

November 1942   2 - Eastern Air Command formed. 

4 - Second Battle of Alamein begins

8 - Allies invade North Africa (Operation Torch)

December 1942   20/21 - First use of the OBOE blind bombing device.
January 1943   8 - Pathfinder Force became No 8 Group.

30 - H2S bombing radar id used for the first time in a raid on Hamburg.

February 1943   2 - Mediterranean Air Command formed.
March 1943   5/6 - Beginning of the Battle of the Rhur.

25 - Transport Command formed from Ferry Command.

April 1943   King George VI announces he is to award Standards to Squadrons with 25 years service after the war.
May 1943   7 - Axis forces in North Africa surrender. 

16/17 - No 617 Squadron breach Ruhr dams (Operation Chastise)

June 1943   1 - 2nd Tactical Air Force formed. 

20/21 - First 'shuttle' raid by Bomber Command

30 - First use of 'Serrate' radar homing equipment in night fighters

Allies invade Pantellaria (Operation Corkscrew)

July 1943   10 - Allies invade Sicily (Operation Husky)

24/25 - First use of 'Window' in the first raid on Hamburg as part of Operation 'Gomorrah'

August 1943   17/18 - Bomber Command attacks the research establishment at Peenemunde.
September 1943   9 - Allies invade Italy. 

15/16 - 617 Sqn used 12,000ib bombs for the first time against the Dortmund-Ems Canal

Italy surrenders.

October 1943   10 - No 38 Group formed. 

23 - Mediterranean Allied strategic Air Force formed. 

Vickers Warwick entered service.

November 1943   15 - Allies Expeditionary Air Force formed. 

16 - Air Command South-East Asia formed. 

18/19 - Bomber Command begin the Battle of Berlin

23 - No 100 Group formed.

December 1943   Mediterranean Allied Air Forces formed.
January 1944   21 - 'Little Blitz' begins against Britain

Hawker Tempest entered service

February 1944   18 - Mosquitoes attack Amiens Goal in Operation 'Jericho'
March 1944   6/7 - Bomber ends the Battle of Berlin and begins attacks in support of the forthcoming Operation 'Overlord'

16 - Siege of Imphal begins.

30/31 - Bomber Command suffers its worse losses of the war, 95 out of 795 in a raid against Nuremberg.

 
May 1944   Republic Thunderbolt entered service
June 1944   1 - Balkan Air Force formed. 

6 - Allies land in Normandy (Operation Overlord).

13 - Germany begins attacks on the UK using the V-1 flying bomb.  

July 1944   1 - RAF reaches its peak strength of 1,185,833 personnel

12 - Gloster Meteor enters service (RAF's first jet fighter)

25 - A RAF Mosquito is attacked by a Me 262 jet fighter.

August 1944   4 - First victories against V-1 flying bombs by Meteor jets fighters of No 616 Sqn.

15 - Allies invade Southern France (Operation Dragoon)

September 1944   17-25 - Airborne assault on Arnhem (Operation Market Garden)

19 - Flt Lt D Lord awarded Transport Command's only VC

October 1944   14/15 - Bomber Command carries out the most sorties in its history on a single day, 1,576.

31 - Mosquitoes carry out a low level attack on the Gestapo HQ in Aarhus in Denmark.

November 1944   4-5 - Lancasters of Bomber Command breach the Dortmund-Ems Canal.

12 - 9 and 617 Sqn use 12,000lb 'Tallboys' to capsize the battleship, 'Tirpitz' in Tromso Fjord.

 
January 1945   1 - Luftwaffe launched a surprise attack on Allied airfields on the continent (Operation 'Bodenplatte')

RAF Helicopter Training School formed.

February 1945   1 - Allied forces cross the Irrawaddy and capture Meiktila airfield in Burma

13/14 - Bomber Command and USAAF carry out a heavy raid on Dresden resulting in a bigger firestorm than Hamburg in 1943.

22 - Operation 'Clarion' intended to wipe out German surface transport in 24 hours.

March 1945   14 - 617 Sqn drops first 22,000lb 'Grand Slam' on the Bielefeld viaduct.

24 - Rhine crossing (Operation Varsity)

April 1945   10 - Last record operation over the UK by a Luftwaffe aircraft (Ar 234)

26 - Bomber Command begin repatriating British POWs back to the UK

29 - Bomber Command begin air dropping of food to Dutch civilians (Operation Manna)

May 1945   2/3 - Bomber Command carries out its last operation, a Mosquito attack on airfields around Kiel.

3 - Rangoon falls to Allied forces

4 -2nd TAF carried out the last air operations in North-West Europe.

8 - Germany surrenders unconditionally. 

 
July 1945   15 - British Air Forces of Occupation formed.
August 1945   6 - First Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

9 - Second Atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki.

14/15 - Japan surrenders.

26 - RAF begin air dropping medical supplies to Allied POWs

Avro Lincoln entered service.

September 1945   15 - First 'Battle of Britain' flypast
 
November 1945   7 - World Air Speed set at 606.25 mph by Gp Capt H J Wilson in a Meteor F4
 

This page was last updated on 21/08/12 using FrontPage XP 

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