2nd TACTICAL AIR FORCE 2nd Tactical Air Force was formed to provide air support and air defence to 21 Army Group. SECOND TACTICAL AIRFORCE 2nd Tactical Air Force was formed to support 21st Army Group. Most of its units came from Fighter Command which was then disbanded. The residue of fighter units then formed Air Defence Great Britain, although there was some exchange of units between the two new organisations. No 2 Group of Bomber Command contributed light and medium bombers. The duties of 2nd Tactical Air Force were to provide - Air defence by day and night for the armies, their lines of communication and base areas. - Direct and indirect close support for the armies in the field by fighter bombers. - Tactical medium bombers - Tactical reconnaissance, both photographic and visual. 2nd Tactical Air Force was organised into squadrons, servicing echelons and airfields, all of which were mobile and capable of operating indefinitely from forward landing fields. - Squadrons contained only aircraft and aircrew. Usually a squadron had thirty aircraft and thirty crews, of which twenty four were active and six were reserve. A squadron could operate from any airfield or airstrip as required. - Servicing echelons were formed from the ground crews which had been removed from squadrons. They could be attached to airfields as required on a scale of one per squadron. - Airfields provided the headquarters staff, control, signals, meteorological staff, supply, catering, transport, police, defence etc. Wings were initially formed with three squadrons each although from late July 1944 they usually had four squadrons each. Usually a wing contained only one type of aircraft and was based at one airfield. In practice servicing echelons served the same squadron more or less permanently and were in any case trained in the servicing of only one type of aircraft. There were servicing commandos which were based on Refuelling and Re arming strips and were trained to service more than one type of aircraft. All the elements of 2nd Tactical Air Force were mobile and self contained. Personnel lived under canvas. 2nd Tactical Air Force operated from a number of different types of standard airstrips and airfields. - In the early days squadrons were based at UK airfields. They were serviced in the UK and flew to France each morning where they were based at Refuelling and Rearming strips until they returned to the UK in the evening. - Refuelling and Rearming strips were used particularly in Normandy but were also used later in the campaign. These strips were manned by Servicing Commandos and as the name suggests were largely concerned with refuelling and rearming aircraft. They were also emergency landing fields and could carry out basic servicing and repairs. - Advanced Landing Grounds were fully equipped but were not capable of permanently operating a complete wing. They had runways which had been levelled and graded and then surfaced with Square Mesh Track or Pierced Steel Planking. Runways were 1200 yards long for fighters and 1650 yards long for fighter bombers. - Airfields were fully operational and had metalled runways and hard standings. Runways were built by Airfield Construction Groups of the RAF while Army Construction units were responsible for roads etc. Commanders. Air Chief Marshall Sir Trafford Leigh Mallory was Commander in Chief Allied Expeditionary Air Forces which included British and US units for operations in Europe. There was also an Air Marshall as Deputy Supreme Commander. Air Marshall Sir Arthur Coningham commanded 2 TAF. Air Vice Marshal Harry Broadhurst commanded 83 Group. Air Vice Marshal L O Brown commanded 84 Group. Air Vice Marshall Basil Embry commanded 85 Group Group Captains commanded wings with a Wing Commander responsible for operations. Wing Commanders commanded squadrons. ORDER OF BATTLE 6th JUNE 1944 No2 Group 137 Wing 88 Squadron Boston IIIA 342 (French) Squadron Boston IIIA 226 Squadron Mitchell II 138 Wing 107 Squadron Mosquito VI 305 (Polish) Squadron Mosquito VI 613 Squadron Mosquito VI 139 Wing 98 Squadron Mitchell II 180 Squadron Mitchell II 320 (Dutch) Squadron Mitchell II 140 Wing 21 Squadron Mosquito VI 464 (RAAF) Squadron Mosquito VI 487 (RNZAF) Squadron Mosquito VI No 83 Group 39 (RCAF) Reconnaissance Wing 400 (RCAF) Squadron Spitfire IX SP 168 Squadron Mustang I 414 (RCAF) Squadron Mustang I RU 430 (RCAF) Squadron Mustang I G9 15 Sector 122 Wing 19 Squadron Mustang III QV 65 Squadron Mustang III YT 122 Squadron Mustang III MT 125 Wing 132 Squadron Spitfire IX FF 453 (RAAF) Squadron Spitfire IX FU 602 Squadron Spitfire IX LO 129 Wing 184 Squadron Typhoon IB BR 17 Sector 126 Wing 401 (RCAF) Squadron Spitfire IX YO 411 (RCAF) Squadron Spitfire IX DB 412 (RCAF) Squadron Spitfire IX VZ 127 Wing 403 (RCAF) Squadron Spitfire IX KH 416 (RCAF) Squadron Spitfire IX DN 421 (RCAF) Squadron Spitfire IX AU 144 Wing 441 (RCAF) Squadron Spitfire IX 9G 442 (RCAF) Squadron Spitfire IX Y2 443 (RCAF) Squadron Spitfire IX Z1 22 Sector 121 Wing 174 Squadron Typhoon IB XP 175 Squadron Typhoon IB HH 245 Squadron Typhoon IB MR 124 Wing 181 Squadron Typhoon IB EL 182 Squadron Typhoon IB XM 247 Squadron Typhoon IB ZY 143 Wing 438 (RCAF) Squadron Typhoon IB F3 439 (RCAF) Squadron Typhoon IB 5V 440 (RCAF) Squadron Typhoon IB I8 83 Group Reserve with ADGB 64 Squadron Spitfire V SH 234 Squadron Spitfire V AZ 303 (Polish) Squadron Spitfire V RF 345 (French) Squadron Spitfire Vb 2Y 350 (Belgian) Squadron Spitfire Vb MN 402 (Canadian) Squadron Spitfire V AE 501 Squadron Spitfire V SD 611 Squadron Spitfire V FY No 84 Group 35 Reconnaissance Wing 2 Squadron Mustang IA OI 268 Squadron Mustang IA 4 Squadron Spitfire XI TV 18 Sector 131 Wing 302 (Polish) Squadron Spitfire IX WX 308 (Polish) Squadron Spitfire IX ZF 317 (Polish) Squadron Spitfire IX JH 132 Wing 66 Squadron Spitfire IX LZ 331 (Norwegian) Squadron Spitfire IX FN 332 (Norwegian) Squadron Spitfire IX AH 134 Wing 310 (Czech) Squadron Spitfire IX NN 312 (Czech) Squadron Spitfire IX DU 313 (Czech) Squadron Spitfire IX 19 Sector 135 Wing 222 Squadron Spitfire IX ZD 349 (Belgian) Squadron Spitfire IX GE 485 (RNZAF) Squadron Spitfire IX OU 133 Wing 129 Squadron Mustang III DV 306 (Polish) Squadron Mustang III UZ 315 (Polish) Squadron Mustang III PK 145 Wing 329 (French) Squadron Spitfire IX 340 (French) Squadron Spitfire IX GW 341 (French) Squadron Spitfire IX NL 20 Sector 123 Wing 198 Squadron Typhoon IB TP 609 Squadron Typhoon IB PR 146 Wing 193 Squadron Typhoon IB DD 197 Squadron Typhoon IB OV 257 Squadron Typhoon IB FM 266 Squadron Typhoon IB ZH 136 Wing 164 Squadron Typhoon IB FJ 183 Squadron Typhoon IB HF No 84 Group Reserve with ADGB 149 Wing 33 Squadron Spitfire IX 5R 74 Squadron Spitfire IX 4D 233 Wing 80 Squadron Spitfire IX WZ 229 Squadron Spitfire IX 9R 274 Squadron Spitfire IX JJ No 85 Group 141 Wing 91 Squadron Spitfire XIV DL 124 Squadron Spitfire VII ON 322 (Dutch) Squadron Spitfire XIV 3W 142 Wing 264 Squadron Mosquito XIII PS 604 Squadron Mosquito XIII NG 147 Wing 29 Squadron Mosquito XIII RO 148 Wing 409 (RCAF) Squadron Mosquito XIII KP 149 Wing 410 (RCAF) Squadron Mosquito XIII RA 488 (RNZAF) Squadron Mosquito XIII ME 150 Wing 56 Squadron Spitfire IX US 3 Squadron Tempest V JF 486 (RNZAF) Squadron Tempest V SA 34 Reconnaissance Wing 16 Squadron Spitfire XI 140 Squadron Mosquito IX/XVI 69 Squadron Wellington XIII 85 Group Reserve with ADGB 406 Squadron Beaufighter HV 418 (Canadian) Squadron Mosquito III TH Air Spotting Pool 26 Squadron Spitfire V 63 Squadron Spitfire V 808 (FAA) Squadron Spitfire V 897 (FAA) Squadron Seafire III 885 (FAA) Squadron Seafire III 886 (FAA) Squadron Seafire III 1320 Special Duty Flight Typhoon In addition there were Air Observation Squadrons which had Auster aircraft maintained by the RAF but flown by Royal Artillery personnel. Each Group also had a Communications Flight which operated a selection of communication and liaison aircraft. Changes included - Wings contained four squadrons rather than three from late July. - Sectors were eliminated and Group directly controlled Wings. - Mustang III squadrons were withdrawn in late July to combat V1 flying bombs - Spitfire XIV and XVI gradually replaced some Spitfire IX - Mosquito XXX supplemented the Mosquito XIII - One squadron of Meteor III jet fighters arrived in April 1945 A fifth, non operational group was formed to administer units which remained in France when the operational units moved into Belgium. This group had its headquarters in Paris. Advanced Landing Grounds in Normandy B1 Asnelles. 600metre emergency landing strip of compacted earth. 10 June B2 Brazenville. 1700 metre long, 40 metre wide. Square Mesh Track. 10 June B3 St. Croix sur Mer. 1200 metre long, 40 metre wide. Square Mesh Track. 10 June B4 Beny sur Mer. 1200 metre long, 40 metre wide. Square Mesh Track. 15 June B5 le Fresne Camilly. 1700 metre long, 40 metre wide. Square Mesh Track.. 15 June B6 Coulombs. 1700 metre long, 40 metre wide. Square Mesh Track. 15 June B7 Martragny. 1200 metre long, 40 metre wide. Square Mesh Track. 20 June B8 Sommervieu. 1200 metre long, 40 metre wide. Square Mesh Track. 22 June B9 Lantheuil. 1200 metre long, 40 metre wide. Square Mesh Track. 22 June B10 Plumetot. 1200 metre long, 40 metre wide. Square Mesh Track. 20 June B11 Longues sur Mer. 1200 metre long, 40 metre wide. Compacted earth. 21 June B12 Elon. 1200 metre long, 40 metre wide. Square Mesh Track. 18 July B14 Amblie. 1200 metre long, 40 metre wide. Compacted earth. 7 July B15 Ryes. 1200 metre long, 40 metre wide. Compacted earth. 5 July B16 Villons les Buissons. 1700 metre long, 40 metre wide. Square Mesh Track and Pierced Steel Planking. 7 August B17 Carpiquet. 1700 metre long, 40 metre wide. Pierced Steel Planking. 8 August. Also existing 1800 metre concrete runway. B18 Cristot. 1200 metre long, 40 metre wide. Compacted earth. 25 July B19 Lingevres. 1700 metre long, 40 metre wide. Compacted earth. 6 August B21 Ste Honorine de Ducy. 1700 metre long, 40 metre wide. Square Mesh Track. 8 August Note: Many sources say that runways were surfaced with Sommerfeldt Track but this was not used in Europe. It was used in the UK but was replaced by Square Mesh Track when it was found to cause damage to aircraft. Vehicles RAF vehicles in NW Europe were painted in the same colours as army vehicles. Non specialist vehicles were of the same type as those used by the army but specialist vehicles were often on Austin K6 6 X 4 chassis, Fordson WOT1 6 X 4 chassis or Bedford Q 4 X 4 chassis. Markings included - a vehicle census number with the prefix ‘RAF’. - A type number painted on the door. - In specialist units there was a convoy number painted on the door. - A unit abbreviation on the offside wing, TAF 83, TAF 84 or TAF 85. - All vehicles carried a small RAF roundel on the nearside wing - Many vehicles carried RAF roundels on the vehicle sides. These were often large. - Allied stars were carried on the roof, cab top or bonnet. Uniforms. 2TAF personnel were issued with two sets of battledress uniform, one in army khaki and one in RAF blue grey. It was intended that the khaki uniforms would be worn near the front line or when there was a danger of the RAF uniform being mistaken for German field grey. Orders concerning the correct uniform at any time were issued by 2TAF headquarters. In general khaki was worn in Normandy before being replaced by RAF blue. Khaki was worn in the rapid advance into the Low Countries and replaced by blue until the end of October. Khaki was worn again for crossing the Rhine into Germany. All uniforms were worn with RAF badges, insignia etc. The RAF wore collars and ties, unlike the Army who did not have shirt collars, except for officers. 1502 GCI were issued with US uniforms when operating with the US Army to avoid confusion. OPERATIONAL UNITS 2TAF carried out a number of support roles for the army including - Air Defence - Photographic Reconnaissance - Tactical Reconnaissance - Bombing using light and medium bombers - Ground Attack using fighters with cannon and bombs - Rocket Projectile Attack - Meteorological In addition units of the RAF which were not normally a part of 2TAF gave support with the following - Supply and transport - Casualty Evacuation - Carpet bombing using heavy bombers Plus of course transport for the airborne divisions, and support for the SAS and agents in occupied territory. OPERATIONS CONTROL. RAF Operations Control was highly developed and in general very effective. The basic system had been developed before the war with the defence of the UK in mind. The tactical air control had been developed in the desert. There is much opportunity for confusion, and many accounts and histories add to this. An obvious potential source of confusion is the use of type numbers. There are type numbers for units, radars and vehicles. Units also have names and codenames, often abbreviated. GROUP CONTROL CENTRE. Control of aircraft was carried out at Group level by Group Control Centres. These were based on the experience of Sector Operations Centres in the UK, but in 2TAF they were mobile. Control Centres were numbered with ‘4’ as a prefix: 83 Group had 483 GCC, callsign Kenway. 84 Group had 484 GCC, callsign Longbow. 85 Group had 485 GCC. 83 and 84 Groups 483 and 484 Group Control Centres. 483 and 484 GCC each had an operations room and a number of radar units, including Three Forward Direction Posts (FDP). One Ground Controlled Interception Unit (GCI). Four Light Warning Set Units (LW). Mobile Radar Control Posts (MRCP). GROUP CONTROL CENTRE OPERATIONS ROOM. This was the domain of the Group Captain, Operations. The officer commanding the Group, an Air Vice Marshal, had a separate headquarters. Until early 1945 the Group Control Centre did not have its own radar but depended on information from the Forward Direction Posts, and passed information to the Ground Controlled Interception Unit as required. The Bedford QL with a Mobile Operations Room body was used by 2TAF as Operations Rooms. The body was a house type with a large flap on the nearside which was opened upwards when in use. This stretched the entire length of the body. There were tents on both sides of the vehicle, and sometimes over the rear door. The vehicle itself provided a bench with five seats down the nearside. The seats were for - in the centre an armchair for the Controller with two telephone sets type L - to the left of the Controller a seat for the Deputy Controller with one telephone type L - the remaining three seats were for officers, each with a telephone type F In the tent on the nearside there was a 10 foot long bench directly under the Controllers bench. There were sockets for telephones on the vehicle side. There were five seats at the bench - three officers sat at the left end, each with a telephone type F - two other ranks with head and chest telephone sets. The nearside tent overlooked the Group Situation Map. All incoming information from the Filter Room was displayed on the map. Enemy aircraft were displayed as plaques with relevant information concerning type, speed, course and height. Friendly aircraft were also shown so that controllers could vector them towards the enemy. Boards also displayed the states of all units in the Group and the list of missions assigned for the day. In the tent on the offside were various communications equipments. - Multiline switchboards were boards with forty plugs each one connecting to a line to an AA gun site. Any number of lines could be connected at any time. Group Control Centres alerted army units, including AA units, of approaching enemy aircraft. - Twenty line switchboard for the telephones type F. Usually telephones type F were connected to a predetermined line, or number of lines and were permanently connected. These were mainly for incoming information. - One twenty line switchboard for the telephones type L. This operated as a normal civilian switchboard, allowing each phone to talk to one other phone at a time. - A generator which was carried in the vehicle but was used outside it. Wireless equipment was mounted in RVT (Radio Vehicle Types) and accessed by remote control via telephone handsets. There was at least one VHF receiver in the operations vehicle so that communications from aircraft could be monitored. Other operational vehicles were grouped round the main tented area. They provided information, processed information and filtered information before passing it to the central group. Early warning of aircraft movements, and subsequent tracking, was given by a network of Forward Direction Posts, Ground Controlled Interception Units, Light Warning Set Units and Mobile Radar Control Posts. From early 1945 the Group Control Centre had its own radar, although it still received information from the Forward Direction Posts. Officially known as Air Ministry Experimental Station 70, a code name, it deployed the following vehicles RVT 480B Cabin with two radar display units (types 69 and 70) RVT 486B Cabin with four radar display units (type 69) RVT 475 X2 Operations room RVT 488B Interception control with type 70 radar display units and navigation tables RVT 487B As 488 but windows on the opposite side RVT 590 Intelligence Office RVT 489A Combat Operations RVT 483 Communications RVT 481A Lower Type 14 radar RVT 481B Upper Type 14 radar RVT 461A X2 Type 13 radar RVT 436B Radar workshop RVT 436C Radar stores RVT 435F Aerial reflector carrier RVT 481C Generator for transmitters RVT 456 X8 Diesel generator RVT 419A Cable carrier RVT 1300 X3 3ton 4 X 4 GP tender RVT = radio vehicle type There were also administrative vehicles including cars, jeeps, motorcycles, 15cwts and lorries. A light signals unit was usually attached. When set up for operations the nerve centre was still the Group Situation Map. This consisted of situation maps and display boards in a forty two foot by fifty two foot tent with the following vehicles facing into it, RVT 488B and RVT 487B Interception Control, RVT 590 Intelligence Office and RVT 489A Combat Operations. The exact arrangement of vehicles is not known but it would seem that RVT 488B and RVT 487B were parked so that their rear doors were connected to each other and the windows of both faced into the tented area. Presumably the other two vehicles were on the opposite side. The Type 70 radar displays of the Interception Control vehicles were a new and improved type which displayed the information from the various radars but mainly Type 14. The radar display had a large screen with range rings and azimuth markings for rapid and easy reading. It was also possible to move the rotation centre so that any aircraft or area of interest could be placed in the centre of the screen. The scale could also be altered so that the area of interest was enlarged. The Operations Room could also display the information from the radars on the Group Situation Map. Radars vehicles included RVT 481A Lower Type 14 Mk6 radar, RVT 481B Upper Type 14 Mk7 radar and two RVT 461A Type 13 radar. These were all technically the same type of radar. The Type 14 was an improved type with aerials made up from rods to make a curved lattice instead of a cheese type. The 25 foot by 8 foot aerials were mounted horizontally and one was tilted to give a high level tracking radar and better high level coverage. The two radars together gave accurate information on the range and bearing of aircraft. Type 13 had the aerial mounted vertically to allow it to work as a height finder. This could be tilted and aimed at specific aircraft. There was no surveillance radar since Type 14 could rotate 360 degrees. Radar vehicles were parked at least one hundred feet apart and need not be close to the control centre. The radar transmitters needed a special generator which gave a constant output and prevented surge which was damaging to sensitive equipment. Other generators provided power for the turntables on the radars, power for the electrical equipment and for lighting. The cable carrier carried an assortment of cables required to connect all the equipment. The aerial reflector was simply a wire mesh which could be pegged down under the radar aerials to improve performance. FORWARD CONTROL CENTRE. On occasion, particularly when rapid moves were made, the Group Control Centre remained in position and sent a Forward Direction Post to set up a Forward Control Centre as far forward as was practicable. For this duty a number of staff officers and army liaison officers were sent forward to join the Forward Direction Post so that they could take over the duties of the Group Control Centre until that could be brought forward. When operating as a Forward Control Centre the Forward Direction Post would have small units attached to it. These would include:- Mobile Signals Unit. These used 15cwt wireless vehicles to provide direct R/T speech links to the Group Control Centre. Y Service section. This provided a radio intercept service which could listen into German transmissions to give early warning of raids. It could also use Radio Direction finders to locate the source of transmissions. RAF Regiment Armoured Car Section. This used Morris or Humber Light Reconnaissance Cars to give local protection in a fluid situation where the army might not be available, or be aware of RAF presence. A Forward Control Centre could have any of the above units attached at other times at the discretion of the Group Control Centre. FORWARD DIRECTION POST. Air Ministry Experimental Station Type 15000. Each of the Forward Direction Posts was responsible for the surveillance of an area forward of the front line. Normally information was sent back to the GCC Operations Room but the Operations Room could delegate control of aircraft and formations to the Forward Direction Post (hence its title). Forward Direction Posts used the following radars. Type 15 was the main search radar. This had a range of 120 miles at altitude but its usefulness in tactical situations was limited by a poor performance at lower altitudes. It was also susceptible to jamming since it used a long wave length. The Type 11 radar was used both to give a better cover at lower altitudes and as a stand by set in case the Type 15 was jammed. Type 13 radar was a height finding set with an excellent low level performance but was unsuitable for surveillance. Although it had a range of 75 miles at low altitude it could not be rapidly rotated being designed to ‘nod’ up and down to scan a narrow vertical section of the sky. In practise a Forward Direction Post used all three radar types to give a complete coverage. Type 15 remained the main search radar with Type 11 and Type 13 giving low altitude cover. Type 13 was a height finding radar and was also used on targets already identified by other means. A problem arose when selecting sites for the FDP radars. Since they were intended to cover the area forward of the front line the Type 15 radars should have been sited well back. However the short range, low level coverage of Type 11 radar required sets to be sited well forward. If too far forward they became vulnerable to enemy artillery fire or even a ground attack. Additionally radar giving low altitude cover needed to be sited where they could have an unobstructed view. As this meant an open space, probably on a hilltop, they were very visible. Vehicles (organisation for movement) 3 X motorcycle Jeep for Commanding Officer Type 13 Aerial on Austin K6 6 X 4 Type 15 Aerial on Austin K6 6 X 4 Type 15 Transmitter on Crossley 4 X 4 Type 15 Receiver/Operations on Crossley 4 X 4 Type 11 Aerial on Austin K6 6 X 4 Type 11 Operations on Austin K6 6 X 4 Diesel Generator 1 on Austin K6 6 X 4 Diesel Generator 2 on Austin K6 6 X 4 Diesel Generator 3 on Austin K6 6 X 4 Diesel Generator 4 on Austin K6 6 X 4 3ton 4 X 4 1 for Operations Section 3ton 4 X 4 2 for Technical Section VHF Receivers on Austin K6 6 X 4 VHF Transmitters on Austin K6 6 X 4 W/T Receivers on Austin K6 6 X 4 W/T Transmitters on Austin K6 6 X 4 Attached R/T vehicles Any other attached vehicles Cipher Office on Bedford MW 15cwt Cooks lorry on Ford 30cwt Water Bowser on Bedford MW 15cwt 3ton 4 X 4 3 3ton 4 X 4 4 3ton 4 X 4 5 3ton 4 X 4 6 for MT maintenance MT repair on Bedford MW 15cwt. 3 ton 4 X 4 were initially Crossley but increasingly they were replaced by Bedford QL. The three radar vehicles were the only vehicles provided with tradesmen drivers. All other vehicles were driven by unit personnel. The nerve centre of the FDP was the Crossley Q 4 X 4 3ton Receiver/Operations Room. This had a house type body containing the radar displays. There was a rear entrance and a large side opening with a canvas awning. The displays were in the middle of the nearside. The controller sat in front of the Plan Position Indicator display. As the Type 15 radar array rotated a line representing its beam swept round the screen. Any aircraft within its range appeared as a blip which allowed range and bearing to be read. An operator on the controllers left sat in front of the height display which received information from the Type 13 height finding radar. The controller marked with a chinagraph pencil an aircraft in which he was interested and indicated it to the height finder operator. The operator turned his array in the correct direction and then nodded it up and down to read off the height. An operator seated behind the controller read off the data and recorded it before passing it to a plotter. The plotter sat at a plotting table in the front nearside corner and plotted the aircraft data, thus obtaining a course and speed. The information was then passed to the Group Control Centre. More than one aircraft or formation could be plotted by the controller numbering the blips so that the recorder and plotter could identify them correctly. When the Type 11 radar was also in use the Type 11 Receiver/Operations Room was backed up to the main operations room vehicle with its door against the opening in the side. Information could then be passed from the Type 11 operator to the controller and plotter. Direct communication with aircraft required VHF radio sets. These were carried in two House Body Type F on Austin K6 chassis. RVT 100 carried two AM T1131 transmitters and RVT 105 carried two AM R1392 receivers and a TR 1143 transmitter/receiver. Two telescopic aerial masts could be mounted on the rear corners of the transmitter vehicle but two tripod aerial masts were also carried. These could be set up some distance away from the vehicles. Operators normally manned the receiver vehicle, which had more available space, and operated the transmitter by remote control. The receiver vehicle could be parked near the operations vehicles with the transmitter vehicle some distance away, and the aerial mast even further away. This prevented interference with radar equipment. The controller could speak directly to aircraft using a remote link to the sets. The FDP had three controllers, a squadron leader who was also commanding officer, and two flight lieutenants. NCOs were trained as assistant controllers. Three shifts were normally operated but FDP did not operate at night, this being the role of 85 Group. There was also a Technical Officer and an Adjutant. Signals and Transport were in the hands of NCOs. Communication to GCC was normally by line, laid by Air Formation Signals, but the FDP also had high frequency wireless telegraphy sets for this purpose. These were carried in House Body Type F on Austin K6 or Fordson WOT1A chassis. A pair of vehicles was used, this being normal RAF practice. One was a transmitter vehicle (RVT 393) with two wireless sets and the other was a receiver (RVT 394) with four reception sets. Again the normal RAF practice was for the operator or operators to be in the receiver vehicle and operate all the sets from there. Morse was used for communication to GCC and this was in cipher. A 15cwt cipher vehicle was manned by a serjeant and team who enciphered all outgoing messages and deciphered all incoming messages making the passing of information rather slow. It was common to have a Mobile Signals Unit attached and this provided direct voice communication between GCC and FDP. Two Bedford MW 15 cwts with Type E body were used to carry low power, high frequency, twin channel sets. RVT 314 carried two transmitters and RVT 315 carried two receivers. Telescopic aerial masts could be fitted to any corner of the receiver vehicles body and the body could be braced using two telescopic tubular braces. FORWARD CONTROL POINT. There were occasions when low flying enemy aircraft attacked front line troops without being seen by the Forward Direction Post Radars. A Forward Control Point was sent forward to direct fighters onto such low level raiders. A controller from the Forward Direction Post took a small team and a 3ton VHF R/T vehicle to give aircraft of the Front Line Patrols visual directions to enable them to intercept. Forward Control Points could also be provided by other units with trained controllers. The Forward Control Point should not be confused with similar units which controlled fighter bomber aircraft onto ground targets. GROUND CONTROL INTERCEPTION UNIT. Air Ministry Experimental Station Type 15000 (Base Defence) 483 GCC and 484 GCC were responsible for the air defence of the base areas by day. Night Defence was the role of 85 Group, although initially 85 Group GCI units operated under the control of 83 Group. Air defence of base areas was shared with army anti aircraft units and the work of guns and aircraft had to be coordinated by the control centre. There were clear zones where fighters could operate and others where the guns were sited. A Ground Control Interception unit was similar in equipment to that of the FDP but it had two Type 13 radars, one to track an enemy plane and one to track the interceptor. The controller guided the interceptor to a point where visual contact was made and the interception continued without further ground control. A Type 15 radar was used for surveillance and distant tracking, with a Type 11 as back up. Some FDP and GCI were numbered in the 8000 series. Radar Type 8 was a predecessor of Type 15 and in practice AMES Type 8000 and AMES Type 15000 were interchangeable. LIGHT WARNNG SET UNITS. Type 600 units. Light Warning units deployed individual Light Warning sets mounted in 15cwt trucks. They could be used to fill any gaps in the coverage of the FDP radars or spread along the front further forward than was wise with the bigger sets. These units reported to the Fighter Direction Posts. MOBILE RADAR CONTROL POST. In February 1945 the Mobile Radar Control Post was introduced. This used the US SCR584 radar which was an anti aircraft gun laying radar. It was very accurate and was capable of automatically tracking an aircraft or formation to a range of 30 miles. This was not usually sufficient for interception or surveillance but was ideal for guiding ground attack missions. Aircraft tasked with attacking targets through thick cloud could be accurately directed and told when to release their loads. It was particularly useful to the Mitchells and Bostons of 2 Group which normally bombed in boxes of six aircraft acting in unison. It was also used to direct missions by Mosquitoes and Typhoons. In British service this was Radar No III Mk 5Radar which was linked to Predictor No 10. It was used to continuously track targets, and to give a constant flow of information regarding speed, height, range and course of a target. This radar was capable of continuously plotting a target with great accuracy while the Predictor No10 was electronic and very fast. The whole equipment was mounted in a box semi trailer body. In theory Radar AA No3 MkV could locate and track moving ground targets. The US Army did so on occasion. 85 Group 485 GROUP CONTROL CENTRE, 85 GROUP. Sector Base Defence stations. 85 Group and its 485 Group Control Centre were responsible for the air defence of the base areas at night. For this role the Group used a sector system so that control was devolved to a number of Sector Base Defence Stations, each responsible for a clearly defined sector. Five such units operated with 85 Group. The units were numbered in the 15000 range and were specifically for controlling night fighters. The actual radar system was called Radar Type 21 and consisted of four radars, none of which were Type 21. There were also operations and administrative vehicles as for the Group Control Centre. The first 15000 series units were ashore on D Day and in action the same day. 15082 landed in the US sector where it lost some vehicles when they were stuck, drowned and mortared. Equipment was much as for the other group GCI units but with the addition of Type 14 radar. Type 15 radar operated on the 1.5metre waveband. The aerial rotated continuously to give continuous data on the position, course and height of aircraft in its area. Type 13 radar was a height finder which was mounted vertically and could be tilted to aim at a specific aircraft. Type 14 radar was the same aerial as Type 13 but mounted horizontally to give the range and bearing of a specific aircraft. Type 11 radar operated on the 10cm band and was an alternative to the Type 15. There were also operations and administrative vehicles as for the Group Control Centre. 85 Group also deployed Type 57 radar which was a low level radar normally used by the army for coastal artillery and by the navy. In RAF service it was a horizontal cheese aerial mounted on top of a cabin and the whole carried on a trailer, the operations room being in the towing vehicle. These sets were used for surveillance out to sea. They could detect very low flying aircraft which would be below other radars. They could also track shipping. Identification Friend or Foe. Identification of aircraft was always a problem. 2TAF aircraft were fitted with IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) transponders. These reacted to a radar beam and sent an identification signal which could be deciphered by the receiver and displayed on the screen as a pulsing light. However they were not always dependable and there were friendly aircraft in the skies which did not have IFF, mainly Bomber Command or transports. Only Type 15 radars were fitted with IFF transmitter/receivers. In the event it was necessary to intercept anything without a positive identification and rely on the intercepting pilot to correctly identify it. THE RADARS. Type 13 Radar. Type 13 radar was a height finder which was mounted vertically and could be tilted to aim at a specific aircraft. It received information from the Type 15 radar and then rotated the aerial until it was pointing on the correct bearing. It then ‘nodded’ until it located the target. Height was calculated by triangulation, the range from the radar signal and the elevation of the aerial being used as data. The information was shown on a screen and also repeated on the PPI display. This radar operated on the 10cm wavelength. For transport the aerial was dismounted and carried on the off side of the body. The supports for the aerial were also dismounted. This still left a high vehicle Type 14 Radar. Type 14 radar was the same aerial as Type 13 but mounted horizontally to give the range and bearing of a specific aircraft. Used with a Type 15 it could give lower altitude cover. Used with a Type 13 it could accurately locate a target in three dimensions. Type 14 Mk 6 had an aerial 25 foot by 8 foot made of .5 inch steel tubes instead of a cheese. This was carried in the same way as the Type 14. Mk 6 was tilted to give high angle cover. Also referred to as Type 4 Upper. Type 14 Mk 7 was as for Type 6 but horizontal to give low angle cover. Also referred to as Type 4 Lower. Type 15 Radar Type 15 radar operated on the 1.5metre waveband. The aerial rotated continuously, four times a minute, to give continuous data on the position, course and height of aircraft in its area. Range was 120 miles at higher altitudes. Information was displayed on a Plan Position Indicator and in units with this equipment the Controller sat in front of this display. For transport a considerable amount of dismantling was necessary. The end sections of the main frame had to be removed, together with the top section, which was the FFI. These sections were carried on a separate vehicle. The height of the frame could be further reduced by folding down the top hinged section. The 16 pairs of dipoles were also removed for safety. Type 11 Radar. Type 11 radar operated on the 25cm band which being the same as German radars was useful if the Type 15 was jammed. It had less range than the Type 15 and it had no height finding capability but its narrower beam gave a clearer image with less clutter while still giving a an adequate coverage. A great advantage of this radar equipment was that it needed little assembly. The ends of the parabolic array folded in for transport and were rapidly extended on arrival. It could be in operation long before the Type 15. Since the whole aerial could be tilted it could readily be used on an elevated or uneven site. Type 600 Light Warning Set. Each station was one Light Warning Set in a 15cwt House Type. RAF types seem to have used CMP chassis. There were also army units with the same radar, AA No4, on Fordson WOT2H chassis. These were primarily for Anti Aircraft units. Light Warning sets operated on the 1.5metre band. The aerial array consisted of two pairs of Yagi aerials which could give direction and range. The whole array could be rotated. The house body contained a Plan Position Indicator and a range tube display. Information was sent to control centres or operations rooms by telephone if possible or by wireless if not. Range was 65,000 yards with an accuracy of + - 2,000 yards Radar Type 57 (later known as Type 14 MkII) Type 57 had the same origins as Type 13 and 14 but was different in several respects. It was originally used by the army for coastal artillery and the navy for use on ships. It was used in several forms with the RAF in the UK. However all of the above used dish aerials while Type 57 used the cheese aerial. AIR DEFENCE. Air Defence took several forms. Patrols. Patrols were arranged by Group Control Centres Operations Staff according to need and availability of aircraft. Patrols were tracked by Forward Direction Centres and their position shown on the Control Centre map. Also displayed were the strengths and status of units and the various operations planned for the day. Fighter squadrons were given a sector to patrol. They were relieved by other squadrons so that they could refuel, rearm and rest. There was thus a constant presence over the front lines. Forward Direction Posts and the Group Control Centre tracked both the patrols and enemy aircraft and vectored the patrol aircraft towards the target. On occasions the Forward Direction Posts directed the patrols without going through the Group Control Centre. Good communications and liaison ensured that it was clear to all who had the responsibility for directing patrols. Whoever was controlling used the call sign Kenway or Longbow as appropriate and fighters may not be aware who was actually controlling them. Whenever patrols were operating there were other squadrons standing by on the ground to either relieve the patrol at a pre arranged time, or to go and support the patrol against a large enemy force. Patrols were usually of four aircraft but patrols of two or six aircraft were common. In any case fighters flew in pairs so that a patrol of four would often be split into two pairs. Patrols of two aircraft tended to be over the beaches in early days and over the rear or flanks later. The Spitfires, and Mustangs III in June, had been very effective in gaining air superiority so that they undertook most patrols, leaving the Typhoons to concentrate on ground attack. However Typhoons did undertake patrols and participated in air to air combat. There were also armed reconnaissance missions in which squadrons would attack anything that moved on the ground or in the air. The fighter’s cannon were very effective against ground targets and most could also carry a useful bomb load. These fighters were also available to assist with air defence, jettisoning their bombs first. Sweeps. Sweeps were more aggressive and consisted of a larger formation flying into enemy territory to attack any enemy aircraft in the air or on the ground. It was also hoped to draw enemy fighters into combat. Such sweeps helped establish air superiority. Night Fighters Night fighters were two seat, twin engined aircraft fitted with a short range radar. They patrolled singly and when ground radar identified an enemy aircraft the 85 Group controllers guided them to a point where the aircrafts radar could locate the target. The night fighter then closed to visual distance and finally brought the intruder down with cannon fire. Escort Fighters also undertook a variety of other roles. They could escort 2 Group light and medium bombers on raids, giving both close escort and high cover. Occasionally 2TAF fighters were also called on to escort strategic bombers when they either bombed in support of ground forces, or when they passed through 2TAF air space. Interceptors. The term interceptor was not used in 1944 but a pair of new fighters performed the role in 2TAF. The Tempest V and Spitfire XIV were a complimentary pair, although not planned as such. The Tempest was a development of the Typhoon with an all round improvement in performance and with four 20mm cannon it was a powerful fighter aircraft. The Spitfire XIV had the Griffon engine and was armed with two 20mm cannon and two machine guns. The Tempest V was fastest at low level but had a ceiling of 30,000 feet. The Spitfire XIV was fastest at altitude and had a ceiling of 40,000 feet. Although both were in service in early 1944 their deployment to Europe was delayed by the need to combat the V1 Flying Bombs. Both fighters arrived with 2TAF in late September/early October, just in time to counter the German Me 262 jet aircraft. Eventually there were five squadrons of Spitfire XIV and seven squadrons of Tempest V. Eventually both types were used on ground attack missions as the threat of enemy air attack diminished. The Meteor. The Gloster Meteor was the first operational jet fighter with the RAF. 616 Squadron converted to the type in August 1944 and was used against the V1 Flying Bomb. The first Meteors to arrive with 2 TAF were four MkIII in February. These operated from Airfield B58 on missions to demonstrate the type to ground observers and anti aircraft gunners. They were painted white for quick recognition. The performance was not outstanding, top speeds were about the same as the Tempest V and Spitfire XIV. The whole of 616 Squadron moved to the Continent on 1 April 1945, now equipped with 18 Meteor MkIII with the superior Derwent jet engine. This version could reach nearly 500 miles an hour at 30,000 feet. Although this was much faster than piston engined machines they were still slower than the German Me262. The squadron flew patrols and armed reconnaissance missions. No enemy aircraft were met in the air but a considerable number of vehicles were destroyed as well as aircraft on the ground. The Meteor was a useful ground attack aircraft since its jet engines provided a steady and stable platform for the four 20mm cannon. D DAY AIR DEFENCE Fighter cover on D Day was considered essential and was provide by a number of units. Air Defence Great Britain fighters patrolled up to 40 miles from the coast of Britain. It was considered that to fly further would reduce the time on patrol since most of the aircraft were short range Spitfires. Night fighters patrolled in the short hours of darkness. Fighter units of 8th and 9th US Air Forces patrolled at greater distances from the coast since they generally had longer range. US Air Force Lightnings flew escort to convoys. Four such squadrons patrolled while there were a further six in reserve. Lightnings had the advantage of long range and a distinctive shape. Experience had shown that naval convoys fired on anything that flew over them and could not be positively identified. Over the beaches Second Tactical Air Force maintained low air cover with six squadrons while US 9th Air Force provided high cover with three P47 Thunderbolt squadrons. Six squadrons were held ready as an immediate strike force if required. In all thirty six British squadrons and sixteen US squadrons were available for patrols with thirty more squadrons in reserve. Fighter Direction Tenders. Fighter Direction was provided by Fighter Direction Tenders. FDT 13 controlled the skies over the convoys. FDT 217 controlled the skies over the British Sector FDT 216 controlled the skies over the US Sector ADGB patrols were controlled from Group Control Centres in the UK Fighter Direction Tenders were Landing Tank Ship Mk2 converted by the Royal Navy. The bow doors were welded shut and armour plate or pig iron ballast was added for protection. The tank deck was converted into offices as follows - a general communications office for communicating with airfields, naval units etc. - a VHF radio transmitting room - a VHF receiving room - a radio direction finder receiving room - two fighter direction offices - a Ground Control Interception office - a beacon office - a plotting office - a filter room - an air control room - a storeroom - generator space with four generators. This was much the same as for a permanent control centre in the UK or a Group Control Centre mounted on vehicles. Radars were RAF types including - Type 13 - Type 14 - Type 15 RAF mobile Group Control Centres were quickly ashore and controlled air activity over the beach head. GROUND SUPPORT and RECONNAISSANCE The two main roles for the Tactical Air Force were Tactical Reconnaissance and Ground Attack. For the first squadrons of Mustang fighters were used. For the second Typhoon fighters with rockets or Spitfires with small bombs and cannon were used, plus the light and medium bombers of 2 Group. In both roles very careful organisation and communication was necessary. In World War One and in the interwar period it was possible for an aircraft to spot an enemy position, write its position on a piece of paper, put into a weighted container with a streamer attached and then drop it to a headquarters on the ground. It might even be possible to land and give more information. However by 1944 this simple co operation was no longer possible. The problems for tactical reconnaissance included - Tactical Reconnaissance aircraft were too fast to be able to circle and accurately locate targets. - Enemy anti aircraft fire became heavier and more accurate forcing tactical reconnaissance planes to fly higher. - RAF maps necessarily covered a larger area than army maps and were therefore to a much larger scale making accurate references difficult. - Reconnaissance aircraft often needed a fighter escort since the pilot could not study the ground and his map and at the same time scan the skies for enemy aircraft. - RAF and army communications were not compatible. RAF used VHF sets which operated on frequencies well outside the range of army sets. Putting both an RAF set and an army set in a single seat fighter proved difficult. It was also difficult to find an army set which had the range without excessive weight, and could be preset to a number of frequencies. Of course most of these difficulties were overcome - It was found that an army No19 set and an RAF 1143 set could be carried in a 15cwt truck and connected so as to automatically re transmit messages. Thus an aircraft could transmit a message to the RAF set which automatically re broadcast the message through the 19 set to any unit. The unit could reply by the same method. Communication was immediate. - It became common to use aerial photographs rather than maps. Prominent features could be used as a reference point. - Photo reconnaissance was widely used. Although less immediate than visual reconnaissance the system could be speeded up so that photographs were collected from the plane the moment it landed and rushed to the processing lab and the finished photos rushed by motor cycle to the customer. Eventually the problems of coordinating ground support were solved by using Rovers or Visual Control Posts. These consisted of an RAF officer with both army and RAF wireless sets and signallers. It was pre arranged that a flight of ground attack aircraft would circle nearby and be in contact with the Rover. When the army unit requested support the RAF ground controller could give visual references and call down a strike within minutes. Again the system depended on air photographs marked with a grid. Difficulties included - Accurately identifying the position of friendly troops. The distance between friend and foe was often small. Traditionally the front line could be marked with smoke or flares, but this obviously revealed the position of friendly troops to the enemy. Coloured cloth strips could be laid out. - The Rover was often very exposed. Officially the RAF controller was in a halftrack, sometimes a tank, close to the headquarters of the unit being supported. In fact he needed to be well forward so that he could see the ground and the positions of friendly and enemy positions, and the effect of strikes. The enemy soon learned to watch out for these vehicles and identify them by their aerials. Note: officially the RAF officer was a pilot ‘resting’ from operations. The essential communications in all of these operations were provided by the Air Support Signals Unit. Each Corps and Armoured Division Headquarters had staff officers responsible for Intelligence and for Air. These two officers worked closely together. The staff officer (Intelligence) was responsible for the ‘G’ staff aspects of intelligence which were primarily to ensure that steps were taken to obtain information and to ensure that proper use was made of the information. It was his responsibility among others to - report to the GOC on requests from brigades for air support - liaise with the Air Intelligence Liaison Officer - order and interpret air photographs - circulate intelligence obtained from air reconnaissance. The staff officer (Air) had responsibility for all aspects of air liaison and support including - requests for air support. Both in receiving such requests from brigades or divisions and passing on the requests to the Tactical Air Force. - Liaison with the Air Intelligence Liaison Officer to receive reconnaissance reports and aerial photographs The requests were then forwarded to the relevant RAF commanders via the Air Support Signals Unit. The RAF commander allocated squadrons for the tasks requested and the Air Liaison Section officers briefed the unit on the mission. In the case of tactical reconnaissance missions the RAF unit would report back to the Air Liaison Section officers who would be able to debrief them and obtain a full report. In the case of photographic missions the photographs would be sent to the corps or division by motor cycle. In all cases it was necessary that requests for tactical reconnaissance or air support be sent to the RAF the previous day in order that the arrangements could be made. In some cases it was planned that there would be specific air strikes and specific reconnaissance missions. Increasingly it was also possible to arrange for Rover missions in which both reconnaissance and support aircraft were kept in the air waiting to be given a specific mission by a forward controller on the ground or a liaison officer at headquarters. The Rover system ensured a rapid response but was expensive. Ideally two or three relays of aircraft were required to maintain a constant cover. The RAF was able to provide air support from the very first minutes of the invasion. For the first days operations were mounted from the UK but very quickly Advanced Landing Grounds were opened up. The first were emergency landing strips but soon there were airfields where squadrons could re arm and refuel during the day but still return to the UK at night. Finally squadrons could occupy a fully operational airfield, although everything was under canvas. Emergency Landing Strips were of compacted earth and were 600 metres long. Advanced Landing Grounds were all 40 metres wide and either 1200 or 1700 metres long. They were of either welded steel mesh or pierced steel plates. The first strips were operational on 10 June when the following opened B1 an earth emergency landing strip B2 1700 metre welded steel mesh runway B3 1200 metre welded steel mesh runway. No 2 GROUP BOMBING OPERATIONS. No2 Group was a Bomber Command unit before joining 2 TAF and its practise followed that seen in many films of Bomber Command units preparing for a mission. An obvious difference was that the journeys for 2 Group were shorter and, weather permitting, two missions could be flown each day. That is not necessarily to say that each plane and crew flew twice a day. When 2 Group Operations Staff had selected targets and assigned them to wings the details were transmitted to Wing Operations Staff. Here the fine details were worked out and given to the crews at briefings. If possible all the aircrew were assembled in a suitable building, although marquees were used, and briefings in the open air were not unknown. The building or area was secured by station police as only planning staff and aircrew were allowed to know the details of the mission. Mitchell and Boston Wings. The following relates to Mitchell operations but Boston operations were similar. Mosquito operations initially followed the same pattern but they soon developed tactics of their own. The wing commander, in small letters since he was usually a Group Captain, led the briefing but the details were given by a team including - The Wing Commander, Flying, who announced the target and gave a brief introduction. - The Navigation Officer who gave details of the flight paths outward and homeward. - The Signals Officer who gave details of frequencies, code words and navigation beacons. - The Armourer Officer who gave details of the ordnance to be used. - The Intelligence Officer explained the significance of the target, indicated known anti aircraft sites and possible fighter opposition. - The Meteorological Officer who gave details of the weather to be expected. Aircrews would then move onto smaller specialist briefings at squadron level - Pilots were briefed by the Wing Commander on formations, taxiing and on the emergency landing grounds available. - Navigators/bomb aimers were briefed by the Navigation Officer on preparing individual flight plans and on bombing information. - Wireless Operators were briefed by the Signals Officer - Air gunners were briefed by the Gunnery Leader. From these briefings aircrew went straight to locker room/ tent to collect helmets, parachutes and technical equipment. They also handed any valuables and documents to the Intelligence Officer. Trucks take the aircrew to the flight line where the aircraft engaged in the mission have the bomb doors open and the ground crews standing by. Pilots carry out a check of the bomb load and fuses before ordering the bomb doors to be closed. A check is also made of control surfaces and for any obvious defects. Other crew members carry out checks on their own equipment. At the planned time the pilot starts the port engine, followed by the starboard engine. This provides electrical power and the crew can now carry out further checks - The pilot carries out his cockpit check, making sure that all controls and switches are as they should be. - The navigator/bomb aimer can now check the bomb sight and instruments are working correctly. - The wireless operator can check his radio and the power operated tail guns for which he is responsible. - The air gunner can rotate his turret and manipulate his guns. If all is well the pilot can sign Form 700 declaring that all is in good order and hand it to the crew chief. The ground crew can then stand down. If all is not well the ground crew may have time to correct any faults otherwise a stand by aircraft and crew, which have completed all the checks, will take over. At the appointed time Flying Control will signal all is clear to taxi and the first machine will move along the taxi track towards the end of the runway. All other machines follow in the prescribed order. Wing Commanders go first. On reaching the end of the runway the lead machine will position itself to the left hand side of the runway and the second machine will take up position to the right and slightly behind. Flying Control will signal all is clear to take off and the first pair of aircraft will accelerate down the runway and into the air. By the time they are airborne the second pair will be in position and be signalled to take off. Once a flight of six aircraft are in the air they will get into correct formation and circle while the rest of the wing take off and get into formation. Eventually the whole wing will set course for the target. On the way they will probably meet aircraft from other wings, and the fighter escort. As the aircraft cross the Bomb Line, a blue line of the maps which marked a safe distance in front of the forward troop positions, bombs were armed and guns could be tested. 2 TAF bombers were equipped with the MkXIVa bombsight which incorporated a gyro stabiliser and a computer. Information was automatically fed from the aircraft controls to the bomb sight. This made it possible for the target to be accurately sighted when the aircraft took evasive action. The navigator/bomb aimer had to manually enter information on wind speed and direction to correct any drift as bombs fell. Often a reconnaissance bomber flew 10 minutes (40 miles) ahead of the formation. It radioed back information on wind speed and direction to allow bomb aimers to enter this before arriving over the target. It also radioed back information on weather and Flak and then returned to rejoin the formation for the bombing run. Bomb aimers should have already entered information on the targets height above sea level and on the bombs carried. On the bombing run the bomb aimer was now able to concentrate on last minute corrections and releasing bombs at the precise time. The key bomb aimer was in the lead aircraft of each flight of six aircraft. As the target was approached the pilot set the radio to transmit all the bomb aimer’s instructions to the other five aircraft so that all six acted in unison. The instructions included last minute adjustments to course, opening bomb doors and ultimately releasing bombs. It was possible to have larger formations controlled by a single bomb leader but usually there was no advantage in this. On return to base aircrew returned to the Intelligence Officer to receive a cup of tea, collect valuables and to be debriefed. First reports of the effects of the bombing, any enemy aircraft seen, any air combats observed were all recorded but the real evidence of success came when photo reconnaissance aircraft returned with pictures of the damage. Mosquito units. The Mosquito fighter bomber of 2 Group was a versatile aircraft. It was armed with four 20mm cannon and four machine guns, all grouped in the nose. It had a bomb bay which could carry 1000 lb of bombs and a further 1000 lb of bombs could be carried under the wings. Rocket rails for eight rockets could be fitted instead of bomb racks. The Mosquito was fast for a bomber and had a range of 1,650 miles. At first the Mosquito was used as a medium bomber flying in formation and bombing in unison. This task wasted many of the Mosquitoes advantages and the Mitchell was better suited to the medium bomber role. The Mosquito was increasingly used on missions where its speed and manoeuvrability could be used. These included accurate low level strikes against targets beyond the range of the Typhoons, and in particular night interdiction sorties. The latter used pairs of aircraft to fly into enemy territory at night and attack transport targets and air fields. These attacks kept the pressure on the enemy 24 hours a day and made the movement of trains, barges and motor convoys almost as hazardous at night as in the daytime. C Flight 226 Squadron. This was a special, and secret, Mitchell flight under the direct operational control of SHAEF, 226 Squadron being responsible for administration only. Under the cover of dropping leaflets over occupied France, and later Holland, they were in fact receiving transmissions from agents in France. Using normal transmitters was very hazardous for the sender since the German forces were very quick at locating them. This meant that messages had to very short to avoid the transmitter being located by direction finders, and had to be in encoded Morse to avoid the message being read. Instead agents transmitted a narrow vertical beam which could not be detected on the ground but an aircraft flying at 20,000 feet could receive signals within a cone 50 miles wide. From the 1st of June two aircraft each night flew over France and received messages. The planes carried French speaking operators who could record messages concerning German supply trains and convoys. These could then be attacked next morning. Later flights were made over Holland to collect information on V2 rocket launching sites. By the end of October all such flights ceased since the ground forces had liberated all the areas where agents operated. Operation Blackwood. Mosquito XIIIs of 264 Squadron flew over areas of Holland which were still occupied by the Germans. They each carried a member of the Dutch Resistance so that they could communicate by direct radio link to agents on the ground. TYPHOON OPERATIONS. Typhoons were 2TAFs most effective fighter bombers. They may have been a failure as air superiority fighters but for ground attack they were powerful, stable and versatile. The Typhoon was armed with four 20mm cannon but could carry either rockets on launching rails or bombs on under wing racks. In theory the launching rails and under wing racks could be fitted to any Typhoon and changed fairly rapidly. In practice Typhoon wings specialised in one or the other. The rocket was the Typhoons deadliest weapon. In the early days of the campaign it was most used for attacking enemy tanks but later it was more often used against static targets. Gun positions, dug in armoured vehicles, observation posts and strong points were all suitable targets near the front line. Further a field barges, railway trains and dumps were attacked. Bridges however proved relatively immune to rockets. For longer range missions Typhoons could carry two auxiliary fuel tanks and then carry only four rockets. Rocket attacks called for considerable skill. The normal gun sight was used and the pilot had to compensate for variables such as wind speed and direction, rocket fall, and deflection. Normally the pilot was firing his guns as long as possible to try and suppress ground fire. Typically a formation approached at some 10,000 feet and then the leader would decide on the precise tactics required. The leader would normally make the first attack to mark the target, with his wingman close behind. Other planes would follow in close succession. Larger targets might allow for four aircraft to attack in echelon. It might even be that simultaneous attacks from different directions would be called for although there was then a danger of collision. Ideally attacks would be made with aircraft diving at an angle of 45 degrees and a speed of 400 mph. However if Flak was heavy a shallower dive of 30 degrees and a speed of 380 mph could be made. Pilots could choose to fire rockets in pairs or all eight in one salvo depending on the target. Whatever tactic was selected there were many dangers. Flak was always a problem. If the steep dive was selected then ground gunners found it easier to aim and track the aircraft. A low approach brought dangers from trees, cables and other obstructions. Running into debris from ones own, or other planes, attacks was a danger. Even ricochets from ones own cannon fire brought aircraft down. Finally damage assessment was difficult. In aerial combat or ground strafing the aircrafts gun cameras recorded the results of an attack. This did not work with rockets since the gun button had to be released in order to fire the rockets. The aircraft should be clear before the rockets hit anyway. At first the leader would circle to note the effects of an attack, but Flak soon made this unwise. Eventually Typhoons fitted with reconnaissance cameras accompanied strikes. These seem to have been early production models taken out of store and modified for this purpose. Typhoons carrying bombs could use much the same tactics as the rocket firing units. For some targets however a vertical dive was the most effective means of delivery. This carried the danger of not pulling out in time. A low level approach with bombs been lobbed and the aircraft climbing at the last moment was effective against buildings, tunnels and vehicles under cover but the dangers were equally great. Eventually the leader of a Typhoon bombing mission carried phosphorous market rockets instead of bombs. The leader and his wingman would attack first to mark the target and the main force then either dropped bombs from a height or dive bombed. Two notable successes for fighter bombers. Mortain. 7 August 1944. A column of German vehicles was seen advancing to attack US forces. Two wings of Typhoons were sent to attack the column. The first strike was a classic operation in which rocket firing aircraft attacked the front of the column to prevent any further advance and then attacked the rear of the column to prevent escape. 305 sorties were carried out in several waves with Typhoons refuelling and rearming and then returning to the scene. 2 TAF Operational Research Section visited the scene and found 132 enemy vehicles of all types. Interestingly many were intact, having been abandoned by their crews. Many more had been disabled by their crews. It was concluded that a sustained rocket attack by Typhoons caused panic. Falaise. German forces fleeing encirclement by US and British forces were attacked by tactical aircraft. Three thousand motor vehicles and one thousand horse drawn vehicles were found at the scene. Again many were intact, having been abandoned in the traffic jam, and in panic. Chemical warfare. 143 and 146 Wings, both operating Typhoons, were trained in chemical warfare in support of ground forces. Training concentrated on the laying of smoke screens. Typhoons carrying two M10 smoke canisters flew at low level and released smoke as requested by the army. This was fairly successful but there were other, more reliable means of laying smoke screens available to the army and the Typhoons did not lay smoke operationally. The same equipment could be used for gas attacks. This remained an option but was not required. Bostons of 2 Group were used in smoke laying operations. Napalm was introduced in April 1945. It was carried in red painted wing tanks. Trials were carried out but there had been no operational use when the campaign ended. Ground Panels. Ground forces had two foot by four foot red panels. These were used to mark the forward positions but could also be used to indicate targets. A list of signals was issued, but there is little evidence that they were used in 21Army Group. Battle Messages issued in May 1944 included OK to land here. We are attacking. Do not land or drop here. Objectives have been reached. Plus signs requesting food, water, ammunition or fuel. FORWARD AIR CONTROL. Visual Control Posts. Initially, in Normandy, fighters were controlled from ships. Each of the five beaches had its own Air Staff aboard a Headquarters Ship, under whose orders there was a Fighter Direction Tender. Dusk on D-Day found 83 Group Control ashore and starting to take over from its FDT. It seems that in the first days of the Normandy landings there were problems caused by the understandable confusion, the difficulty of accurately identifying forward positions and the problems of communication and co ordination when the aircraft were still based in the UK. When the first rush was over, additions were made to the control apparatus. Armoured divisions were given their own RAF controllers, who travelled with a wireless operator in tanks whose armament had been replaced by wireless sets. Half-track contact cars were used as forward visual control posts. It is difficult to work out the precise organisation, and even more difficult to identify the equipment and vehicles used. However it is clear that the Visual Control Post consisted of an RAF controller and equipped with a variety of wireless sets. There was an RAF VHF transmitter/receiver for communication with aircraft, a high frequency RAF set for communication with Group Control Centre and a set for communication with the army unit being supported. The Visual Control Post had fighter bombers assigned to it. These might be already in the air nearby, waiting to be given a precise target, or waiting on the ground if the base was to far away. The army unit would identify targets it would like attacking and the RAF controller with the VCP would decide if it was practical. If necessary the Group Control Centre would be asked to notify the aircraft and then the controller would contact the aircraft direct, giving a grid reference and any landmarks etc. The vehicles varied over time and with the unit to which they were attached. There are reports of the following - A light reconnaissance car. If this is correct it would not be able to carry all the wireless equipment and crew needed so it would report back to a halftrack. Light reconnaissance cars were available, being used by the armoured car flights of the RAF Regiment. In any case it seems to have been a one off. - A wireless van. This seems to have been a forward controller from Forward Direction Post, a radar unit. On occasion they did take a wireless van forward to try and direct fighters against enemy aircraft flying below the radar. - White Scout Car. These are mentioned but they were probably halftracks since it was common to call halftracks Whites. - Ram Observation Post Tanks. These would be an excellent choice since they had been converted for artillery forward observation and had room for various wireless sets and personnel. It seems that by July the following were standard - A Sherman tank with a telescopic aerial mast fitted in the turret. This carried an aerial for an RAF VHF set. These were used by armoured brigades and were deployed as required. - A halftrack, again carrying a telescopic aerial mast. The mast could be dismounted. These were used more widely. In both cases there seems to have been a second halftrack, presumably carrying some of the equipment and personnel. It is possible that these were the vehicles of an army Air Support Signals Unit tentacle. The Visual Control Post was short lived. It had several drawbacks - If it selected a viewpoint from which to observe a target it was not in a position to see what was happening elsewhere on a brigade front. One VCP was not sufficient to cover the ground, but more than one controller would be confusing for the air support. - In a forward position it was not in a position to consult or liaise with headquarters staff. - It could not be aware of the positions and movements of units flanking that being supported. This could be dangerous in a mobile battle. The Visual Control Post was replaced by Forward Control Posts. These operated from divisional headquarters. It was found that the location of the Forward Control Post was not important as long as it had god communications and access to accurate and up to date information. When required, armoured units could have forward controllers mounted in Sherman tanks. These were held at brigade headquarters for the use of artillery observers and air controllers. Normally this was only required in the case of a breakthrough and rapid advance. In Normandy the following methods are recorded. 1. 29 Armoured Brigade Headquarters. The brigade had rocket firing Typhoons on call and an RAF halftrack arrived to control them. Positioning itself at tactical headquarters near the command tanks the Flight Lieutenant Liaison Officer was given the target, a wood which was hiding Tiger tanks. The halftrack erected its telescopic aerial with its guy ropes and star shaped aerial. The crew of the halftrack laid out a fluorescent red arrow pointing towards the target. The Flight Lieutenant called in the Typhoons by first talking to the airstrip and then to the cab rank leader. Planes dived and each fired two rockets destroying the targets. Medium artillery finished the job. The halftrack was hurriedly packed up and moved off with the brigade headquarters. (Eye witness account) 2. Operation Goodwood, 18 July 1944. During the battle the RAF would give continuing support to the Army as requests for help were received. They would be kept in touch with the Army’s needs through tentacles of the Air Support Signals Unit attached to each armoured brigade, division and corps. In addition, a Visual Control Post housed in a tank was attached to the armoured brigade of the 11th Armoured Division. It carried an experienced Air Force Controller with a very-high-frequency wireless set which enabled him to communicate directly with fighters operating above. To some extent they were handicapped when the air force officer in the Sherman tank of the 29th Armoured Brigade’s Visual Control Post was wounded, but the young tank commander took over and, when he was unable to control a strike, the aircraft were directed to an alternative target by the Group Control Centre. (Eye witness account). This account is supported by the Divisions War Diary. 18th July 1944.1215. VCP with Tac HQ asked to get Typhoon RP attack down on tanks at 085608. Unfortunately Officer IC VCP wounded and this attack delayed. A 2/Lt Asst ALO soon picked up what was required of him and coped very well indeed through the rest of the day. 3. 19th July 1944. 2015. 13 RHA give PW statement that the enemy main defensive positions are at 043615 – 053613 – 050600. VCP arranges for these positions to be attacked by Typhoon RP aircraft and get 13 RHA to put down red smoke on the targets. The aircraft have difficulty in seeing the red through the general smoke and dust of battle, but eventually made several successful attacks. 4. ‘My father served as a Forward Air Controller in Normandy. In the days after D Day he was mostly attached to the 51st Division. One section had a Sherman and a halftrack. The other section had two halftracks. The standard method was to align the two vehicles towards the target. Part of the crew went forward with a 2” mortar. They spotted the target and fired a smoke bomb onto it. The radio operator then called in the Typhoons. As up to eight planes targeted a single tank they always got a kill.’ 119 Squadron. There was a constant danger of the large number of Allied supply ships being attacked by small surface craft or small submarines, including one man submarines. From October 1944, when airfields in Belgium became operational, detachments of 119 Squadron were dispersed to fly anti submarine missions. The aircraft were Swordfish biplanes which were well suited to the task of patrolling or attacking at low speed and low altitude. The aircraft were ex Admiralty and came under 85 Group. Some aircraft were camouflaged in overall black for night operations. All carried squadron code NH. TACTICAL and PHOTOGRAPHIC RECONNAISSANCE TACTICAL RECONNAISSANCE In 2TAF there were two major types of tactical reconnaissance aircraft, the Mustang and the Spitfire. 83 Group and 84 Group each had a reconnaissance wing. The Mustang was the most effective tactical reconnaissance aircraft. It was used in its MkI, MkIA and MkII versions, all of which were Allison engined. The Mustang was originally designed and built in the USA for Britain. It was intended to be as close to the Spitfire as was practical. In fact with the US Allison engine it was not as effective a fighter as the Spitfire but it proved to be good at low level and as a reconnaissance machine. The MkI was armed with machine guns but the MkIA and MkII had 20mm cannon. With the Merlin engine the Mustang became a very effective air superiority fighter, and long range escort. As such it was no longer available or suited for tactical reconnaissance. As the RAF ran out of Allison engined Mustangs, Spitfires were modified for the tactical reconnaissance role. The Spitfire MkXIV was fitted with cameras and an additional internal fuel tank to increase range. In this role it was the Spitfire FR XIVE. These were arriving with squadrons in November 1944 and replaced all MkI and MkIA Mustangs, eventually leaving only one squadron of MkII Mustang. As a stopgap the Spitfire FR IX was used with 16 Squadron and 414 Squadron. These were Photographic Reconnaissance units rather than Tactical Reconnaissance one but operated some Spitfire FR IX in the low level role. The 16 Squadron machines were camouflaged in pale pink when they arrived in 2TAF. Another stopgap was the Typhoon. 200 airframes had been stored at a time when there was a shortage of engines for them. These were not up to the most modern standards but were fitted with cameras in place of one or more cannon in the wings. It was found however that there was too much vibration and the images were blurred. Finally Typhoon losses were so heavy, and production slow, that the old airframes were needed for fighter bombers and the project ended. A few Typhoon FR IB were issued to Typhoon wings to be used for target damage assessment. Initially tactical reconnaissance aircraft flew in pairs, each aircraft usually having a different lens. A combination of 8” and 14” lenses were most popular. Since it was difficult for pilots to navigate, observe the ground, take photographs, avoid ground fire and watch out for enemy aircraft a second pair of aircraft often flew above to give cover. Later it was found that the second pair often lost contact and it became usual to fly missions with three aircraft, one of which gave close cover to the other two. Fighter Reconnaissance missions included - Locating the position of forward units. This was essential to avoid making air strikes on own forces and helpful to army headquarters. Forward units in a fluid situation laid out red marker strips. - Locating and photographing enemy positions. - Locating and photographing enemy reinforcements and supply convoys. - Photographing objectives and targets for land forces or tactical air strike. - Photographing the results of air strikes, artillery action or ground action. - Photographing the terrain in front of land forces. - Monitoring enemy transport such as roads, railways, river barges and bridges. - Carrying out armed reconnaissance missions in which enemy targets were attacked on sight and reported on later. - Spotting for the artillery. This was undertaken when the use of Auster AOP’s was unwise. Spotting for naval gunfire was undertaken in Normandy. Typically reconnaissance pilots were able to provide information on several levels. They would give a radio report while still over the target. This ensured that any important information reached RAF and Army intelligence officers immediately and allowed for supplementary information or photographs to be requested. Immediately on landing the pilot was debriefed by army and RAF intelligence officers. Any photographs were immediately developed and printed. These were studied by trained photographic interpreters and copies rushed to the users. Users might be fighter bomber units or ground units. More leisurely study of the photographs would probably reveal more information to be passed on to intelligence officers. PHOTOGRAPHIC RECONNAISSANCE. Photographic Reconnaissance aircraft were not usually armed. They flew high, fast and singly, depending on speed and a good rate of climb to escape enemy interceptors. A Photographic Reconnaissance Wing operated directly under Headquarters 2 TAF. The Spitfire PR Mk XIII was better at lower level photo reconnaissance and usually carried two vertically mounted F24 cameras with 20” lenses and one obliquely mounted F24 camera with a 5” lens. The Spitfire PR XIX was used for high altitude photography and carried two vertically mounted F8 or F52 cameras. The later Spitfire PR XI was adapted to carry almost any combination of camera. Smaller numbers of Mosquito photo reconnaissance aircraft were used. These were particularly useful for night operations when they could be guided to a target area by GEE and then drop a photoflash bomb for illumination. A Squadron of Wellington bombers was also used. These were also used at night and were capable of more sustained missions. They were also useful for meteorological reconnaissance. For daytime operations photo reconnaissance aircraft were painted pale blue. For night time operations they were black. Oblique cameras were not much used in photographic reconnaissance except on low level missions deeper into enemy territory. High altitude reconnaissance used long lenses and generally produced the following - Accurate photographs of particular sites. - Mosaics which were produced by flying several parallel runs to produce a continuous coverage of a larger area. These could be used in the preparation of maps. - Overlaps which had each photograph overlapping the previous one by 60%. When two photographs were studied under a stereoscope a three dimensional view was obtained. F8 Camera. This was used for high altitude photography and could use a 20”, 36” or 40” lens. It had a 250 exposure magazine. F24 Camera. The mainstay of RAF photography. It was very reliable and versatile. It could be hand held or fixed in an aircraft. It lacked the definition for high altitude work but was ideal for low level work. Normally used with a 20” lens. F52 Camera. This was larger in all respects than the earlier F8. It had a larger frame size, a larger 500 exposure magazine and a greater range of lenses. The F24 was similar but smaller and limited to a 20” lens. AIR OBSERVATION POST SQUADRONS. Although the first Austers, from 662 Squadron, landed on the Normandy beach on D Day and started spotting for the navy, and for artillery as it came ashore, most spotting was carried out by the fighters of the Spotting Pool. A ground party of 652 Squadron landed on D + 1 and on D + 2 both squadrons started operating from a landing strip which was later to be expanded and become B4. In the first days of the campaign the Austers were used not only for artillery spotting, but also for photographing the front and for identifying and marking targets for Typhoon rocket attacks. This latter was done by dropping smoke canisters on the targets. Air Observation Post Squadrons (AOP) were provided on the basis on one per corps plus one per army. This gave the equivalent of one flight per forward division and one flight for each Army Group Royal Artillery. The squadron had mixed Royal Artillery and Royal Air Force personnel. The Commanding Officer and all the pilots were Royal Artillery officers. 55% of the other ranks were also Royal Artillery. The Royal Air Force provided three officers and the servicing personnel. Each squadron had twelve aircraft and 23 pilots (including first reserves). There were three flights of four aircraft each. Each aircraft had its own ground crew and could operate independently if required. The following squadrons were deployed in 21 Army Group. 622 Squadron 83 Group 2 Army 652 Squadron 83 Group 2 Army 653 Squadron 83 Group 2 Army 658 Squadron 83 Group 2 Army 659 Squadron 83 Group 2 Army 660 Squadron 84 Group 1 Canadian Army 661 Squadron 84 Group 1 Canadian Army See also Air Observation Post Squadron. War Establishment III/126/4. HEAVY BOMBERS. The heavy bombers of Bomber Command and US 9th Air Force could be called on when necessary or when an opportunity presented itself. Such action required the request to be made by the army or army group commander and approved by the Supreme Commander. The request then went to the Air Marshall commanding Allied Expeditionary Air Forces. The commanders of the heavy bomber forces did not generally approve of diverting their energies away from their primary task of bombing German industry but they did so on a few occasions. Obviously it took time to pass the request for heavy bomber support through the system, to plan the operation, brief the units involved and then carry out the mission in cooperation with ground forces. The ideal target was either a well established defensive line which could not otherwise be penetrated or a large concentration of enemy armour. There were always problems of indicating the position of friendly forces, and bombing through cloud was hazardous. The bombing mission had to be carried out in daylight and just as the ground forces were preparing to attack. To bomb the enemy positions earlier would allow them to recover and regroup. However when such an attack was made the results were devastating. A carpet of heavy bombs dropped on enemy positions and along the proposed route of an advance would destroy positions and weapons as well as destroying morale. One German general observed that when an armoured unit was bombed by heavy bombers it simply ceased to exist as a fighting unit. It mattered little if they were elite troops or low grade troops they lost the ability to resist. In the last days of the campaign an unusual role was found for the heavy bombers. Plans had been made to repatriate released British prisoners of war as the camps were reached. This was envisaged as a gradual task with relatively small numbers being processed at a time. In the event the collapse of German resistance was sudden and large numbers of prisoners had to be dealt with in a short space of time. Heavy bombers were flown to the nearest airfields that could accept them and ex prisoners were flown back to 2 TAF airfields and then on to the UK. LIAISON and COMMUNICATIONS It was natural that the RAF should use considerable numbers of aircraft for internal liaison and communications. Larger organisations had dedicated communication flights or squadrons but even operational wings and squadrons had some such machines on the strength. Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham had a stable of aircraft including a Mosquito and two Dakotas. Air Vice Marshal Broadhurst of 83 Group had a German Fiesler Storch as his personal transport. This had been captured in N Africa. In Normandy it had RAF camouflage and markings with full invasion stripes and the code HB and an Air Vice Marshals flag painted on the engine cowling. Normally the use of enemy equipment was not permitted and was indeed dangerous. 2 TAF Communications Squadron is known to have had Dakotas, Ansons, Austers and Proctors. 85 Group, which increasingly took a variety of units on its order of battle, had Oxfords, Ansons, Austers, Mosquitoes and Spitfires Vb. The Air Despatch Letter Service flew a courier service using Hurricanes. These were armed and were standard apart from a hatch cut into the fuselage to carry the mail. There were plenty of Hurricanes available in good condition since they were still front line 2 TAF ground attack aircraft in early 1944. At least one remained in use as a squadron hack until the end of 1944. Many other squadrons had war weary aircraft, of the same type as those in service with the squadron, as squadron hacks. Commanders of wings had personal aircraft of the type used by the wing. These were used as personal transport as well as on operations. TRANSPORTS. Dakota transports were not on the strength of 2 TAF. When not required for airborne operations they were generally to be found operating in support of 2 TAF and the army in a variety of ways. - When wings moved to new airfields the Dakotas flew a shuttle service carrying ground crew, fuel, rations, ammunition and stores. 2 Group bombers sometimes joined in such lifts. - Wounded personnel, both RAF and army, were evacuated by air to the UK. Other UK based aircraft were permanently employed on this task, including Dragon Rapide biplanes. - A Daily delivery service for urgent spare parts was provided for the army. - When necessary supplies for the army were flown into 2 TAF airfields and handled by the RASC. 271 Squadron operated transport conversions of the prewar Harrow bomber. These could land on fighter airfields carrying personnel and supplies in and casualties out. SUPPORT SERVICES RAF SERVICING COMMANDOS RAF Servicing Commandos were raised in1942 in order to occupy advanced landing grounds as soon as they were captured from the enemy. In NW Europe this task was modified since there were few airfields likely to be captured in the early stages. New airfields had to be created. Later in the campaign when airfields were captured the existing servicing personnel were able to occupy them and put them into service. In Normandy Servicing Commandos were required to land over the beaches and man Advanced Landing Grounds. The squadrons would be based in the UK and aircraft would fly to the Advanced Landing Grounds each day. Later the aircraft and crews might remain at the Advanced Landing Grounds but return to the UK for major servicing. Eventually servicing echelons would set up permanently in France and the Servicing Commandos would move on to more forward fields. Personnel were all highly trained. All were skilled craftsmen and had served with squadrons. All were now given combat training so that they could defend themselves and their landing grounds. All were trained in motor transport driving and maintenance. Finally all were sent for Combined Operations training including landing from Royal Navy craft. From the time that the units were formed until six weeks before D Day the personnel wore army battledress with RAF badges. It was then decided that RAF personnel should wear RAF blue battledress. This caused some confusion, especially with civilians and Americans who confused the RAF blue grey with German field grey, and army battledress was again authorised. Contemporary accounts make it clear that RAF blue continued to be worn throughout the campaign however. Six Servicing Commandos were raised for the landings in NW Europe. Nos 3205, 3207, 3209 and 3210 landed on D + 1 and the remaining two, Nos 3206 and 3208 landed a week later. 3207 was the first unit to land and the first to be withdrawn. It attempted to land late on D Day but was delayed until early on D + 1. It went straight to Advanced Landing Ground B2 which was not yet operational, indeed not yet constructed, but Airfield Construction units were at work and an earth strip was soon ready with the steel mesh strip ready soon after. It returned to the UK in August. Tasks Rearming aircraft Refuelling aircraft Servicing aircraft Recovering and cannibalising gliders Servicing motor vehicles Servicing tanks which used aircraft type engines. Repairing and recovering RAF aircraft which had landed on US airfields Recovering crashed aircraft Preparing damaged aircraft for return to the UK Preparing aircraft and equipment for shipment to France Organisation. It was originally laid down that each Servicing Commando should have 2 officers and 148 other ranks. A Squadron Leader or Flight Lieutenant, Technical Officer was the Commanding Officer. A Flying Officer or Pilot Officer was Administrative Officer and Second in Command. A Warrant Officer was responsible for discipline. Headquarters Flight. This contained the administrative personnel including signallers, clerks, drivers, a batman, cooks etc. A Flight Serjeant was in charge Technical Flights There were three Technical Flights each with a Flight Serjeant in charge. There was a Serjeant for each trade. Sections Each Technical Flight had four sections each with a corporal in charge. There seem to have been seven tradesmen plus the corporal to a section. There were fifteen 3 ton 4 X 4 lorries, a jeep and a motorcycle. Accounts of the Servicing Commandos in Normandy make it clear that this establishment was increased. Twenty 3ton 4 X 4 GS lorries, two 15cwt water trucks, two 15cwt GS, a jeep and four motorcycles seems to have been usual. This gave each section a 3ton 4 X 4 GS plus eight for the headquarters flight, although there was probably one per technical flight. RAF REGIMENT. The RAF Regiment had been formed to defend airfields in the UK. Until 1942 this had been the role of the army. For the Invasion of Europe it was planned that the Regiment would provide one field squadron and one light anti aircraft squadron for each airfield. Each pair of squadrons would be controlled by a Wing headquarters. At the time of D Day a field squadron included an armoured car flight. Shortly afterwards the armoured car flights were removed and formed separate armoured car squadrons. The first two wings landed on D+1 and built up rapidly until there were eighteen wings by the end of August. The duties included - Airfield defence which included a perimeter defence by rifle squadrons and anti aircraft defence by LAA squadrons. There was not generally a lot of action but on 1 January when the Luftwaffe attacked British airfields the LAA squadrons claimed 43 aircraft shot down and 28 damaged. - Mine clearing in areas to be occupied by RAF units. Rifle squadrons were trained in field pioneer tasks. - Assisting with airfield construction. Not their usual role but in the early days labour was in short supply. Later civilian labour and prisoners of war were available. - Escorting technical intelligence teams. Whenever the capture of an enemy airfield seemed imminent technical intelligence teams aimed to arrive with the leading troops to secure any documents and equipment. - Securing forward airfields. This again meant being well up front in order to either secure captured enemy airfields or the sites for new ones. - Holding sections of the front line under army command. At times all manner of troops were called on to relieve the infantry in the front line. The Regiment had already contributed 40,000 trained men who were no longer needed in the UK. - Defending forward radar units. Many of these units were set up close to the front line and did not have the manpower to protect themselves for long. Ultimately there were 40 rifle squadrons, 28 LAA squadrons and six armoured car squadrons. Rifle squadrons. These were organised and equipped as for an army infantry rifle company. 2710, 2713, 2714, 2717, 2719, 2726, 2729, 2731, 2738, 2740, 2742, 2749, 2750, 2765, 2768, 2770, 2798, 2805, 2807, 2811, 2814, 2816, 2822, 2827, 2829, 2831, 2843, 2844, 2848, 2853, 2856, 2858, 2863, 2865, 2868, 2871, 2878, 2879, 2883, 2897. LAA squadrons. These were organised and equipped as for a Royal Artillery LAA Battery. 2701, 2703, 2715, 2734, 2736, 2760, 2768, 2773, 2791, 2794, 2800, 2809, 2812, 2817, 2819, 2823, 2824, 2826, 2834, 2838, 2845, 2872, 3873, 2874, 2875, 2876, 2880, 2881. Armoured car squadrons. Armoured car squadrons were equipped with light reconnaissance cars. Morris, Humber and Canadian Otter cars are recorded as being used. 2742, 2757, 2777, 2806. AIR STORES PARKS. Air Stores Parks were created to stock and issue equipment and spares to front line squadrons. Those for service with 2 TAF were mobile. 401 Air Stores Park 83 Group 402 Air Stores Park 84 Group 404 Air Stores Park 83 Group 406 Air Stores Park 83 Group 408 Air Stores Park 84 Group 414 Air Stores Park 84 Group 418 Air Stores Park 2 Group The first unit, ASP 401, was in Normandy on 19 June and all were on the Continent by the end of August, except for ASP 414 which remained in the UK throughout the campaign. The units on the Continent were always fairly well up front and moved forwards as the wings did so. 401 FUEL and AMMUNITION PARK. The only unit of its kind in 2TAF it stocked and issued fuel and ammunition. GROUP SUPPORT UNITS. Each Group had a Group Support Unit which differed in size and composition to meet the needs of the Group they served. The basic function was to maintain a reserve of aircraft types used by the Group. 83 and 84 Group Support Units. These were large units which each maintained a pool of three reserve aircraft per squadron in the Group. These aircraft were received from manufacturers or repair units and were then checked and prepared to operational standard. This entailed making any modifications and final adjustments, setting up wireless sets, harmonising cannon and rockets and carrying out test flights. The aircraft were then maintained at operational readiness for issue to squadrons. In addition the Group Support Unit operated a conversion flight which provided refresher training, conversion training or continuation training on the relevant aircraft type for pilots joining 2 TAF squadrons. This flight had up to twenty aircraft of the types used in the Group. Pilots joining 2 TAF squadrons were thus up to date with latest aircraft types, techniques and tactics. Pilots resting between operational tours were employed as instructors, test pilots and delivery pilots. Ansons were used to ferry pilots to their squadrons. 83 GSU had in addition to operational types Oxford, Martinet and Tiger Moth aircraft. 84 GSU had Oxford, Vigilante and Messenger aircraft. 2 Group Support Unit. This carried out similar duties to those of 83 and 84 Groups but it was smaller and more varied since it provided courses not only for pilots but for navigator/bomb aimer, wireless operator and air gunner as well. In order to perform these tasks the GSU used not only operational types but also Anson, Oxford, Martinet, Hurricane and Mosquito T.III aircraft. 34 Wing Support Unit. 34 Wing was a Reconnaissance Wing and 34 WSU performed for it the same functions as the GSU did for the Groups. There were sixteen training aircraft on the establishment as well as twelve reserve aircraft. This unit did not go overseas. REPAIR and SALVAGE UNITS. Twelve Repair and Salvage Units were formed. In July 1944 two were disbanded leaving 83 and 84 Groups with four units each and 2 Group with two units. Each unit specialised in certain types of aircraft and were located on or close to one of the bases operating those types. If a damaged aircraft was able to return to its base then the Repair and Inspection section of the attached Squadron Servicing Echelon would carry out repairs. If the repair was beyond the resources of the Servicing Echelon or the aircraft was unable to reach its base then the Repair and Salvage Unit would recover it. If the repair was estimated to take more than 28 days then the aircraft was passed further to the rear. First the repairs would be passed to the Repair Unit and if necessary then transported back to the UK and either the manufacturer or contractors in the Civilian Repair Organisation. The Salvage section of the R&SU was responsible for the collection of all 2TAF aircraft which crashed within its parent groups area even if the aircraft did not belong to the group. The Salvage section included armourers who removed any explosives and armament, making the aircraft safe for transport. 403 R&SU 83 Group Typhoon 405 R&SU 83 Group Spitfire and Mustang Disbanded July 1944 409 R&SU 83 Group Mustang, Spitfire, Mosquito, Typhoon and Auster 410 R&SU 83 Group Spitfire and Typhoon 411 R&SU 84 Group Spitfire and Mustang 412 R&SU 84 Group Spitfire, Typhoon and Auster 413 R&SU 84 Group Typhoon and Auster 416 R&SU 2 Group Boston and Mitchell 417 R&SU 2 Group Mosquito 419 R&SU 83 Group Mustang, Spitfire, Typhoon, Tempest and Auster 420 R&SU 84 Group Spitfire and Tempest 421 R&SU 84 Group Spitfire Disbanded July 1944 Note that 85 Group did not have its own R&SU. 511 REPAIR UNIT. This unit was formed to repair aircraft beyond the capacity of R&SU and also for motor transport. It came under the control of 85 Group but was not specifically for the use of that group. It was a large unit Which repaired over a hundred aircraft in August 1944, in addition to rebuilding engines, carrying out modifications and converting aircraft for special purposes. The latter included a personal Dakota for Air Marshall Sir Trafford Leigh Mallory and a number of Ansons for passenger transport. In addition to repairing motor transport it converted vehicles, including photographic laboratories, medical vehicles and commander’s caravans. 511 Repair Unit did not cross to the Continent but formed sub units which did. 151 Repair Unit. This started life as a sub unit of 511 Repair Unit, the Base Aircraft Repair Unit. It was operating on the Continent in late summer and by November had moved to a permanent base in Belgium and become 151 Repair Unit. Around this time 511 Repair was disbanded and many of the personnel transferred to 151 Repair Unit. It could carry out 50 Category B repairs plus 50 fly in repairs a month. 3 Base Recovery Unit. This was another sub unit of 511 Repair Unit. Initially called the Base Aircraft Salvage Unit it was retitled when the parent unit disbanded. 5 MT Base Depot. The motor transport repair responsibilities were transferred from 511 Repair Unit to this new unit in November. GROUP MOTOR TRANSPORT LIGHT REPAIR UNIT. As the title suggests these were small repair units which went round to the various units in a Group to carry out repairs beyond the capacity of units. They were of particular value to the many smaller units which did not have the personnel or equipment to carry out any but basic maintenance tasks but who could not return the vehicles to Base Depot since they were specialised and in constant use. This was particularly true of the radar vehicles, a disadvantage of having them vehicle mounted instead of trailer mounted. GROUP PROVOST and SECURITY UNIT. He equivalent of the army Military Police and Field Security units. 80 WING. 80 Wing was not a 2TAF unit. It was a part of 100 Group which specialised in wireless navigation and electronic counter measures. 80 Wing was intended to operate electronic counter measures in areas liberated by the Allies but was placed under the control of 2TAF so that they could veto any operation that might interfere with local radar and wireless. 21 Army Group had decided that the army would not operate wireless jamming because it was almost impossible to jam an enemy frequency without interfering with the great number of Allied wireless sets. Fortunately frequencies used by various air forces were usually either VHF or long wave and not those used by ground forces. It was planned that 80 Wing units would spread all the way from the Dutch coast to the Swiss border. Radar jamming units would be 20 to 30 miles apart and communications jamming units would be 60 to 100 miles apart. Two mobile echelons were formed from 80 Wing personnel in the UK and then had their own headquarters, 80 Wing, Main, the headquarters remaining in the UK then became 80 Wing, Rear. Echelons were A and B, each with a headquarters and operations room, plus Mobile Signals Units. The first echelon, A, landed in Normandy on 17th June. The tasks of 80 Wing in Europe included operating electronic counter measures against enemy early warning radars, fighter control communications, air to air interceptions and medium frequency navigation beacons. Originally the system was intended for use against enemy bombers over Britain. Enemy aircraft using beam wireless navigation signals were guided to a target by a beam which gave dots if the pilot strayed in one direction, dashes if he strayed in the other direction and a constant tone if he was on course. By receiving the signals and then transmitting them from another location the enemy aircraft could be led astray, confused or at the least lose confidence in the device. The system could also be used to identify the intended target of an enemy raid. Listening posts in 15cwt house type wireless vehicles reported any signals. Some would report dots, some would report dashes and when these were plotted at the Operations Centre the direction of the narrow navigation beam could be deduced. This system was set up in Europe. A Control Centre with a receiver station close by monitored frequencies likely to be used by beams. If any were detected the signal was sent by line to the transmitter some miles away. These key vehicles were all Crossley Q 3ton at this time, although Commer semi trailers had been used earlier. There was not much beam activity in Europe but 80 Wing units found other roles. Listening posts were equipped with radio direction finding loops and reported any enemy transmissions to the operations room. Cross bearings from two or three were needed to get an accurate position for the transmitter. The transmitter could then be identified and its role deduced. If it was a transmission in which 100 Group was interested, and to which 2 TAF did not object, then the transmission was jammed. Jamming was usually done by receiving signals and then re transmitting them on the same frequency. This was done automatically. Even if the enemy changed frequency the jamming sets would automatically re transmit on the new frequency. It was also possible to cause confusion by recording enemy transmissions and then re broadcasting them from a transmitter in a different location so that the enemy would not know which was the correct, beam, beacon or message. The listening posts were deployed to identify wireless beam signals being used to control V1 Flying Bombs. Since they were not in fact controlled the posts naturally had no success. However 80 Wing plus the Y Service could locate the V1, and V2, launching sites by intercepting their operational transmissions. 72 WING. 72 Wing was another 100 Group unit. It operated wireless navigation aids which were mainly of use to Bomber Command but were used on occasion by 2 TAF. As most 2TAF aircraft were not equipped to receive these signals they had to be accompanied by aircraft that were so equipped. Type 100 Mobile Gee H Station. These operated in pairs to provide navigation aids to bomber units. Two were required to accurately give a position. The following pairs operated in Europe. 114/116 115/117 118/119 Each station had a 105 foot mast which was carried in six sections. Also carried were five 4 foot square base plates, one for the mast and four for guy ropes. Vehicles Austin K6 House Type for Type 1441 Receiver Austin K6 House Type for Type 1448 Transmitter Austin K6 House Type for amplifier 2 X Austin K6 with Lister 20KVa generators Crossley Q with hand winch for erecting the tower Trailer for the tower 2 X CMP Chevrolet 3ton GS water tanker jeep There were also Light 100 units which could operate as Gee, Gee H or Oboe transmitters but used smaller vehicles and sets, were much more mobile but had shorter range. The vehicles seem to have been Commer Q2 RVT 105, a 15cwt with house type body. A permanent roof mounted aerial mast could be folded forward for stowage when travelling. When folded down it was protected by a wooden framework. When operating the aerial could be rotated for direction finding or for transmitting beams in an accurate direction. The vehicle was positioned so that it was facing True North and stakes were driven into the ground in a 100 foot radius circle to mark compass points. The RVT 105 could also be used for BABS on airfields. These Blind Approach Beacon Systems were accurate for direction but could not give an accurate height. Type 9000 Oboe Station. There were two such units in 21 Army Group area, 9432 and 9442. These were navigation radars, primarily for Bomber Command but also used on occasion by 2 TAF. 5 X Matador 4 X 4 6ton tractors 5 X Oboe trailer 3ton operations office generators workshops AIRFIELD CONSTRUCTION WING An RAF Airfield Construction Wing was responsible for the construction of airfield runways etc. Royal Engineer Airfield Construction units were responsible for roads etc. The Airfield Construction Wing consisted of Two Airfield Construction Squadron each of Six Construction Flight One Plant Flight Total vehicles per squadron 16 X motorcycle 2 X 15cwt van 30 X 3ton tender 39 X tipper lorry 1 X 3ton machinery tender 1 X welding trailer 4 X water tender 2 X petrol tender 1 X generator 10 X 6ton tractor 10 X 18ton trailer 1 X road sweeper Total mechanical equipment per squadron 10 X crawler tractor 1 X 9yd scraper 2 X 6yd scraper 2 X 3.5yd scraper 2 X motor grader 3 X 10 ton roller 1 X 6ton roller 1 X 2.5yd roller 1 X wheeled roller 1 X sheepsfoot roller 2 X excavator 1 X lorry mounted excavator 6 X dumper 1 X D4 tractor 1 X trenching plough 1 X rooter 1 X road sprayer, bitumen 2 X concrete mixer 1 X power mixer 1 X compressor trailer 6 X pumps plus assorted equipment for grass areas including ploughs rollers drainers harrows grass cutters A Quarrying Flight might be added to supply the large amounts of hard core, sand and gravel required. 3 X crawler tractor 2 X excavator 8 X tipper 3 X 3ton tender 1 X generator 1 X water tender 4 X 25 ton tractor/trailer 1 x jeep 2 X air hoists 4 X air compressor 1 X rooter 4 X drill 3 X crushing plant 4 X conveyor plus a light railway with one mile of track 1 X 240hp light locomotive 32 X tipper wagon A well boring section might be attached to supply water required in construction work 1 X jeep 2 X 3ton tender 2 X 10 ton tractor/trailer 1 X welding tender 1 X 15cwt van 1 X water tender 2 X boring rigs 4 X pump 8,700 foot of pipe AIRFIELD CONSTRUCTION WING (Rear Area) An RAF Airfield Construction Wing (Rear Area) was responsible for the construction of more permanent airfield runways etc. The Airfield Construction Wing (Rear Area) consisted of Three Airfield Construction Squadrons each of Seven Construction Flight Two Artisan Flights One Plant Squadron Total vehicles 23 X motorcycle 11 X car 21 X jeep 10 X 15cwt van 17 X 3ton tender 165 X tipper lorry 1 X 3ton machinery tender 1 X welding trailer 6 X water tender 8 X petrol tender 1 X generator 10 X 20ton tractor/trailer 4 X 18ton trailer 1 X road sweeper Total mechanical equipment 25 X crawler tractor 2 X 12yd scraper 10 X 3.5yd scraper 7 X motor grader 8 X 10 ton roller 4 X 2.5ton roller 6 X wheeled roller 6 X sheepsfoot roller 8 X excavator 25 X dumper 7 X road sprayer, bitumen 7 X concrete mixer 1 X compressor trailer 24 X pumps 3 X power rammer 1 X 50ft derrick 1 X 20ton crane 1 X 40ton crane 6 X snowplough 3 X Hi Lift shovels plus assorted equipment for grass areas including ploughs rollers drainers harrows grass cutters A Plant Depot might be attached for large works Concrete pavers Concrete spreaders Concrete finishers Macadam spreaders Macadam finishers Bucket loaders Mixing plant plus a light railway with one mile of track 1 X 240hp light locomotive 32 X tipper wagon AIR SEA RESCUE RAF Air Sea Rescue units were involved in operations in NW Europe from the beginning to the end, and after. For D Day a sizeable force of rescue craft and aircraft had been assembled on the South Coast. It was foreseen that given the large number of aircraft involved there would be some ditching in the sea. There would also most likely be crews from surface vessels and troops from the transports and landing craft to be rescued. The RAF contributed eighty ASR aircraft to cover the immediate invasion area and the crossings to it. These aircraft would be of three types – - Warwick. These were twin engined aircraft based on the Wellington bomber. They could carry airborne lifeboats which they would drop close to personnel in the water. - Walrus. Walrus was a small seaplane which could land on water to pick up personnel. They could land in fairly rough weather, although taking off again was often more difficult. - Spitfire. The Spitfire was used as a fast search aircraft and as protection for the slow and vulnerable Walrus. Spitfire and Walrus operated in pairs and belonged to the same squadron. Further from the invasion area there were Coastal Command patrol aircraft and fighter patrols. These could locate personnel in the water and direct other units to them. The RAF Air Sea Rescue/ Marine Craft section provided twelve units with a total of ninety high speed launches. These were based on the south coast but on D Day they were all on station along the routes to be taken by the RAF transports, fighters and bombers. The RAF also contributed six seaplane tenders and there was a reserve of fourteen high speed launches at Calshot on the Solent. The Royal Navy supplied forty rescue launches in five flotillas, plus fourteen motor ant submarine boats. These were concentrated on the routes to be taken by the troopships, landing craft and warships. The US Navy provided sixty US Coast Guard cutters for use in the invasion area. Fifteen RNLI lifeboats were stationed outside the main invasion area. On Day itself some sixty aircrew were rescued by RAF Air Sea Rescue units. In the next ten days they rescued 162 aircrew, 58 other personnel and two Germans. At first the ASR launches and aircraft operated from the South Coast but as airfields were built in Normandy some aircraft operated from there. When the Mulberry Harbour was operational some boats operated from there. These were still based in the UK but spent some days each on rotation in Normandy. On the 26 June six Air Sea Rescue launches were more permanently based in Normandy. Two boats were stationed at Mulberry Harbour, two at Ouistreham and two at Courselles. An RAF maintenance party on HMS Adventure was stationed in support off Arromanches. HMS Adventure was built in 1924 as a minelayer but converted to a repair ship in 1943. It was also agreed in June that two RAF Air Sea Rescue/ Marine Craft Units would be assigned to Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Air Forces and be based in Europe. 32 and 33 Mobile Air Sea Rescue Units each had nine high speed launches and one pinnace. Initially they were based at Cherbourg. They were supported by Warwicks, Walruses and Spitfires. In September these units were active in support of the airborne landings which included that at Arnhem. As the fighting moved away from Normandy and Brittany the Air Sea Rescue units moved to cover the coasts of Belgium, Holland and N. France. The whole of 33 Mobile Air Sea Rescue Unit plus four launches from 32 Mobile Air Sea Rescue Unit moved to Ostend where the former German U boat pens provided comparatively comfortable moorings. These were fully enclosed with thick concrete walls and roofs and had connections for water, electricity and telephone. These units were again particularly active when the airborne forces crossed the water on their way to the Rhine Crossings. After the German surrender some of the launches from Ostend went to Norway with the liberating forces. Here they were used more for patrol work than rescue work. The craft used in the Mobile Air Sea Rescue Units were the 68 foot British Power Boat Company Type 3. Eighty nine were built and they were popularly known as the ‘Hants and Dorset’. This because they were double deck boats and the Hants and Dorset Motorbus Company was the local service around he Solent where they were designed and built. The wheel house and wireless room were all above the main deck leaving all the hull clear for engines, fuel and accommodation. This space made it possible for crews to live on board and to operate away from bases for long periods of time. Power came from three Napier Sea Lion engines which gave a speed of 28 knots fully loaded. Armament in the last year of the war was usually twin Browning .303” machine guns in each of two turrets on the superstructure plus two single Browning .5” machine guns and a 20mm Oerlikon cannon on the rear deck. MOBILE SIGNALS UNIT These were of various types but generally provided VHF signals for RAF ground to air communication and ground to ground communication. Telephone and teleprinter communications for the RAF were provided by Air Formation Signal units of the Royal Signals. SPECIAL LIAISON UNIT There was a Special Liaison Unit which had direct communications to the Air Ministry. 159 BALLOON WING For Port Defence the RAF deployed 159 Balloon Wing which contained Two LX Balloon Squadrons which operated smaller balloons. Seven Port Type Balloon Squadrons which operated the standard barrage balloon. One M Type Balloon Unit which operated meteorological balloons.