Near East Air Force (Royal Air Force)

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Near East Air Force
NearEastAirForce.png
Crest of Near East Air Force
Active 1961–1976
Branch Royal Air Force
Role Command
Headquarters RAF Episkopi

The former Royal Air Force Near East Air Force, more simply known as RAF Near East Air Force, was the Command organisation that controlled all Royal Air Force assets in the Eastern Mediterranean (the Near East).

History[edit]

The Command was originally formed as RAF Mediterranean and Middle East (MEDME) on 10 December 1943 to control RAF elements in the Eastern Mediterranean under the command of Mediterranean Allied Air Forces.[1] HQ MEDME was originally located at Caserta in Italy, where HQ MAAF had been located, but by October 1945 had moved to Cairo. It originally comprised nine subordinate Air Headquaters (AHQs) and four group headquarters. No. 212 (Fighter) Group RAF, subordinate to AHQ Egypt, was disbanded on 31 January 1946. AHQ Eastern Mediterranean was absorbed into No. 219 Group RAF on 28 February 1946. As post-war reductions continued, the command was reduced to six AHQs (Italy, AHQ Iraq, AHQ East Africa, AHQ Greece, AHQ Levant, AHQ Malta), plus HQ British Forces Aden and No. 205 Group RAF at Heliopolis.[2] AHQ Italy was closed in October 1947 and AHQ Greece on 11 January 1947.[3] In Egypt, after the immediate post-war run-down Nos 6 and 213 Squadrons remained flying Tempests at RAF Shallufa, No. 13 Squadron RAF remained at RAF Fayid flying Mosquitos, and five transport squadrons with Dakotas (Nos 78, 114, 204, 215, and 216) were at RAF Kabrit.[4] On 31 July 1945 HQ MEDME was expanded to absorb RAF Middle East Command and on 1 June 1949 it was renamed Middle East Air Force.[1] On 1 March 1961 the Southern Group of Middle East Air Force became Near East Air Force and was based in Cyprus.[1] During 1956 the UK had offered to provide a light bomber wing to the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO), and with the acceptance of that offer what was originally known as the MEAF Strike Wing was established at Akrotiri in 1957 (Lee, 172-173).

During the 1960s NEAF included the NEAF Strike Wing at RAF Akrotiri (four Canberra strike squadrons and No. 13 Squadron RAF flying Canberra PR Mk. 7s), No. 3 (LAA) Wing RAF Regiment (Nos 27, 37, 194 Squadrons), No. 70 Squadron RAF at RAF Nicosia flying Hastings, and No. 103 Squadron RAF flying Sycamores.[5] 103 Squadron's Bristol Sycamore HR.14 helicopters operated in search and rescue, casualty evacuation and internal security roles. There was also HQ No. 5 Wing RAF Regiment, HQ No. 8 Wing RAF Regiment, and three Regiment squadrons at Nicosia (Nos 26, 28, and 34 Squadrons).

No. 103 Squadron was disbanded on 31 July 1963 by breaking the squadron up into Nos. 1563 (at Nicosia) and 1564 (at El Adem) flights.[6][7] In 1964 No. 29 Squadron RAF arrived in the fighter role, to be replaced in 1967 by No. 56 Squadron RAF. Later No. 112 Squadron RAF arrived in the surface-to-air missile role. Equipped with Bristol Bloodhounds, the squadron was based at Paramali West, but administered from RAF Episkopi.[8] In 1969 the Canberras were retired, with Nos 6,32,73, and 249 Squadrons were all disbanded on parade on 10 January 1969. They were replaced by 9 and 35 Squadrons flying Avro Vulcans, which arrived respectively in March and January 1969.

With the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, it was decided that the CENTO nuclear strike role could not be continued from Cyprus, and so in January 1975 9 and 35 Squadrons were withdrawn back to the UK.[9] All other fixed-wing aircraft also left that same month, with the only flying squadron remaining at Akrotiri being No. 84 Squadron RAF flying Westland Whirlwinds.

The Command was disbanded and replaced by Air Headquarters Cyprus on 31 March 1976.[1]

Commanders-in-Chief[edit]

Commanders-in-Chief included:[1]
Commanders-in-Chief RAF Mediterranean and Middle East

Commanders-in-Chief Middle East Air Force

  • Air Marshal Sir John Baker (23 January 1950 – 7 February 1952)
  • Air Marshal Sir Victor Groom (7 February 1952 – 19 May 1952)
  • Air Marshal Sir Arthur Sanders (19 May 1952 – 15 October 1953)
  • Air Marshal Sir Claude Pelly (15 October 1953 – 24 September 1956)
  • Air Marshal Sir Hubert Patch (24 September 1956 – 26 November 1958)
  • Air Marshal Sir William MacDonald (26 November 1958 – 16 July 1962)

Commanders-in-Chief Near East Air Force

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Air of Authority – A History of RAF Organisation – Overseas Commands – Middle East & Mediterranean
  2. ^ Lee, 3-4.
  3. ^ Lee, 7, 9.
  4. ^ Lee, 11
  5. ^ Lee, Wings in the Sun, 173, 184-185, 187-188.
  6. ^ Halley 1988, p. 177.
  7. ^ Rawlings 1982, p. 98.
  8. ^ "112 (Shark) Squadron". Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  9. ^ Lee, 180, 192-193.

References[edit]

  • James J. Halley, The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth 1918-1988. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1988. ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
  • Sir David Lee, Wings in the sun: a history of the Royal Air Force in the Mediterranean, 1945–1986, Air Force Dept. Air Historical Branch, Great Britain. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1989.