No. 205 Group RAF

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No. 205 (Heavy Bomber) Group was a long-range, heavy bomber group of the Royal Air Force (RAF) established on October 23, 1941 by boosting No. 257 Wing to Group status.[1]

Tri-force model[edit]

During the North Africa Campaign in Egypt and Libya, the successful coordination of No. 205 (Heavy Bomber) Group under Air Commodore Alan P. Ritchie with No. 201 (Naval Co-operation) Group under Air Vice Marshal Hugh Lloyd, and Air Headquarters (H.Q.) Western Desert under Air Vice Marshal Arthur Coningham, provided a practical model for air forces. At the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and their staffs reorganized the Allied air forces in the North African and Mediterranean Theater of Operations on this model. The result of this reorganization was the Mediterranean Air Command commanded by Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder and its major sub-command, the Northwest African Air Forces (NAAF) under Lieutenant General Carl Spaatz, was structured according to the tri-force model.[2][3]

The air interdiction model with its separate strategic, coastal, and tactical air forces was presented to the Casablanca planners by Tedder who along with primarily Ritchie, Lloyd, and especially Coningham, implemented and developed the tri-force model in Egypt and Libya during 1942. As the strategic component of the original tri-force, No. 205 Group contributed significantly to these developments.

No. 205 Group units were part of the attempted resupply of the Polish Home Army during the Warsaw Uprising Airlift (1944).

Order of battle[edit]

In the MAC organization following the Casablanca Conference, No. 205 Group was part of the Northwest African Strategic Air Force (NASAF), an Allied command under Major General James H. Doolittle consisting of American (daytime) and British (primarily nighttime) long-range heavy bomber units.[4] NASAF, along with the Northwest African Coastal Air Force (NACAF) and the Northwest African Tactical Air Force (NATAF), formed a complete tri-force under a single unified command (NAAF). The components of No. 205 Group at various times during World War II are illustrated below.

No. 205 Group Order of Battle, 1941–1944, data from[5]
11 November 1941
Operation Crusader
A/Cdre Lachlan MacLean
Summer 1942
Egyptian Defensive
A/Cdre MacLean or Ritchie
27 October 1942
Second Battle of El Alamein
A/Cdre A. P. Ritchie
10 July 1943
Operation Husky
A/Cdre John Simpson
1944 & 1945
Part of +MASAF
A/Cdre John Simpson
No. 37 Squadron, Wellington
No. 38 Squadron, Wellington
No. 70 Squadron, Wellington
No. 37 Squadron, Wellington
No. 70 Squadron, Wellington
No. 231 Wing

No. 37 Squadron, Wellington
No. 70 Squadron, Wellington

No. 231 Wing

No. 37 Squadron, Wellington
No. 40 Squadron, Wellington
No. 70 Squadron, Wellington

No. 231 Wing

No. 37 Squadron, Wellington X
to B-24 Liberator VI in October 1944.
No. 70 Squadron, Wellington X
to B-24 Liberator VI in January 1945.

No. 108 Squadron, Wellington
No. 148 Squadron, Wellington
No. 108 Squadron, Wellington
No. 148 Squadron, Wellington
No. 236 Wing

No. 108 Squadron, Wellington
No. 148 Squadron, Wellington

No. 236 Wing

No. 104 Squadron, Wellington
No. 462 Squadron, Halifax

No. 236 Wing

No. 40 Squadron, Wellington X
to B-24 Liberator VI in March 1945.
No. 104 Squadron, Wellington X
to B-24 Liberator VI in February 1945.

No. 238 Wing

No. 40 Squadron, Wellington
No. 104 Squadron, Wellington

No. 330 Wing

No. 142 Squadron, Wellington
No. 150 Squadron, Wellington

No. 240 Wing

No. 178 Squadron, B-24 Liberator VI
No. 462 Squadron, Halifax II
renamed No. 614 Squadron on March 3, 1944.
Used some B-24s after August 1944.

No. 160 Squadron, Liberator No. 242 Wing

No. 147 Squadron, Liberator
No. 160 Squadron, Liberator

No. 331 Wing (RCAF)

No. 420 Squadron, Wellington
No. 424 Squadron, Wellington
No. 425 Squadron, Wellington

No. 330 Wing

No. 142 Squadron, Wellington X, to UK, Mosquito
No. 150 Squadron, Wellington X, to UK, Lancaster
when No. 330 Wing disbanded on October 5, 1944.

No. 245 Wing

No. 14 Squadron (RAF), Marauder, Boston
No. 227 Squadron (RAF) Det., Halifax
No. 462 Squadron (RAAF), Halifax

No. 2 Wing SAAF (Joined 205 Group in 6/44)

31 Squadron SAAF, B-24 Liberator VI
34 Squadron SAAF, B-24 Liberator VI

Special Liberator Flight, Liberator

A/Cdre=Air Commodore; RCAF=Royal Canadian Air Force
+MASAF=Mediterranean Allied Strategic Air Force under Major General Nathan Twining was a sub-command of the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces.

^It's not absolutely certain which RAF squadrons were operating in No. 205 Group during the summer of 1942. American heavy bomber units began arriving in the Middle East at this time. The first was Colonel Harry A. Halverson's detachment of B-24 Liberators known as the Halverson Project (HALPRO). On June 12, 1942, thirteen B-24s of the Halverson Detachment bombed the Ploesti oil refineries in Romania. This was the first strategic bombing mission by an American unit in World War II. On June 28, 1942, Major General Lewis H. Brereton arrived from India with the 9th Bombardment Squadron of B-17 Flying Fortresses. The Halverson Detachment and the 9th Bombardment Squadron were both under control of No. 205 (Heavy Bomber) Group for target selection and operations.

[6] "Between 26 June and 5 July, nine missions were flown, all but one against Tobruk. The B-17's of the 9th Squadron participated in two attacks, one by night, and the B-24's (Halverson's Detachment), sometimes in company with the RAF's Liberator squadron (No. 160 Squadron), also operated both by day and by night."

RAF operational control of the American heavy bomber units continued even after Halverson's Detachment of B-24s and Brereton's 9th Bombardment Squadron of B-17s were consolidated to form the 1st Provisional Bombardment Group on July 20, 1942 under Halverson's command. When the American 98th Bombardment Group with four squadrons of B-24s arrived and began flying combat missions in August 1942, the RAF selected its mission targets as well. This situation caused some concern among officers of the 9th Air Force's IX Bomber Command and the United States Army Middle East Air Force (USAMEAF).


"A development of some importance in the career of USAMEAF manifested itself administratively on 12 October when orders were cut assigning nine officers to the IX Bomber Command, which organization was then and for a month afterwards unofficial. This command had its roots in a discussion on 5 September between Tedder's senior air staff officer, Air Vice Marshal H. E. P. Wigglesworth, and G-3 officers of USAMEAF, during which Wigglesworth asserted that he had control, delegated by Tedder, over the target selection for the U.S. heavy bombers. Col. Patrick W Timberlake, G-3 of Brereton's staff, took a serious view of this assertion in that it violated the Arnold-Portal-Towers agreement that American combat units assigned to theaters of British strategic responsibility were to be organized in "homogeneous American formations" under the "strategic control" of the appropriate British commander in chief. In a memo of 7 September, Timberlake granted that this canon might be justifiably violated in the case of the 12th Bombardment (M) and 57th Fighter Groups, but he could see no reason why operational control of the 1st Provisional and 98th Groups, comprising four-fifths of the heavy bomber force in the Middle East, should not be vested in American hands. Subsequent negotiations carried the point with the British, who even turned over their 160 Squadron (Liberators) to the operational control of IX Bomber Command. On 12 October a small staff moved into Grey Pillars, RAF headquarters at Cairo, and thenceforth USAMEAF's bombers operated only under the "strategic" direction of the British. Timberlake headed the organization, with Kalberer as his A-3 and Lt. Col. Donald M. Keiser as his chief of staff."

When MAC was disbanded on December 10, 1943, No. 205 Group was assigned to the Mediterranean Allied Strategic Air Force. No. 205 Group eventually converted to Consolidated B-24 Liberator aircraft, and remained under Simpson's command for the duration of the Second World War.


Commanders from 1945 were:[8]

  • 30 Apr 1945 AVM A McKee
  • 1 Feb 1947 AVM G S Hodson
  • 20 Oct 1949 AVM V E Groom
  • 6 Feb 1952 No Appointment
  • 6 Jul 1952 AVM H V Satterley
  • 30 Jun 1954 AVM Denis Barnett

No. 78 Wing RAAF (Nos 75 and 76 Squadrons) with Vickers Vampires operated under the group's control from RAF Hal Far, Malta during the early 1950s.

No. 205 Group was disbanded on April 15, 1956.[9] Unfortunately, many of the records of No. 205 Group are apparently unavailable for the period prior to the air force reorganization in February 1943 (Mediterranean Air Command).[10]


  1. ^ RAF Web Groups
  2. ^ Craven and Cate, Vol. II, Figure on p. 497, 1949.
  3. ^ Davis, p.107, 2006.
  4. ^ USAAF 1945, p. ?.
  5. ^ Richards and Saunders, Vol. I & II, Figures depicting Orders of Battles, 1953.
  6. ^ Craven and Cate, Vol. II, p. 18, 1949.
  7. ^ Craven and Cate, Vol. II, p. 33, 1949.
  8. ^ Royal Air Force Web
  9. ^ Royal Air Force Web
  10. ^ Davis, Preface, p. viii, 2006.


  • Craven, Wesley F. and James L. Cate. The Army Air Forces in World War II, Volume 2. Chicago, Illinois: Chicago University Press, 1949 (Reprinted 1983). ISBN 0-912799-03-X.
  • Davis, Richard G. Bombing the European Axis Powers: A historical digest of the combined bomber offensive, 1939-1945. Maxwell Air Force Base, AL: Air University Press, 2006.
  • Richards, D. and H. Saunders. The Royal Air Force, 1939-1945 Volumes 1 & 2. HMSO, 1953.
  • Howe, George F. Northwest Africa: Seizing the Initiative in the West. Washington, DC: Center of Military History, 1991.
  • US Army AIr Force. Participation of the Ninth & Twelfth Air Forces in the Sicilian Campaign, Army Air Forces Historical Study No. 37. Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Army Air Forces Historical Office Headquarters, 1945.

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