No. 3 Group RAF
|No. 3 Group|
No. 3 Group badge
|Branch||Royal Air Force|
|Part of||RAF Bomber Command
RAF Strike Command
|Base||RAF Mildenhall (1936-1938)|
|Motto||Dutch: Niet zonder arbyt
("Nothing without Labour")
|Group badge heraldry||Three swords in pile, the points upwards, and each enfiled by an astral crown|
No. 3 Group (3 Gp) of the Royal Air Force was an RAF group first active in 1918, again in 1923-26, part of RAF Bomber Command from 1936 to 1967, and part of RAF Strike Command from 2000 until it disbanded on 1 April 2006.
The 1930s and the Second World War
No. 3 Group was first formed on 10 May 1918 as part of South-Eastern Area. No. 13 Group RAF was merged into 3 Gp on 18 October 1919. Group Captain U J D Bourke took command on 30 November 1919. The Group was disbanded on 31 August 1921. Following its First World War service, the Group was reformed at Andover, Wiltshire on 1 May 1936, under Air Vice-Marshal Patrick Playfair. Ten months later Group HQ moved to RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, a direct result of the Air Ministry's decision to form two new bomber groups and reorganise its existing groups. No. 3 Group was initially equipped with the ungainly Vickers Virginia and Handley Page Heyford, which was the RAF's last biplane heavy bomber.
With the arrival of the then revolutionary twin engined Vickers Wellington it was decided that No. 3 Group would be tasked with introducing the type into front line service. The first squadron in Bomber Command to be equipped was No. 99 Squadron RAF based at Mildenhall, on 10 October 1938. Air Commodore A A B Thomson, Playfair's successor, was killed on 8 August 1939 while viewing the bombing up of a Vickers Wellington of No. 115 Squadron RAF. While under the fuselage, he slipped and was struck on the head by the rotating airscrew. Air Vice-Marshal J E A Baldwin took over the Group on 29 August 1939. By September 1939 the entire group (totalling six front line squadrons and two reserve squadrons) was fully equipped with an all-Wellington force totalling over 100 aircraft located at five East Anglian airfields. 3 Group continued to be primarily based in East Anglia for the rest of WWII. 3 Gp's first wartime operations were attacks against German warships at Wilhelmshaven and Brunsbüttel.
Group HQ moved to Exning, Suffolk, in March 1940. On 2 April 1940, two squadrons were temporarily transferred to RAF Coastal Command and advanced bases in Northern Scotland, and they had hardly settled in before the Germans invaded Denmark and Norway. The squadrons went into action immediately and on 11/12 April one of them (115 Sqn) became the first RAF unit to bomb deliberately a mainland target (Stavanger Airport, Sola) during the Second World War.
In March 1943 3 Gp consisted of:
3 Gp Headquarters - RAF Exning, Suffolk.
- 15 Sqn, RAF Bourn, Short Stirling
- 75 Sqn, RAF Newmarket, Stirling
- 90 Sqn, RAF Ridgewell, Stirling
- 115 Sqn, RAF East Wretham, Wellington & Lancaster
- 138 (Special Duties) Squadron, RAF Tempsford, Halifax
- 149 Sqn, RAF Lakenheath, Stirling
- 199 Sqn, RAF Lakenheath, Stirling
- 161 (Special Duties) Squadron, RAF Tempsford, Lysander, Halifax Hudson Havoc Albemarle Hudson Cygnet
- 192 (Special Duties) Squadron, RAF Gransden Lodge, Halifax, Wellington Mk.X Mosquito Wellington Mk.IC
- 214 Sqn, RAF Chedburgh, Stirling
- 218 Sqn, RAF Downham Market, Stirling
After the invasion of Normandy, Bomber Command joined in the campaign against German oil targets. Although daylight bombing against targets within Germany itself still incurred too many casualties closer targets could be attacked by day with fighter escorts. 3 Gp carried out blind bombing techniques by day using G-H.
By April 1945 3 Gp consisted of:
- 15 Sqn, RAF Bourn, Avro Lancaster Mks. I and III
- 75 Sqn, RAF Mepal, Lancaster Mks. I and III
- 90 Sqn, RAF Tuddenham, Lancaster Mks. I and III
- 115 Sqn, RAF Witchford, Lancaster Mks. I and III
- 138 (Special Duties) Squadron, RAF Tuddenham, Lancaster Mks. I and III
- 149 Sqn, RAF Methwold, Lancaster Mks. I and III
- 186 Sqn, RAF Stradishall, Lancaster Mks. I and III
- 195 Sqn, RAF Wratting Common, Lancaster Mks. I and III
- 218 Sqn, RAF Chedburgh, Lancaster Mks. I and III
- 514 Sqn, RAF Waterbeach, Lancaster Mks. I and III
- 622 Sqn, RAF Mildenhall, Lancaster Mks. I and III
- Training units, e.g. No. 1688 Flight, at RAF Feltwell
Headquarters - Exning
The Group HQ moved back to Mildenhall in January 1947. In June 1948, No.3 Group consisted of 35, 115, 149, and 207 Squadrons operating Lancasters from RAF Stradishall, Nos 7, 49, 148, and 214 Squadrons operating Lancasters from RAF Upwood, and 15, 44, 90, 138 Squadrons operating Lincolns from RAF Wyton. For a period in the early 1950s several squadrons flew Boeing Washingtons, the British name for Boeing B-29 Superfortresses lent to the UK until the English Electric Canberra could enter service. Most of the Vickers Valiant and Handley Page Victor, squadrons, made operational in the late 1950s, formed part of No. 3 Group. During the Suez Crisis of 1956 Valiants of 138, 148, 207 and 214 Squadrons were deployed to RAF Luqa in Malta and the first Valiant attacks against Egyptian airfields began on 31 October 1956, with limited results due to the lack of experience operating the Valiant.
No. 3 Group was also responsible for the Thor ballistic missile between 1 September 1958 and August 1963, with ten squadrons, including Nos:-
- 77 Headquartered at RAF Feltwell
- 82 Headquartered at RAF Shepherds Grove
- 107 Headquartered at RAF Tuddenham
- 113 Headquartered at RAF Mepal
- 130 Headquartered at RAF Polebrook
- 144 Headquartered at RAF North Luffenham
- 218 Headquartered at RAF Harrington
- 220 Headquartered at RAF North Pickenham
- 223 Headquartered at RAF Folkingham
- 254 Headquartered at RAF Melton Mowbray
The Group was reformed on 1 April 2000 to control Joint Force Harrier and maritime aircraft transferred from the former No. 11/18 Group RAF. It came under a Royal Navy officer, the Flag Officer Maritime Aviation. Rear Admiral Iain Henderson was the first occupant of the post, who also had the NATO roles of COMAIREASTLANT and COMMARAIRNORTH. AOC 3 Group/FOMA had two RAF subordinates, Air Commodore Harrier (for all the RAF Harriers and FAA Sea Harriers) and Air Commodore Maritime (for the Nimrods and SAR helicopters). After a further reorganisation in 2003-4, the group became known as the Battle Management Group and controlled the Airborne Early Warning aircraft, ground based radar installations, maritime reconnaissance aircraft and the search and rescue helicopters in the UK. The group was based alongside Strike Command at RAF High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.
In 2006 the Group consisted of:
3 Gp Headquarters - RAF High Wycombe
- RAF Bentley Priory
- RAF Boulmer
- RAF Fylingdales
- RAF Neatishead
- 5 Sqn, RAF Waddington
- 8 Sqn, RAF Waddington
- 22 Sqn, A Flight & HQ, RMB Chivenor
- 22 Sqn, B Flt, RAF Wattisham
- 22 Sqn, C Flt, RAF Valley
- 23 Sqn, RAF Waddington
- 42(R) Sqn Squadron, RAF Kinloss
- 51 Sqn, RAF Waddington
- 120 Sqn Squadron, RAF Kinloss
- 201 Sqn Squadron, RAF Kinloss
- 202 Sqn, A Flt & HQ, RAF Boulmer
- 202 Sqn, D Flt, RAF Lossiemouth
- 202 Sqn, E Flt, RAF Leconfield
- SARF / 203(R) Sqn Squadron, RAF St. Mawgan (disbanded from April 2009)
As from 1 April 2006, the stations and squadrons which were under the command of 3 Group RAF were brought under the command of No. 2 Group RAF.
1919 to 1921
1923 to 1926
- 16 April 1923 Air Commodore T I Webb-Bowen
- 7 March 1924 Air Commodore L E O Charlton
- 2 January 1925 Air Commodore R Gordon
- 1 October 1925 Air Commodore I M Bonham-Carter
1936 to 1967
- 1 May 1936 Air Vice-Marshal P H L Playfair
- 14 February 1938 Air Commodore A A B Thomson (killed on duty 8 August 1939)
- 29 August 1939 Air Vice-Marshal J E A Baldwin
- 14 September 1942 Air Vice-Marshal The Hon R A Cochrane
- 27 February 1943 Air Vice-Marshal R Harrison
- 28 February 1946 Air Vice-Marshal A C Collier
- Post vacant
- 9 July 1946 Air Vice-Marshal R M Foster
- 18 March 1947 Air Vice-Marshal L Darvall
- 14 December 1948 Air Vice-Marshal A Hesketh
- 15 September 1951 Air Vice-Marshal W A D Brook
- 1 September 1953 Air Vice-Marshal E C Hudleston
- 2 February 1956 Air Vice-Marshal K B B Cross
- 4 May 1959 Air Vice-Marshal M H Dwyer
- 9 October 1961 Air Vice-Marshal B K Burnett
- 5 August 1964 Air Vice-Marshal D F Spotswood
- 26 November 1965 Air Vice-Marshal D G Smallwood
2000 to present
- 1 April 2000 Rear-Admiral Iain R Henderson (Royal Navy - Fleet Air Arm)
- 24 July 2001 Rear-Admiral Scott Lidbetter (Royal Navy - Fleet Air Arm)
- 7 October 2003 Air Vice-Marshal A D White
- Moyes 1976, p. 334.
- An Introduction to Bomber Command No. 3 Group, accessed 30 May 2008
- An Introduction to Bomber Command No. 3 Group. Retrieved 1 June 2008.
- Philip Moyes, 'Bomber Squadrons of the Royal Air Force,' MacDonald, London, 1964, p. 334, via Royal Air Force, Bomber Command 60th Anniversary: No. 3 Group. Retrieved 1 June 2008.
- Bomber Command Order of Battle March 1943
- Levine, Alan J. (1992). The strategic bombing or Germany 1940-1945. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-275-94319-6. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- Bomber Command Order of Battle, April 1945
- John D. Rawlings et al., 'The History of the Royal Air Force,' Temple Press Aerospace, 1984, p.187
- Martin Powell, "The Douglas Thor in Royal Air Force Service", Rossendale Aviation Society - Article. Retrieved 2 June 2008.
- Richard Cobbold, 'My Jobs: Joint Force Harrier Commander,' RUSI Journal, Vol. 145, No.3, June 2000, pp.21-27
- Moyes, Philip J.R. Bomber Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald and Jane's (Publishers) Ltd., 2nd edition 1976. ISBN 0-354-01027-1.
- Ward, Chris. 3 Group Bomber Command: An Operational Record. Barnsley, UK: Pen and Sword Books Ltd.,2008. ISBN 978-1-84415-796-9.
- Webster, Charles and Noble Frankland, The Strategic Air Offensive Against Germany, 1939-1945 (HMSO, 1961 & facsimile reprinted by Naval & Military Press, 2006), 4 vols. ISBN 978-184574-437-3.