RAF Ferry Command
||This article's introduction section may not adequately summarize its contents. (July 2013)|
|Royal Air Force Ferry Command|
|Active||20 July 1941–25 March 1943|
|Branch||Royal Air Force|
|Engagements||World War II|
The RAF Ferry Command had a short life, but it spawned, in part, an organisation that lasted well beyond the war years during which it was formed.
The practice of ferrying aircraft from US manufacturers to the UK was begun by the Atlantic Ferry Organization ("Atfero") set up by Morris W. Wilson, a banker in Montreal. Wilson hired civilian pilots to fly the aircraft to the UK. The pilots were then ferried back. "Atfero hired the pilots, planned the routes, selected the airports [and] set up weather and radiocommunication stations."
Ferry Command was formed on 20 July 1941, by the raising of the RAF Atlantic Ferry Service to Command status. Its commander for its whole existence was Air Chief Marshal Sir Frederick Bowhill. He was also the first commander of Ferry Command's successor, Transport Command.
As its name suggests, the main function of Ferry Command was the ferrying of new aircraft from factory to operational unit. Ferry Command did this over only one area of the world, rather than the more general routes that Transport Command later developed. The Command's operational area was the north Atlantic, and its responsibility was to bring the larger aircraft that had the range to do the trip over the ocean from American and Canadian factories to the RAF home Commands.
This was pioneering work: before Ferry Command, only about a hundred aircraft had attempted a North Atlantic crossing in good weather, and only about half had made it. Over the course of the war, more than 9,000 aircraft were ferried across the ocean and, by the end of the war, crossing the Atlantic had become a routine operation, presaging the inauguration of scheduled commercial air transport services after the war.
Ferry Command was subsumed into the new Transport Command on 25 March 1943 by being reduced to Group status as No. 45 Group. No. 45 Group still retained responsibility for Atlantic aircraft ferrying operations, but Transport Command was a worldwide formation, rather than a single-mission command.
Notable mentions in media
- Above and Beyond (2006), a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) four-hour mini series, was inspired by the true story of the RAF Ferry Command, recounting the daring plan to deliver aircraft across the North Atlantic to the beleaguered Royal Air Force. The Lockheed Hudson is the primary aircraft portrayed in the mini series in the form of a real life example and numerous CGI Hudsons.
- World War In the Air: One Way Airline, Time magazine, 20 October 1941. See also Jeffrey Davis, 'ATFERO: The Atlantic Ferry Organization,' Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 20, No. 1, January 1985
- Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation - RAF Home Commands formed between 1939 - 1957
- Flying the Secret Sky: The Story of the RAF Ferry Command
- Ferrying Aircraft Overseas - Juno Beach Centre
- "Above & Beyond." CBC.ca. Retrieved: 15 July 2010.
- Christie, Carl A. and Hatch, F. J., Ocean Bridge: The History of RAF Ferry Command, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, c1995. ISBN 978-0-8020-8131-5
- Delve, Ken. The Source Book of the RAF. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing Ltd., 1994. ISBN 1-85310-451-5.
- Atlantic Ferry Flight December 1941