No. 5 Group RAF

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No. 5 (Bomber) Group RAF
No. 5 (Operations) Group RAF
Active1 April 1918 – 15 May 1919
1 September 1937 – 15 December 1945
Country United Kingdom
Branch Royal Air Force
TypeRoyal Air Force group
RoleStrategic and tactical bombing
Part ofRAF Bomber Command
Group HeadquartersSt Vincents Hall
(October 1937 - November 1943)
Morton Hall, Swinderby
(November 1943 - December 1945)
Air Vice-Marshal Arthur Travers "Bomber" Harris
Air Vice-Marshal Ralph Cochrane
Group badgeA lion rampant

No. 5 Group RAF (5 Gp) was a Royal Air Force bomber group of the Second World War, led during the latter part (February 1943 – 1945) by AVM Sir Ralph Cochrane.



The Group was formed on 1 September 1937, with its headquarters at RAF Mildenhall, in Suffolk. In October the same year, the group headquarters (HQ) was moved to St Vincents Hall in Grantham, Lincolnshire. During the Second World War, 5 Group was concentrated primarily in south Lincolnshire (whereas 1 Group was more concentrated in the north of the county).[2] Most of the 5 Group airfields were around Lincoln, including RAF Scampton.

By the end of the Second World War, the Group had grown to 15 squadrons. During the war, it included a significant proportion of Royal Australian Air Force (or Australian-born RAF) personnel, both aircrews and ground staff, who were concentrated in three "Article XV squadrons": No. 455 Squadron RAAF,[3] No. 463 Squadron RAAF and No. 467 Squadron RAAF. The Group also famously included an elite, multi-national unit: No. 617 Squadron, perhaps better known as "The Dambusters". 617 Sqn was formed in March 1943, and comprised RAF, RAAF, RCAF/Canadian and RNZAF/New Zealand aircrew personnel, who had been hand-picked from squadrons throughout Bomber Command.

Led by 617 Squadron, the Group often engaged in special missions, using new weapons, such as Barnes Wallis's bouncing bombs, and two type of "earthquake bomb": Tallboy and Grand Slam.

1939 – 1945

From 11 September 1939 until 22 November 1940, Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Arthur Harris was in charge. The group started the war with 10 squadrons, all equipped with the Handley Page Hampden. The Group continued to fly only Hampdens until the northern winter of 1940–1941 when it began to convert to the new Avro Manchester.

Early in 1942, the Manchester, was replaced by its four-engined variant: the Avro Lancaster, started to equip the group squadrons. On 17 October 1942, under Operation Robinson, some 86 Lancasters from 5 Group (without fighter escort) flew deep into occupied France to attack the Schneider armaments works at Le Creusot and the associated electrical station at Montchanin. On the night of 22–23 October, 85 Lancasters of the Group attacked Genoa without a single loss. On 24 October, 74 Lancasters delivered a daylight attack on Milan.

In May 1943, 617 Squadron breached two of the Ruhr dams during the famous "Dams Raid": Operation Chastise.

AVM Ralph Cochrane, who was to become influential in terms of Bomber Command tactics, took command of 5 Group in October 1943. Group HQ was moved to Morton Hall, at RAF Swinderby in November 1943,

Using the Stabilizing Automatic Bomb Sight (SABS) and the 12,000 lb (5,400 kg) Tallboy, 617 Sqn achieved a bombing error of only 94 yd (86 m) at the V Weapon launch site at Abbeville, during December 1943.

During the lead-up to D-day, Cochrane was an advocate of low-level marking, to improve accuracy, and lobbied heavily to be allowed to prove the principle operationally. New systems of target-marking were developed as result and were tested by 617 Squadron – especially its commanding officer, Wing Commander Leonard Cheshire, using the de Havilland Mosquito and North American Mustang. (Cheshire was subsequently awarded the Victoria Cross and taken off active operations.)

The special missions included attacks on the German battleship Tirpitz in late 1944 and the use of the Grand Slam against the strategically-important Bielefeld railway viaduct, in March 1945.

5 Group was disbanded on 15 December 1945.

No. 5 Group controlled the following base at various times between March 1943 and November 1945[4]
No. 51 Base No. 52 Base No. 53 Base No. 54 Base No. 55 Base No. 56 Base
RAF Swinderby (HQ) RAF Scampton (HQ) RAF Waddington (HQ) RAF Coningsby (HQ) RAF East Kirkby (HQ) RAF Syerston (HQ)
RAF Barkston Heath RAF Dunholme Lodge RAF Bardney RAF Metheringham RAF Spilsby RAF Balderton
RAF Syerston RAF Fiskerton RAF Skellingthorpe RAF Woodhall Spa RAF Strubby RAF Fulbeck
RAF Wigsley
RAF Winthorpe

Notable raids[edit]


1918 to 1919

1937 to 1945

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Pine 1983, p. 241.
  2. ^ Otter 1996, p. 15.
  3. ^ In April 1942, 455 Sqn RAAF was transferred from 5 Group (Bomber Command) to 18 Group, Coastal Command.
  4. ^ Sturtivant & Hamlin 2007, p. 77.
  5. ^ Moyes 1976, p. 343.


  • Moyes, Philip J. R. (1976) [1964]. Bomber Squadrons of the RAF and Their Aircraft (2nd ed.). London: Macdonald and Jane's. ISBN 978-0-354-01027-6.
  • Otter, Patrick (1996). Lincolnshire Airfields in the Second World War. Newbury: Hushion House, Countryside Books. ISBN 978-1-85306-424-1.
  • Pine, L.G. (1983). A Dictionary of Mottoes (1st ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. ISBN 978-0-7100-9339-4.
  • Sturtivant, R.; Hamlin, J. (2007). Royal Air Force flying training and support units since 1912. UK: Air-Britain (Historians). ISBN 978-0851-3036-59.
  • Ward, Chris (2007). 5 Group Bomber Command: An Operational Record. London: Pen & Sword Aviation. ISBN 978-1-84415-579-8.

External links[edit]