RAF Second Tactical Air Force
|Royal Air Force Second Tactical Air Force|
|Active||June 1943 - 1 January 1959|
|Branch||Royal Air Force|
|Type||tactical air force|
|Role||air superiority and support ground offensive|
|Motto(s)||Keepers of the peace|
|Royal Air Force Ensign|
|March||Royal Air Force March Past|
|winged griffon above a crown|
The former RAF Second Tactical Air Force (2TAF) was one of three tactical air forces within the Royal Air Force (RAF) during and after the Second World War. It was made up of squadrons and personnel from the RAF, the air forces of the British Commonwealth and exiles from German-occupied Europe.
It was formed on 1 June 1943 as HQ Tactical Air Force from Army Co-operation Command in connection with preparations then in train to invade Europe a year later. It took units from both Fighter Command and Bomber Command in order to form a force capable of supporting the Army in the field. Bomber Command lent No. 2 Group with light bombers, and Fighter Command was split up into the Air Defence of Great Britain, retaining fighter units for home defence, and No. 83 Group and No. 84 Group operating aircraft, and No. 85 Group, controlling ground based units for the Second Tactical Air Force. In addition, No. 38 Group RAF for towing assault gliders and No. 140 Squadron, providing strategic photo-reconnaissance, were also part of the tactical air force at its inception.
Second World War
Its first commander was Air Marshal Sir John d'Albiac, who, on 21 January 1944, was succeeded by the man most associated with Second TAF, Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham. Coningham had great experience of the type of operations required for supporting fast moving ground warfare due to his command of the Desert Air Force in North Africa and Italy. He honed Second TAF into a command up to the challenges presented to it, and incorporated many of the lessons from Italy, including the use of the "cab rank" system for aircraft for close air support, into the doctrine of Second TAF.
The 34th Reconnaissance Wing commanded by Royal Navy Commodore E.C. Thornton served as the air spotting pool for naval gunfire support through Operation Overlord. The wing included No. 2 Squadron RAF, No. 26 Squadron RAF, No. 63 Squadron RAF, No. 268 Squadron RAF, No. 414 Squadron RCAF, 808 Naval Air Squadron, 885 Naval Air Squadron, 886 Naval Air Squadron, 897 Naval Air Squadron, and (briefly) United States Navy VOS-7.
By this late stage in the war, the Luftwaffe was but a pale shadow of the organisation it had once been. Mostly Second TAF spent its time supporting the British and Canadian forces on the left flank of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force's command. One notable exception was the last great attack of the Luftwaffe, Operation Bodenplatte, mounted on New Year's Day 1945, when the Second TAF suffered serious losses on the ground.
Post Second World War
The Second TAF did not last long after the war before redesignation. It was renamed as the British Air Forces of Occupation on 15 July 1945. It began as a large force of four groups (2, 83, 84, 85 Groups seemingly); but No. 2 Group RAF disbanded on 1 May 1947. On 1 April 1946, No. 41 Squadron was renumbered as No. 26 Squadron RAF at Wunstorf and it flew Spitfires and Hawker Tempests until April 1949 when it was re-equipped with De Havilland Vampires.
By the end of 1947 2TAF had shrunk to ten squadrons at three airfields, all directly under control of the Air Headquarters at Bad Eilsen. In 1951, the British Air Forces of Occupation reverted to their former name with the re-creation of the Second Tactical Air Force on 1 September 1951.
No. 2 Group was transferred again to Second Tactical Air Force on 1 September 1951, but was disbanded on 15 November 1958. No. 83 Group RAF controlled 2TAF's southern area from 1952 to 1958. On 1 July 1956, No. 2 Group appeared to encompass wings at Ahlhorn (No. 125 Wing RAF), RAF Fassberg (No. 121 Wing RAF), Gutersloh (No. 551 Wing RAF, under the control of Bomber Command), Jever (No. 122 Wing RAF), Laarbruch (No. 34 Wing RAF), RAF Oldenburg (No. 124 Wing RAF), and RAF Wunstorf (No. 123 Wing RAF), while No. 83 Group directed wings at RAF Bruggen, Celle, RAF Geilenkichen, RAF Wahn, and RAF Wildenrath.
In November 1953, now at RAF Oldenburg, No. 26 Squadron was converted to Sabres, converting again to Hunters in July 1955, and remained a day-fighter unit until it was disbanded on 10 September 1957. It was reformed with Hawker Hunters at RAF Gutersloh on 7 June 1958 but was disbanded again on 30 December 1960.
Second Tactical Air Force
British Air Forces of Occupation
- 15 July 1945 Air Chief Marshal Sir Sholto Douglas
- 1 February 1946 Air Marshal Sir Philip Wigglesworth
- 30 October 1948 Air Marshal Sir Thomas Williams
Second Tactical Air Force
- 1 October 1951 Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Foster
- 3 December 1953 Air Marshal Sir Harry Broadhurst
- 22 January 1956 Air Marshal The Earl of Bandon
- 1 June 1957 - Air Marshal Sir Humphrey Edwardes-Jones
Royal Air Force Germany
- 1 January 1959 - Air Marshal Sir Humphrey Edwardes-Jones
- 7 January 1961 - Air Marshal Sir John Grandy
- 25 June 1963 - Air Marshal Sir Ronald Lees
- 6 December 1965 - Air Marshal Sir Denis Spotswood
- 16 July 1968 - Air Marshal Christopher Foxley-Norris
- 10 November 1970 - Air Marshal Harold Brownlow Martin
- 4 April 1973 - Air Marshal Nigel Maynard
- 19 January 1976 - Air Marshal Sir Michael Beetham
- 25 July 1977 - Air Marshal Sir John Stacey
- 30 April 1979 - Air Marshal Sir Peter Terry
- 2 February 1981 - Air Marshal Sir Thomas Kennedy
- 9 April 1983 - Air Marshal Sir Patrick Hine
- 1 July 1985 - Air Marshal Sir David Parry-Evans
- 13 April 1987 - Air Marshal Sir Anthony Skingsley
- 14 April 1989 - Air Marshal Sir Roger Palin
- 22 April 1991 - Air Marshal Sir Andrew Wilson
- RAF Heraldry Trust accessed 11 January 2008
- Royal Air Force, RAF Narrative on the Liberation of North West Europe (Maxwell AFB, Ala.: AFHRA, USAF Collection, call no. 512.041-38 vol. 1, IRIS no. 00895753, 1946), 8.
- Mersky, Peter (1986). "Naval Aviators in Spitfires". Proceedings (United States Naval Institute) 112 (12): 105&106.
- Group Captain W J Taylor OBE, Historical Background, The RAF in Germany 1945-1993
- Biography - Air Marshal Sir Harry Broadhurst
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