The Timeline for the RAF During World War 2  
  Friday, September 1, 1939  
  Members of the RAF Reserve and RAF Volunteer Reserve were called out for permanent service.  
   
  Saturday, September 2, 1939  
  Ten squadrons of Fairey Battle light bombers and two of Hawker Hurricane fighters of the RAF Advanced Air Striking Force were deployed to bases in France.  
   
  Sunday, September 3, 1939  
  A Bristol Blenheim light bomber of No. 139 Squadron, Wyton, carried out the RAF's first operational sortie of the war - photographic reconnaissance of the German naval base of Wilhelmshaven.  
   
  10 Whitley medium bombers of Nos. 51 and 58 Squadrons carried out the first RAF operation over Germany, dropping over 5 million leaflets over Hamburg, Bremen and the Ruhr telling the Germans that Hitler's promises were worthless, that Germany was near bankruptcy, and Germany was weak compared to Allied forces.  
   
  Monday, September 4, 1939  
  The first combat attack by RAF Bomber Command is carried out against German warships in the Heligoland Bight with 29 Bristol Blenheim and Vickers Wellington medium bombers in a daylight raid. The pocket battleship Admiral Scheer was hit three times but the bombs did not explode. The bow of the cruiser Emden was damaged by the wreckage of a shot-down Blenheim. Of the attacking aircraft, five Wellingtons of No. 9 Squadron were shot down.  
   
  Wednesday, September 6, 1939  
  An error in identification in the Chain Home radar system caused RAF Supermarine Spitfire fighters from No.74 Squadron to shoot down two Hawker Hurricane fighters of 56 Squadron by mistake. At about the same time, ground anti-aircraft fire brought down a Bristol Blenheim light bomber of 64 Squadron. One pilot was killed. The incidents became known as “The Battle of Barking Creek.”  
   
  Wednesday, September 20, 1939  
  RAF and Luftwaffe aircraft engaged in battle for the first time when a flight of German Me109 fighters attacked 3 Fairey Battle light bombers being used for reconnaissance over the Siegfried Line near Aachen, Germany. Two of the Fairey Battles were shot down. Sergeant F. Letchard claimed the first RAF victory of the war after shooting down one of the Messerschmitt Me 109s.  
   
  Monday, September 25, 1939  
  The maiden flight of the Handley-Page Halifax heavy bomber took place from the RAF Bicester airfield in Oxfordshire. In conjunction with the Lancaster heavy bombers, the Halifax formed the mainstay of the RAF Bomber Command offensive in later years.  
   
  Wednesday, October 11, 1939  
  An announcement of the creation of the Empire Air Training Scheme was made. This program would provide the training of aircrew throughout Commonwealth countries. By the end of the war the program was responsible for training approximately 88,000 aircrew which accounted for nearly half the pilots, navigators, bomb aimers, air gunners, wireless operators and flight engineers who served with the Royal Air Force (RAF), Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) during the war.  
   
  Thursday, November 2, 1939  
  King George VI decorated five RAF pilots on a tour of RAF bases in the North and Midlands. The pilots had either bombed the German port of Cuxhaven, flew over Berlin and Potsdam, or sank a German U-Boat in the North Sea.  
   
  Wednesday, November 29, 1939  
  After being attacked by Spitfires of Nos. 602 and 603 Squadrons over Lothian in Scotland, a He 111 bomber became the first German aircraft to be shot down over the United Kingdom.  
   
  Sunday, December 3, 1939  
  The second prototype of the British Short Stirling heavy bomber flew for the first time. The Short Stirling was the RAF’s first four engine bomber. The Short Stirling would enter service in August of 1940 and flew its first bombing mission on the night of February 10/11 1941.  
   
  Monday, December 18, 1939  
  The Battle of the Heligoland Bight took place in German airspace as 50 German Me109 and Me110 fighters intercepted and destroyed 12 of 22 British Wellington bombers dispatched on an armed reconnaissance mission to Wilhelmshaven. The aircraft were detected by two experimental German radar installations which then guided enemy fighters to the area. Four Luftwaffe aircraft were shot down. The outcome of this air battle caused RAF Bomber Command to abandon daylight raids until April 1940. The RAF also suspended training crews in night flying.  
   
  January 1940  
  The first maritime search radar sets, designated Air-to-Surface Vessel (ASV) Mark 1, were installed in twelve Lockheed Hudson light bomber and coastal reconnaissance aircraft. The radar sets were ready after only four months of development. They were shared between three RAF Coastal Command patrol squadrons and were assigned specifically to antisubmarine duty. The radar equipped Hudsons went on to achieve over two dozen successes against U-boats during the war. The first two U-boat sinkings achieved by American forces were both achieved by U.S. Navy Hudsons, and the first submarine sinking by the USAAF was also by a Hudson. A long series of Lockheed maritime patrol aircraft started with these quickly improvised Hudsons.  
   
  Monday, January 1, 1940  
  Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) coding was introduced to identify Bomber, Coastal and Fighter Command aircraft for the RAF air defense system. VHF Radio Telephone installations were also in completed eight selected sectors.  
   
  Monday, January 8, 1940  
  A converted Wellington bomber operating from Manston, Kent, England, and equipped with DWI (Directional Wireless Installation) achieved its first successful detonation of a mine without a problem. In the early weeks of the war mines were dropped from Luftwaffe aircraft in British coastal waters and these magnetic mines sank an increasing amount of ships. The retrieval of an intact mine led to the development of two solutions. One was to degauss the ships, removing their magnetic fields. This would allow the degaussed ships to pass safely over the magnetic mines but left the mines intact. The second was to deliberately generate a magnetic field that would detonate the mine. Attempts to do this from a ship succeeded in detonating the mines but also caused damaged to the ship. The successful solution was DWI and involved attaching an aluminum coil inside a balsa wood ring with a diameter of 51 feet and attached to a Wellington IA bomber. Power was provided by a Ford V8 engine driving an electrical generator. When the power was fed into the coil it generated a magnetic field that could trigger the magnetic mine. The aircraft had to fly slow and low enough to trigger the mine, but not so slow or low that it would be damaged by the explosion. This was a very low level operation – initial tests took place at 60 feet, with 35 feet felt to be the minimum safe altitude. The DWI equipped Wellington was an early example of what Churchill called the “Battle of the Boffins” – the scientific war that saw first one side then the other win a brief technological advantage, before the Allies took an almost unassailable lead later in the war. Along with the development of simple degaussing methods, the DWI Wellingtons ended the threat of one of Germany’s early secret weapons of 1939-40.  
   
  Friday, January 12, 1940  
  Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys of No.77 Squadron, RAF Bomber Command, operating from Villeneuve in France, dropped leaflets over Prague and Vienna for the first time.  
   
  Wednesday, January 31, 1940  
  The first RAF casualty list of the World War 2 was released and listed 758 personnel killed, with 210 aircraft losses.  
   
  Wednesday, February 14, 1940  
  A Lockheed Hudson of RAF Coastal Command located the German tanker Altmark as it reached Norwegian territorial waters. The Altmark was carrying 299 British merchant sailors who had been taken prisoner by the German pocket battleship SMS Admiral Graf Spee in late September and October of 1939 The Altmark had successfully avoided the Royal Navy since October 29, 1939.  
   
  Thursday, February 22, 1940  
  Squadron Leader Douglas Farquhar of No.602 Squadron took the first British gun-camera film of the war, while attacking and destroying a Heinkel He111 over Coldingham in Berwickshire.  
   
  Sunday, February 25, 1940  
  The first Royal Canadian Air Force unit arrived in the United Kingdom.  
   
  Monday, March 11, 1940  
  On sea trials in Jadebusen (Jade Bay) near the Wilhelmshaven submarine base, the U-31, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Johannes Habekost, was sighted by a British Bristol Blenheim of 82 squadron, RAF Bomber Command, on patrol off Borkum on the surface in the Schillig Roads.The RAF bomber dropped 4 antisubmarine bombs, scoring 2 hits that sank the U-boat. Of the 58 man crew, all hands were lost as well as 10 dock workers. During its career the U-31 sank 8 ships for a total of 17,962 tons, sank 2 auxiliary warships for a total of 160 tons, and damaged 1 warship for a total of 33,950 tons. The attack was pressed home at such a low altitude that the Blenheim was damaged by the explosions and the pilot of the Blenheim, Squadron Leader Miles Villiers 'Paddy' Delap, was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions. This was the first U-Boat of the war to be sunk by a Royal Air Force aircraft without the assistance of surface vessels. The U-31 would be refloated later in March, repaired and returned to service. She was sunk again by depth charges from HMS Antelope on November 2, 1940, becoming the only German submarine to be sunk twice in WW2.  
   
  Tuesday, March 19, 1940  
  RAF Bomber Command carried out their first attack on an enemy land target when 41 Whitleys and Hampdens attacked the German seaplane base on the island of Sylt. Post-attack reconnaissance of the night-time raid reveals no damage was done to the target, leading to a serious reappraisal of the Command's night navigation and bombing techniques.  
   
  Thursday, April 3, 1940  
  Air Marshal Sir Charles Portal succeeded Air Marshal Sir Edgar Ludlow-Hewitt as Air Officer Commanding in Chief of Bomber Command. Portal advocated strategic area bombing against German industrial areas instead of bombing of specific factories or plants. He gave the first order to bomb Berlin on August 25 1940 which resulted in the shift of the Luftwaffe from bombing RAF airfields to bombing London.  
   
  Monday, April 8, 1940  
  The Civilian Repair Organisation (CRO) was formed. This organization was designed to utilize civilian resources for the rapid repair of damaged Royal Air Force aircraft, returning them to the front-line without the use of Royal Air Force engineering resources. Between 1940 and 1945 the CRO repaired a total of 80,666 aircraft.  
   
  Thursday, April 11, 1940  
  Three Vickers Wellingtons of No.115 Squadron and two Bristol Blenheims of No.254 Squadron attacked Stavanger/Sola airfield on Norway’s west coast. This was the first RAF attack on Norway and the first of sixteen attacks on this airfield over the following days.  
   
  Saturday, April 13, 1940  
  RAF Bomber Command mounted the first ARF minelaying operation of the war. Fifteen Handley Page Hampdens were dispatched and of this force, fourteen laid sea mines off Denmark with one aircraft being lost. During the course of the war, the RAF flew 19,917 minelaying sorties. The sea mines sank 638 vessels at a cost of 450 lost aircraft.  
   
  Saturday, April 20, 1940  
  The training of air crews under the Empire Air Training Scheme began. The effort was a massive, joint military aircrew training program created by the Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The scheme was later renamed the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.  
   
  Monday, April 22, 1940  
  The aircraft carrier HMS Glorious (77) set sail from Scapa Flow, carrying eighteen Gloster Gladiators of No. 263 Squadron of the Royal Air Force. The squadron subsequently flew from the deck of the aircraft carrier on April 24, landing on the frozen surface of Lake Lesjaskogin in Norway. The squadron had been dispatched to support Allied ground forces around Namsos and Andalsnes in Norway, with further assistance provided by aircraft from the HMS Glorious and the carrier HMS Ark Royal (91). No.263 Squadron ceased operations on April 26 after running out of fuel and serviceable aircraft. During the two days the squadron was operational it made 37 interceptions of Luftwaffe aircraft and claimed six aircraft shot down and a number of others damaged.  
   
  Monday, April 29, 1940  
  The Empire Air Training Scheme began in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  
   
  Tuesday, May 7, 1940  
  A Bristol Beaufort torpedo bomber of RAF Coastal Command dropped the first 2,000lb bomb during an attack on a German cruiser of the Nuremberg class which had been reported between the German isles of Norderney and Juist.  
   
  Friday, May 10, 1940  
  Fall Gelb (Case Yellow), the invasion of Western Europe, began as 76 German divisions cross a 175-mile front into Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg.  
   
  Thirty-three RAF Bristol Blenheim light bombers attacked German forces in Holland, losing 3 aircraft in the process. Later that day, 32 Fairey Battle light bomber attempted to attack German columns advancing through Luxembourg. 13 bombers were lost to anti-aircraft fire and 10 were shot down by Luftwaffe fighters. During the night, Whitley medium bombers attacked enemy communications in the RAF's first attack on mainland Germany.  
   
  Saturday, May 11, 1940  
  The British Air Ministry made the decision to attack purely civilian targets in Western Germany. This marked a departure from the rule that hostilities are to be limited to operations against enemy military forces alone.  
   
  Seven out of eight RAF Fairey Battle light bombers failed to return from an attack on German forces in Luxembourg. RAF No. 114 Squadron's Bristol Blenheim light bombers were destroyed on the ground in a low-level German raid.  
   
  Sunday, May 12, 1940  
  The Fairey Battle light bombers of RAF No. 12 Squadron were ordered to demolish the Veldwezelt bridge that was one of two bridges being used by the Germans to cross the Albert Canal in northeastern Belgium. The squadron was met with fierce anti-aircraft fire and the bridge was hit but not put out of commission. Flying Officer Donald E. Garland, who was leading the attack, and his navigator, Sergeant Thomas Gray were killed during the raid. Garland and Gray were later posthumously awarded the first air Victorian Crosses of the War.  
   
  Tuesday, May 14, 1940  
  63 RAF Fairey Battle light bombers and 8 Bristol Blenheim light bombers raided German bridgeheads over the Meuse River. There were heavy losses as 40 of the attacking planes were shot down.  
   
  Wednesday, May 15, 1940  
  RAF Bomber Command was authorized to attack German targets east of the Rhine. The Air Ministry authorized Air Marshal Charles Portal to attack targets in the Ruhr, including oil plants and other civilian industrial targets which aided the German war effort, such as blast furnaces. The first attack took place on the night of May15/16, with 96 96 Wellington medium bombers, Whitley medium bombers, and Hampden medium bombers setting off to attack targets east of the Rhine, 78 of which were against oil targets. Of these, only 24 claimed to have found their targets. Only one plane was lost. This action was in response to the Luftwaffe raid on Rotterdam the previous day and was the beginning of Bomber Command's strategic bombing campaign on Germany.  
   
  Thursday, May 16, 1940  
  Twelve Bristol Blenheim light bombers attacked enemy tanks and troops near Gembloux, Belgium. Ten are shot down by fighters and one by ground fire.  
   
  Friday, May 17, 1940  
  Twelve RAF Blenheim bombers attacked advancing German columns near Gembloux, Belgium. Eleven of the planes were shot down.  
   
  Sunday, May 19, 1940  
  The evacuation of the remaining RAF squadrons in Belgium began. This action was taken in response to the rapid German advance.  
   
  Tuesday, May 21, 1940  
  The evacuation of the remaining RAF squadrons in Belgium was completed.  
   
  Sunday, May 26, 1940  
  No. 11 Group RAF, responsible for the fighter defense of London and southeast England, under the command of Vice-Marshal Keith Park, assigned 16 squadrons to the protection of Dunkirk. Following the fall of Calais and Boulogne, Dunkirk remained the only port available for the evacuation of Allied troops from the Continent. A total of 32 squadrons would participate in the defense of the Dunkirk evacuation, although they were rotated to provide rest periods and preserve aircraft for the inevitable defense of Britain.  
   
  Monday, June 3, 1940  
  The RAF carried out 171 reconnaissance missions, 651 bombing and 2,739 fighter sorties on the last day of Operation Dynamo. During the operation, the RAF lost 177 aircraft, including 106 fighters and the attrition is such that the first-line strength of Fighter Command stood at 331 Hurricanes and Spitfires with only 36 fighters in reserve.  
   
  Tuesday, June 11, 1940  
  From bases in the Channel Island, RAF Whitely bombers attacked the Italian city of Turin and bombed the Fiat factories.  
   
  The Italians made the first of seven attacks against Malta. The entire Maltese fighter defense of 4 Sea Gladiators only managed to damage one enemy aircraft.  
   
  In North Africa, the RAF launched two raids against the Italian airfield at El Adem, Libya, destroying all 18 enemy aircraft on the ground.  
   
  Wednesday, June 12, 1940  
  Turin and Genoa were bombed by the RAF.  
   
  Tuesday, June 18, 1940  
  The RAF conducted a night bombing raid on Hamburg and Bremen.  
   
  The remnants of the RAF Hurricane squadrons in France evacuated their bases, having provided cover for the final Allied retreat from France. The last to leave were Nos. 1 and 73 Squadrons, which had been the first to arrive in 1939. The fighting in France cost the RAF a total of 1,029 aircraft and over 1,500 personnel.  
   
  July 10 - , 1940  
  The Battle of Britain took place.  
   
  Saturday, August 24, 1940  
  The first German air raids on Central London occurred. When some of the bombers were unable to locate their targets, they released their loads on civilian sectors of south London despite specific orders to avoid this. The British would retaliate by bombing Berlin the next night.  
   
  Sunday, August 25, 1940  
  British Prime Minister Winston Churchill dispatched an order to Bomber Command that a bombing attack be made on Berlin. This action was taken in retaliation for the bombing of civilian sections of London the previous night.  
   
  The first British air raid on Berlin occurred.  95 aircraft were dispatched to bomb Tempelhof Airport near the center of Berlin and the Siemensstadt district. 81 aircraft dropped their bombs. The physical damage was slight but the raid had a psychological effect on German Chancellor Adolf Hitler. The bombing raids on Berlin prompted Hitler to order the shift of the Luftwaffe's target from British airfields and air defenses to British cities, at a time when the British air defenses were critically close to collapse. The action also disproved German leaders’ claims that a bombing of Berlin would be impossible.  
   
  September, 1940  
  Air reconnaissance showed a build-up of Italian forces in Libya preparing to attack Egypt. RAF Bristol Blenheim light bombers of No. 202 Group attacked enemy airfields and enemy shipping in Tobruk harbor.  
   
  Monday, October 7, 1940  
  No. 80 (Signals) Wing was formed. This unit became the RAF’s first electronic warfare unit. An example of what the unit accomplished occurred November 13-14, 1940, two aircraft of the Wireless Intelligence and Development Unit made the first direct attack on German navigational radar installations on the Cherbourg Peninsula by homing in on their transmission signals.  
   
  Operational control of salvage became administered by a section of No. 43 Group RAF (Maintenance), known as No. 43 Group Salvage, with a headquarters at the Morris Motor Works in Cowley. Maintenance units responsible for salvage were responsible for vast areas of the country.  
   
  November 13, 1940  
  Two RAF aircraft of the Wireless Intelligence and Development Unit made the first direct attack on German navigational radar installations on the Cherbourg Peninsula by homing in on their transmission signals. The aircraft were part of No. 80 (Signals) Wing, the RAF’s first electronic warfare unit.  
   
  Thursday, November 14, 1940  
  RAF squadrons began to deploy from their bases in the Middle East to Greece under the command of Air Vice-Marshal John H. D'Albiac to support the country against Italian attacks.  
   
  November 15 - November 30, 1940  
  RAF Bristol Blenheim light bombers and Vickers Wellington medium bombers of the Western Desert Air Force attacked targets deep inside Italian held territory, and Westland Lysander light bombers and Blenheims provided complete reconnaissance of Italian defenses at Sidi Barrani.  
   
  Saturday, November 23, 1940  
  RAF squadrons completed their deployment from their bases in the Middle East to Greece under the command of Air Vice-Marshal John H. D'Albiac to support the Greece against Italian attacks.  
   
  Sunday, November 24, 1940  
  The first trainees from the Empire Air Training Scheme arrived in the United Kingdom. The trainees had come from Canada.  
   
  Monday, November 25, 1940  
  The prototype de Havilland Mosquito made its first flight. The plane was designed as a bomber fast enough not to need defensive armament and had a top speed of 400 mph.  
   
  Sunday, December 1, 1940  
  Army Co-operation Command was formed under the command of Air Marshal Sir Arthur S. Barratt.  
   
  Friday, December 20, 1940  
  Two Spitfires of No. 66 Squadron carry out the first Rhubarb low-level fighter operations during an attack on Le Touquet, France. Rhubarb was the code name operations when sections of fighters or fighter-bombers took advantage of low cloud and poor visibility and would cross the English Channel and then drop below cloud level to search for opportunity targets such as railway locomotives and rolling stock, aircraft on the ground, enemy troops and vehicles on roads.  
   
  Friday, January 3, 1941   
  The Italian Air Force ceased operations over Britain.   
     
  Sunday, January 5, 1941   
  Amy Johnson, the famous female pilot who flew solo to Australia in 1931, was killed when the RAF aircraft she was delivering as an Air Transport Auxiliary pilot crashed into the Thames Estuary. She was seen to bail out by the crew the patrol trawler HMS Haslemere, which was unsuccessful in its attempt to rescue her. Johnson was the first member of the Air Transport Auxiliary to die in service.   
     
  Wednesday, January 8, 1941  
  British Wellington bombers flying from Malta attacked the Italian battleships Guilio Cesare and Vittorio Veneto moored in Naples, Italy. The Guilio Cesare was badly damaged by 3 near misses but the Vittorio Veneto was hit without serious damage. Both ships would be moved to La Spezia, Italy and repaired, out of the range of the Malta bombers. This attack underlined the importance of Malta as an offensive base. Two days later, German and Italian aircraft begin a concerted air campaign against the island.  
   
  Thursday, January 9, 1941   
  The Avro Mk III Manchester, BT308 made its first flight equipped with four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines in place of the two Rolls-Royce Vultures used on earlier models. The model did retain the three fins and twin outboard rudders (the central fin had no movable control surface) of the Manchester I. The BT308 received the "Lancaster" name immediately after this flight. The Lancaster became possibly the most famous RAF bomber of all time after bearing the brunt of the Bomber Command offensive in Europe.   
     
  Friday, January 10, 1941   
  The first of the RAF “circus” operations was conducted. These operations were daylight raids by small numbers of bombers with large fighter escorts against short-range 'fringe' targets in northern France, with the aim of bringing Luftwaffe fighters to battle in circumstances favorable to the RAF. The attack consisted of six Bristol Blenheims of No.114 Squadron escorted by nine squadrons of fighters and targeted supply dumps at the Foret de Guines south of Calais.   
     
  Tuesday, January 21, 1941  
  The Australian 9th Division, with support of the Desert Air Force, began the assault to capture Tobruk from the Italian Tenth Army. Italian General Petassi Manella surrendered within 12 hours but refused to order the surrender of the town.  
   
  Wednesday, February 5, 1941  
  The Air Training Corps (ATC) was officially established taking over the function of the Air Defence Cadet Corps. King George VI agreed to be the Air Commodore-in-Chief, and issued a Royal Warrant setting out the Corps' aims. The ATC would train young men under 18 to fly so they would have training once they were old enough to join the RAF.  
   
  No. 71 Squadron became the first of the Eagle Squadrons to become operational. Eagle squadrons were composed of volunteer American pilots. The squadron was assigned defensive duties.  
   
  Monday, February 10, 1941  
  38 men form 'X' Troop, No 11 Special Air Service Battalion dropped into southern Italy from converted six Whitley bombers of No. 58 Squadron flying from Malta. The 38 commandos demolished a span of the aqueduct near Tragino in a daring night raid named Operation Colossus. 'X' Troop, No 11 Special Air Service Battalion was formed from No 2 Commando and subsequently became 1st Battalion, The Parachute Regiment. This was the RAF’s first operational drop of airborne forces.  
   
  Tuesday, February 11, 1941  
  The RAF made a heavy raid on Hannover and other points in Germany as well as attacking Cherbourg in France and Ostend in Belgium. The RAF also conducted follow up raids on invasion ports.  
   
  Three Short Stirling heavy bombers of No. 7 Squadron carried out the first RAF four-engined bomber attack against oil installations and docks in Rotterdam.  
   
  Monday, February 24, 1941  
  Avro Manchester bombers made their operational debut in an attack against German naval targets in the harbor of Brest, France. This was the operational debut of the Manchester, the forerunner to the better-known Avro Lancaster.  
   
  Tuesday, March 11, 1941  
  The first operational use of Handley Page Halifax bombers took place against targets at Le Havre in France on the night of March 11-12. Six aircraft were dispatched, four of which successfully attacked the primary target. One was unable to see either the primary or the alternative target (Boulogne) and bombed Dieppe instead. The sixth aircraft, failing to see the target even after repeated circuits and having insufficient fuel to allow it to proceed to the alternative, jettisoned its bombs in the Channel. One of the aircraft which had bombed Le Havre was mistaken for an enemy aircraft on the return journey and was shot down in flames at Normandy, Surrey, by an RAF night fighter. Only two members of the crew - the pilot and the flight engineer - escaped by parachute and survived.  
   
  Friday, March 28, 1941  
  The first of the RAF's Eagle squadrons, No. 71 Squadron, composed of volunteer American pilots operating under the British flag, became fully operational.  
   
  Tuesday, April 1, 1941  
  During an attack on Emden in Germany, Vickers Wellington medium bombers dropped the first 4,000lb Blockbuster bombs. These large bombs could level an entire city block.  
   
  Sunday, April 6, 1941  
  Six Beaufort torpedo-bombers from 22 Squadron of Coastal Command attacked the German cruiser SMS Gneisenau anchored in Brest harbor. One, piloted by Flight Officer Kenneth Campbell made a successful attack before being shot down. The damage done to the SMS Gneisenau took six months to repair. Campbell was awarded a posthumous Victorian Cross.  
   
  Tuesday, April 15, 1941  
  RAF Coastal Command assumed operational control of the Admiralty. This would lead to an increase in its effectiveness in the battle against the U-boats.  
   
  Wednesday, April 23, 1941  
  RAF Sunderlands were used to evacuate King George II and the Greek Government to Crete.  
   
  Friday, April 25, 1941  
  The few remaining RAF squadrons left Greece to Crete where Air Commodore John d'Albiac established his headquarters at Heraklion.  
   
  Friday, May 2, 1941  
  The Iraqi Army marched against, and attacked, the Royal Air Force base at Habbaniyah near Baghdad. The British have about 80 obsolete aircraft at Habbaniyah, many of them training types. Despite their age and unsuitability they were immediately employed against the Iraqi forces with considerable success.  
   
  Saturday, May 3, 1941  
  British forces attacked the Iraqi positions around Habbaniyah and RAF aircraft attacked the Iraqi Rashid airfield.  
   
  Sunday, May 4, 1941  
  The RAF targeted the airfield at Mosul which was being used by a small German force. The German force there was receiving supplies from and via Syria with the cooperation of the Vichy authorities.  
   
  Thursday, May 15, 1941  
  The RAF jet-propelled Gloster-Whittle E 28/39 aircraft successfully flew over Cranwell, England, in the first test of an Allied aircraft using jet propulsion. The aircraft's turbojet engine, which produced a powerful thrust of hot air, was devised by Frank Whittle, an English aviation engineer and pilot generally regarded as the father of the jet engine.  
   
  Monday, May 19, 1941  
  The RAF evacuated the remnants of its forces from Crete to Egypt. This action left Crete without air cover. The RAF never had sufficient numbers in Crete to be effective.  
   
  Monday, May 26, 1941  
  The SMS Bismarck, attempting to reach Brest for repairs, was spotted by an RAF Catalina of No. 209 Squadron. Having discovered its location, aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm torpedoed and crippled the vessel before she was finally defeated by a Royal Navy battle group.  
   
  Sunday, June 1, 1941  
  No. 120 Squadron, RAF Coastal Command, formed at Nutts Corner, Northern Ireland, with American-built Consolidated Liberator long-range maritime patrol aircraft to fly against the U-Boat threat in the war in the North Atlantic.  
   
  Air Vice-Marshal Arthur Tedder was appointed AOC-in-C of RAF Middle East Command.  
   
  Wednesday, June 11, 1941  
  RAF Bomber Command launched the first in a series of 20 consecutive night raids on the Ruhr industrial area, the Rhineland, Hamburg, and Bremen.  
   
  Thursday, June 12, 1941  
  Fourteen Beaufighters of Nos. 22 and 42 Squadrons departed from bases in Scotland and torpedoed the German battleship Lutzow which had been sighted off the Norwegian coast by a No. 114 Squadron Blenheim. The Lutzow returned to port at Kiel for repairs and would not return to service until January 1942.  
   
  Sunday, June 15, 1941  
  British and Commonwealth desert forces under command of Lt. General Noel Beresford-Peirse in North Africa launched Operation Battleaxe, an attempt to relieve Tobruk. The German defenders at Tobruk beat off the attack. Despite every available Allied aircraft (105 bombers and 98 fighters) being used in support of ground operations, and the arrival of reinforcements from Egypt, the operation was a failure, and highlighted the need for effective air-ground communication.  
   
  Friday, July 4, 1941  
  In a low-level daylight raid on Bremen, Germany, Bristol Blenheim bombers bombed an aircraft factory and a minesweeper. The raid successfully penetrated fierce anti-aircraft fire and a dense balloon barrage, but further fire over the port itself resulted in the loss of four of the attacking force. Formation leader, Wing Commander Hughie I. Edwards brought his remaining aircraft safely back, although all had been hit and his own Blenheim had been hit over 20 times. His actions in the raid earned him the Victoria Cross.  
   
  Monday, August 11, 1941  
  Two Wellingtons of No. 115 Squadron carried out the first operational trial of Bomber Commands new navigational device Gee. The two planes used Gee coordinates only and delivered "uncanny accuracy." On August 18, 1941 Bomber Command ordered Gee into production at Dynatron and Cossor, with the first mass-produced sets expected to arrive in May 1942.  
   
  Tuesday, August 12, 1941  
  On a raid over Hanover a Gee-equipped Vickers Wellington was lost. The Gee set did not contain self-destruct systems and it was possible that it had fallen into German hands. Operational testing of the system was immediately suspended. The RAF immediately responded by starting a disinformation campaign to hide the existence of the system.  
   
  Monday, August 18, 1941  
  RAF Bomber Command ordered Gee into production at Dynatron and Cossor. The first mass-produced sets arrived in May 1942.  
   
  Wednesday, August 27, 1941  
  The U-570, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Hans-Joachim Rahmlow, was captured by Britain in the North Atlantic south of Iceland after being damaged and surrendering to a RAF Lockheed Hudson bomber. Of the ship’s complement, all 44 survived. During its career the U-570 sank or damaged no ships. The Royal Navy thoroughly evaluated the submarine, the first to be captured intact for intensive study; the U-boat served as HMS Graph until it was wrecked in 1944.  
   
  Monday, September 1, 1941  
  550 pilots and ground crew with 40 Hawker Hurricane fighters from Nos. 81 and 134 Squadrons arrived in Murmansk, Soviet Union. These squadrons would be formed into No. 151 Wing and fly in defense of the Soviet Naval base. Their objective was to provide immediate air defense against the Axis forces trying to capture this vital port. They were also there to train Soviet pilots to operate the first of what would eventually total almost 3,000 Hurricanes delivered to the Soviets.  
   
  Thursday, September 11, 1941  
  RAF Hawker Hurricane fighters from the No. 151 Wing based in Murmansk, Soviet Union saw their first action.  
   
  Friday, September 12, 1941  
  RAF Hawker Hurricane fighters from the No. 151 Wing based in Murmansk, Soviet Union made their first kills against the Germans in the area for the first time. In the action, the British pilots shot down three Luftwaffe planes at a loss of one to themselves. The Soviets awarded three of the pilots involved the “Order of Lenin”, the only non-Soviets given the award.  
   
  Sunday, October 12, 1941  
  152 RAF aircraft were dispatched to attack Nuremberg, Germany. Due to navigational errors, some crews erroneously attacked villages almost 100 miles away. The subsequent German communiqué said that “The civilian population suffered dead and wounded.”  
   
  Friday, November 7, 1941  
  RAF Bomber Command conducted nighttime raids on Berlin, Cologne, and Mannheim with approximately 300 bombers. A total of 37 aircraft were lost with poor weather conditions being attributed as the main cause for the heavy losses.  
   
  Saturday, November 15, 1941  
  The de Havilland Mosquito B.Mk.IV light bomber entered service with No. 105 Squadron at RAF Swanton Morley, Norfolk. It wasn’t until May 31, 1942 that the Mosquito took part in its first operational raid - a raid on Cologne, France.  
   
  Monday, December 8, 1941  
  By nightfall, 60 of the 110 British and Australian aircraft defending Malaya and Singapore had been destroyed by the Japanese.  
   
  Tuesday, December 9, 1941  
  Japanese aircraft attacked Alor Star airfield, Malaya. From the two squadron of Blenheim light bombers based there, only one aircraft survived. Its pilot, Flight Lt A. S. K. Scarf single-handedly overcame strong enemy defenses to attack Singora airfield in the north. After recovering to Alor Star, Fighlt Lt. Scarf died from wounds incurred in the attack and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross five years later when the full facts of his heroism were established.  
   
  Wednesday, December 24, 1941  
  The Avro Lancaster heavy bomber entered service with No. 44 Squadron at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire. It wouldn’t be until March 3, 1942 that the Lancaster made its operational debut.  
   
  January 1942  
  RAF reinforcements arrived in the Far East having been diverted from the Middle East to supplement the defensive air forces. 51 Hurricanes arrived in Singapore, 48 Hurricanes in Sumatra, and 30 Hurricanes and Blenheims arrived in Burma.  
   
  Friday, January 23, 1942  
  Rabaul was occupied after 20,000 Japanese marines of the South Seas Force, under Major General Horii Tomitaro, landed on New Britain. Some faced fierce resistance, but because of the enormous imbalance in forces, most landed unopposed in unguarded locations. Within hours, the Australian commander, Lt Colonel J. J. Scanlan, ordered: "every man for himself" and Australian soldiers and civilians split into small groups and retreated into the jungle. Only the RAAF had made evacuation plans and its personnel were removed by flying boat.  
   
  Wednesday, February 11, 1942  
  The Kriegsmarine began what became known as “The Channel Dash.” The battle cruisers, SMS Scharnhorst and SMS Gneisenau, the heavy cruiser SMS Prinz Eugen, and a number of other smaller vessels began the transit of the English Channel. Vulnerability to RAF bombing in Brest had prompted German Chancellor Adolf Hitler to order these ships to their respective home bases in Germany for planned deployment to Norwegian waters. The Channel Dash plan was conceived by Vice Admiral Otto Ciliax.  
   
  Thursday, February 5, 1942  
  The RAF Regiment was formed. The Regiment’s role was to seize, secure and defend airfields to enable air operations to take place.  
   
  Thursday, February 12, 1942  
  The battle cruisers, SMS Scharnhorst and SMS Gneisenau, the heavy cruiser SMS Prinz Eugen, and a number of other smaller vessels began the transit of the English Channel in what became known as “The Channel Dash.” The German ships were first spotted by two RAF Spitfires on patrol but as they were under radio silence they did not report the sighting until they returned to base. The German ships were protected by a constant umbrella of Luftwaffe fighters and succeeded in transiting the English Channel to their objective ports in Germany. There was minimal damage from British naval forces but both battle cruisers were damaged by mines, the SMS Schnarhorst seriously.  
   
  Major General Claude F. Liardet assumed command of the newly formed RAF Regiment. The Regiment’s role was to seize, secure and defend airfields to enable air operations to take place as well as to provide defense and maintenance to existing airfields.  
   
  Sunday, February 22, 1942  
  Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris was appointed Commander-in-Chief RAF Bomber Command.  
   
  Thursday, February 26, 1942  
  The RAF launched a massive attack by 178 bombers on the night of February 26 - February 27 at the floating dock at Kiel, Germany. The main target was the battle cruiser SMS Gneisenau which was being repaired for the mine damage it sustained during “The Channel Dash” of February 12, 1942. The SMS Gneisenau was struck by a bomb in the bow. Because repairs were anticipated to be completed within two weeks the ammunition lockers of the ship had not been unloaded and the resulting fires set off an explosion that destroyed her entire bow section. After emergency bow repairs, the SMS Gneisenau steamed under her own power to Gotenhafen, where she was decommissioned while repairs and improvements could be made. The battle cruiser was effectively eliminated from the war as she never again put to sea.  
   
  Friday, March 13, 1942  
  RAF Bomber Command attacked Cologne using the Gee navigational system for the first time. Two factories were destroyed, 1500 houses burned and 62 civilians killed. This was the first success for the new Gee navigational aide. GEE or AMES Type 7000 was a British radio navigation system and was estimated to direct aircraft five times more effectively than non-Gee equipped aircraft. GEE was commonly used by civilians worldwide for coastal navigation until GPS made it obsolete.  
   
  Saturday, May 30, 1942  
  Operation Millennium began when the first air raid using over 1,000 bombers attacked a German city. 1,047 aircraft were dispatched to Cologne, of which 868 attacked the main target dropping 1,455 tons of explosives, two-thirds of which were incendiaries. Forty one aircraft were lost. The city suffered severe damage and 469 people were killed. About 250 factories and 18,400 houses were destroyed or damaged. Half of the city's power supply was out of action, and some 12,000 fires started, many of which burned for days.  
   
  Sunday, May 31, 1942  
  The de Havilland Mosquito B.Mk.IV light bomber took part in its first operational raid - a raid on Cologne, France.  
   
  Monday, June 1, 1942  
  The second 1,000-bomber raid; 956 aircraft attack Essen. Due to the target-acquisition problems endemic to the Ruhr valley, the success of the first raid on Cologne was not repeated and relatively little damage was done.  
   
  Friday, June 12, 1942  
  A Coastal Command Beaufighter, piloted by Flight Lt. Ken Gatward and Sgt. George Fern's, made a daylight flight to Paris and dropped a French Tricolour over the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  
   
  Thursday, June 25, 1942  
  RAF bombers attacked Bremen, Germany with its third “1000-bomber raid.” Casualties were heavy as 49 bombers were lost in the attack. The Focke-Wulf factory and 27 acres of the city were destroyed.  
   
  Wednesday, July 1, 1942  
  Six Coastal Command Catalinas flew to a lake near Archangel in the northwest Soviet Union, to provide air support for Soviet convoys.  
   
  Saturday, July 4, 1942  
  The first mission by U.S. Army Air Force planes over Europe took place, when six B-17 Flying Fortresses joined a RAF squadron in attacking airfields in Holland.  
   
  Tuesday, August 25, 1942  
  Prince George, Duke of Kent (George Edward Alexander Edmund Windsor) was killed when the Short Sunderland flying boat that was taking him to Iceland and then on to Newfoundland crashed into a hillside near Dunbeath, Caithness, Scotland in bad weather.  
   
  Sunday, October 25, 1942  
  No. 6 (Royal Canadian Air Force) Group, Bomber Command was formed with eight squadrons. All squadrons in the Group were manned by Canadian airmen and based primarily in the Yorkshire vicinity of England. The group was formed because Canada wanted its own identifiable presence in Allied air operations, and it did not want its air force to be merely a source of manpower for the Royal Air Force.  
   
  Sunday, December 20, 1942  
  The first use of Oboe blind-bombing equipment by Mosquitoes of No.109 Squadron was conducted on a raid against a power station at Lutterade, a small town in Holland. Several bombs fell within 2 km of the target. The test was considered a success. A follow-up under more realistic conditions was carried out on the night of December 31, 1942. Oboe was a British aerial blind bombing targeting system in World War II, based on radio transponder technology.  
   
  Thursday, December 31, 1942  
  A follow-up under more realistic conditions of the Oboe blind-bombing equipment was carried out against Düsseldorf, with 2 Mosquitoes leading a force of 8 Avro Lancaster heavy bombers. Only one of the Oboes worked, but that was enough for the following aircraft to bomb on and hit a number of industrial buildings. The first test was held on December 20, 1942 and was considered a success. Oboe was a British aerial blind bombing targeting system in World War II, based on radio transponder technology.  
   
  Saturday, January 16, 1943  
  During the first Bomber Command attack on Berlin since November 1941, the RAF made its first use of Target Indicator marker bombs. British bombing accuracy was poor on the raid, which was beyond the range of the Gee and Oboe navigation aids. British bomber losses were small due to inefficient reaction by the Germans. Target Indicators weighed 250 pounds and contained 60 pyrotechnic candles and a barometric fuse set to operate at low altitude. Seen from above they created an intense pool of light about 900 feet in diameter for several minutes. They were manufactured in different colors red, yellow, green, etc, and used in a predetermined order to foil decoy fires.  
   
  Thursday, January 21, 1943  
  The Combined Chiefs of Staff issued a directive to the commanders of the British and U.S. Air Force commanders which stated: “Your primary object will be the progressive destruction and dislocation of the German military, industrial and economic system, and the undermining of the morale of the German people to a point where their capacity for armed resistance is fatally weakened.”  
   
  Saturday, January 30, 1943  
  German Chancellor Adolph Hitler and other Nazi leaders addressed thousands of Nazi Party members at the Berlin Sports Palace at a rally celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Nazi regime taking power. The rally was interrupted several times by six raiding RAF Mosquitoes.  
   
  In a night-time attack on Hamburg, aircraft of the Pathfinder Force used the H2S bombing radar for the first time. The H2S bombing radar was designed to identify targets on the ground for night and all-weather bombing and this raid was the first time ground mapping radar was used in combat.  
   
  Saturday, February 20, 1943  
  Operation Argument (also known as the Big Week) began. RAF Bomber Command contributed night attacks to augment USAAF daytime raids on German occupied Europe. The major RAF raid on this date was by 823 aircraft on Leipzig. 24 de Havilland Mosquitos bombed airfields in the Netherlands and a further 7 made a diversionary raid on Munich. Little damage was done. Operation Argument started the round the clock bombing of the Third Reich.  
   
  Thursday, February 25, 1943  
  The Allies started their new strategy of “round-the-clock bombing” as the U.S. Army Air Forces hit Germany during the daylight and RAF bombers struck at night. In the next two days, more than 2,000 sorties would strike German targets.  
   
  Saturday, February 19, 1944  
  Operation Argument (also known as the Big Week) began. RAF Bomber Command contributed night attacks to augment USAAF daytime raids on German occupied Europe. The major RAF raid on this date was by 823 aircraft on Leipzig, Germany which met with disaster as 78 planes (8.6%) were lost in the raid. 24 de Havilland Mosquitos bombed airfields in the Netherlands and a further 7 made a diversionary raid on Munich. Damage to Leipzig was minimal as clouds covered the target and high winds dispersed the bombs. Operation Argument was also known as the Big Week and was an Allied operation that launched massive attacks on the German aircraft industry intending to cripple the Luftwaffe.  
   
  Sunday, February 20, 1944  
  As part of Operation Argument, RAF Bomber Command sent 598 aircraft on a raid on Stuttgart, Germany. 10 aircraft (1.2%) were lost.  
   
  Thursday, February 24, 1944  
  As part of Operation Argument, RAF Bomber Command sent 734 aircraft on a raid on Schweinfurt, home of Germany's main ball-bearing factories. 15 Mosquitos bombed airfields in the Netherlands, 8 Mosquitos bombed Kiel and 7 Aachen. 36 aircraft (3.4%) were lost. American B-17 Flying Fortresses had bombed the factories of Schweinfurt the previous day.  
   
  Friday, February 25, 1944  
  A series of attacks by 199 USAAF bombers followed by a 594 aircraft British attack dropped more than 300,000 incendiary bombs into the heart of Augsburg, Germany starting more than 4,600 fires. The attacks ended Operation Argument.  2,000 civilians were killed and injured, and nearly half of the population left the city afterwards. 90,000 of them had become homeless. The military damage was inconsequential.  
     
   
     
   
 

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