47: RAF, Ferry/Transport Cmd, BOAC & Free Air Forces ww2

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Royal Flying Corps, Royal Air Force ww1 & ww2 cap badges 

Free Polish Air force in the West 1939-1945

Further information: Polish Air Force order of battle in 1939

Further information: Polish Air Forces in France and Great Britain

The Polish Air Force first fought in 1939 Invasion of Poland. Significantly outnumbered and with its fighters outmatched by more advanced German fighters, remained active up to the second week of the campaign, inflicting significant damage on the Luftwaffe.[27] The Luftwaffe lost, to all operational causes, 285 aircraft, with 279 more damaged, while the Poles lost 333 aircraft.

After the fall of Poland many Polish pilots escaped via Hungary to France. The Polish Air Force fought in the Battle of France as one fighter squadron GC 1/145, several small units detached to French squadrons, and numerous flights of industry defence (in total, 133 pilots, who achieved 53-57 victories at a loss of 8 men in combat, what was 7,93% of allied victories).

Later, Polish pilots fought in the Battle of Britain, where the Polish 303 Fighter Squadron claimed the highest number of kills of any Allied squadron. From the very beginning of the war, the Royal Air Force (RAF) had welcomed foreign pilots to supplement the dwindling pool of British pilots. On 11 June 1940, the Polish Government in Exile signed an agreement with the British Government to form a Polish Army and Polish Air Force in the United Kingdom. The first two (of an eventual ten) Polish fighter squadrons went into action in August 1940. Four Polish squadrons eventually took part in the Battle of Britain (300 and 301 Bomber Squadrons; 302 and 303 Fighter Squadrons), with 89 Polish pilots. Together with more than 50 Poles fighting in British squadrons, a total of 145 Polish pilots defended British skies. Polish pilots were among the most experienced in the battle, most of them having already fought in the 1939 September Campaign in Poland and the 1940 Battle of France. Additionally, prewar Poland had set a very high standard of pilot training. The 303 Squadron, named after the Polish-American hero, General Tadeusz Kościuszko, claimed the highest number of kills (126) of all fighter squadrons engaged in the Battle of Britain, even though it only joined the combat on August 30, 1940 These 5% of Polish pilots were responsible for 12% of total victories in the Battle.

The Polish Air Force also fought in 1943 in Tunisia (Polish Fighting Team, so called “Skalski’s Circus”) and in raids on Germany (1940–45). In the second half of 1941 and early 1942, Polish bomber squadrons were the sixth part of forces available to RAF Bomber Command (later they suffered heavy losses, with little replenishment possibilities). Polish aircrew losses serving with Bomber Command 1940-45 were 929 killed. Ultimately 8 Polish fighter squadrons were formed within the RAF and had claimed 629 Axis aircraft destroyed by May 1945. By the end of the war, around 19,400 Poles were serving in the RAF.

Polish squadrons in the United Kingdom:

Aircraft shot down by Polish squadrons in the West during WWII
1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 total
destroyed 266 1/6 202 90 114¾ 103 38½ 769 5/12
probable 38 52 36 42 10 2 177
damaged 43⅔ + 3/5 60½ 43 66 27 18 252 1/6

The winged boot badge

The ‘Late Arrivals Club’ badge, known to most as the ‘Winged Boot’.  This one, along with the certificate were issued to airmen/pilots after they force landed or bailed out of their aircraft and walked back to their airfield.   Other allied countries were awarded this semi-official badge, and were allowed to wear it on the pocket of their uniform.  It was first given out in June 1941.   There is evidence that identical ones were given for bail outs over Burma also.  They were sand cast in silver and made by local jewellers and silversmiths. This one is the Free Polish Air Force winged boot badge.

Yugoslavia Air Force ww2

Narrative Summary:
A small Serbian Military Aviation unit was first formed in December 1912, with French-trained Army officers. The unit saw active service in the Second Balkan War, flying reconnaissance operations. On 29 July 1914, Serbia joined the First World War against Austro-Hungary. Serbian aviators soon undertook artillery spotting missions over the front line. Although supported by French aircraft and pilots, in late 1915 a new offensive by Austrian and Bulgarian forces quickly overwhelmed the country. A new Serbian Military Air Service was formed in Greece, with French training and equipment. In early 1918 the first French-Serb units were transferred to Serbian control. These units operated successfully until the liberation of Serbia in late Autumn 1918.
With the establishment of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Kingdom of SHS), an Army Aviation Department was formed with Serbian and ex-Austro-Hungarian (Croatian and Slovenian) personnel. In 1923 a major initiative was launched to replace the WW1 era aircraft still in service with more modern designs. Contracts were placed abroad and with newly established local factories. Later in 1923 the Aviation Department was renamed Aviation Command and placed directly under the control of the Ministartstvo vojske i mornarice (Ministry of War and Marine). In 1930, the Aviation Command was renamed the Jugoslovensko Ratno Vazduhoplovsto (JKRV). The air arm was also known as the Vazduhoplovsto vojske kraljevine Jugoslavije (Air Force of the Army of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia) – VVKJ.
During 1940 Britain supplied significant military aid to the JKRV, to strengthen its forces against the increasing German threat. In early March 1941 Luftwaffe forces started arriving in neighbouring Bulgaria. On 12 March 1941 JKRV units began to deploy to their wartime airfields. The overthrow of the pro-German government in Belgrade on 27 March brought an end to hopes of a settlement with Germany. On 6 April 1941 Luftwaffe units in Bulgaria and Romania attacked Yugoslavia. Equipped with a combination of obsolete equipment and new aircraft still being introduced into service, the JKRV was forced to defend the country’s long borders against multiple attacks from many directions. The dubious loyalty of some military personnel did not help matters. Yugoslav fighter aircraft and anti-aircraft artillery brought down about 100 enemy aircraft, but defending forces were unable to make any significant impact on the enemy advance. On 17th April 1941 the Yugoslav government surrendered. Several JKRV aircraft escaped to Egypt via Greece, and the crews then served with the RAF.

RAF Ferry Command

Royal Air Force Ferry Command
Active 20 July 1941–25 March 1943
Country United Kingdom
Branch Royal Air Force
Type Command
Role controlling Transport aircraft
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.


RAF Darrell’s Island during WWII. This base was used throughout the war for trans-Atlantic ferrying of aircraft (like the Catalinas to the rear of photo. Transport flights (such as those flown by the Coronados in the foreground) moved, in 1943, to the British section of the airfield built by the US Army Air Forces, Kindley Field.

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.

Aircraft were first transported to Dorval Airport near Montreal, and then flown to Gander Airport in Newfoundland for the trans-Atlantic flight.

RAF Transport Command

Royal Air Force Transport Command
Active 25 March 1943–1 August 1967
Country United Kingdom
Branch Royal Air Force
Type Command
Role controlling Transport aircraft
Motto Latin: Ferio Ferendo
(“I Strike by Carrying”)
Engagements World War II
crest heraldry A golden griffon in front of a globe

RAF Transport Command was a Royal Air Force command that controlled all transport aircraft of the RAF. It was established on 25 March 1943 by the renaming of the RAF Ferry Command, and was subsequently renamed RAF Air Support Command in 1967.


During World War II, it at first ferried aircraft from factories to operational units and performed air transport. Later it took over the job of dropping paratroops from Army Cooperation Command as well.

After WWII, it increased rapidly in size. It took part in several big operations, including the Berlin Airlift in 1948, which reinforced the need for a big RAF transport fleet. The Handley Page Hastings, a four-engined transport, was introduced during the Berlin AirLift and continued as a mainstay transport aircraft of the RAF for the next 15 years. In 1956, new aircraft designs became available, including the de Havilland Comet (the first operational jet transport), and the Blackburn Beverley. In 1959, the Bristol Britannia was introduced.

The principal RAF Transport Command functions of this period were support operations involving the evacuation of military personnel from the Suez Canal Zone prior and after the Suez Crisis of October-November 1956; casualty evacuation from South Korea during the Korean War and from the Malaya during the Malayan Emergency; essential supplies to Woomera, South Australia, and ferrying personnel and supplies out to Christmas Island for the atomic bomb tests carried out by the UK. In addition, Transport Command ran scheduled routes to military staging posts and bases in the Indian Ocean region, Southeast Asia and the Far East, to maintain contact between the UK and military bases of strategic importance. It also carried out special flights worldwide covering all the continents bar Antarctica. Many varied tasks were undertaken during the 1950s.

The 1960s saw a reduction of the RAF and a loss of independence of the former functional commands. Transport Command was renamed Air Support Command in 1967.

Operation Becher’s Brook

Becher’s Brook was a major operation of Transport command – the ferrying of 400 Sabre fighters from North America to the UK. This required pilots and ground crew to be transported to Canada. The Sabres were flown via Keflavik (Iceland) on to Shetland and from there to mainland Scotland.

North Greenland Expedition

Transport Command supported the British North Greenland Expedition a research expedition over two years on the Greenland ice.


Commanders-in-Chief included:

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