RAF Second Tactical Air Force

Royal Air Force Second Tactical Air Force
Active June 1943 - 1 January 1959
Country United Kingdom
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[1]

The 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. Renamed as British Air Forces of Occupation in 1945, 2TAF was recreated in 1951 and became Royal Air Force Germany in 1959.


2TAF 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 provided No. 2 Group with light bombers; Fighter Command was split 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 for towing assault gliders and No. 140 Squadron, providing strategic photo-reconnaissance, were also part of the tactical air force at its inception.[2]

Second World War

Geoffrey Page, commander of 125 Wing of the Second TAF, about to take off on a sortie from Longues-sur-Mer, Normandy, in a Spitfire IX, (June 1944)

2TAF's 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 throughout 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.[3]

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.

In February 1945 No. 87 Group RAF was established, a transport formation. It became part of 2nd TAF/BAFO, but was reduced to No. 87 Wing RAF on 15 July 1946.[4]

Post Second World War

The Second TAF 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) but No. 2 Group disbanded on 1 May 1947. On 1 April 1946, No. 41 Squadron was renumbered as No. 26 Squadron at Wunstorf and 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.[5] 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.[6]

The Second Tactical Air Force was redesignated Royal Air Force Germany on 1 January 1959, at which point C.-in-C. RAF Germany became commander of the NATO Second Allied Tactical Air Force (2 ATAF).

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

Second Tactical Air Force

Royal Air Force Germany

See also


  1. RAF Heraldry Trust accessed 11 January 2008
  2. 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.
  3. Mersky, Peter (1986). "Naval Aviators in Spitfires". Proceedings. United States Naval Institute. 112 (12): 105&106.
  4. http://www.rafweb.org/Grp06.htm
  5. Group Captain W J Taylor OBE, Historical Background, The RAF in Germany 1945-1993
  6. http://www.laarbruch-museum.net/ENG/Squadrons/second_taf.htm
  7. Biography - Air Marshal Sir Harry Broadhurst
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