No. 5 Group RAF
No. 5 Group was a Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 bomber group
Group (air force unit)
A group is a military aviation unit, a component of military organization and a military formation. Usage of the terms group and wing differ from one country to another, as well as different branches of a defence force, in some cases...

 of the Second World War, led during the latter part (February 1943–1945) by AVM Sir Ralph Cochrane
Ralph Cochrane
Air Chief Marshal Sir Ralph Alexander Cochrane, GBE, KCB, AFC, RAF was a British pilot and Royal Air Force officer, perhaps best known for his role in Operation Chastise, the famous "Dambusters" raid....



The Group was formed on 1 September 1937 with headquarters at RAF Mildenhall
RAF Mildenhall
RAF Mildenhall is a Royal Air Force station located at Mildenhall in Suffolk, England. Despite its status as an RAF station, it primarily supports United States Air Force operations and is currently the home of the 100th Air Refueling Wing...

In October 1937, the Group HQ was moved to St Vincents in Grantham
Grantham is a market town within the South Kesteven district of Lincolnshire, England. It bestrides the East Coast Main Line railway , the historic A1 main north-south road, and the River Witham. Grantham is located approximately south of the city of Lincoln, and approximately east of Nottingham...

. Group HQ was moved to Morton Hall at RAF Swinderby
RAF Swinderby
RAF Swinderby was a Royal Air Force Bomber Command airfield opened in 1940, one of the last of the stations completed under the RAF's expansion plans started in the 1930s...

 in Lincolnshire
Lincolnshire is a county in the east of England. It borders Norfolk to the south east, Cambridgeshire to the south, Rutland to the south west, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire to the west, South Yorkshire to the north west, and the East Riding of Yorkshire to the north. It also borders...

 in November 1943.

Air Commodore
Air Commodore
Air commodore is an air-officer rank which originated in and continues to be used by the Royal Air Force...

 Arthur Harris was in charge here from 11 September 1939 until 22 November 1940. The group started the war with ten squadrons, all equipped with the Handley Page Hampden
Handley Page Hampden
The Handley Page HP.52 Hampden was a British twin-engine medium bomber of the Royal Air Force serving in the Second World War. With the Whitley and Wellington, the Hampden bore the brunt of the early bombing war over Europe, taking part in the first night raid on Berlin and the first 1,000-plane...

. The Group continued to fly only Hampdens until the winter of 1940-1941 when it began to convert to the new Avro Manchester
Avro Manchester
|-See also:-References:NotesCitationsBibliography* Buttler, Tony. British Secret Projects: Fighters and Bombers 1935–1950. Hickley, UK: Midland Publishing, 2004. ISBN 978-1857801798....


Early in 1942 the four-engined development of the Manchester, the Avro Lancaster
Avro Lancaster
The Avro Lancaster is a British four-engined Second World War heavy bomber made initially by Avro for the Royal Air Force . It first saw active service in 1942, and together with the Handley Page Halifax it was one of the main heavy bombers of the RAF, the RCAF, and squadrons from other...

, started to equip the group Squadrons.

On 17 October 1942 some 86 5 group Lancasters (without fighter escort) flew deep into occupied France to attack the Schneider armaments works at Le Creusot
Le Creusot
Le Creusot is a commune in the Saône-et-Loire department in the region of Bourgogne in eastern France.The inhabitants are known as Creusotins. Formerly a mining town, its economy is now dominated by metallurgical companies such as ArcelorMittal, Schneider Electric, and Alstom.Since the 1990s, the...

 and the associated electrical station at Montchanin
Montchanin is a commune in the Saône-et-Loire department in the region of Bourgogne in eastern France.-References:*...

. On the night of the 22-23 October 85 Lancasters of the Group attacked Genoa
Genoa |Ligurian]] Zena ; Latin and, archaically, English Genua) is a city and an important seaport in northern Italy, the capital of the Province of Genoa and of the region of Liguria....

 without a single loss. On 24 October 74 Lancasters delivered a daylight attack on Milan.

In May 1943 No. 617 Squadron
No. 617 Squadron RAF
No. 617 Squadron is a Royal Air Force aircraft squadron based at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland. It currently operates the Tornado GR4 in the ground attack and reconnaissance role...

 breached two of the Ruhr
Ruhr Area
The Ruhr, by German-speaking geographers and historians more accurately called Ruhr district or Ruhr region , is an urban area in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. With 4435 km² and a population of some 5.2 million , it is the largest urban agglomeration in Germany...


By the lead up to D-day in 1944 Cochrane was an advocate of precision low-level marking, and lobbied heavily to be allowed to prove the principle operationally, demonstrating that 5 Group could attempt targets and techniques that 8 (Pathfinder) Group
No. 8 Group RAF
No. 8 Group RAF was a Royal Air Force group which existed during the final year of World War I and during World War II.-Formation in World War II:...

 would not. New systems of target-marking were developed and were successfully trialed by No.617 Squadron and its commanding officer, Wing Commander Leonard Cheshire
Leonard Cheshire
Group Captain Geoffrey Leonard Cheshire, Baron Cheshire, VC, OM, DSO and Two Bars, DFC was a highly decorated British RAF pilot during the Second World War....

, using the de Havilland Mosquito
De Havilland Mosquito
The de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito was a British multi-role combat aircraft that served during the Second World War and the postwar era. It was known affectionately as the "Mossie" to its crews and was also nicknamed "The Wooden Wonder"...

, and later the North American P-51 Mustang. Cheshire was subsequently awarded the Victoria Cross
Victoria Cross
The Victoria Cross is the highest military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories....

 and taken off active operations.

By mid 1944, using the Stabilizing Automatic Bomb Sight
Stabilizing Automatic Bomb Sight
The Stabilized Automatic Bomb Sight was a tachometric bombsight introduced into operational service by the Royal Air Force in 1943 during World War II. Hand-made throughout its lifetime, the SABS was produced in very small numbers and used only in specialist roles...

 and the 12,000 lb Tallboy bomb
Tallboy bomb
The Tallboy or Bomb, Medium Capacity, 12,000 lb, was an earthquake bomb developed by the British aeronautical engineer Barnes Wallis and deployed by the RAF in 1944...

, No. 617 achieved a bombing error of only 94 yards at the V Weapon
V-weapons also, known in the original German as Vergeltungswaffen , were a particular set of long range artillery weapons designed for strategic bombing during World War II, particularly terror bombing and/or aerial bombing of cities. They comprised the V-1 flying bomb, the V-2 rocket and the V-3...

 launch site at Abbeville
Abbeville is a commune in the Somme department in Picardie in northern France.-Location:Abbeville is located on the Somme River, from its modern mouth in the English Channel, and northwest of Amiens...

. 5 Group Staff also developed other various techniques, such as the '5 Group corkscrew' used to evade enemy fighters, and the 'quick landing system'.

The Group had some of the most effective Squadrons of Bomber Command, personified by No 617 Squadron the "Dambusters"
Operation Chastise
Operation Chastise was an attack on German dams carried out on 16–17 May 1943 by Royal Air Force No. 617 Squadron, subsequently known as the "Dambusters", using a specially developed "bouncing bomb" invented and developed by Barnes Wallis...

, formed from 5 Group aircrew in March 1943. Most of the Group's main airfields were around Lincoln
Lincoln, Lincolnshire
Lincoln is a cathedral city and county town of Lincolnshire, England.The non-metropolitan district of Lincoln has a population of 85,595; the 2001 census gave the entire area of Lincoln a population of 120,779....

, including RAF Scampton
RAF Scampton
Royal Air Force Station Scampton is a Royal Air Force station situated north of Lincoln in England, near the village of Scampton, on the site of an old First World War landing field.-First World War:...

. By the end of the war the group had grown to 15 Squadrons.

The Group was noted for its high accuracy bombing, being involved the sinking of the Tirpitz
German battleship Tirpitz
Tirpitz was the second of two s built for the German Kriegsmarine during World War II. Named after Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, the architect of the Imperial Navy, the ship was laid down at the Kriegsmarinewerft in Wilhelmshaven in November 1936 and launched two and a half years later in April...

 in November 1944 and the shattering of the strategic Bielefeld
Bielefeld is an independent city in the Ostwestfalen-Lippe Region in the north-east of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. With a population of 323,000, it is also the most populous city in the Regierungsbezirk Detmold...

 railway viaduct in March 1945. The Group introduced new weapons operationally, including Barnes Wallis's bouncing
Bouncing bomb
A bouncing bomb is a bomb designed specifically to bounce to a target across water in a calculated manner, in order to avoid obstacles such as torpedo nets, and to allow both the bomb's speed on arrival at the target and the timing of its detonation to be pre-determined...

and his Tallboy and Grand Slam earthquake bombs.

The Group was disbanded on 15 December 1945.

Notable raids

  • First "thousand-bomber attack" on Cologne
    Bombing of Cologne in World War II
    The City of Cologne was bombed in 262 separate air raids by the Allies during World War II, including 31 times by the Royal Air Force . Air raid alarms went off in the winter/spring of 1940 as enemy bombers passed overhead. However, the first actual bombing took place on 12 May 1940...

     on 30 May 1942 (shared)
  • "Dambuster" attack
    Operation Chastise
    Operation Chastise was an attack on German dams carried out on 16–17 May 1943 by Royal Air Force No. 617 Squadron, subsequently known as the "Dambusters", using a specially developed "bouncing bomb" invented and developed by Barnes Wallis...

     on the dams at the Möhne Reservoir
    Möhne Reservoir
    The Möhne Reservoir is an artificial lake in North Rhine-Westphalia, some 45 km east of Dortmund. The dam was built between 1908 and 1913 to help control floods, regulate water levels on the Ruhr river downstream, and generate hydropower. Today, the lake is also a tourist attraction...

    , the Edersee
    The Edersee Dam is a hydroelectric dam constructed between 1908 to 1914 across the Eder river, near the small town of Waldeck in northern Hesse, Germany, it lies at the northern edge of the Kellerwald...

     and Sorpe
    The Sorpe Dam is a dam near the small town of Sundern in the German district of Hochsauerland in North Rhine-Westphalia.Like the Biggesee, the Möhne Reservoir and the Verse reservoir, the Sorpe's reservoir is one of the major artificial lakes of the Sauerland's Ruhrverband reservoir association...

    dam on 17 May 1943 (without backup)
  • Attack on Braunschweig
    Bombing of Braunschweig in World War II
    During World War II Braunschweig was attacked by Allied aircraft in 42 bombing raids.The attack on the night of 14/15 October 1944 by No. 5 Group Royal Air Force marked the high point of the destruction of Henry the Lion's city in the Second World War...

    , 15 October 1944 (without backup)
  • Attack on Heilbronn
    Heilbronn is a city in northern Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It is completely surrounded by Heilbronn County and with approximately 123.000 residents, it is the sixth-largest city in the state....

    , 4 December 1944 (without backup)
  • Attack on Dresden
    Bombing of Dresden in World War II
    The Bombing of Dresden was a military bombing by the British Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force and as part of the Allied forces between 13 February and 15 February 1945 in the Second World War...

     on 13 February 1945 (without backup on the first attack)
  • Grand Slam attack
    Grand Slam bomb
    The Grand Slam was a 22,000 lb earthquake bomb used by RAF Bomber Command against strategic targets during the Second World War.Known officially as the Bomb, Medium Capacity, 22,000 lb, it was a scaled up version of the Tallboy bomb and closer to the original size that the bombs' inventor,...

     on Schildesche viaduct near Bielefeld on 14 March 1945 (without backup)
  • Attack on Würzburg
    Bombing of Würzburg in World War II
    The Bombing of Würzburg during World War II targeted railway and oil targets with strategic bombing attacks.The author Detlef Siebert wrote that "Some ... like Würzburg or Pforzheim were primarily selected because they were easy for the bombers to find and destroy...

    , 16 March 1945 (shared)
  • Attack on the oil refinery at Tønsberg
    is a city and municipality in Vestfold county, southern Norway, located around north-east of Sandefjord. The administrative centre of the municipality is the city of Tønsberg....

     in Southern Norway
    Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

    , the last raid by heavy bombers of Bomber Command in World War II.


1918 to 1919
  • 1 April 1918 Lieutenant Colonel
    Lieutenant colonel
    Lieutenant colonel is a rank of commissioned officer in the armies and most marine forces and some air forces of the world, typically ranking above a major and below a colonel. The rank of lieutenant colonel is often shortened to simply "colonel" in conversation and in unofficial correspondence...

     F C Halahan
    Frederick Halahan
    Air Vice-Marshal Frederick Crosby Halahan CMG, CBE, DSO, MVO, RAF was a gunnery officer in the Royal Navy during the early years of the 20th century who became involved in early naval aviation efforts. He served in the Royal Air Force from its establishment in 1918 through the to 1930...

  • May 1918 Brigadier-General C L Lambe

1937 to 1945
  • 17 August 1937 Air Commodore
    Air Commodore
    Air commodore is an air-officer rank which originated in and continues to be used by the Royal Air Force...

     W B Callaway
  • 11 September 1939 Air Vice-Marshal
    Air Vice-Marshal
    Air vice-marshal is a two-star air-officer rank which originated in and continues to be used by the Royal Air Force. The rank is also used by the air forces of many countries which have historical British influence and it is sometimes used as the English translation of an equivalent rank in...

     A T Harris
  • 22 November 1940 Air Vice-Marshal N H Bottomley
    Norman Bottomley
    Air Chief Marshal Sir Norman Howard Bottomley KCB CIE DSO AFC RAF was the Yorkshire-born successor to Arthur 'Bomber' Harris as Commander-in-Chief of RAF Bomber Command in 1945.-RAF career:...

  • 12 May 1941 Air Vice-Marshal J C Slessor
    John Slessor
    Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir John Cotesworth Slessor GCB, DSO, MC was a senior commander in the Royal Air Force . A pilot in the Royal Flying Corps during World War I, he held operational commands in World War II and served in the RAF's most senior post, Chief of the Air Staff, from 1950 to...

  • 25 April 1942 Air Vice-Marshal W A Coryton
    Alec Coryton
    Air Chief Marshal Sir William Alec Coryton KCB, KBE, MVO, DFC, RAF , commonly known as Alec Coryton, was a senior RAF commander in World War II.-Life:...

  • 28 February 1943 Air Vice-Marshal The Hon R A Cochrane
    Ralph Cochrane
    Air Chief Marshal Sir Ralph Alexander Cochrane, GBE, KCB, AFC, RAF was a British pilot and Royal Air Force officer, perhaps best known for his role in Operation Chastise, the famous "Dambusters" raid....

  • 16 January 1945 Air Vice-Marshal H A Constantine
    Hugh Constantine
    Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Alex Constantine KBE CB DSO was a Royal Air Force officer who became Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Flying Training Command.-RAF career:...

External links

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