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  Coastal Command

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> Units and Formations

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Heavy Conversion Units
1654 HCU
1656 HCU
1660 HCU
1661 HCU
1662 HCU
1665 HCU
1667 HCU
1668 HCU
21 HGCU

Advanced Flying Schools
201 AFS

Advanced Flying Units
12 AFU
15 AFU

Flying Training Schools
1 FTS
2 FTS
3 FTS
6 FTS
7 FTS
12 FTS
1 Lancaster Finishing School
Central Flying School

Operational Training/
Conversion Units
(Fighter)
6 OTU
53 OTU

56 OTU

(Bomber)
228 OCU
230 OCU

Air Armament Schools
1 AAS
2 AAS
Empire Central AS

Other schools
1 Gp Aircrew School
1 Ground Defence School
1 Air Observers School
Central Gunnery School
5 Gp Anti Air School

Other units
Bomber Command
Coastal Command
Fighter Command
HQ No 5 Group
HQ No 23 Group
1485 Gunnery Flight
2782 Defence Sqn
178 Support Unit
399 Signals Unit
Nationality based Sqns

Updated: 14 Jul 04

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Typical composition of Coastal Command formations

Command. The RAF split into Bomber, Fighter, Coastal and Training Commands. Below Command were Groups.

Group. In 1939 there were ? groups in Coastal Command,

Station. Each station was ...

Squadron. Each squadron was ....

Flight. A Flight would normally be equipped with 8 aircraft and have a Squadron Leader as Officer in Charge.

Operations

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Air Officer Commanding in Chief Coastal Command

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Coastal Command Groups

Units included the Lincolnshire-based 1109 MCU Boston and 1110 MCU Immingham which provided Air-Sea Rescue cover.

Losses

Coastal Command Strike Wings

Early years

In the earlier years of World War II the anti-surface unit element of Coastal Command was bolstered through the transfer of squadrons from both Bomber and Fighter Commands. These Sqns were in the main equipped with the Blenheim, Hudson, Hampdens and Beaufort. Early achievements were highlighted by the award of a Victoria Cross to RAF North Coates and 22 Sqn's Fg Off Kenneth Campbell. Detached to RAF St Eval he crippled Battle Cruiser Gneisenau in Brest Harbour.

In the early years the strike force demonstrated its courage but was hampered in its tactical development by operating in small formations in poorly performing aircraft, with unreliable weapons and poor aiming aids and no fighter cover. Their light armament was extremely outgunned by German heavily-armed convoys and land-based defences. This led to Coastal Command strike formations generating the highest casualty rate in the RAF, losing 648 aircraft. Target sets included the 'Gold Run', cargoes of iron ore from neutral Sweden and other metals from Norway and Finland destined for the munitions complexes of the Ruhr Valley.

Strike Wings reformed

Nov 1942 saw the reforming of Coastal Command's Strike Wings, employing new tactics on the new Beaufighter. They were armed with 4 x 20mm Hispano Suiza Cannon and 1,000 rounds including tracer and 8 rocket projectiles.

New tactics

A change in command at North Coates 236 Sqn to Wg Cdr Nebbie Wheeler let to the development large formation attack tactics combining 143 Sqn employing cannon and 236 Sqn employing cannon and rocket projectiles to minimise enemy ships' flak, saturating the heavily armed shipping with cannon fire from a height of 1,500ft or below. Below the joint 143 and 236 Sqn formation, 254 Sqn's torpedo-armed Beaufighter had a lesser flak barrage to face and were able to focus on an accurate and smooth run to their release point. Fighter Command was called on to provide escorts to these composite air operations. These tactics were put to practics in 1943 in attacks let by Wg Cdr Wheeler. In a 10 month period 27 000 tonnes of shipping were sunk. They were further adapted to combat a shift in enemy operations whereby shipping was moved from port to port during night hours. Assaults on previously safe harbours were commenced with a Gironde River attack on 24 Aug 1944 by 18 Beaufighter of 236 Sqn and 404 Sqn. Additional attacks were conducted by 143 Sqn.

On 12 Sep 1944 40 aircraft of 236 Sqn, 254 Sqn, 455 Sqn and 489 Sqn entered Den Helder harbour and took losses. On 23 Sep 1944 Flt Lt Bob Pinkerton led 254 Sqn, 455 Sqn and 489 Sqn repeating the attack with 73 aircraft. On 25 Sep 1944 65 Beaufighter from the same three squadrons attacked again. Finally on 17 Jan 1945, 32 aircraft from 236 Sqn and 254 Sqn struck the Helder harbour one last time.

The Strike Wings

  • North Coates Strike Wing: For more information about the North Coates Strike Wing, see the North Coates page.
  • Langham and Dallachy Wing: This wing consisted of 455 Sqn RAAF and 489 Sqn RNZAF. It lost 71 aircrew during conflict.
  • Strubby and Dallachy Wing: This wing consisted of 144 Sqn and 404 Sqn RCAF. It lost 70 aircrew.
  • Banff Wing: The wing included 333 Sqn (Norway), 143 Sqn, 235 Sqn and 248 Sqn, and lost 87 aircrew.

[crest]

Coastal Command museum

Coastal Command Strike Wings on chaseit-now.co.uk

RAF Marine Branch Air-Sea Rescue

Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire
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