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Thread: RAF Squadron Structure (Fighters)

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    Default RAF Squadron Structure (Fighters)

    Whilst recently re-reading Mosquito, Typhoon and Tempest by Bowyer, Reed and Beamont I came across a photo of 609 Squadron's Operations Board from October 1943 on page 204.

    On it it shows that:

    'A' Flight consisted of Red, Yellow and White Sections.
    'B' Flight consisted of Blue, Green and Black Sections.

    It also indicates that aircraft coded A to L were allocated to 'A' Flight and that those coded M to Z were allocated to 'B' Flight.

    My questions relating to this last tidbit are as follows:

    1. Am I correct in assuming that this was standard practice throughout Fighter Command.

    2. Given the vagaries of operational necessity would I be correct to assume that aircraft from 'B' Flight were flown by 'A' Flight pilots and vice versa without changing the aircraft's individual code?

    3. My reason for asking Question 2 is to how this may have pertained to 137 and 263 Squadron's and their Whirlwinds, particularly during the twilight of its opertional career.

    Thank you all in advance for your help.

    Paul

    On a differnet tack, and forgive my ignorance, how many ground crew would be assigned to each aircraft? Engine fitter, rigger (airframe?), instrument fitter and armourer spring to mind. And if I've incorrectly stated their designations I'm happy to have them corrected! (Please and thank you!)

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    Paul,
    Just off the top of my head, I would say that your suppositions are generally correct so far as I know, and should be typical throughout the RAF of WW2, not only in Fighter Command itself (and ADGB), but also in overseas theatres generally, including 2 TAF. In the case of "operational necessity" it might well be the case that the pilots of one flight may be short of an aircraft or two and the other flight may not require all theirs at the time, so it is quite on the cards that surplus aircraft of one flight would be flown by pilots of the other. However they remained the "property" of the Flight which maintained them, and their markings were thus not affected. As to servicing staff, I think that these were worked out on long established systems which I am not particulary au fait with, but based on a UE (Unit Establishment) of 16 aircraft, a proportion of the technical staff would be designated as the Workshops Party and would included the more experienced Fitters IIA and IIEs, as well as a proportion of the electricians, and possibly the odd armourer or two, and this party was responsible for minor repairs as well as periodical checks and incorporation of minor modifications, etc. The rest of the technical staff (including most of the less experienced) would be designated as the Servicing Party (divided into A and B Flights) and would be responsible for the actual servicing of all airworthy aircraft (refuelling, rearming, topping up resevoirs, tyre pressures and undercarriage oleos, etc, as well as daily checks of wireless equipment to see that it was fully serviceable.) I think the servicing party would require one airframe and one engine serviceman per established aircraft, with wireless and electrical personnel being established at something like one per four or six aicraft. Armourers were more numerous as loading the guns and bombs could be quite labour intensive, so most of this trade group (armouers and fitter armourers) were involved in the servicing party, with perhaps the few most experienced being with the workshops party to carry out serious fault rectification or modifications to guns, bomb racks and the like. Incidentally the Workshops party at established airfields was in charge of the squadrons more specialised equipment such as hydraulic test rigs, work benches and special tools, but more mobile squadrons operating "in the field" might lack such equipment and have to rely on more specialised units at the same airfield, or even at other airfields for this sort of work, in which case their Workshops Party might be almost non-existent. Howewever this interpretaiton of squadron organisation is open to all constructive comments! Incidentally, during operations the men of one party can be loaned to the other temporarily for any reason to meet the demands of the moment. Somewhere around I have the personnel establishment (mid 1941) for Buffalo squadrons (16 aircraft, 21 pilots) intended for service in the Far East theatre, complete with all trades and ranks tables, if anyone in interested.
    David D

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    Paul, Herewith, establishment for RAF Buffalo squadron in Far East, June 1941. Would seem that I have misunderstood names of internal subdivision of squadron, for "Worshop Party" read "Servicing Party", and the two Flights (A and B) should apparently be referred to simply as Flights, despite fact that they were concened primarily with "servicing" (at least as I understand that term). However you can see that the more experienced personnel are concentrated in the "Servicing Party". I presume the "Civilian labouers) mentioned in the establishment were recruited locals and many of these can be seen in photographs helping manhandling the Buffalos under the direction of (much larger) Europeans (often pilots) in the hot sun! As you can imagine, such tables of organisations as establishments were constantly under review so in detail this one would probably be out of date within months as experience dictated.
    David D

    488 Squadron Establishment.
    Note, all ranks and classifications as they appear in original document. Acs = Aircraftmen, which includes LAC, AC1, AC2.

    As signalled 6th June 1941, provisional establishment for Brewster Buffalo squadron (16 IE) WAR/FE/121 approved as follows. (Note, this establishment applicable to both 488 RNZAF and 453 RAAF Squadrons, and was probably very similar to 67 Squadron RAF as well as later squadrons such as 21 RAAF, 243 RAF, etc. However as RAAF and RNZAF had slightly different trade structures as compared to RAF, some amendments had to take place, and the RAF was obliged to consider posting RAF personnel to fill a few vacancies, although in the event this may never have eventuated.) Also RNZAF was promptly advised by RAF that pilot strength should in fact comprise nine P/Os and eleven Sergeants rather than ten of each, and that the CO and flight commanders to be provided from RAF sources although would be New Zealanders. The RNZAF was further advised that the pilots provided would be in addition to New Zealand’s standing commitment to provide twelve new pilots to Far East per month. To get around the problem of differences in RNZAF versus RAF trades, the RNZAF undertook to provide the following: Fitter 2A, 19; Fitter 2E, 19; Flight Mechanics, 18; Flight Riggers, 18; Fitter Armourers, 7; Armourers, 16; Electricians, 6; Wireless Mechanics, 8; Wireless Operators, 14; Carpenters, 1; Coppersmith & Metal Workers, 2; Fabric Workers, 1; Instrument Makers, 1; Instrument Repaiers, 2. “Assumed Cooks and Aircraft hands will be provided locally”. However the RNZAF soon voiced concern about the numbers of Fitter 2Es and 2As required (19 of each) as these experienced tradesmen were in very short supply in New Zealand. A reply on 5/8/41 that in fact only 10 of each were required, the figure of 19 was incorrect.

    Squadron Headquarters.
    Adjutant, 1 F/O.
    Flying, 1 S/L.
    Intelligence, 1 F/O.
    Aircraft Hands (General Duties), 1 F/S, 2 Acs.
    Clerks (General Duties), 1 Cpl, 1 Ac.
    Total, 8 HQ.

    Servicing Party.
    Engineer (G), 1 F/O or P/O.
    Aircraft Hands (Armament Assistants), 16 Acs.
    Armourers, 1 Sgt.
    Armourers (Guns), 2 Cpls, 12 Acs.
    Clerks (General Duties), 1 Ac.
    Clerks (Equipment Accounting), 1 Ac.
    Electricians, one F/S, 2 Cpls, 1 Ac.
    Equipment Assistants, 1 F/S, 1 Cpl, 2 Acs.
    Fitters One, 1 F/S, 1 Sgt, 2 Cpls.
    Fitters 2A, 10 Acs.
    Fitters 2E, 10 Acs.
    Fitters (Armourer), 1 F/S (Qualified instructor).
    Fitters (Armourer Guns), 1 Cpl, 4 Acs.
    Instrument Makers, 1 Cpl.
    Instrument Repairers, 1 Ac.
    Wireless Mechanics, 1 F/S, 2 Cpls.
    Total, 77 Servicing Party.

    Two Flights (including 4 spare pilots).
    Flying, 2 F/L, 8 F/O or P/O.
    Airman pilots, 10 Sgts.
    Aircrafthands (Maintenance Assistants), 2 Cpls, 2 Acs.
    Electricians 2, 4 Acs.
    Fitters One, 2 F/S, 4 Sgts, 8 Cpls.
    Flight Mechanics A, 16 Acs.
    Flight Mechanics E, 16 Acs.
    Instrument Repairers, 2 Acs.
    Radio Telephony Operators, 4 Acs.
    Labourers, 12 civilians.
    Total 20 flying, 60 technical, 12 civilian labourers = 92.
    Grand total (HQ, Servicing, Flights) = 177.

    Airframes and Engines.
    Brewster Buffalo 16 I.E., 8 I.R. Wright (Cyclone GR-1820-G105A)16 I.E., 8 I.R.

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    Thank you very much for the information Dave. It is exactly what I was after.

    Kind regards.

    Paul

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    Paul,
    Of course a twin-engined day fighter squadron (Whirlwind), so long as it had a UE of 16+4 aircraft, would have had more aero engine personnel, but probably fairly similar numbers of other trades to the Buffalo squadron example quoted. However as the war progressed, all sorts of strange things happened to squadron establishments, with many losing their entire technical staff. For instance, No. 486 (RNZAF) Squadron formed up in March 1942 with no ground staff at all (apart from HQ officers and a few clerical) but all technical staff were concentrated in the associated No. 3084 SE (Servicing Echelon), all under administration and control of 12 Group, Fighter Command. Equipment was 20 Hurricanes, configured as long range fighters, although role later changed to Night Fighter (Satellite role to Turbinlite Havocs).
    David D

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