No. 18 Group RAF

No. 18 Group of the Royal Air Force was a group active from 1918 to 1919, and from 1938 to 1996.

No. 18 Group RAF
Country United Kingdom
Branch Royal Air Force
Part ofRAF Coastal Command, RAF Strike Command
HeadquartersRAF Pitreavie Castle
Northwood Headquarters
Motto(s)Constant Endeavour[1]
EngagementsBattle of the Atlantic



The Group was initially formed on 1 April 1918 in No 4 Area. It was transferred to North-Eastern Area, 8 May 1918. Disbanded 18 Oct 1919.


The group was reformed on 1 September 1938 as No. 18 (Reconnaissance) Group of Coastal Command for operations with the Royal Navy's Commander-in-Chief, Rosyth and the Orkney & Shetlands Naval Command.[2] Its headquarters were established at Rosyth.

Of the three groups forming Coastal Command's planned dispositions on the outbreak of war, 18 Group was the only one with a fully operational Navy/Air Force Area Combined Headquarters (ACHQ). It covered much of the North Sea and areas to the north and west of Scotland, north of a line running north west from the Mull of Kintyre.


By October 1946, after the war ended, it was headquartered at RAF Pitreavie Castle and its front-line strength consisted of Nos 120 and No. 203 Squadrons operating from RAF Leuchars flying Lancaster GR.3s.[3] By 1954 its strength had grown to five squadrons of Avro Shackletons, and Neptunes (Nos 120, 204, 217, 240, and 269) at RAF Ballykelly, RAF Kinloss, and RAF Aldergrove as well as No. 202 Squadron RAF flying Handley Page Hastings on meteorological reconnaissance missions from RAF Aldergrove.

With the advent of Strike Command the former 18 Group became the Northern Maritime Air Region, and Coastal Command was renamed 18 Group, both changes happening on 28 Nov 1969. Within Strike Command the new group's title was No. 18 (Maritime) Group. From that point the Group commander held the NATO post of Commander, Maritime Air, Eastern Atlantic, reporting to CinC, Eastern Atlantic at the Northwood Headquarters in London. The Group commander also held the corresponding post within the NATO Allied Command Channel.

The Hawker Siddeley Nimrod entered service in late 1970 and early 1971, initially with four squadrons of six aircraft, 120, 201, and 206 at Kinloss and 42 at St. Mawgan. Elements also went to Malta; No. 203 Squadron disbanding there at RAF Luqa in 1977 while flying Nimrods. The Kinloss Wing spent thousands of hours tracking Soviet submarines of the Northern Fleet, often after they had been detected by NATO submarines or the P-3 Orions of the Royal Norwegian Air Force. Keeping track of the submarines was made easier by the aid of SOSUS acoustic listening devices on the sea bed. Also part of the force were Sea King helicopters, flying for a long period in the SAR role with No. 22 and 202 Squadrons.

Blackburn Buccaneers joined the Group in the mid 1970s, and with the retirement of the final Royal Navy Buccaneers in December 1978, Nos 12, 208, and 216 Squadrons began to operate them at RAF Honington, before shifting north to RAF Lossiemouth from July 1980. No. 216 Squadron however disbanded as a Buccaneer unit in late 1980 due to a shortage of airframes following the discovery of fatigue cracks.

In 1985 other units of the Group were Nos 51, 100, and 360 Squadrons at RAF Wyton, as well as No. 231 OCU carrying out Canberra operational conversion at the same station.[4]

The Group was disbanded by being merging with No 11 Group on 1 April 1996 to form No. 11/18 Group RAF.

Structure in 1989

Note 1: Unit had a nuclear strike role and had twelve British WE.177 tactical nuclear bombs.


The following men were the Air Officers Commanding (AOC) of No. 18 Group:

1 April 1918 to 18 October 1919

  • 1 April 1918 Colonel H A Williamson

1 September 1938 to 1 April 1996



  1. Pine 1983, p. 38.
  2. Roskill 1957, p. 37.
  3. Rawlings 1984, pp. 216–217.
  4. Isby & Kamps 1985, p. 313.


  • Isby, D. C.; Kamps Jr., C. T. (1985). Armies of NATO's Central Front. London: Jane's. ISBN 978-0-7106-0341-8.
  • Pine, L.G. (1983). A Dictionary of Mottoes (1st ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. ISBN 978-0-7100-9339-4.
  • Rawlings, J. D. (1984). The History of the Royal Air Force. London: Temple Press Aerospace. ISBN 978-0-600-34990-7.
  • Roskill, S. W. (1957) [1954]. Butler, J. R. M. (ed.). The War at Sea 1939–1945: The Defensive. History of the Second World War United Kingdom Military Series. I (4th impr. ed.). London: HMSO. OCLC 881709135. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
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