No. 1 Group RAF

No. 1 Group of the Royal Air Force is one of the two operations groups in Air Command, the other being the No. 2 Group. Today, the group is referred to as the Air Combat Group, as it controls the RAF's combat fast-jet aircraft and has airfields in the UK, as well as RAF Support Unit Goose Bay in Canada. The group headquarters is located alongside Headquarters Air Command at RAF High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. The current Air officer commanding No 1 Group is Air Vice-Marshal Harvey Smyth.

No. 1 Group
Country United Kingdom
BranchRoyal Air Force
Part ofRAF Air Command
Garrison/HQRAF High Wycombe
Motto(s)"Swift to attack"[1]
Air Officer CommandingAir Vice-Marshal Harvey Smyth
Group badgeA panther's head, erased, sable.
The badge was authorised in 1941 and the black panther's head reflected the fact that Panther was the group's callsign in the early part of the Second World War[2]

Subordinate units

The following stations and squadrons are under the command of No 1 Group:[3]

1 Group recently took command of the Islander and Defender aircraft from 651 Squadron Army Air Corps. It is as yet unknown which squadron these aircraft are placed under command.[4]


First World War

No 1 Group was originally formed on Saturday 1 April 1918 in No 1 Area, which was renamed the South-Eastern Area on 8 May 1918, Southern Area on 20 September 1919 and Inland Area on 1 April 1920.

The Group was renumbered as No. 6 Group on 19 May 1924 at RAF Kenley, and was reformed on the same day at RAF Kidbrooke. Two years later on 12 April 1926 the Group disappeared from the order of battle by being renumbered as No. 21 Group.

The next year the Group was reformed on 25 August 1927 by the renaming of Air Defence Group. This designation lasted until 1936 when it became No. 6 Group again. As in 1924 the Group was reformed the same day, this time as a bomber formation.

By this time the Group had shrunk to ten squadrons, all equipped with Fairey Battle aircraft and located in pairs at RAF Abingdon, RAF Harwell, RAF Benson, RAF Boscombe Down and RAF Bicester.

Second World War

On receipt of orders to move to France in 1939, Headquarters No. 1 Group became Headquarters Advanced Air Striking Force and the station headquarters and associated squadrons became Nos. 71, 72, 74, 75 and 76 Wings respectively.[5] The Group re-emerged a few days later within Bomber Command on 12 September, but only lasted just over three months, being dropped on 22 December 1939.

It was reformed at RAF Bawtry on 22 June 1940 where No. 1 Group was based for 44 years and has been continuously active in the RAF ever since inception. During the Second World War, 1 Group was primarily based at airfields in north Lincolnshire, like RAF Swinderby.[6]

During 1940–45, the group included substantial numbers of Polish and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) personnel. By the beginning of March 1943, the aircraft operated by its squadrons were:

All of the Wellington squadrons subsequently converted to Lancasters. No. 1 Group was later augmented with other units, including 304 Polish Squadron.

During Bomber Command's Second World War campaign, No. 1 Group dropped a higher tonnage of bombs per aircraft than any other group, this was mainly due to Air Commodore Edward Rice who was determined to maximise bomb loads, though it was a policy which contributed in no small measure to No. 1 Group having higher than average losses.[8] Rice would later be involved in the development of the Rose turret, sometimes known as the "Rose-Rice turret".

Cold War

By June 1948 1 Group consisted of:[9]

During the cold war, No. 1 Group also operated the Thor ballistic missile between 1958 and August 1963, with ten squadrons each with three missiles being equipped with the weapon.[10] When Bomber Command was subsumed into the new Strike Command on 1 April 1968, No. 1 Group took on the old role of the command, holding the bomber and strike aircraft of Strike Command. In around 1984, Headquarters No. 1 Group moved from RAF Bawtry in South Yorkshire to RAF Upavon in Wiltshire.

On 1 April 1996 No. 2 Group RAF was disbanded by being absorbed into No. 1 Group.

Post 2000

In January 2000 the RAF was restructured and the Group took on its present role. The Group is responsible for UK air defence operations through QRA North at RAF Lossiemouth and QRA South at RAF Coningsby. However, since the disestablishment of Combined Air Operations Centre 9 at RAF High Wycombe, actual control of the fighters is now carried out from a NATO Combined Air Operations Centre in Denmark, CAOC 1 at Finderup. However, High Wycombe retains an air defence direction capability, and the UK Representative there could take back control over QRA South if it was necessary to respond to a terrorist threat from the air.[11] No. 1 Group also has responsibility for the UK's Carrier Strike capability, with the joint RN/RAF Lightning Force, eventually planned to consist of two squadrons from the RAF and two from the Fleet Air Arm, which will be based at RAF Marham when not operating from the UK's Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.

Air Officer Commanding

Air Officers Commanding have included:[12]

See also



  1. Pine, L.G. (1983). A dictionary of mottoes (1 ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 227. ISBN 0-7100-9339-X.
  2. Delve, Ken (2005). Bomber Command 1939-1945 : a reference to the men - aircraft & operational history. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Aviation. p. 147. ISBN 1-84415-183-2.
  3. "RAF Air Command". Armed Forces.
  4. "UK transfers Defender and Islander special mission aircraft from AAC to RAF". IHS Janes. 2 April 2019. Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  5. Bomber Command, accessed November 2008
  6. Airfields of Lincolnshire - Patrick Otter - p15).
  7. Król, Wacław (1982). Polskie dywizjony lotnicze w Wielkiej Brytanii (in Polish). Warsaw: Wydawnictwo MON. pp. 86, 104, 191. ISBN 83-11-07695-2.
  8. Airfield of Lincolnshire - Patrick Otter- p20/21.
  9. Rawlings 1985, p. 187.
  10. Martin Powell, "The Douglas Thor in Royal Air Force Service", Rossendale Aviation Society – Article, accessed 2 June 2008
  11. Andrew Brooks, UK AIR DEFENCE,Air Forces Monthly – October 2008
  12. "Senior RAF Commanders" (PDF). Retrieved 16 August 2014.


  • Rawlings, J D R (1985). The History of the Royal Air Force. Feltham, Middlesex, UK: Temple Press.
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