No. 38 Group RAF

No 38 Group RAF is a group of the Royal Air Force. It was formed on 6 November 1943 from nine squadrons as part of Fighter Command. After the war it became part of RAF Transport Command but was disbanded on 31 January 1951. It re-formed on 1 January 1960, became part of RAF Air Support Command in 1967 and then, in 1972, the air support group within RAF Strike Command. It was temporarily disbanded from 18 Nov 1983 to 31 Oct 1992 and from 1 April 2000 to 1 July 2014. It subsequently became part of RAF Air Command, bringing together the Royal Air Force’s Engineering, Logistics, Communications and Medical Operations units.[2] Air Officer Commanding No. 38 Group is also responsible for UK-based United States Visiting Forces (USVF) units and for RAF personnel attached to other global armed forces.[3]

No. 38 Group RAF
Active1943–1951, 1960–1983, 1992–2000, 2014–
Country United Kingdom
BranchRoyal Air Force
TypeAir Combat Service Support
Part ofRAF Air Command
Garrison/HQHQ at RAF High Wycombe; HQ elements at RAF Wittering
Motto(s)Latin: Par Nobile Fratrum
(Translation: "A noble pair of brothers")[1]
Royal Air Force Ensign
Air Vice-Marshal Simon D Ellard
Group Badge heraldryAn eagle's leg grasping a sword


The predecessor of 38 Group was No. 38 Wing RAF, initially formed on 15 January 1942 from 296 and 297 Squadrons and based at RAF Netheravon in Wiltshire under Group Captain Sir Nigel Norman. 295 Squadron was additionally formed at Netheravon on 3 August 1942. To these were added 570, 298, 299, 190, 196, 620 Squadrons to form No. 38 (Airborne Force) Group on 11 October 1943. At that time four squadrons were equipped with Albemarles (295, 296, 297, 570), one with Halifaxes (298) and four with Stirlings (299, 190, 196, 620). A further Halifax unit, 644 Squadron, was added in February 1944.

During 1943, changes of all aircraft types and operational bases were made. Nevertheless 295, 296 and 297 Squadrons were heavily involved that year in operations Beggar, Ladbroke and Fustian, during the invasion of Sicily. From February 1944 many sorties were made over mainland Europe in support of Special Operations Executive and detachments of the Special Air Service.

But by 5 June 1944 the group’s updated resources had been fully redeployed between RAF Brize Norton, RAF Fairford, RAF Harwell, RAF Keevil and RAF Tarrant Rushton in preparation for Operation Overlord, the invasion of Europe. From then to 16 June the Group was fully involved in operations Tonga (the delivery of paratroop-filled gliders at the onset of Overlord) and Mallard (the delivery of the main airborne forces and their equipment by glider).

In September 1944 the group was called upon to ferry airborne troops for Operation Market Garden, the abortive attempt to capture the Rhine bridge at Arnhem. Following that operation there was further reorganisation; the Group Headquarters moved to Marks Hall, Essex in October 1944 and the squadrons were redeployed to RAF Earls Colne (296 and 297), RAF Rivenhall (295 and 570), RAF Great Dunmow (190 and 620), RAF Wethersfield (later to RAF Shepherds Grove) (196 and 299) and RAF Woodbridge (298 and 644). 190 Squadron remained temporarily at RAF Fairford. On 10 March 1945 161 Squadron at RAF Tempsford also came under 38 Group control.

On 24 March 1945 the squadrons were fully employed in delivering airborne troops to the far bank of the Rhine as part of Operation Varsity, an operation which proved costly in terms of aircrew lives lost.

After the war most 38 Group squadrons were either disbanded or relocated to the Far East and the HQ moved to RAF Upavon. 295 and 297 Squadrons merged and moved to Fairford. 38 Group became part of RAF Transport Command on 1 June 1945.

In 1972, Headquarters 38 Group moved from RAF Odiham, Hants, where it had been since 1960, to RAF Benson, Oxon.[4]

From 2014, the reformed group has units at RAF Wittering, RAF Brize Norton, Royal Air Force High Wycombe and Royal Air Force Leeming. It appears that the reformed group now includes RAF A4 Force Elements (deployable engineering and logistic units), Tactical Medical Wing at Brize Norton, and Tactical Communications Wing RAF at RAF Leeming. On 1 April 2015 38 Gp assumed responsibility for the Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Service with its 3 teams at RAF Lossiemouth, RAF Leeming and RAF Valley where it is co located with the MRS HQ.

RAF Support to airborne operations– World War II

With the increasing use of paratroops and glider borne forces, the RAF began to use specialist personnel to act as the eyes and ears of the Air Force on the ground. These Airfield Activation teams saw action wherever ‘austere’ landing strips needed to be established.

The first use of British Paratroops was Operation COLOSSUS in February 1941, where a small force was sent to attack an aqueduct in Italy. Later airborne assaults were on Bruneval in France, Operation TORCH in Tunisia and as part of the Allied invasion of Italy. These culminated in Operation OVERLORD, mounted in support of the Normandy D-Day landings.

The success of these operations was due to effective resupply drops and total air superiority, but a known difficulty for all of the airborne operations was the correlation and control of Close Air Support missions to avoid the possibility of incurring ‘friendly fire’ deaths.

Light Warning Units at Arnhem

Operation MARKET GARDEN was Field Marshal Montgomery’s bold plan to capture the vital bridges over the Dutch rivers at Arnhem in 1944. The plan required the deployment of two highly secret radar units so that Close Air Support could be given to the lightly equipped airborne units.

RAF engineers and radar controllers attached to the 4th Parachute Battalion landed in Arnhem on 18 September. They were to control Close Air Support missions by Allied aircraft; if all had gone to plan, this was a task that could have changed the course of history. The 25 RAF personnel were part of two Light Warning Units, each equipped with the top secret Air Ministry Experimental Station which could be transported in two gliders.

The plan was to deploy these systems on the second phase of gliders reaching Holland on 17 and 18 September. The first was to land at Groesbeek to support the Brigade HQ, but Germans strafed the aircraft, mortally wounding the Unit’s Commanding Officer, and the glider landed at Nijmegen. Despite this, the 4 Horsa gliders containing the Light Warning Units took off from RAF Harwell in Oxfordshire just after 1200hrs on 18 September.

As the aircraft began their approach to the landing zones, one glider had to crash land when its tug aircraft was hit by flak and crashed. It landed near the town of Zetten, where the surviving crew destroyed the equipment and, despite having little infantry training, made their way to fight at Arnhem. A second glider was hit by the same concentration of flack and crashed, killing 6 members of the Light Warning Unit, plus the pilots. The remaining two gliders landed as planned at the landing zone 7 miles west of Arnhem, but the crews soon realised that without all of the equipment, the Air Ministry Experimental Station would not function. As they tried to improvise a solution, both gliders and equipment were destroyed by heavy German fire on the landing zone. The Light Warning Unit crews then accompanied the infantry-trained glider pilots into battle.

At the end of the week long battle, the remains of the now exhausted 1st Airborne Division were under siege in the Oosterbeek area and, with no signs of respite and little or no ammunition, decided to attempt a risky night time crossing of the Rhine in order to reach the British lines. Only four members of the Light Warning Units, including a US Army 1st Lieutenant, made this crossing successfully and escaped. Of the 25 Light Warning Unit personnel that were flown into Holland, 10 were killed and the remaining 11 captured.

Crossing the Rhine

The last major airborne operation of the war in Europe was Operation VARSITY, a crossing of the Rhine in March 1945. This operation was deemed a complete success in the use of air-power, ground support elements and Close Air Support. The marking of drop zones and landing strips was extremely accurate, and enabled the Airborne forces to achieve all their allocated targets without major losses.

Orders of Battle


Order of Battle for No. 38 Group RAF, 06-06-1944[5]
Station Squadron Aircraft No Operational
RAF Brize Norton 296
Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle
Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle
RAF Fairford 190
Short Stirling
Short Stirling
RAF Harwell 295
Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle
Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle
RAF Keevil 196
Short Stirling
Short Stirling
RAF Tarrant Rushton 298
Handley Page Halifax
Handley-Page Halifax


Order of Battle for No. 38 Group RAF, July 1945[6]
Station Squadron Aircraft
RAF Earls Colne 296
Handley Page Halifax
Handley-Page Halifax
RAF Great Dunmow 190
Handley Page Halifax
Handley-Page Halifax
RAF Rivenhall 295
Short Stirling
Short Stirling
RAF Shepherds Grove 196
Short Stirling
Short Stirling
RAF Tarrant Rushton 298
Handley Page Halifax
Handley-Page Halifax


Order of Battle for No. 38 Group RAF, April 1962[7]
Station Squadron Aircraft
RAF Abingdon 47
Blackburn Beverley
Blackburn Beverley
RAF Aldergrove 118 Bristol Sycamore
RAF Colerne 24
Handley Page Hastings
Handley Page Hastings
RAF Odiham 66
Bristol Belvedere
Bristol Belvedere
Bristol Sycamore/Westland Whirlwind
Scottish Aviation Pioneer
RAF Waterbeach 1
Hawker Hunter
Hawker Hunter
Gloster Javelin


Order of Battle for No. 38 Group RAF, January 1982[8]
Station Squadron Aircraft
RAF Aldergrove 72 Westland Wessex
Ladyville, Belize 1417 Flt. Hawker Siddeley Harrier
RAF Brize Norton 10
Vickers VC10
Hawker Siddeley Andover
RAF Coltishall 6
RAF Lyneham 24
Lockheed C-130 Hercules
Lockheed C-130 Hercules
Lockheed C-130 Hercules
Lockheed C-130 Hercules
RAF Northolt 32
Hawker Siddeley Andover/Westland Gazelle/British Aerospace BAe 125/Westland Whirlwind
de Havilland Devon
RAF Odiham 18
Boeing Chinook
Westland Puma
RAF Wittering 1 Hawker Siddeley Harrier


Order of Battle for No. 38 Group RAF, December 2016

Formation Unit Sub-unit Role Location
RAF Wittering Operations Wing Aerodrome Management Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire
Support Wing Service Support
RAF A4 Force Elements[9] No 1 Air Mobility Wing Operations Squadron Movements RAF Brize Norton
Air Movements Squadron
UK Mobile Air Movements Squadron
No 42 (Expeditionary Support) Wing No 71 (Inspection and Repair) Squadron Aircraft engineering RAF Wittering
No 93 (Expeditionary Armaments) Squadron Weapons engineering RAF Marham
No 5001 Squadron Ground engineering RAF Wittering
No. 5131 (Bomb Disposal) Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal RAF Wittering
No. 85 (Expeditionary Logistics) Wing No 1 Expeditionary Logistics Squadron Supply RAF Wittering
No 2 Mechanical Transport Squadron Transport RAF Wittering
No 3 Mobile Catering Squadron Catering and accommodation management RAF Wittering
No 501 (County of Gloucester) Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force Logistics RAF Brize Norton
No 504 (County of Nottingham) Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force RAF Wittering
No 605 (County of Warwick) Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force RAF Cosford
RAF Mountain Rescue Service RAF Valley; RAF Leeming; RAF Lossiemouth
Joint Aircraft Recovery & Transportation Squadron MOD Boscombe Down
No 4624 (County of Oxford) Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force Movements RAF Brize Norton
RAF Music Services[10] The Central Band of the Royal Air Force Ceremonial RAF Northolt
The Band of the RAF Regiment
The RAF Salon Orchestra
The Band of the Royal Air Force College RAF College Cranwell
The Band of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force
RAF High Wycombe Support to collocated headquarters Buckinghamshire
No. 90 Signals Unit Tactical Communications Wing No 2 Field Communications Squadron Communications RAF Leeming
No 3 Field Communications Squadron
No 4 Field Communications Squadron
Operational Information Services Wing No 1 (Engineering Support) Squadron 
No 5 (Information Services) Squadron
Capability and Innovation Squadron
RAF Medical Operations RAF Centre of Aviation Medicine[11] Medical Support RAF Henlow
Tactical Medical Wing[12] Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron Medical Support RAF Brize Norton
Operations Squadron
Capability and Sustainment Squadron
Training Squadron
No 612 (County of Aberdeen) Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force Air Transportable Surgical Leuchars Station
No 4626 (County of Wiltshire) Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force Aeromedical Evacuation RAF Brize Norton

Commanding officers

38 Wing

Commanding officers no. 38 Wing RAF[13]
Date Name
15 Jan 1942Air Commodore Sir Nigel Norman (Killed on duty 19 May 1943)
May 1943Air Commodore William H Primrose
6 Oct 1943Air Vice-Marshal Leslie Norman Hollinghurst

38 Group

Commanding officers no. 38 Group RAF[13]
Date Name
11 Oct 1943Air Vice-Marshal Leslie Norman Hollinghurst
18 Oct 1944Air Vice-Marshal James Scarlett-Streatfield
31 Jul 1945Air Vice-Marshal Ronald Ivelaw-Chapman
1946–1948Air Vice-Marshal Arthur L Fiddament
17 Jan 1948Air Vice-Marshal Alfred C H Sharp
25 Jan 1950Air Vice-Marshal Edgar J Kingston-McClaughry
1 Jan 1960Air Vice-Marshal Peter Wykeham
27 Jul 1962Air Vice-Marshal T W Piper
1 Jan 1965Air Vice-Marshal Leslie Mavor
1 Mar 1966Air Vice-Marshal Peter C Fletcher
1 Aug 1967Air Vice-Marshal Harold Brownlow Martin
24 Jun 1970Air Vice-Marshal Denis Crowley-Milling
21 Feb 1972Air Vice-Marshal Frederick S Hazlewood
2 Nov 1974Air Vice-Marshal Peter G K Williamson
10 Dec 1977Air Vice-Marshal Joseph A Gilbert
27 Feb 1980Air Vice-Marshal Donald P Hall
1984–1985Air Vice-Marshal David Parry-Evans
15 Jan 1993Air Vice-Marshal J A G May
1994Air Vice-Marshal David Cousins
21 Apr 1995Air Vice-Marshal David A Hurrell
30 Jan 1998Air Vice-Marshal Philip Sturley
2 July 2014Air Vice-Marshal Tim Bishop [2]
16 June 2016Air Vice-Marshal Susan C Gray [14]
December 2018Air Vice-Marshal Simon D Ellard [15]

See also



  1. Pine, L.G. (1983). A dictionary of mottoes (1 ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 166. ISBN 0-7100-9339-X.
  2. RAF 38 Group Reforming Parade 2 July 14
  3. About RAF 38 Group
  4. Flight International 27 April 1972
  5. Operation Neptune Order of Battle
  6. Delve 1994, p. 81.
  7. Delve 1994, pp. 88–89.
  8. Delve 1994, p. 91.
  9. here, RAF Details. "RAF - A4 Force". Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  10. here, RAF Details. "RAF - About us". Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  11. "Centre for Aviation Medicine".
  12. here, RAF Details. "RAF - Tactical Medical Wing". Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  13. Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation


  • Delve, Ken. The Source Book of the RAF. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 1994. ISBN 1-85310-451-5.
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