No. 5 Group RAF

No. 5 Group was a Royal Air Force bomber group of the Second World War, led during the latter part (February 1943 – 1945) by AVM Sir Ralph Cochrane.

No. 5 Group
Active1 Apr 1918 – 15 May 1919
1 Sep 1937 – 15 Dec 1945
Country United Kingdom
Branch Royal Air Force
Part ofRAF Bomber Command
Group HeadquartersMorton Hall, Swinderby, Lincolnshire
Air Vice-Marshal Arthur Travers "Bomber" Harris
Air Vice-Marshal Ralph Cochrane
Group badge heraldryA lion rampant


The Group was formed on 1 September 1937 with headquarters at RAF Mildenhall. In October 1937, the group headquarters was moved to St Vincents Hall in Grantham. Headquarters was moved to Morton Hall at RAF Swinderby in Lincolnshire in November 1943. During the Second World War, 5 Group was primarily concentrated in south Lincolnshire, 1 Group being more concentrated in north of the same county.[2]

Air Vice Marshal Arthur Harris was in charge here from 11 September 1939 until 22 November 1940. The group started the war with ten squadrons, all equipped with the Handley Page Hampden. The Group continued to fly only Hampdens until the winter of 1940–1941 when it began to convert to the new Avro Manchester.

Early in 1942 the four-engined development of the Manchester, the Avro Lancaster, started to equip the group squadrons. On 17 October 1942, under Operation Robinson, some 86 Lancasters from 5 Group (without fighter escort) flew deep into occupied France to attack the Schneider armaments works at Le Creusot and the associated electrical station at Montchanin. On the night of 22–23 October 85 Lancasters of the Group attacked Genoa without a single loss. On 24 October 74 Lancasters delivered a daylight attack on Milan.

In May 1943 No. 617 Squadron breached two of the Ruhr dams under Operation Chastise. By the lead up to D-day in 1944 Cochrane was an advocate of precision low-level marking, and lobbied heavily to be allowed to prove the principle operationally, demonstrating that 5 Group could attempt targets and techniques that 8 (Pathfinder) Group would not. New systems of target-marking were developed and were tested by No.617 Squadron and its commanding officer, Wing Commander Leonard Cheshire, using the de Havilland Mosquito and later the North American P-51 Mustang. Cheshire was subsequently awarded the Victoria Cross and taken off active operations.

By mid 1944, using the Stabilizing Automatic Bomb Sight and the 12,000 lb (5,400 kg) Tallboy bomb, No. 617 achieved a bombing error of only 94 yd (86 m) at the V Weapon launch site at Abbeville. 5 Group staff also developed other techniques, such as the '5 Group corkscrew' used to evade enemy fighters and the 'quick landing system'.

The group had some of the most effective squadrons of Bomber Command, personified by No 617 Squadron the Dambusters, formed from 5 Group aircrew in March 1943. Most of the 5 Group airfields were around Lincoln, including RAF Scampton. By the end of the war the group had grown to 15 squadrons.

The group was noted for its high accuracy bombing, being involved the sinking of the Tirpitz in November 1944 and the shattering of the strategically important Bielefeld railway viaduct in March 1945. The Group introduced new weapons, including Barnes Wallis's bouncing and his Tallboy and Grand Slam earthquake bombs.

The group was disbanded on 15 December 1945.

Notable raids


1918 to 1919

1937 to 1945

See also



  1. Pine 1983, p. 241.
  2. Otter 1996, p. 15.
  3. Moyes 1976, p. 343.


  • Moyes, Philip J. R. (1976) [1964]. Bomber Squadrons of the RAF and Their Aircraft (2nd ed.). London: Macdonald and Jane's. ISBN 978-0-354-01027-6.
  • Otter, Patrick (1996). Lincolnshire Airfields in the Second World War. Hushion House. ISBN 978-1-85306-424-1.
  • Pine, L.G. (1983). A Dictionary of Mottoes (1st ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. ISBN 978-0-7100-9339-4.
  • Ward, Chris (2007). 5 Group Bomber Command: An Operational Record. London: Pen & Sword Aviation. ISBN 978-1-84415-579-8.
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