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This web information concentrates on the Front Line Fleet Air Arm squadrons which operated with RAF Desert Air Force 1941-1945.

The Desert Air Force first formally came into existence in late 1941 as the Western Desert Air Force (WDAF), although it had been previously used to describe the Allied   air forces in the Middle East.

The RFC, which gave birth to the RAF, was formed in 1912. It comprised a Military Wing, a Naval Wing, The Royal Aircraft Factory and the Central Flying School. Eighteen months after its formation, the Naval Wing of the RFC was reformed into the Royal Naval Air Service.

In 1941, Air Vice-Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham took over command of RAF No.202 Group and began the first steps to the creation of the DAF proper. During July 1941, No.253 wing was formed for experiments in close support over the front lines and included two squadrons of Hurricanes and one of Blenheims. Shortly after this, Nos. 258 and 269 wings were formed for operations over the front line and No.262 wing was formed for the defence of the Nile Delta Zone. No.258 and 269 Wings formed the nucleus of the Western Desert Air Force when it formed in October 1941.

In November 1941, the Allied forces carried out Operation Crusader, which was launched on 18 November 1941. In support of the offensive were No 28 RAF squadron, 258 wing of four Hurricane and two Tomahawk squadrons, 262 wing of three Tomahawk and two hurricane Squadrons and 80 squadron which was equipped with the first hurri-bombers. 269 Wing defended the rear areas with two RAF Hurricane Squadrons and a composite unit of Fleet Air Arm and RAF Hurricane and Grumman Martlet aircraft.

On 18 February 1943, the north-West African Allied Air Force was formed by the reorganization of all Allied air forces in the Mediterranean area including the WDAF, RAF Middle East,, Malta, Tunisia and Algeria. Beneath its banner was the North West African Allied Tactical Air Force, commanded by the WDAFs Air Marshal Coningham. Contained within this were four subordinate formation, one of which was the Desert Air Force as the WDAF had been retitled, under the command of Vice-Marshal Harry Broadhurst.

The War in Africa ended on 13th May 1943, and flying from Malta, the DAF subsequently supported the Allied landings on Sicily.

The Italian winter of 1943/1944 saw the Eighth Army cross the Trigno and Sangro rivers, the DAF introducing a new form of close support, the Rover David and Cab Rank systems, where formations of patrolling fighter-bombers were maintained over the front lines to be called down upon targets by RAF liaison officer with the forward elements of the Army. In April 1945, the Allied offensive covered by massive air support launched itself northwards. An armistice was signed in Italy on 24th April and all fighting in Italy ended on 2nd May.

Fleet Air Arm squadrons & the Desert Air Force
A list of squadrons operating in the Western Desert and in Italy under RAF command.

Website Directories and Databases
with RAF Fighter Command and FAA Squadron information

The Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm. An inventory of the Squadrons with an outline of their Battle honours. 

The RAF Commands

Desert Air Force history

Robert Horsten's FAA Squadrons

Royal Navy and the Fleet Air Arm squadrons of today with historic profiles.

Created: 3-04-2001, Last Modified 3-06-2005


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