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The RAF Third Tactical Air Force (Third TAF), which was formed in South Asia in December 1943, was one of three tactical air forces formed by the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. It was made up of squadrons and personnel from the RAF and the air forces of the British Commonwealth. Third TAF was formed shortly after the establishment of South East Asia Command to provide close air support to the Fourteenth Army.

It was first formed on 19 December 1943 designated the Tactical Air Force (Burma) and renamed as the Third TAF on 28 December 1943. Along with parts of the USAAF Tenth Air Force, it was subordinate to Joint Allied Eastern Air Command which was also formed in December 1943.[1]

As the Air Force was formed, it was felt that at last British forces could go over to the offensive against the Japanese in the Burma Campaign. A start was made towards establishing a general offensive in Arakan in early 1943, but this was forestalled by a Japanese offensive. The Japanese were decisively beaten, but they shifted the focus of their attack to central Burma. Third TAF gave sterling service to Fourteenth Army during the Battle of Kohima and the Battle of Imphal, strafing and bombing the besieging Japanese troops, often at very low level.

After the defeat of the Japanese by IV Corps and XXXIII Corps in Assam, the monsoon intervened before many counterattacks could take place. After the enforced period of reduced operations, the Third TAF supported the advance of Fourteenth Army against the Japanese forces. However, command arrangement changes at the end of 1944 cutting short the life of the Third TAF. It was redesignated HQ RAF Bengal and Burma on 4 December 1944.[1]

The Third TAF had two commanders, Air Marshal John Baldwin up until 15 August 1944, and then Air Marshal Sir Alec Coryton.

Composition[edit | edit source]

The Third TAF comprised the following Groups:

  1. No. 221 Group RAF supporting the IV Corps.
    • During the battle of Imphal there were seldom more than seven squadrons engaged at one time but over the three months' of the siege altogether 21 squadrons took part: including three from the Indian Air Force (Nos. 1, 7 and 9). The RAF squadrons were Nos. 5, 11, 20, 28, 34, 42, 60, 81, 82, 84, 110, 113, 123, 136, 152, 176, 607 and 615.
  2. No. 222 Group RAF
    • No 222 (General Reconnaissance) Group was based in Ceylon. The Group role was, amongst others, reconnaissance over the Bay of Bengal. The RAF squadrons were at one time Nos. 8, 17, 22, 81, 89, 132, 135, 160, 191, 203, 205, 212, 217, 230, 240, 273, 292, 321 and 413.[2]
  3. No. 223 Group RAF 151 Squadron (formerly 151 OTU)[2]
  4. No. 224 Group RAF (commanding officer Air Commodore Alexander Gray) supporting the Indian XV Corps. In the 1943–44 campaigning season, this Group comprised:
    • Three RAF fighter squadrons equipped with Spitfires (this campaign marked the first time Spitfires were being used in South-East Asia)
    • Six fighter-bomber squadrons with Hurricanes (mainly Mk.IIc variants)
    • A single tactical reconnaissance squadron No. 6 Squadron IAF equipped with the Hurricane Mk.IIb
    • Two light bomber squadrons (one of which was No. 8 Squadron IAF commanded by Squadron-Leader Niranjan Prasa), equipped with Vultee Vengeances.
  5. No. 226 Group RAF
    • 226 group was one of the fighter groups based in Singapore. After the fall of Singapore the number of the group was transferred to the maintenance unit (No. 1301 MU RAF)[3] of the tactical air force.
  6. No. 227 Group RAF
    • 227 group, based in Bombay, was the RAF training group based in India for the training of Indian pilots.
  7. No. 229 Group RAF
    • 229 Group was the transport part of the Tactical air force. The RAF squadrons were at one time Nos. 31, 52, 62, 96, 117, 194, 216, 232, 238, 267, 353, 435, 436, 668, 669, 670, 671 and 673.[4]
  8. No. 231 Group RAF
    • The role of the group was to provide heavy bombers for the campaign in Burma. The RAF bomber squadrons were at one time Nos. 99, 159, 200, 215, 355, 356, 357 and 358.[4]

Squadrons[edit | edit source]

Squadrons of the 3rd Tactical Air Force, data from[5]
Squadron Group Date joined Date left Notes
No. 1 Squadron IAF 221 Fought in the battle of Imphal
No. 6 Squadron IAF 224
No. 7 Squadron IAF 221 Fought in the battle of Imphal
No. 8 Squadron IAF 224
No. 9 Squadron IAF 221 Fought in the battle of Imphal
No. 5 Squadron RAF 221 Fought in the battle of Imphal
No. 11 Squadron RAF 221 Fought in the battle of Imphal
No. 20 Squadron RAF 221 Fought in the battle of Imphal
No. 22 Squadron RAF 222 Equipped with Beaufighters, undertook anti-shipping rocket attacks.
A month after the Japanese surrender, No. 22 Squadron disbanded.
No. 28 Squadron RAF 221 Fought in the battle of Imphal
No. 34 Squadron RAF 221 Fought in the battle of Imphal
No. 42 Squadron RAF 221 Fought in the battle of Imphal
No. 60 Squadron RAF 221 Fought in the battle of Imphal
No. 81 Squadron RAF 221 Fought in the battle of Imphal
No. 82 Squadron RAF 221 Fought in the battle of Imphal
No. 84 Squadron RAF 221 Fought in the battle of Imphal
No. 110 Squadron RAF 221 Fought in the battle of Imphal
No. 113 Squadron RAF 221 Fought in the battle of Imphal
No. 123 Squadron RAF 221 Fought in the battle of Imphal
No. 136 Squadron RAF 221 Fought in the battle of Imphal
No. 152 Squadron RAF 221 19 December 1943 Duration Fought in the battle of Imphal,
operated from front-line strips and supported the Fourteenth Army during its final conquest of Burma.
No. 176 Squadron RAF 221 Fought in the battle of Imphal
No. 177 Squadron RAF 224 Equipped with Beaufighters, twin-engined, long range, ground attack fighters,
Canadians formed a significant percentage of the pilots.
During its two year of operations in Burma, it destroyed or damaged 266 locomotives and trains,
673 vehicles, a score of river and ocean-going vessels and nine aircraft on the ground.
No. 211 Squadron RAF 8 January 1944 Duration
No. 607 Squadron RAF 221 Fought in the battle of Imphal
No. 615 Squadron RAF 221 Fought in the battle of Imphal

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Notes
  1. 1.0 1.1 Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation: Overseas Commands - Iraq, India and the Far East
  2. 2.0 2.1 Delve 1994, pp. 76, 83.
  3. Delve 1994, p. 77.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Delve 1994, pp. 77, 84.
  5. Franks 1985, p. 205.
Bibliography
  • Delve, Ken. The Source Book of the RAF. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing Ltd., 1994. ISBN 1-85310-451-5.
  • Franks, Norman L.R. The Air Battle of Imphal. London: William Kimber, 1985. ISBN 0-7183-0552-3.

External links[edit | edit source]

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