RAF Timeline 1944

Back to 1943


Mosquito nfii 20 Jan 1944 - Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder is appointed Deputy Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force.

21 Jan 1944 - The German Luftwaffe begin a series of heavy attacks on British targets, including London. Mosquito night-fighters equipped with radar account for 129 of the 329 aircraft shot down during the 5 month Little Blitz.

lancaster 3 9 Feb 1944 - The Allies begin a bombing campaign against the French railway system in an attempt to disrupt the enemy's reinforcement plans during the forthcoming invasion of Europe.

18 Feb 1944 - Mosquitoes, escorted by Typhoon fighter-bombers, launch a daylight low-level attack on the prison at Amiens, France, in order release French patriots; 258 prisoners escaped (including many criminals), but 102 inmates were killed.

Dornier 217j 6-7 Mar 1944 - Lancasters and Halifaxes of Bomber Command begin an offensive against the German transport network in occupied Europe, attacking railway yards in France. Eighty targets are selected, of which 37 are allocated to Bomber Command and the remainder to elements of the AEAF and the American Eighth Air Force.

General Dwight Eisenhower 16 Mar 1944 - A Japanese advance through Burma isolates the British garrison at Imphal. During the three-month siege, 150,000 men had to rely entirely on air supply for their survival. More than 400 tons of stores had to be flown daily into a heavily guarded valley, with only three squadrons of Spitfires available for air defence and six squadrons of Hurricanes for attack.

19 Mar 1944 - Allied air forces based in Italy begin Operation Strangle, designed to cut enemy supply routes in Italy.

24-25 Mar 1944 - Fifty RAF and Dominion Air Force personnel are murdered by the Gestapo after a mass breakout by Prisoners of War (POWs) from Stalag Luft III POW Camp in Zagan, Poland

30-31 Mar 1944 - In a disastrous attack on Nuremberg, Germany, Bomber Command suffers its heaviest losses of the entire war; 95 aircraft fail to return from 795 dispatched after being heavily attacked by German night-fighters.

Mitchell II 14 Apr 1944 - Strategic bombing operations in Europe are placed under the command of General Dwight D Eisenhower, Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force, in preparation for the Allied invasion.

26-27 Apr 1944 - In marked contrast to earlier USAAF efforts, Bomber Command makes a hugely successful attack on the German ball-bearing factories at Schweinfurt.

May 1944 - During the last two weeks of the month, Allied strategic and tactical air forces carry out attacks on enemy batteries and radar sites along the English Channel coast. By the first week of June, the strikes had destroyed about 80% of German coastal radar capability.

Yugoslav Marauder June 1944 - Allied forces in Burma go on the offensive. Supported by twenty-three squadrons of transport aircraft and with air superiority established by RAF Spitfires and American Mustangs, the Japanese army is finally defeated near Rangoon.

1 Jun 1944 - RAF Balkan Air Force is formed to support Yugoslav partisans.

5 Jun 1944 - On the day preceding D-Day, Bomber Command simulated an Allied air invasion by dropping dummy paratroops. Lancasters and Stirlings also dropped Window at fixed intervals over the Channel to simulate the approach of an invading fleet. During the night, aircraft of Nos. 38 and 46 Groups dropped the British 6th Airbourne Division in the Caen area. Also on this day, Rome was liberated by Allied forces.

Typhoons 6 Jun 1944 - See D-Day. Allied air forces flew a total of 14,674 sorties during the first 24 hours of Operation Overlord for the loss of 113 aircraft, many by friendly fire. Fighter cover for the invasion beaches was provided by nine squadrons of Spitfires, while Typhoon and Mustang fighter-bombers of 2nd TAF flew armed reconnaissance missions further inland. Such was the Allied air supremacy that the Luftwaffe only flew 319 sorties in the same period.

Typhoon firing rockets 7 Jun 1944 - An attack by Typhoon and Mustang squadrons decimate the German 7th Army armoured division which was moving towards the Channel coast.

8/9 Jun 1944 - First used of the new 12,000lb deep penetration bomb ("Tallboy") by No. 617 Squadron against the Saumur rail tunnel in France. The tunnel was totally blocked, thus preventing German armour moving by rail to the D-Day beachheads.

10 Jun 1944 - Allied aircraft deploy to temporary airstrips in Normandy.

13 Jun 1944 - London is attacked for the first time by V-1 Flying Bombs launched from sites in and around Pas de Calais, France. Between 13 Jun and 5 Sep, when the sites where overrun, the RAF managed to destroy 1,771 of the bombs. The most successful type used against them was the Hawker Tempest.

Shadow of Spitfire and Doodlebug June 1944 - RAF Sunderlands, landing on Lake Indaw, evacuate 506 wounded Chindits from behind Japanese lines.

1 Jul 1944 - The RAF reaches its peak strength of 1,185,833 personnel (1,011,427 men and 174,406 women).

7 Jul 1944 - Bomber Command aircraft are called in to bomb enemy positions the city of Caen after the Allied invasion had stalled; the first of five such attacks before mid-August.

12 Jul 1944 - The first two Gloster Meteors are delivered to No. 616 Sqn, Auxiliary Air Force, at Culmhead in Devon, making their (unsuccessful) operational debut on 27 July.

WAAFs at work 18 Jul 1944 - VHF radios fitted in tanks are used for the first time to call for close air support from rocket equipped Typhoons in the on-going Battle of Caen.

25 Jul 1944 - A Mosquito of No. 544 Sqn is attacked by a German Me262 fighter - the first ever jet fighter engagement.

1 Aug 1944 - Polish partisan forces attempt an uprising against the Germans in Warsaw. RAF forces in Italy attempt resupply missions with heavy losses - particularly amongst Polish and South African crews. The uprising collapses and resistance ends in October.

4 Aug 1944 - A Meteor of No. 616 Sqn, flown by Fg Off Dixie Dean, downs a V-1 flying bomb by positioning the wing of his aircraft under that of the rocket, and tipping it off balance. Minutes later, Fg Off JK Roger also in a No. 616 Sqn Meteor, became the first pilot to shoot down a V-1 by cannon-fire.

 German ME 262a1 Fighter 15 Aug 1944 - Allied forces invade Southern France from bases in Sicily with air support from units of the Desert Air Force.

17 Aug 1944 - In three days of continuous air attacks, armoured divisions of the German 5th and 7th Panzer Armies are decimated after being trapped between Mortain and Falaise in France. Of the 2,300 tanks about 120 survived, 10,000 soldiers were killed and 50,000 taken prisoner.

Meteor III 22 Aug 1944 - The Balkan Air Force organises the evacuation of 1,059 wounded Yugoslav partisans from Polje, in the Serbian region of Yugoslavia to Italy by RAF, USAAF and Russian aircraft.

3 Sep 1944 - Brussels, the capital of Belgium is liberated.

Operation Market Garden 17-25 Sep 1944 - Operation Market Garden, the airborne invasion of Holland begins. During the morning of 17 Sep, some 3,887 Allied aircraft, including 1,053 Dakota transports and 500 gliders towed by Stirling and Halifax bombers, were involved in supporting or airdropping 35,000 men behind enemy lines in three areas; Arnhem to the North, Eindhoven some 65 miles further south and Nijmegen in the centre. During the initial phase of the operation not one RAF transport was lost. The attempted capture of bridges over three rivers met with fierce resistance on the ground, and air support from 2nd TAF Typhoons was needed to take out enemy gun positions. Over the following 7 days, aerial resupply by Dakotas, Stirlings and gliders resulted in the loss of 238 aircraft and 139 gliders, but the bridges at Nijmegen and Eindhoven were captured. Of some 10,00 men dropped at Arnhem, more than 7,500 were killed and the remnants evacuated after nine days of bitter conflict. Flight Lieutenant D S Lord of No. 271 Sqn, was posthumously awarded a VC for his conspicuous bravery during the resupply mission on 19 September; the only one awarded to a Transport Command pilot during the Second World War.

3 Oct 1944 - Bomber Command breaches dikes on Walcheren Island, Holland, flooding the surrounding defences and allowing amphibious forces to successfully attack the heavily defended island.

4-5 Oct 1944 - Bomber Command conducts its final minelaying sortie in the River Danube. The highly successful campaign severely disrupted Rumanian oil exports to Germany.

14 Oct 1944 - The highest number of sorties by Bomber Command aircraft in a single day, 1,576, are flown as part of Operation Hurricane, a maximum effort attack on Germany. In two attacks on Duisberg, 9,000 tons of bombs are dropped and 14 aircraft lost.

31 Oct 1944 - 25 Mosquitoes make a highly successful low-level attack on the Gestapo HQ in Aarhus, Denmark, killing 200 Gestapo officials.

Tirpitz 4-5 Nov 1944 - 174 Lancasters of No. 5 Group, RAF, breach the Dortmund-Ems Canal, one of Germanys main transport arteries.

12 Nov 1944 - Lancasters from Nos. 9 and 617 Sqns launch their third attack on the German battleship Tirpitz, anchored in Tromso Fjord, Norway. After a 5 hr flight, the first hit was recorded at 0842 hrs, and in the next ten minutes, twenty eight 12,000lb Tallboy bombs were dropped before the ship capsized with the loss of 1,000 lives.

26 Nov 44 Raid by 24 RAF Typhoons on the Sicherheitsdienst HQ (closely affiliated to the Gestapo) in Amsterdam, destroying records on the Dutch resistance movement.

16 Dec 1944 - The Germans launch a surprise attack in the Ardennes region of Belgium. The Allied response is hampered by snow and fog.

Forward to 1945

Text size: