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No. 5 Group
Active 1 Apr 1918 – 15 May 1919
1 Sep 1937 – 15 Dec 1945
Country  United Kingdom
Branch  Royal Air Force
Part of RAF Bomber Command
Group Headquarters Morton Hall, Swinderby, Lincolnshire
Motto(s) Undaunted
Air Vice-Marshal Arthur Travers "Bomber" Harris
Air Vice-Marshal Ralph Cochrane
Group badge heraldry A lion rampant

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.


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.[1]

Air Commodore 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 some 86 5 group Lancasters (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 the 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 successfully trialed by No.617 Squadron and its commanding officer, Wing Commander Leonard Cheshire, using the de Havilland Mosquito, and later the North American 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 Tallboy bomb, No. 617 achieved a bombing error of only 94 yards at the V Weapon launch site at Abbeville. 5 Group staff also developed other various 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 group's main 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 strategic Bielefeld railway viaduct in March 1945. The Group introduced new weapons operationally, including Barnes Wallis's bouncing and his Tallboy and Grand Slam earthquake bombs.

The group was disbanded on 15 December 1945.

Notable raids

  • First "thousand-bomber attack" on Cologne on 30 May 1942 (shared)
  • "Dambuster" attack on the dams at the Möhne Reservoir, the Edersee and Sorpedam on 17 May 1943 (without backup)
  • Attack on Braunschweig, 15 October 1944 (without backup)
  • Attack on Heilbronn, 4 December 1944 (without backup)
  • Attack on Dresden on 13 February 1945 (without backup on the first attack)
  • Grand Slam attack on Schildesche viaduct near Bielefeld on 14 March 1945 (without backup)
  • Attack on Würzburg, 16 March 1945 (shared)
  • Attack on the oil refinery at Tønsberg in Southern Norway, the last raid by heavy bombers of Bomber Command in World War II.


1918 to 1919
1937 to 1945


See also



  1. Otter 1996, p. 15.
  2. Moyes 1976, p. 343.


  • Moyes, Philip J.R. Bomber Squadrons of the RAF and Their AIrcraft. London: Macdonald and Jane's (Publishers) Ltd., 1964 (new edition 1976). ISBN 0-354-01027-1.
  • Otter, Patrick. Lincolnshire Airfields in the Second World War. Hushion House. 1996. ISBN 1853064246.
  • Ward, Chris. 5 Group Bomber Command: An Operational Record. London: Pen & Sword Aviation, 2007. ISBN 1-84415-579-X.

External links

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