No. 1 Group of the Royal Air Force is one of the two operations groups in RAF Air Command. Today, the group is referred to as the Air Combat Group, as it controls the RAF's combat fast-jet aircraft and has airfields in the UK, as well as RAF Support Unit Goose Bay at CFB Goose Bay in Canada. The group headquarters is located alongside Headquarters Air Command at RAF High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. The other operational group is No. 2 Group RAF.
|No. 1 Group|
|Branch||Royal Air Force|
|Part of||RAF Air Command|
|Garrison/HQ||RAF High Wycombe|
|Motto(s)||"Swift to attack"|
|Air Officer Commanding||Air Vice-Marshal Mark Robert Flewin|
|Group badge||A panther's head, erased, sable.|
The badge was authorised in 1941 and the black panther's head reflected the fact that Panther was the group's callsign in the early part of the Second World War
The following stations and squadrons are under the command of No. 1 Group:
No. 1 Group was originally formed on Saturday 1 April 1918 in No. 1 Area, which was renamed the South-Eastern Area on 8 May 1918, Southern Area on 20 September 1919 and Inland Area on 1 April 1920.
The Group was renumbered as No. 6 Group on 19 May 1924 at RAF Kenley, and was reformed on the same day at RAF Kidbrooke. Two years later on 12 April 1926 the Group disappeared from the order of battle by being renumbered as No. 21 Group.
The next year the Group was reformed on 25 August 1927 by the renaming of Air Defence Group. This designation lasted until 1936 when it became No. 6 Group again. As in 1924 the Group was reformed the same day, this time as a bomber formation.
On receipt of orders to move to France in 1939, Headquarters No. 1 Group became Headquarters Advanced Air Striking Force and the station headquarters and associated squadrons became Nos. 71, 72, 74, 75 and 76 Wings respectively. The Group re-emerged a few days later within Bomber Command on 12 September, but only lasted just over three months, being dropped on 22 December 1939.
It was reformed at Hucknall in Nottinghamshire on 22 June 1940. On 20 July the Group Headquarters moved to Bawtry Hall (RAF Bawtry) near Doncaster, where it was based for 44 years, until 1983. During the Second World War, the Group was primarily based at airfields in north Lincolnshire, like RAF Swinderby.
All of the Wellington squadrons subsequently converted to Lancasters. No. 1 Group was later augmented with other units, including 304 Polish Squadron.
During Bomber Command's Second World War campaign, No. 1 Group dropped a higher tonnage of bombs per aircraft than any other group, this was mainly due to Air Commodore Edward Rice who was determined to maximise bomb loads, though it was a policy which contributed in no small measure to No. 1 Group having higher than average losses. Rice would later be involved in the development of the Rose turret, sometimes known as the "Rose-Rice turret".
By June 1948, 1 Group consisted of:
During the Cold War, No. 1 Group also operated the Thor ballistic missile between 1958 and August 1963 ("Project Emily"), with ten squadrons each with three missiles being equipped with the weapon. 1 Group had two sets of five stations, centred respectively on Hemswell and RAF Driffield. When Bomber Command was subsumed into the new Strike Command on 1 April 1968, No. 1 Group took on the old role of the command, directing the bomber and strike aircraft of Strike Command.
In around 1984, Headquarters No. 1 Group moved from RAF Bawtry in South Yorkshire to RAF Upavon in Wiltshire. No. 207 Squadron RAF, part of 1 Group flying Devons from RAF Northolt alongside No. 32 Squadron RAF, was disbanded on retirement of the remaining Devons on 30 June 1984.
After the end of the Cold War, RAF Germany was reduced in status to become No. 2 Group RAF. 2 Group was then disbanded by being absorbed into No. 1 Group on 1 April 1996. 2 Group was then reformed on 7 January 2000, splitting out of 1 Group. 1 Group transferred over the RAF's air transport, air-to-air refuelling and airborne early warning functions.
In January 2000 the RAF was restructured and the Group took on its present role. The Group is responsible for UK air defence operations through QRA North at RAF Lossiemouth and QRA South at RAF Coningsby. However, since the disestablishment of Combined Air Operations Centre 9 at RAF High Wycombe, actual control of the fighters is now carried out from a NATO Combined Air Operations Centre in Denmark, CAOC 1 at Finderup. However, High Wycombe retains an air defence direction capability, and the UK Representative there could take back control over QRA South if it was necessary to respond to a terrorist threat from the air. No. 1 Group also has responsibility for the UK's Carrier Strike capability, with the joint RN/RAF Lightning Force, eventually planned to consist of two squadrons from the RAF and two from the Fleet Air Arm, which will be based at RAF Marham when not operating from the UK's Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier.
Air Officers Commanding have included: