The Sopwith 5F.1 Dolphin was a British fighter aircraft manufactured by the Sopwith Aviation Company. It was used by the Royal Flying Corps and its successor, the Royal Air Force, during the First World War; the Dolphin entered service on the Western Front in early 1918 and proved to be a formidable fighter. The aircraft was retired shortly after the war. In early 1917, the Sopwith chief engineer, Herbert Smith, began designing a new fighter powered by the geared 200 hp Hispano-Suiza 8B; the resulting Dolphin was a two-bay, single-seat biplane, with the upper wings attached to an open steel cabane frame above the cockpit. To maintain the correct centre of gravity, the lower wings were positioned 13 in forward of the upper wings, creating the Dolphin’s distinctive negative wing stagger; the pilot sat with his head through the frame. This configuration sometimes caused difficulty for novices, who found it difficult to keep the aircraft pointed at the horizon because the nose was not visible from the cockpit.
The cockpit was warm and comfortable, in part because water pipes ran alongside the cockpit walls to the two side-mounted radiator blocks. A pair of single-panel shutters, one in front of each radiator core and operated by the pilot, allowed the engine temperature to be controlled; the first Dolphin prototype was powered by a geared 150 hp Hispano-Suiza 8B-series V-8 engine and featured a deep "car-type" frontal radiator. Test pilot Harry Hawker carried out the maiden flight on 23 May 1917. In early June, the prototype was sent to Martlesham Heath for official trials. On 13 June, the prototype flew to Saint-Omer, where the aircraft's unfamiliar shape prompted Allied anti-aircraft gunners to fire on it. Several pilots, including Billy Bishop of No. 60 Squadron, evaluated the prototype and reported favourably. On 28 June 1917, the Ministry of Munitions ordered 200 Dolphins from Co.. Shortly afterwards, the Ministry ordered a further 500 aircraft from Sopwith and 200 aircraft from Darracq Motor Engineering Company.
The second prototype introduced upper wing radiators in lieu of the frontal radiator and large cut-outs in the lower wing roots, to improve the pilot's downward vision. These features were omitted from subsequent aircraft; the third and fourth prototypes incorporated numerous modifications to the radiator, upper fuselage decking and rudder. The fourth prototype was selected as the production standard. Series production commenced with 121 Dolphins delivered by the end of the year; the Dolphin Mk I became operational with 19 and 79 Squadrons in February 1918 and 87 and 23 Squadrons in March. The Dolphin’s debut was marred by several incidents in which British and Belgian pilots attacked the new aircraft, mistaking it for a German type. For the next few weeks, Dolphin pilots accordingly exercised caution near other Allied aircraft. New pilots voiced concern over the Dolphin’s wing arrangement, fearing serious injury to the head and neck in the event of a crash. Early aircraft were fitted with improvised crash pylons consisting of steel tubes over the cockpit to protect the pilot's head.
Experience showed that fears of pilot injury from overturning were unfounded. Crash pylons disappeared from front line aircraft, though they were retained on trainers. Night-flying Dolphins of 141 Squadron, a Home Defence unit, had metal loops fitted above the inner set of interplane struts. Despite early problems, the Dolphin proved successful and popular with pilots; the aircraft was fast and easy to fly, though a sharp stall was noted. In his memoir Sagittarius Rising, Cecil Lewis described a mock dogfight between his S. E.5 and a Dolphin: "The Dolphin had a better performance than I realised. He was up on my tail in a flash. I half rolled out of the way, he was still there. I sat in a tight climbing spiral, he sat in a tighter one. I tried to climb above him, he climbed faster; every dodge I have learned I tried on him. Accordingly, the Dolphin was sent against German reconnaissance aircraft such as the Rumpler C. VII, which operated at altitudes above 20,000 ft. No. 87 Squadron explored the use of equipment to supply pilots with oxygen at high altitude but the experiment was abandoned after trials showed that the oxygen tanks exploded when struck by gunfire.
Four Royal Air Force squadrons operated the Dolphin as their primary equipment, while other squadrons used it in small numbers. No. 1 Squadron, a Canadian Air Force unit, formed with Dolphins at RAF Upper Heyford. The unit became operational shortly after the Armistice. In October 1918, the American Expeditionary Force purchased five standard Mk Is for evaluation, sending four back to the United States; the highest-scoring Dolphin unit was No. 87 Squadron. Pilots of No. 79 Squadron shot down 64 enemy aircraft in the eight and a half months that the aircraft was at the front. The top two Dolphin aces served in No. 79 Squadron. Captain Francis W. Gillet, an American, scored 20 victories in the type. Lieutenant Ronald Bannerman, a New Zealander, scored 17 victories; the third-ranking Dolphin ace was Captain Arthur Vigers of 87 Squadron, who attained all 14 of his victories in the same aircraft, serial no. C4159. Another notable ace, Major Albert Desbrisay Carter of 19 Squadron, obtained 13 of his 29 confirmed victories in the Dolphin.
Captain Henry Biziou scored eight victories in the type
Royal Air Force Station Watton or more RAF Watton is a former Royal Air Force station located 9 mi southwest of East Dereham, England. Opened in 1937 it was used by both the Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Forces during the Second World War. During the war it was used as a bomber airfield, being the home of RAF Bomber Command squadrons until being used by the United States Army Air Forces Eighth Air Force as a major overhaul depot for Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers and as a weather reconnaissance base. After the war, it was returned to RAF use until being turned over to the British Army in the early 1990s, it was closed put up for sale. RAF Watton was a permanent RAF station built by John Laing & Son in 1937, first used as a light bomber airfield housing for varying periods by RAF Bomber Command; the following squadrons and units were based at Watton at some point during this time: No. 18 Squadron RAF between 21 May 1940 and 26 May 1940. The squadron operated the Bristol Blenheim IV before moving to RAF Gatwick.
No. 21 Squadron RAF from 2 March 1939 with the Blenheim I before upgrading to the Blenheim IV in September 1939. The squadron had detachments at RAF Bassingbourn, RAF Horsham St Faith and RAF Bodney before all of the squadron moved to RAF Lossiemouth on 24 June 1940 however this was not for long as on 30 October 1940 the squadron moved back to Watton and had detachments at RAF Bodney, RAF Manston, RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Luqa; the squadron moved to Luqa on 25 December 1941. No. 34 Squadron RAF was based at Watton between 2 March 1939 and 12 August 1939 with the Blenheim I before leaving for the Far east. No. 82 Squadron RAF between 22 August 1939 and 21 March 1942. The squadron operated the Blenheim I alongside the Mk IV until September 1939 when the Mk I was discontinued and the Mk IV started as the main type, 82 Squadron had detachments at RAF Odiham, RAF Lossiemouth, RAF Tangmere and RAF Luqa; the squadron moved to the Far east. No. 90 Squadron RAF reformed here on 3 May 1941 with the Boeing Fortress I with an detachment at RAF Great Massingham before moving to RAF West Raynham on 15 May 1941.
No. 105 Squadron RAF between 10 July 1940 and 31 October 1940 operating the Blenheim IV before moving to RAF Swanton Morley. No. 17 Advanced Flying Unit until July 1943. In 1943 Watton was turned over to the United States Army Air Forces Eighth Air Force for use as an air depot; the airfield was grass surfaced but, during the American tenure, the airfield had a 2,000 yd long concrete runway constructed. A concrete perimeter track was built and a total of fifty-three hardstandings, of which forty-one were spectacle and twelve of the frying-pan type; the four original C-type hangars, arranged in the usual crescent on the northern side of the airfield, were backed by the permanent buildings of the pre-war RAF camp. Additional hangars were three blister hangars at dispersals; the construction of the airfield necessitated the closure of two public roads. Watton was given USAAF designation Station 376. Under the American tenancy, Watton was expanded to become the 3rd Strategic Air Depot, the major overhaul and repair of the Consolidated B-24 Liberators of the 2nd Air Division.
The air depot complex was adjacent to Watton airfield and built in the village of Griston to the south, bordering the B1077 road. However, the depot was known as Neaton, given USAAF designation Station 505, a village located to the north of Watton town; the 3rd Strategic Air Depot remained operational until the American departure in July 1945. Watton was the home of the 25th Bombardment Group, formed at Watton as the 802nd Reconnaissance Group in February 1944; the unit was renamed the 25th on 9 August 1944. Its operational units were: 652d Bombardment Squadron B-17F/G, B-24J. 653d Bombardment Squadron de Havilland Mosquito Mk XVI. 654th Bombardment Squadron de Havilland Mosquito Mk XVI, North American B-25 Mitchell, Martin B-26G Marauder, Douglas A-26 Invader. The 652d Bomb Squadron originated as a provisional weather reconnaissance unit, formed at RAF St Eval in Cornwall with Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses on 8 September 1943 for conducting meteorological fights over the Atlantic Ocean. In November 1943 the unit moved to RAF Bovingdon after flying 231 weather sorties.
At Bovington, the squadron was reorganized as the 8th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron on 28 March 1944 transferred to Watton on 12 April 1944. The 653d and 654th Bomb Squadrons were established at Watton on 12 April for special weather reconnaissance missions over enemy-occupied territory in advance of bomber formations and visual coverage of target strikes. Pilots for the Mosquitos came from former Lockheed P-38 Lightning pilots of the 50th Fighter Squadron transferred from the 342d Composite Group based in Iceland. From Watton the 25th continued weather flights over the waters adjacent to the British Isles and to the Azores to obtain meteorological data along with night photographic missions to detect enemy activity; the group engaged in electronic-countermeasure missions in which chaff was spread to confuse enemy defences during Allied attacks. The 25th Bomb Group moved to Drew AAF, Florida during July–August 1945 and was inactivated on 8 September 1945; the group flew a total of 3,370 sorties for the loss of 15 aircraft.
After the war, Watton reverted to RAF control on 27 September 1945. It was used by various flying units of RAF Signals Command, No. 199 Squadron RAF, for example being based at Watton in the early 1950s with Mosquito NF36s operating with the Central Signals Establishment, in 1953 116 Squadron operated with Avro Lincolns, a
Royal Air Force Marham, or more RAF Marham, is a Royal Air Force station and military airbase near the village of Marham in the English county of Norfolk, East Anglia. It is home to No. 138 Expeditionary Air Wing and, as such, is one of the RAF's "Main Operating Bases". Since 6 June 2018, it has been home to the fifth generation Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning operated by No. 617 Squadron. No. 207 Squadron will become the second F-35 Lightning squadron to be based at RAF Marham when it reforms on 1 July 2019 as the Operational Conversion Unit. In 2008, RAF Marham was granted the Freedom of the City of Norwich and, as such, is allowed to march through the streets of Norwich with'bayonets fixed'. RAF Marham'took over' the Freedom of the City of Norwich after the former holder, RAF Coltishall, was closed in 2006. Opened in August 1916 close to the former Royal Naval Air Station Narborough RAF Narborough, the Marham base was a military night landing ground on an 80-acre site within the boundary of the present day RAF Marham.
In 1916, the aerodrome was handed over to the Royal Flying Corps. Throughout the First World War, Marham's role was focused on defending Norfolk from Zeppelin raids. No. 51 Squadron became the first RFC unit to be stationed at Marham upon their move in September 1916, flying home defence missions. On the night of 27/28 November 1918, Lt. Gaymer of No. 51 Squadron took off from Marham to intercept Zeppelin L21 however he crashed his Royal Aircraft Factory F. E.2b and was killed after making no contact, L21 was shot down near Lowestoft by Royal Naval Air Service crews. Outside of home defence, Marham acted as a training base for night time flying, with this provided by No. 51 Squadron. No. 191 Training Squadron was formed at Marham on 6 November 1917 to provide training for night time operations, who were based at Marham until Upwood in January 1918. No. 51 Squadron assisted No. 190 Training Squadron and No. 193 Training Squadron, who were based nearby, throughout late 1917 and 1918. To celebrate the Armistice on 11 November 1918, aircraft from Marham bombed Narborough with bags of flour who in return bombed Marham with bags of soot.
No. 51 Squadron departed Marham in May 1919 for Sutton's Farm, with the aerodrome closing shortly after. In the first half of 1935, work started on a new airfield which became active on 1 April 1937, with a resident heavy bomber unit from within No. 3 Group, RAF Bomber Command. The first squadron, No. 38, arrived on 5 May 1937 with Fairey Hendon bombers. In June, No. 115 Squadron re-formed at Marham with the Handley Page Harrow sharing No. 38 Squadron's Hendons until Harrow deliveries were completed in August. No. 38 Squadron received Vickers Wellington Mk. I bombers in December 1938, followed in April 1939 by No. 115 Squadron. 218 squadron moved to Marham on 27 Nov 1940 operating Wellingtons. 218 Squadron began conversion to the Short Stirling in December 1941 and used the type on operations from 1942. De Havilland Mosquitos from No. 105 Squadron arrived in 1941. Marham became part of the Pathfinder force, they tested and proved the Oboe precision bombing aid. During March 1944, RAF Marham closed for the construction of new concrete runways, perimeter track, dispersal areas, marking the end of its wartime operations.
The three new runways were of the familiar wartime triangular pattern, but Marham was one of only two sites built as a heavy bomber airfield with the runways 50% longer than a standard wartime layout and being 200 feet wide rather than the standard 150 feet. From 15 March to 31 October 1946, RAF Marham hosted seven B-17 Flying Fortressess and three modified B-29 Super Fortressess of the United States Army Air Forces during Project "Ruby", a series of trials to test the effectiveness of deep penetration bombs such as the Grand Slam and Disney against "massive reinforced concrete targets". Trials were undertaken by the USAAF B-29s and modified Lancasters of No. XV Squadron by attacking the Nordsee III U-boat pen at Heligoland and the U-boat assembly plant at Farge, Germany. Project "Ruby" ended on 31 October after 22 trials had been completed, with results concluding that none of the bombs tested were capable of penetrating massive reinforced concrete. In the postwar period the airfield was home to RAF units operating the Boeing Washington B.1, the V-bomber force and tankers: Vickers Valiant and Handley Page Victor.
The station is one of the few large enough for the operation of United States Air Force Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, a number of these aircraft visited on exercises in the 1970s and 1980s. During 1980-82, 24 Hardened Aircraft Shelters were constructed to house future strike aircraft, which would see the arrival of the Panavia Tornado GR.1 in 1982. These shelters were equipped with the US Weapon Storage Security System, each able to store 4 WE.177 nuclear bombs. The GR4A was the reconnaissance variant of the Panavia Tornado but the modern reconnaissance equipment used on the Tornado was interchangeable between the GR4 and GR4A variants, as such each squadron used a mix of the two variants. On 26 September 2014, Tornado aircraft begin airstrikes against ISIL as part of Operation Shader; as part of the draw-down of the RAF's Tornado GR4 fleet, No. 12 Squadron disbanded on 14 February 2018. Squadron personnel were reassigned to Marham's other Tornado squadro
Royal Air Force Ridgewell or more RAF Ridgewell is a former Royal Air Force station located 7.5 miles north west of Halstead, England. During the Second World War, the airfield was used by the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Forces Eighth Air Force. RAF Ridgewell was an early example of stations completed to Class A heavy bomber airfield design for the RAF, had three intersecting runways of 6,500 ft each in length, thirty-six hardstands, two T-2 hangars and accommodation for 2,900 men in temporary buildings; the airfield was opened in December 1942 and was first used by No. 90 Squadron of RAF Bomber Command, equipped with Short Stirling Bombers until May 1943, the station being at that time a satellite of RAF Stradishall. RAF Ridgewell was the only long-term heavy bomber airfield of the Eighth Air Force in Essex. For United States Army Air Forces use, the number of hardstandings was increased to the fifty required by a US bomb group; the station was part of the 1st Combat Wing establishment of the 1st Division and was the furthest east of its thirteen heavy bomber stations.
It was assigned USAAF designation Station 167, station code "RD". From 30 June 1943 the airfield was used by the USAAF 381st Bombardment Group, arriving from Pueblo AAB, Colorado, its tail code was Triangle-L. The 381st Bomb Group consisted of the following operational squadrons and fuselage codes: 532nd Bombardment Squadron 533nd Bombardment Squadron 534th Bombardment Squadron 535th Bombardment Squadron After V-E Day, the 381st Bomb Group returned to Sioux Falls AAF, South Dakota in July 1945 and was inactivated on 28 August. After the war, RAF Ridgewell was used for bomb storage from 15 July 1945 to 31 March 1957, it was disposed of and sold. The United States Air Force retained the old aircraft hangars which were used by units from nearby RAF Wethersfield and RAF Alconbury for storage until both airfields were closed in the early 1990s. With the end of military control, the majority of the airfield was returned to agriculture, with the buildings and control tower being torn down; the concrete runways and hardstands were removed for hardcore, although much of the perimeter track was reused for country roads, albeit at a reduced width.
Part of the airfield has been purchased by the Essex gliding club and is their home location for gliding throughout the summer months. There are several memorials to the men of Ridgewell. One is dedicated to the men of RAF 90 Squadron, while a second is dedicated to the USAAF 381st Bombardment Group. Both are located on the site of the USAAF airfield hospital, where a small museum is located. A further memorial commemorates those who lost their lives in a bomb loading accident on 23 June 1943. Constructed in October 2014, the memorial is located close to the site of the explosion next to RAF Ridgewell's former perimeter track at Ovington. List of former Royal Air Force stations This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/. Comer, John. Combat Crew: The true story of one man's part in World War II's allied bomber offensive. Time Warner Paperbacks, 2003. ISBN 0-7515-0796-2 Freeman, R. Airfields of the Eighth - Now. After the Battle.
London, UK: Battle of Britain International Ltd. 2001. ISBN 0-9009-13-09-6. Freeman, Roger A; the Mighty Eighth The Colour Record. Cassell & Co. ISBN 0-304-35708-1 Maurer, M. Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. USAF Historical Division. Washington D. C. USA: Zenger Publishing Co. Inc, 1980. ISBN 0-89201-092-4. Www.controltowers.co.uk Ridgewell mighty8thaf.preller.us Ridgewell USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to present Ridgewell Airfield Commemorative Association Ridgewell Airfield Commemorative Museum 381st Bomb Group Website RAF Ridgewell 70th Anniversary Twitter Timeline
The Short Stirling was a British four-engined heavy bomber of the Second World War. It has the distinction of being the first four-engined bomber to be introduced into service with the Royal Air Force; the Stirling was designed during the late 1930s by Short Brothers to conform with the requirements laid out in Air Ministry Specification B.12/36. Prior to this, the RAF had been interested in developing capable twin-engined bombers but had been persuaded to investigate a prospective four-engined bomber as a result of promising foreign developments in the field. Out of the submissions made to the specification, Supermarine proposed the Type 317, viewed as the favourite, while Short's submission, named the S.29, was selected as an alternative. When the preferred Type 317 had to be abandoned, the S.29, which received the name Stirling, proceeded to production. During early 1941, the Stirling entered squadron service. During its use as a bomber, pilots praised the type for its ability to out-turn enemy night fighters and its favourable handling characteristics, while the altitude ceiling was a subject of criticism.
The Stirling had a brief operational career as a bomber before being relegated to second line duties from late 1943. This was due to the increasing availability of the more capable Handley Page Halifax and Avro Lancaster, which took over the strategic bombing of Germany. Decisions by the Air Ministry on certain performance requirements, such as to restrict the wingspan of the aircraft to 100 feet, had played a role in limiting the Stirling's performance. During its service, the Stirling was used for mining German ports. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the type was withdrawn from RAF service, having been replaced in the transport role by the Avro York, a derivative of the Lancaster that had displaced it from the bomber role. A handful of ex-military Stirlings were rebuilt for the civil market. In the 1930s, the Royal Air Force was interested in twin-engine bombers; these designs put limited demands on engine production and maintenance, both of which were stretched with the introduction of so many new types into service.
Power limitations were so serious that the British invested in the development of huge engines in the 2,000 horsepower class in order to improve performance. During the late 1930s, none of these were ready for production. Both the United States and the Soviet Union were pursuing the development of bombers powered by arrangements of four smaller engines, the results of these projects proved to possess favourable characteristics such as excellent range and fair lifting capacity. Accordingly, in 1936, the RAF decided to investigate the feasibility of the four-engined bomber; the British Air Ministry published Specification B.12/36, which called for a high-speed, long-range four-engined strategic bomber aircraft, that would be capable of being designed and constructed at speed. Amongst the several requirements specified, the bomb load was to be a maximum of 14,000 lb carried to a range of 2,000 miles or a lesser payload of 8,000 lb to 3,000 miles, it was to have a crew of six and was to have a normal all-up weight of 48,000lb, while a maximum overload weight of 65,000lb was envisioned.
The aircraft would have to be capable of cruising at speeds of 230 mph or greater while flying at 15,000 ft, while possessing three individual gun turrets for self-defence. Additionally, the prospective aircraft should be able to be used as a troop transport for 24 soldiers, be able to use catapult assistance for take off; the concept was that the aircraft would fly troops to far corners of the British Empire and support them with bombing. To help with this task as well as ease production, it needed to be able to be broken down into parts, for transport by train. Since it could be operating from limited "back country" airfields, it needed to lift off from a 500 ft runway and be able to clear 50 ft trees at the end, a specification most small aircraft would have a problem with today. Aviation author Geoffrey Norris observed that the stringent requirements given in the specification for the prospective aircraft to be able to make use of existing infrastructure the specified maximum wingspan of 100 feet, negatively impacted the Stirling's performance, such as its low altitude ceiling and its inability to carry anything larger than 500lb bombs.
Various companies responded including Supermarine and Armstrong Whitworth. Left out of those asked to tender designs, Shorts were included because the company had similar designs in hand while possessing ample design staff and production facilities to fulfil foreseen production commitments. Shorts were producing several four-engined flying boat designs of the required size and created their S.29 proposal by removing the lower deck and boat hull of the S.25 Sunderland. The new S.29 design was otherwise identical to the Sunderland: the wings and controls were the same, construction was identical and it retained the slight upward bend at the rear of the fuselage, intended to keep the Sunderland's tail clear of sea spray. As designed, the S.29 was considered to be capable of favourable high-altitude performance. In October 1936, the S.29 was low down on the short list of designs considered and the Supermarine Type 317 was ordered in p
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the United Kingdom's aerial warfare force. Formed towards the end of the First World War on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world. Following victory over the Central Powers in 1918 the RAF emerged as, at the time, the largest air force in the world. Since its formation, the RAF has taken a significant role in British military history. In particular, it played a large part in the Second World War where it fought its most famous campaign, the Battle of Britain; the RAF's mission is to support the objectives of the British Ministry of Defence, which are to "provide the capabilities needed to ensure the security and defence of the United Kingdom and overseas territories, including against terrorism. The RAF describes its mission statement as "... an agile and capable Air Force that, person for person, is second to none, that makes a decisive air power contribution in support of the UK Defence Mission". The mission statement is supported by the RAF's definition of air power.
Air power is defined as "the ability to project power from the air and space to influence the behaviour of people or the course of events". Today the Royal Air Force maintains an operational fleet of various types of aircraft, described by the RAF as being "leading-edge" in terms of technology; this consists of fixed-wing aircraft, including: fighter and strike aircraft, airborne early warning and control aircraft, ISTAR and SIGINT aircraft, aerial refueling aircraft and strategic and tactical transport aircraft. The majority of the RAF's rotary-wing aircraft form part of the tri-service Joint Helicopter Command in support of ground forces. Most of the RAF's aircraft and personnel are based in the UK, with many others serving on operations or at long-established overseas bases. Although the RAF is the principal British air power arm, the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm and the British Army's Army Air Corps deliver air power, integrated into the maritime and land environments. While the British were not the first to make use of heavier-than-air military aircraft, the RAF is the world's oldest independent air force: that is, the first air force to become independent of army or navy control.
Following publication of the "Smuts report" prepared by Jan Smuts the RAF was founded on 1 April 1918, with headquarters located in the former Hotel Cecil, during the First World War, by the amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. At that time it was the largest air force in the world. After the war, the service was drastically cut and its inter-war years were quiet, with the RAF taking responsibility for the control of Iraq and executing a number of minor actions in other parts of the British Empire; the RAF's naval aviation branch, the Fleet Air Arm, was founded in 1924 but handed over to Admiralty control on 24 May 1939. The RAF developed the doctrine of strategic bombing which led to the construction of long-range bombers and became its main bombing strategy in the Second World War; the RAF underwent rapid expansion prior to and during the Second World War. Under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan of December 1939, the air forces of British Commonwealth countries trained and formed "Article XV squadrons" for service with RAF formations.
Many individual personnel from these countries, exiles from occupied Europe served with RAF squadrons. By the end of the war the Royal Canadian Air Force had contributed more than 30 squadrons to serve in RAF formations approximately a quarter of Bomber Command's personnel were Canadian. Additionally, the Royal Australian Air Force represented around nine percent of all RAF personnel who served in the European and Mediterranean theatres. In the Battle of Britain in 1940, the RAF defended the skies over Britain against the numerically superior German Luftwaffe. In what is the most prolonged and complicated air campaign in history, the Battle of Britain contributed to the delay and subsequent indefinite postponement of Hitler's plans for an invasion of the United Kingdom. In the House of Commons on 20 August, prompted by the ongoing efforts of the RAF, Prime Minister Winston Churchill eloquently made a speech to the nation, where he said "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few".
The largest RAF effort during the war was the strategic bombing campaign against Germany by Bomber Command. While RAF bombing of Germany began immediately upon the outbreak of war, under the leadership of Air Chief Marshal Harris, these attacks became devastating from 1942 onward as new technology and greater numbers of superior aircraft became available; the RAF adopted night-time area bombing on German cities such as Hamburg and Dresden, developed precision bombing techniques for specific operations, such as the "Dambusters" raid by No. 617 Squadron, or the Amiens prison raid known as Operation Jericho. Following victory in the Second World War, the RAF underwent significant re-organisation, as technological advances in air warfare saw the arrival of jet fighters and bombers. During the early stages of the Cold War, one of the first major operations undertaken by the Royal Air Force was in 1948 and the Berlin Airlift, codenamed Operation Plainfire. Between 26 June and the lifting of the Russian blockade of the city on 2 May, the RAF provided 17% of the total supplies delivered du
The United Kingdom the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, sometimes referred to as Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world; the Irish Sea lies between Great Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres, the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world, it is the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017. The UK is constitutional monarchy; the current monarch is Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned since 1952, making her the longest-serving current head of state.
The United Kingdom's capital and largest city is London, a global city and financial centre with an urban area population of 10.3 million. Other major urban areas in the UK include Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire conurbations, Greater Glasgow and the Liverpool Built-up Area; the United Kingdom consists of four constituent countries: England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Their capitals are London, Edinburgh and Belfast, respectively. Apart from England, the countries have their own devolved governments, each with varying powers, but such power is delegated by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which may enact laws unilaterally altering or abolishing devolution; the nearby Isle of Man, Bailiwick of Guernsey and Bailiwick of Jersey are not part of the UK, being Crown dependencies with the British Government responsible for defence and international representation. The medieval conquest and subsequent annexation of Wales by the Kingdom of England, followed by the union between England and Scotland in 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, the union in 1801 of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Five-sixths of Ireland seceded from the UK in 1922, leaving the present formulation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. There are fourteen British Overseas Territories, the remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in the 1920s, encompassed a quarter of the world's land mass and was the largest empire in history. British influence can be observed in the language and political systems of many of its former colonies; the United Kingdom is a developed country and has the world's fifth-largest economy by nominal GDP and ninth-largest economy by purchasing power parity. It has a high-income economy and has a high Human Development Index rating, ranking 14th in the world, it was the world's first industrialised country and the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The UK remains a great power, with considerable economic, military and political influence internationally, it is sixth in military expenditure in the world. It has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946.
It has been a leading member state of the European Union and its predecessor, the European Economic Community, since 1973. The United Kingdom is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G20, NATO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Trade Organization; the 1707 Acts of Union declared that the kingdoms of England and Scotland were "United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain". The term "United Kingdom" has been used as a description for the former kingdom of Great Britain, although its official name from 1707 to 1800 was "Great Britain"; the Acts of Union 1800 united the kingdom of Great Britain and the kingdom of Ireland in 1801, forming the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Following the partition of Ireland and the independence of the Irish Free State in 1922, which left Northern Ireland as the only part of the island of Ireland within the United Kingdom, the name was changed to the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland".
Although the United Kingdom is a sovereign country, Scotland and Northern Ireland are widely referred to as countries. The UK Prime Minister's website has used the phrase "countries within a country" to describe the United Kingdom; some statistical summaries, such as those for the twelve NUTS 1 regions of the United Kingdom refer to Scotland and Northern Ireland as "regions". Northern Ireland is referred to as a "province". With regard to Northern Ireland, the descriptive name used "can be controversial, with the choice revealing one's political preferences"; the term "Great Britain" conventionally refers to the island of Great Britain, or politically to England and Wales in combination. However, it is sometimes used as a loose synonym for the United Kingdom as a whole; the term "Britain" is used both as a synonym for Great Britain, as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Usage is mixed, with the BBC preferring to use Britain as shorthand only for Great Britain and the UK Government, while accepting that both terms refer to the United K