• Touring the Balkans in WWII with an International Air force.

    From Geoffrey Sinclair@21:1/5 to All on Tue May 16 13:51:00 2017
    The Balkan Air Force was an RAF controlled formation tasked with
    supporting the resistance movements in the Balkans and control
    of the Adriatic Sea. Later on came control of the RAF in Greece
    and its other mission of intervention in the Greek civil war.

    To do this at various times it had flying units from the
    Royal Hellenic Air Force (RHAF),
    Royal Air Force (RAF),
    RAF Polish, Greek and Yugoslav squadrons,
    South Africa Air Force (SAAF),
    Italian Air Force (IAF),
    United States Army Air Force (USAAF) and
    Red Air Force (RAF again).

    Officially the Balkan Air Force only had operational control of
    the Italian, US and Red Air Force units.

    This is an Order of Battle, not a report on operations, mainly drawn
    from one file that has reports from 23 dates between 3 July 1944
    and 26 May 1945. Other sources have been consulted as it is clear
    given the multi national nature of the units and the inevitable small
    size units, no one source has an absolute Order of Battle of all the
    flying units of the air force. The main file does contain details of
    airfield defence, supply and radar station units.

    For example one anomaly seems to be 334 (Special Duties)
    Wing Balkan Air Force controlled 624 (Special Duties) squadron
    based in Africa, but the squadron was not part of the Balkan Air
    Force until it was reformed as an Air Sea Rescue unit. One
    source says the Lysander aircraft were separated out into their
    own flight under 334 wing, others that the Lysanders were part
    of the squadrons.

    The 23 dates work out to an average of about 1 every 2 weeks but
    they are not evenly spread, ranging from 2 days to 6 weeks apart
    and unfortunately the 6 week gap is when the first moves to Greece
    occurred. Fortunately flying units sent to the Balkan Air Force
    tended to stay with it.

    Balkan Air Force officially formed on 19 June 1944 at Bari in
    Italy from Air Headquarters "G" force, which controlled 334 Special
    Duties wing and 232 wing with a mixture of light and fighter bomber
    squadrons.

    The Balkan Air Force ended up controlling 5 RAF wings, (designations
    as formed, not what they could later control)
    254 Wing, Bomber, formed 2 Sep 1939 at Khartoum, disbanded 25 Jul 1945
    281 Wing, Fighter, Formed 16 June 1944 at Bari, disbanded 20 Sep 1945
    283 Wing, Transport, formed 5 June 1942 at Asmara
    334 Wing, Special Duties, formed Sep 1943 in UK, disbanded 15 Jan 1946
    337 Wing, Fighter, formed 30 Nov 1943 at Oran, disbanded 15 Jun 1946

    It also controlled for a time in 1944/45 RAF Air Headquarters Greece,
    formed on 1 September 1944, within force 276, for operations in Greece,
    it disbanded on 11 January 1947.

    On 3 July there was 218 wing with 73 and 253 RAF squadrons (Spitfire V)
    and 20 and 101 IAF squadrons (MC202/205), plus 334 wing with 148
    squadron and 1586 (Polish) flights RAF with Halifax, 60th Troop Carrier
    Group USAAF (10, 11, 12, 28 Troop Carrier squadrons), 1 (SM82) and
    88 (C1007) IAF squadrons. The air force also had control over 1 flight
    of 267 Dakota squadron RAF and a forming light bomber wing.

    By 14 July 281 wing had lost 73 RAF and 20 IAF squadrons but gained
    32 and 249 RAF squadrons (Spitfire V) and 155 IAF squadron with
    MC205 while 101 IAF squadron is reported to have only MC202.
    334 wing is unchanged, but 254 wing with 13 RHAF squadron (Baltimore)
    39 RAF squadron (Beaufighter) and 213 RAF squadron (Mustang III) had
    just been activated, the units officially moving to their new airfields in
    mid July. On the way were a SAAF Ventura and Beaufighter squadron
    and an RAF Beaufighter squadron.

    26 July, no changes except another RAF Spitfire squadron had been
    allocated and 283 wing had arrived but not given any air units.

    7 August, an RAF Hurricane IV squadron had been allocated while
    the RAF station at Vis (an island off Yugoslavia) had been placed
    under command.

    14 August, 6 RAF squadron (Hurricane IV) had joined 281 wing,
    one flight of which was at Vis, from now on there will usually be a
    detachment of some aircraft to the base, while 39 SAAF and 227
    RAF Beaufighter squadrons had joined 254 wing.

    21 August 352 (Yugoslav) RAF squadron with Spitfire V had joined
    281 wing, giving it 7 squadrons, while 227 RAF had become 19 SAAF
    squadron. The order of battle makes the first mention of the Balkan
    Air Force communications flight, reported formed on 7 June.

    28 August, no change.

    30 August, major reorganisation. 281 wing, all RAF 6 (Hurricane IV)
    32, 253, 352 (Yugoslav) Spitfire V. 283 wing, 16 and 19 SAAF and
    39 RAF Beaufighter squadrons, 213 RAF Mustang III and 249 RAF
    Spitfire V converting to Mustang III squadrons. 254 wing with 13
    RHAF (Baltimore) and 25 SAAF (Ventura) squadrons. The Italian
    102 and 155 squadrons now under control of the Fighter Liaison
    Section. Only 334 special duties wing remained unchanged, with 148
    squadron and 1586 (Polish) flights RAF with Halifax, 60th Troop Carrier
    Group USAAF (10, 11, 12, 28 Troop Carrier squadrons), 1 (SM82) and
    88 (C1007) IAF squadrons. The air force also had control over 1 flight
    of 267 Dakota squadron RAF

    6 September no change.

    11 September 249 RAF squadron now with Mustang III.

    19 September the ground echelon of 351 (Yugoslav) RAF Hurricane
    IV squadron had arrived to join 281 wing, the 51st Stormo IAF joined
    the Fighter Liaison Section but only with its 10 squadron flying P-39.

    20 September, the aircraft and some of the ground echelons of 335 and
    336 squadrons (both RAF Greek) flying Spitfire V had joined 281 wing,
    along with 73 RAF squadron (Spitfire IX). While 334 wing was joined
    by a Red Air Force group with 12 Yak-9 and 12 Dakotas. Liberators
    have joined Halifaxes in 1586 RAF (Polish) flight and Lysanders
    are mentioned as being part of 148 RAF squadron

    3 October X Air Headquarters had been taken under command. Both
    RAF Greek squadrons had fully arrived, plus the first aircraft for 351 (Yugoslav) RAF squadron. 39 RAF squadron was to change its
    Beaufighters for Marauders and 25 SAAF squadron its Venturas for
    Marauders. 337 wing had come under command and 32 RAF squadron
    (Spitfire V) moved from 281 wing to 337 wing for operation Townbucket.
    the flight of 267 RAF (Dakota) squadron is now under 337 wing not
    Balkan Air Force HQ.

    This is where the 6 week gap in the main file starts, using a listing of
    the allied air forces in the Mediterranean for 31 October means some assumptions on the Italian units,

    So 254 wing, 13 RHAF (Baltimore), 25 SAAF (Ventura rearming with
    Marauder), 28 and 132 IAF (Baltimore) squadrons, 281 wing all RAF,
    6 (Hurricane IV), 73 (Spitfire IX), 253, 335 Greek, 336 Greek (Spitfire
    V, but 253 to rearm with Spitfire VIII and IX), 351 Yugoslav (Hurricane
    IV) and 352 Yugoslav (Spitfire V) squadrons. 283 wing 16 and 19 SAAF
    and 39 RAF (Beaufighter, with 39 to rearm with Marauder), 213 and
    249 RAF (Mustang III) squadrons. 334 wing with 148 (Halifax/Lysander)
    and 301 Polish (ex 1586 flight, Halifax/Liberator) RAF, 60th Troop
    Carrier Group USAAF (10, 11, 12, 28 Troop Carrier squadrons), 1
    (SM82) and 88 (C1007) IAF squadrons, 1 flight of 267 RAF squadron
    (Dakota). The Fighter Liaison Section is all Italian, 51st Stormo with 10
    and 12 (P-39) and 20 (Spitfire V) squadrons plus the independent 102
    (MC202) and 155 (MC205) squadrons. AHQ Greece controls the all
    RAF 337 wing, 32 and 94 (Spitfire V), 108 (Beaufighter night fighter)
    and 221 (Wellington XIII) squadrons, all had arrived in Greece in the 17
    to 23 October period, 32 squadron was to rearm with Spitfire VIII and IX.

    Back to the min file.

    16 November, 13 RHAF from 254 wing and 335 and 336 RAF Greek
    squadrons transferred to 337 wing in Greece. In 334 wing the 60th
    USAAF TC Group was replaced by the 62nd but only its 7 and 51
    squadrons were under Balkan Air force Control, also joining 334 wing
    was 885 squadron USAAF (Fortress/Liberator). In Greece 38 RAF
    (Wellington XIII) had replaced 221 squadron, while a detachment of
    283 RAF (Warwick) squadron had arrived.

    This mid November 1944 Order of Battle remained the essential
    structure until operations wound down in April 1945.

    28 November, 32 and 273 RAF squadrons now have Spitfire VIII and IX.
    The swap of 38 and 221 RAF squadrons in Greece was being reversed
    the Red Air Force group now had only 11 Dakota.

    12 December, 25 SAAF squadron now have Marauder III, 73 RAF
    squadron was still officially part of 281 wing but was mostly in Greece.
    38 RAF squadron was under 337 wing in Greece.

    5 January 1945, the Red Air Force group had no aircraft, it would
    remain an administration party only until returning to the USSR,
    post war.

    19 January 1945, 39 RAF squadron now with Marauder III and in
    254 wing. 73 RAF squadron back in Italy, 38 RAF squadron has
    left the Balkan Air Force.

    254 wing: 25 SAAF, 39 RAF (Marauder III), 28 and 32 squadrons IAF
    (Baltimore V)

    281 wing, all RAF: 6 and 351 Yugoslav squadrons (Hurricane IV),
    73, 253 (Spitfire IX) and 352 Yugoslav squadrons (Spitfire V)

    283 wing: 16 and 19 squadrons SAAF (Beaufighter X), 213 and
    249 squadrons RAF (Mustang III)

    334 wing: 148 (Halifax/Lysander) and 301 Polish (Liberator/Halifax)
    RAF squadrons, 62nd Troop Carrier Group USAAF (but only 7, 51
    Troop Carrier squadrons), 885 squadron USAAF (Fortress/Liberator),
    1 (SM82) and 88 (C1007) IAF squadrons, 1 flight of 267 RAF
    squadron (Dakota).

    Fighter Liaison Section, all IAF squadrons: 102 (MC202), 105
    (MC205), 51st Stormo with 10, 12 (P-39) and 20 (Spitfire V).

    AHQ Greece, 337 wing: 13 RHAF squadron (Baltimore V), plus
    the following RAF squadrons, 32 (Spitfire IX), 94, 335 Greek,
    336 Greek (Spitfire V), 108 RAF (Beaufighter night fighter) and
    221 (Wellington XIII), plus a detachment of 283 (Warwick) squadron.

    7 February one flight of 44 SAAF (Dakota) squadron replaces the
    1 flight of 267 (RAF) squadron in 334 wing. The USAAF 62nd
    Troop Carrier Group leaves, except for 51 squadron.

    So there is a light bomber wing with 2 Marauder and 2 Baltimore
    squadrons, a fighter bomber wing with 2 Hurricane and 3 Spitfire
    squadrons, a strike wing with 2 Beaufighter and 2 Mustang
    squadrons, a special duties wing with 6 squadrons and 1 flight,
    an Italian fighter section with 5 squadrons, and in Greece 1 light
    bomber, 4 fighter, 1 night fighter, 1 anti submarine squadrons and
    a detachment from an Air Sea Rescue squadron.

    24 February, Greece gained detachments of 294 (Wellington XIII)
    and 624 RAF ASR (Walrus) squadron.

    15 March 301 squadron is being transferred to UK, while 108 RAF
    squadron had been transferred from Greece to 334 wing in Italy as
    it began disbandment. Part of 252 RAF (Beaufighter) squadron
    has arrived in Greece.

    12 April 885 and 51 USAAF squadrons have left, replaced by
    16 Troop Carrier squadron (Dakota). 94 RAF squadron in
    Greece is disbanding, leaving the force at 4 squadrons plus
    detachments. 281 wing with 5 squadrons has moved to Prkos
    in Yugoslavia, leaving 17 squadrons and 1 flight in Italy.

    As of 10 May the draw down is mainly reflected in a shuffle of
    squadrons between wings, to make them pure fighter or bomber
    plus the beginning of the withdrawal of the Air Sea Rescue and
    Anti Submarine detachments.

    In Yugoslavia there is the all RAF force 6 and 352 Yugoslav
    (Hurricane IV), 73, 253 and 352 Yugoslav (Spitfire) and
    213 and 249 Mustang III squadrons under 281 wing..

    In Italy 16 and 19 SAAF (Beaufighter) 25 SAAF and 39 RAF
    (Marauder), 28 and 132 IAF (Baltimore) now make up 254
    wing, 334 wing is 148 RAF (Halifax), 1 (SM82) and 88 (C1007)
    IAF squadrons, the all IAF Fighter Liaison Section consists of
    51st Stormo with 10 and 12 (P-39) and 20 (Spitfire V) squadrons
    plus the independent 102 (MC202) and 155 (MC205) squadrons.

    Greece has 337 wing with 4 squadrons, 13 RHAF, 252 RAF
    and 335 (Greek) and 336 (Greek).], plus detachments.

    The Red Air Force unit is reported as still present.

    Geoffrey Sinclair
    Remove the nb for email.

    --- SoupGate-Win32 v1.05
    * Origin: fsxNet Usenet Gateway (21:1/5)
  • From Rich Rostrom@21:1/5 to Geoffrey Sinclair on Tue May 16 15:49:47 2017
    "Geoffrey Sinclair" <gsinclairnb@froggy.com.au> wrote:

    20 September... 334 wing was joined
    by a Red Air Force group with 12 Yak-9 and 12 Dakotas.

    5 January 1945, the Red Air Force group had no aircraft, it would
    remain an administration party only until returning to the USSR,
    post war.

    !?!?!?!??!!!

    This is the first I have ever heard of any Soviet military
    unit operating outside the Soviet theater of operations.

    OK, there were Soviet troops in Iran, but they were under
    direct Soviet control, an extension of Soviet operations
    across the Soviet border.

    This was a detachment of Soviet personnel (and equipment!)
    to an area completely separate from other Soviet operations
    and under non-Soviet command.

    Wiki mentions this group in "Balkan Air Force", with a link
    to _Royal Air Force 1939-1945: Volume III: The Fight is Won_,
    CHAPTER XI "The Balkans and the Middle East" http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/UN/UK/UK-RAF-III/UK-RAF-III-11.html
    which confirms the story. (It only says "Yak fighters", though.
    Is there another source which specifies Yak-9s? If so I will
    add that detail to Wiki.)

    I don't suppose it's possible to find out now, all the
    participants having died off, but it would be interesting
    to know the conditions under which the Soviet personnel
    lived. Were they kept segregated from any contact with other
    Allied personnel? What did the other personnel observe or
    think about the Soviets?

    And why did the Soviets bring their own fighters? The Red
    Air Force operated several American and British types,
    including Hurricane, Spitfire, P-40, P-39, and P-63.
    --
    The real Velvet Revolution - and the would-be hijacker.

    http://originalvelvetrevolution.com

    --- SoupGate-Win32 v1.05
    * Origin: fsxNet Usenet Gateway (21:1/5)
  • From Geoffrey Sinclair@21:1/5 to All on Thu May 18 13:35:00 2017
    "Rich Rostrom" <rrostrom@comcast.net> wrote in message news:rrostrom-08E093.14470516052017@news.eternal-september.org...
    "Geoffrey Sinclair" <gsinclairnb@froggy.com.au> wrote:

    20 September... 334 wing was joined
    by a Red Air Force group with 12 Yak-9 and 12 Dakotas.

    5 January 1945, the Red Air Force group had no aircraft, it would
    remain an administration party only until returning to the USSR,
    post war.

    Wiki mentions this group in "Balkan Air Force", with a link
    to _Royal Air Force 1939-1945: Volume III: The Fight is Won_,
    CHAPTER XI "The Balkans and the Middle East" http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/UN/UK/UK-RAF-III/UK-RAF-III-11.html
    which confirms the story. (It only says "Yak fighters", though.
    Is there another source which specifies Yak-9s? If so I will
    add that detail to Wiki.)

    Australian Archives, actually Australian War Memorial,
    Series AWM54 control 81/4/178 barcode 456700. The
    Australian system is the archives add the series and
    barcode, the control is the designation of the file used
    by the original agency.

    Though I suspect Wiki prefers to reference published
    sources, few people have easy access to or interest
    in the unpublished archives

    Described as 12 C-47 and 12 Yak mark IX, with the
    possibility the C-47 were the Soviet Li-2 version.

    I don't suppose it's possible to find out now, all the
    participants having died off, but it would be interesting
    to know the conditions under which the Soviet personnel
    lived. Were they kept segregated from any contact with other
    Allied personnel? What did the other personnel observe or
    think about the Soviets?

    There are probably official and unofficial reports, but like
    the Balkan Air Force itself, not widely known.

    And why did the Soviets bring their own fighters? The Red
    Air Force operated several American and British types,
    including Hurricane, Spitfire, P-40, P-39, and P-63.

    To protect their transports dropping supplies to their
    fellow communists. And there is a good chance they
    were Yak 9DD the long range version which could
    fly from Ukraine to Italy.

    From The History of Soviet Aircraft from 1918 by Vaclav
    Nemecek, English language version, 1986, it has this to say,

    "A few Yak-9DDs were used in the summer of 1944 for a
    special mission. At that time some heavy American day
    bombers were unable to return to their bases after an
    attack on Germany and landed at Russian airfields. After
    refuelling they then returned to their airfields in Italy.
    Yak-9DDs provided the Boeing B-17 and Consolidated
    B-24 with escort protection, staying at the airfield at Bari,
    Italy where they assisted Yugoslav Partisans under Josip
    Broz-tito."

    Geoffrey Sinclair
    Remove the nb for email.

    --- SoupGate-Win32 v1.05
    * Origin: fsxNet Usenet Gateway (21:1/5)
  • From Rich Rostrom@21:1/5 to Geoffrey Sinclair on Sat May 20 00:30:18 2017
    "Geoffrey Sinclair" <gsinclairnb@froggy.com.au> wrote:

    And why did the Soviets bring their own fighters? The Red
    Air Force operated several American and British types,
    including Hurricane, Spitfire, P-40, P-39, and P-63.

    To protect their transports dropping supplies to their
    fellow communists. And there is a good chance they
    were Yak 9DD the long range version which could
    fly from Ukraine to Italy.

    Ahhh...

    I could see what the Soviets wanted the fighters
    _for_; what I wondered was why they brought fighters
    from the USSR. It would seem easier to use some US/UK
    fighters, which they were quite familiar with, and
    which would be available in Italy, and much easier
    to supply and maintain.

    But the _range_ factor explains it!

    Thank you!
    --
    The real Velvet Revolution - and the would-be hijacker.

    http://originalvelvetrevolution.com

    --- SoupGate-Win32 v1.05
    * Origin: fsxNet Usenet Gateway (21:1/5)