PFF – Formation

The Pathfinder Force officially came into being on 15th August 1942, after some weeks spent in behind the scenes manoeuvring. It was set up in direct response to the very poor accuracy being achieved on bombing raids, which was threatening the entire bomber offensive.

Harris, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Bomber Command, had been strongly opposed to the setting up of a separate elite target-marking force, believing this would leave to rivalry and jealousy within the non-Pathfinder squadrons (known as Main Force) who would inevitably resent having their best crews taken away from them. Harris wrote in his book, Bomber Offensive:

“I was over-ruled by the Air Ministry. In other circumstances I should not have accepted the position, but we were now faced with the fact that Gee had failed as a bombing aid and that the new radar aids, Oboe and H2S […] were not now to be forthcoming until the end of the year. For the time being it was essential to improve our methods of finding the target visually and marking it, and this seemed to require the whole time activities of a specialised force.”

Though he had argued strongly against the need for such a specialised force, Harris was shrewd enough to know that once he had conceded the point to his superiors, he would be able to set up the new force as he chose. It was he who insisted on its name and secured authority for the Pathfinder eagle, the small golden badge which was to mark the crews out from Main Force. It was also he who insisted upon the appointment of Don Bennett as the force’s new commander.

LOVE, FELLOWSHIP, AND LOSS: RAF Bomber Command Aircrew, Their Families, and Their Friends