The Path Finder Force’s motto made its purpose clear: ‘We Guide To Strike’. It was a highly specialised force, dedicated to target-marking for the rest of Bomber Command which was known as Main Force. Its crews acted not only as target-markers, but as guides and leaders on the long routes to the targets. They were also on rare occasions reallocated to Main Force roles.
Path Finder Force (PFF) aircrew were both representative and unrepresentative of Bomber Command as a whole. They were drawn from the same backgrounds and training camps, and often served with Main Force squadrons before joining the Pathfinders.
Only the best crews were offered the chance of becoming Pathfinders. All PFF aircrew were volunteers and the offer could be refused. Crews did on occasion separate when some of their members did not want to transfer into the PFF.
Once a crew had joined the PFF, their performance was monitored. If they did not make the grade, they were out and back to an ordinary Bomber Command squadron.
Some Pathfinder squadrons were returned to Main Force in April 1944 as part of a reorganisation which was bitterly opposed by Bennett, the commander of the Pathfinders. The reallocated squadrons were two Lancaster squadrons, 83 and 97, and a Mosquito squadron, 627.
PFF aircrew were undoubtedly considered to be special. But the important point to remember is that, although they were an elite, they were drawn from other parts of Bomber Command and occasionally went back to Main Force.
So, although the main focus of the Archive is on the Pathfinders, Bomber Command is the background to everything which the Pathfinders did. Consequently, information about it and Main Force crews forms a vital part of the picture.