THE ROYAL AIR FORCE SERVICING COMMANDO
and
TACTICAL SUPPLY WING ASSOCIATION

Representing a Common Heritage


Royal Air Force Servicing Commandos 1942 to 1946

The National Arboretum Memorial - Alrewas
RAF Servicing Commando Site

National Arboretum plinth

The following inscription is to be seen on the plinth:

THE RAF SERVICING COMMANDOS

On the 22nd January 1942 Lord Louis Mountbatten of Burma, when he was Commodore Combined operations, recommended that a number of Servicing Commandos be created within the R.A.F. In due course 12 units were formed in the United Kingdom, together with a further 3 units in the Middle East Command. They comprised a total of some 2400 Officers, N.C.Os and other ranks, mostly volunteers, and all of them skilled tradesmen capable of working on all types of aircraft to keep them flying under all kinds of conditions.


These Commando Units were trained on similar lines to the Army and Royal Marine Commandos. Their prime purpose was to accompany the invasion forces, either to make enemy airfields serviceable, or to make operational the new airstrips built by the Army Airfield Construction Units. On occasion three or four squadrons of aircraft were kept serviceable for several days until their own ground crews arrive to take over.

A Servicing Commando Unit comprised between 150 and 170 other ranks with two or three Technical Officers, one appointed as Commanding Officer. It would normally be equipped with about 15 three ton trucks, a jeep for the officers and two or more motorcycles. Most of the time the men lived like nomads, sleeping in tents or their own bivouacs, moving often at short notice. Mobility was the order of the day. Units were involved in the major invasion landings, either going in with the initial invasion forces or giving active support in other ways to keep the aircraft flying.

Three small units were also formed in India and trained on Commando lines: these were called Servicing Parties and each comprised one Technical Officer and 30 aircraft tradesmen. These units units were part of the R.A.F. Support Group that was assigned to help Major-General Wingate's Chindit forces involved in Operation Thursday where landing strips were constructed behind Japanese front line troops in Burma to service Allied and U.S.A.A.F. fighter and transport aircraft. After the surrender of the Japanese Forces in August 1945 Units took over Japanese held airfields, assisted in the evacuation of Allied prisoners of war and undertook other peace keeping duties in Java, Thailand and French Indo-China.

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RAF Servicing Commando Units formed in the United Kingdom:

Numbers 3201, 3202, 3203, 3204, 3205, 3206, 3207, 3208, 3209, 3210, 3225, 3226

RAF Servicing Commando Units formed in Middle East Command:

Numbers 3230, 3231, 3232

RAF Servicing Parties formed in India:

Numbers 1, 2, 3

Countries of Service:

North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Normandy, Southern France, Burma, Malaya, Indonesia, Thailand, Indo-China

THE UNITS

 
UNIT
COMMAND
FORMED
TRAINING
OPERATIONS
3201* 3202 3203
Fighter
March 1942
UK
North Africa, Sicily, Italy *Sth France
3225 3226
Army Cooperation
August 1942
UK
Sicily, Italy
3204
Fighter
February 1943
UK
North Africa
3206
Army Cooperation
April 1943
UK
Europe
3205 3207 3209 3210
Fighter
April 1943
UK
Normandy, India, Burma, Indo-China, Malaya, Thailand, Java
3208
Fighter
April 1943
UK
Europe
3230 3231 3232
Middle East
April 1943
Palestine
Sicily, Italy

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Joe Cole Pictures

The six pictures below were all painted by Joe Cole of 3206 SCU and are reproduced by kind permission of Joe's son - also named Joe Cole - who retains copyright.  It is, perhaps, worth noting that the pictures were sketched and painted in the field on active service, not in a comfortable studio after the war!  The pictures are available in print and card form.  Also available is a fascinating book “Road to the Front” which tells of Joe Cole’s experience of war and was published in 1994 to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of D-Day; the book contains over 40 of Joe Cole’s sketches and paintings. 

Thousand bombers coming in on Caen
Lune Morning, Southern England - D-Day June '44
Mud and Typhoons - Volkel, Holland, November 1944
Winter Quarters - Volkel, Holland, November 1944
East of Cruelly.  British infantry resting.  Normandy, June 1944
Rocket Typhoons going in before Caen. Normandy, June 1944

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