Touring the Balkans in WWII with an International Air force.

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Geoffrey Sinclair

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May 16, 2017, 1:51:02 PM5/16/17
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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.

Rich Rostrom

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May 16, 2017, 3:49:49 PM5/16/17
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"Geoffrey Sinclair" <gsinc...@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

Geoffrey Sinclair

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May 18, 2017, 1:35:02 PM5/18/17
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"Rich Rostrom" <rros...@comcast.net> wrote in message
news:rrostrom-08E093...@news.eternal-september.org...
> "Geoffrey Sinclair" <gsinc...@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."

Rich Rostrom

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May 20, 2017, 12:30:22 AM5/20/17
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"Geoffrey Sinclair" <gsinc...@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!
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