The Pathfinders & the World they Knew

Items from the RAF Pathfinders Archive

RAF Wartime Organisation

Image above, Charles Portal in 1947

CHIEF OF AIR STAFF

From 1940 to 1946, Charles Portal was the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), the top man in the RAF and the Secretary of State for Air’s principal adviser. (The Secretary of State for Air was an elected politician; serving as a member of the Cabinet, he was the executive head of the RAF.)

Portal was a hugely influential figure, and can be seen for example standing behind Churchill in this photograph of Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin at Yalta in February 1945.  (Franklin D Roosevelt Library and Museum)

portal and churchill at yalta, February 1945 - website image

Sir Arthur Harris on Charles Portal

Portal had great strength, though he seldom showed it. His intellectual powers were outstanding; nobody could be more lucid; nobody could write a better minute. And he was a fighting man, through and through, in spite of his quiet and modest manner.

Sir Arthur Harris, Bomber Offensive (Collins, London, 1947), p.57

See also the correspondence between Portal and Harris in: The Pathfinders; Controversial Beginnings


RAF Wartime Organisation 

The sheets below were issued by the Directorate of Flying Training, the Air Ministry, in September 1942, the month after the Path Finder Force was formed. These were notes for new cadets, not the seasoned crews who were flying on operations, but they give a very good overview of the way in which the RAF command hierarchy was set up. At the end of the sheets, a note warns that they are for OFFICIAL USE ONLY, and the contents should not be communicated to anyone outside the Service nor taken in the air.

We are most grateful to David Nevans for supplying this material, part of a very extensive series of training notes.

RAF Organisation 1

RAF Organisation 2

RAF Organisation 3 - last page

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