The Path Finder Force was a highly specialised elite group which, from 1942 until 1945, led the bombing operations against Nazi Germany. Our Archive covers the Pathfinders and the world they knew, both during the war and its aftermath.
The Path Finder Force’s motto made its purpose clear: “We Guide to Strike“. 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.
Above: Frank McEgan and crew, 97 Squadron. RPA/H97/Aircrew/McEgan
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.
PFF aircrew were undoubtedly considered to be special. But it is important 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.
The Path Finder Force became 8 Group in January 1943, but continued to be largely known by its old name: see our article WHAT’S IN A NAME?