RAF Advanced Air Striking Force

RAF Advanced Air Striking Force

The RAF Advanced Air Striking Force (AASF) was formed on 24 August 1939 from No. 1 Group. It was dispatched to France to allow its medium and light bombers to come into range of Germany. It was an independent command from the British Expeditionary Force and at first reported directly to the Air Ministry. However this arrangement proved to be inadequate and on 15 January 1940 it was placed under the command of the British Air Forces in France headquarters. That headquarters also took the Air Component of the British Expeditionary Force under its command. Air Vice-Marshal 'Ugly' Barratt commanded the British Air Forces in France.

Action for the AASF came in May 1940. The Germans attacked in the west and the aircraft of the AASF went into battle. It was a disaster, with the aircraft available proving singularly unsuitable for their task against the numerically superior Luftwaffe fighters and highly effective light anti-aircraft units protecting the offensive. The Fairey Battles of the command were the worst off, most being shot down on their first few missions but others such as the Bristol Blenheim were scarcely better. For example, an attack on the bridges at Maastricht in late May cost the AASF 40 out of 71 attacking aircraft. As the German forces advanced, the AASF was forced to retreat further south into France. However, by mid-June it was clear that the end of the Battle of France was fast approaching and the AASF began its retreat from France back to the UK. The headquarters was disbanded on 26 June 1940.

The AASF's only commander was Air Vice-Marshal P H L Playfair. [http://www.rafweb.org/Cmd_O1.htm]

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