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RAF Second Tactical Air Force

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The RAF's Second Tactical Air Force was one of three tactical air forces within the Royal Air Force during World War II.

It was formed in June 1943 in connection with preparations then in train to invade Europe a year later. It took units from both Fighter Command and Bomber Command in order to form a force capable of supporting the Army in the field. Bomber Command lent No. 2 Group with light bombers and Fighter Command was split up into the Air Defence of Great Britain, retaining fighter units for home defence, and No. 83 Group and No. 84 Group for Second Tactical Air Force.

Its first commander was Air Marshal Sir John d'Albiac, who, on 21 January 1944, was succeeded by the man most associated with Second TAF, Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham. Coningham had great experience of the type of operations required for supporting fast moving ground warfare due to his command of the Desert Air Force in north Africa and Italy. He honed Second TAF into a command up to the challenges presented to it, and incorporated many of the lessons of Italy, including the 'cab rank' system of close air support aircraft usage, into the doctrine of Second TAF.

By this late stage in the war, the Luftwaffe was but a pale shadow of the organisation it had once been. Mostly Second TAF spent its time supporting the British and Canadian forces on the left flank of SHAEF's command. One notable exception was the last great attack of the Luftwaffe, Operation Boddenplatte, mounted on New Year's Day 1945, when Second TAF suffered serious losses on the ground. However, the standard of training of the Luftwaffe pilots was such that many of them were shot down, either by ground fire or Allied fighters, and others simply crashed when they ran out of fuel due to navigation errors.

Second TAF did not last long after the war before redesignation. It was redesignated British Air Forces of Occupation on 15 July 1945, ending an extremely successful war.

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