Manchester plane and pilots in airfield

RAF Timeline 1941

Back to 1940


BF110c 3 Jan 1941 - Luftwaffe units transfer to the Mediterranean theatre. Also, Italian Air Force operations against the UK cease.

8 Jan 1941 - RAF Wellingtons, flying from Malta attack the Italian fleet in Naples, badly damaging the battleship Giulio Cesare. This attack underlines the importance of Malta as an offensive base. Two days later, German and Italian aircraft begin a concerted air campaign against the island.

Lancaster1 9 Jan 1941 - The Avro Manchester III makes its first flight equipped with four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines in place of the two Rolls-Royce Vultures used on earlier marks. Ordered into production as the Lancaster, it becomes possibly the most famous RAF bomber of all time, after bearing the brunt of the Bomber Command offensive in Europe.

SpitfireV with bomb 10 Jan 1941 - The RAF begins Circus operations - coordinated bomber and fighter attacks on targets in France. Six Blenheims, escorted by six/nine squadrons of Spitfires and Hurricanes attack supply dumps south of Calais.

10 Jan 1941 - Concerted efforts by Italian and German aircraft begin against shipping heading for Malta.

SM 79 Sparviero 21 Jan 1941 - The Desert Air Force takes part in the Allied attack on Tobruk. Overwhelmed by the onslaught, the Italian Tenth Army is completely destroyed and the port falls within 48 hours.

1 Feb 1941 - The Air Training Corps constituted by Royal Warrant.

10 Feb 1941 - The RAF makes its first operational drop of airborne forces (Operation Colossus). Six Whitleys of No. 58 Sqn drop 38 men to attack two aqueducts at Treviso in southern Italy.

7 Squadron Stirling 11 Feb 1941 - Three Stirlings of No. 7 Sqn carry out the first RAF four-engined bomber attack against oil depots in Rotterdam.

24 Feb 1941 - Avro Manchester bombers make their operational debut in an attack against German naval targets in Brest harbour.

25 Feb-19 Mar 1941 - Bomber Command begins regular night-time bombing of industrial targets in Germany. The attacks normally consists of around TimeL_1941_Manchester 100 aircraft, including Stirling, Manchester and, from 10 March, Halifax bombers, but have only limited success.

28 Mar 1941 - The first of the RAF's Eagle squadrons, No. 71 Sqn, composed of volunteer American pilots, becomes fully operational.

Halifax1bs 31 Mar 1941 - The German Afrika Korps start an offensive to recapture Tobruk. Because of the need for aircraft on other campaigns (particularly in Greece), only three squadrons of Hurricanes and one of Blenheims remained in defence of the port. Within two weeks, the port was surrounded and Axis forces had crossed the Egyptian border.

1 Apr 1941 - During an attack on Emden in Germany, Wellingtons drop the first 4,000lb (1,814kg) Blockbuster bomb.

Eagle Squadron Pilots 6 Apr 1941 - Six Beaufort torpedo-bombers attack the German cruiser Gneisenau, anchored in Brest harbour. One, piloted by Fg Off Kenneth Campbell, makes a successful attack before being shot down, inflicting serious damage that took six months to repair. For this, Campbell was awarded a posthumous VC. Also on this day, German forces simultaneously invade Yugoslavia and Greece.

15 Apr 1941 - The Admiralty assumes operational control of RAF Coastal Command.

18 Apr 1941 - The Yugoslavian Army capitulates.

Flying Officer Kenneth Campbell 22 Apr 1941 - The evacuation of British and Commonwealth forces from Greece begins as the Greek Army surrenders to the advancing Germans. The next day, RAF Sunderlands are used to evacuate the Greek Government to Crete. Finally, on April 27th, German forces enter Athens.

1 May 1941 - Dissident forces in Iraq, led by Raschid Ali, surround the RAF airfield at Habbaniya and order the RAF to cease flying. Meanwhile in Greece, the evacuation of some 43,000 troops and civilians to Crete is completed. A total of 14 Hurricanes and 7 Royal Navy aircraft are available to defend the island against the enemy onslaught.
Soon, this will link to a separate Battle of Habbaniya timeline.

Sunderland3 10 May 1941 - The German Deputy Fuhrer, Rudolf Hess, flies a Me110 to Scotland in an attempt to personally negotiate a peace settlement with the British. Bad weather forces Hess to bale out of his aircraft over Scotland.

15 May 1941 - The first British jet-powered aircraft, the Gloster E.28/39, takes to the air at RAF Cranwell on its maiden flight. This was not the first jet-powered aircraft to fly, however; that honour fell to the German-built Heinkel He 178 in August 1939.

Rudolf Hess 19 May 1941 - The RAF evacuates the remnants of its forces from Crete to Egypt ahead of the overwhelming German airborne assault which begins the next day.

24 May 1941 - HMS Hood is sunk by the German battleship Bismarck during and engagement near Iceland.

26 May 1941 - Bismarck, attempting to reach Brest for repairs, is spotted by a Catalina of No. 209 Sqn, RAF. Having discovered its location, aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm torpedo and cripple the vessel before she is finally defeated by a Royal Navy battlegroup.

Catalina2 Jun-Jul 1941 - Allied forces invade Syria and the Lebanon to secure them against enemy intervention and the threat this would pose to the Suez Canal.

1 Jun 1941 - No. 120 Sqn, RAF Coastal Command, forms at Nutts Corner, Northern Ireland, with American-built Liberator long-range maritime patrol aircraft. Also, Air Vice-Marshal Arthur Tedder is appointed AOC-in-C of RAF Middle East Command.

Liberator1 12/13 Jun 1941 - Fourteen Beaufighters of Nos. 22 and 42 Sqns depart from their bases in Scotland to locate the German battleship Lutzow which had been sighted off the Norwegian coast by a No. 114 Sqn Blenheim. The vessel was sighted by Flight Sergeant RH Loveitt of No. 42 Sqn, and torpedoed during the night.

14 Jun 1941 - British and Empire desert forces in North Africa launch Operation Battleaxe, an attempt to relieve Tobruk. Despite every available Allied aircraft (105 bombers and 98 fighters) being used in support of ground operations, and the arrival of reinforcements from Egypt, the operation was a failure, and highlighted the need for effective air-ground communication.

Beaufighters in attack 22 Jun 1941 - Germany begins the invasion of Russia. Italy and Rumania declare war on Russia.

July 1941 - Bomber Command mounted major attacks on 16 German industrial towns and cities. Despite over 100 aircraft being dispatched on each occasion, only minor damage was inflicted by the raids - accurate bombing was still a major problem.

4 Jul 1941 - A low-level daylight raid on Bremen, Germany by 15 Blenheims of Nos. 105 and 107 Sqns, results in the award of the Victoria Cross to the formation leader, Wing Commander H I Edwards.

11/12 Aug 1941 - Two Wellingtons of No. 115 Sqn carry out the first operational trial of Bomber Commands new navigational device Gee. The trials were a complete success, and the equipment Wing Commander H I Edwards ordered into full production.

27 Aug 1941 - U-570, A German U-boat in the North Atlantic, surrenders to a Hudson of No. 269 Sqn, Coastal Command. The submarine was unable to dive after being attacked by the aircraft and towed back to the UK by a trawler.

1 Sep 1941 - Nos. 81 and 134 Sqns arrive in Murmansk, Russia. Subsequently formed in to No. 151 Wing, they fly their Hurricanes in defence of the Soviet Naval base from 11 Sep to 18 Oct 1941.

Hudsons 12/13 Oct 1941 - 152 aircraft are des patched to attack Nuremberg, Germany. Due to navigational errors, some crews erroneously attacked villages almost 100 miles away. One aircraft making its first sortie was MacRobert's Reply - a No. 15 Sqn Stirling. The aircraft was donated to the RAF by Lady MacRobert in memory of her three sons all killed on flying duties.

15 Nov 1941 - The de Havilland Mosquito light bomber enters service with No. 105 Sqn at RAF Swanton Morley, Norfolk. However, it was on 31 May 1942 that the Mosquito took part in its first operational raid (Cologne).

105 Squadron Mosquito IV 18 Nov 1941 - Operation Crusader, the second Allied attempt to relieve Tobruk in North Africa begins. This time, with increased air support from the Desert Air Force, the offensive is a success.

29 Nov 1941 - A No. 502 Sqn Whitley makes the first successful attack by a Coastal Command aircraft on a German U-boat. Flying alone, and using ASV radar, the aircraft sinks U-206 in the Bay of Biscay.

ASV Whitley 7 Dec 1941 - Japanese aircraft carriers in the Pacific launch a devastating attack on the US Navy fleet in Pearl Harbour.

Zero 8 Dec 1941 - The USA and Britain declare war on Japan. Japan invades Siam (now Thailand) and launches attacks on Malaya and Singapore. By nightfall, 60 of the 110 British and Australian aircraft defending Malaya and Singapore had been destroyed.

9 Dec 1941 - Japanese aircraft attack Alor Star airfield, Malaya. From the two squadron of Blenheims based there, only one aircraft survives; its pilot, Flt Lt A Flight Lieutenant A S K Scarf S K Scarf single-handedly overcame strong enemy defences to attack Singora airfield in the North. After recovering to Alor Star, Flt Lt Scarf died from his wounds, and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross five years later when the full facts of his heroism were established.

23 Dec 1941 - The Japanese make their first air attack against the Burmese capital, Rangoon.

24 Dec 1941 - The Avro Lancaster enters service with No. 44 Sqn at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire. It isn't until 3 March 1942 that the Lancaster makes its operational debut.

High Lancasters Forward to 1942

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