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“Description of Pathfinder force”

About a year ago RAF pilots began to appear wearing the gilt eagle of the officers’ cap badge on the flap of the left breast pocket, under their flying wings. The first wearer was Air Commodore D C T Bennett, DSO, former Imperial Airways Pilot who established the world distance record of 6,045 miles from Dundee to South Africa in the Mayo Composite seaplane. From such signs at home and from statements made by the Germans and information trickling from Germany through neutral sources it became known that Bomber Command was in process of evolving a new technique to improve the accuracy of their night attacks.

Veteran Crews.
This was the badge of a specially selected corps within Bomber Command – the Pathfinders. They were the highly-skilled and veteran bomber crews who could locate targets, even under difficult conditions, and mark them for the stream of bombers which followed them into the target area. Now these gilt “Pathfinder” wings are to be seen on the breast pockets of many of Bomber Command personnel for they are officially recognised as the badge for all crew members of the bombers which have the most hazardous job of leading and directing the night attacks. During the past year the technique of the Pathfinders has been constantly improved: it is still being bettered so that the maximum number of heavy bombers may be able to drop the greatest load of bombs on a given target area in the shortest possible time. Because the Germans have learned to their cost much of this technique, some of it may be discussed. In the early days of bombing Germany the target area was often missed by bomber crews owing to weather making navigation difficult and cloud obscuring the target. It was natural that the idea should be born of a leader for the bomber procession.

In Any Conditions.
First and most important qualification for the Pathfinder crew was that it should be able to find its way under the most difficult conditions to the target. For a start the Pathfinder crews dropped very large incendiary bombs. Next they developed the technique of bombing reportage. Sometimes selected machines stay over the target throughout the raid , taking pictures and compiling a detailed record of its progress. With the advancement of Pathfinder technique has come a parallel improvement in the method of systematically destroying German cities section by section. The Harris method of bomber destruction has now become a fairly exact science – weather permitting.

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