Transport Command: History in Focus
This education resource encourages inquiry learning and discussion in the classroom. British Transport Command played a vital support role during World War II and in the post-war decades. Originally civilian pilots were hired to give aid to our defence forces, they later became part of the Royal Australian Air Force. Use this printable postcard to engage your students.
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In 1940, Australian airman Don Bennett was appointed flying superintendent of the Atlantic Ferry Service. The service was a transport organisation which hired civilian pilots to fly newly built military aircraft from the factories of North America to the United Kingdom. Bennett led the first formation flight to make the crossing in July 1940. Soon afterwards the Atlantic Ferry Service was elevated to Command status in the Royal Air Force (RAF).
Ferry Command originally flew only North Atlantic routes delivering larger aircraft equipped with extra fuel tanks to their home commands. In 1941, one Australian pilot and his crew made the demanding 11-hour flight from Newfoundland to England and then returned to Montreal that evening as passengers. Two Atlantic crossings in 26 hours! Sometimes, the flight to deliver an aircraft was followed by a return to North America by ship across dangerous waters patrolled by German U-boats.
In late March 1943, Ferry Command became part of the newly established Transport Command and continued its responsibility for Atlantic ferrying operations. Over the next 12 months, Transport Command expanded its operations from the Americas, West Africa and India and operated throughout the remaining years of the Second World War. Casualty figures are uncertain, but almost 500 Australians were killed serving in Transport Command and units outside the other 3 main RAF Commands – Fighter, Bomber and Coastal.
Transport Command continued to be a vital part of the RAF through the first post-war decades. Its aircraft participated in the Berlin Airlift during 1948–1949, were active during the 1956 Suez Crisis, and evacuated casualties during the Korean War and from Malaya during the Malayan Emergency. During atomic testing in Australia in the 1950s, Transport Command aircraft flew supplies to Woomera, as well as running scheduled routes to military staging posts and bases in the Indian Ocean region, South-east Asia and the Far East.
Transport Command was renamed Air Support Command in 1967 and became part of Strike Command in 1972.
Department of Veterans' Affairs 2021