How to look for records of... Royal Air Force combat reports 1939-1945

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

How many are online?

  • All

What are these records?

These records are Royal Air Force combat reports written during the Second World War. They are the official reports which pilots or air gunners filed after they had encountered enemy aircraft on operational flights.

The reports cover action seen by the squadrons, wings and groups serving with Fighter Command, Bomber Command, Coastal Command and the Fleet Air Arm. Now held at The National Archives in series AIR 50, they include Commonwealth, United States Army Air Force and Allied units based in the United Kingdom during the Second World War.

What information do the records contain?

The records mainly consist of either a ‘personal combat report’ or a ‘fighter command combat report’. They sometimes include correspondence or notes.

The reports record details such as:

  • date and time of the combat
  • squadron of the person submitting the information
  • type and number of enemy aircraft
  • height and general location of where the encounter took place
  • whether the enemy aircraft was considered as a casualty
  • whether there were allied aircraft losses and if so, the type of aircraft

The reports also give a detailed narrative of what actually happened. The pilot or air gunner would describe how many rounds he used, what hits he achieved and if the aircraft was destroyed, damaged or considered as probably destroyed.

How do I search the records?

You can search the surviving records in Discovery, our catalogue, by filling in any or all of the fields below.

You don’t need to complete every field to find a record.

You can search by the name of the author/s of the report, whether the pilot (for fighters) or air gunner (for bombers), but not by the name of any other crew members.

What do the records look like?

Combat report written by Douglas Bader

Combat report written by Douglas Bader

On the right is an extract from a combat report written by Douglas Bader. Bader was given command of No. 242 Squadron in June 1940.

The report is for Sunday 15 September, considered by many as the turning point in the Battle of Britain. It was on this day that Bader’s Duxford Wing, 12 Group, took to the air twice to help 11 Group break up a massed Luftwaffe attack on London.

Why can’t I find what I’m looking for?

This series is incomplete and the record you are searching for might not be in this online collection.

You may find what you are looking for in RAF operations record books and aircrew logs.