Lancaster's Of Tiger Force


CANADA’s Contribution to Tiger Force


Updated: June 2008

During the September 1944 Quebec Conference, Winston Churchill proposed that once Germany was defeated and the Allied attention turned towards the defeat of Japan. He proposed to transfer a large portion of Bomber Command or some 500 to 1000 heavy bombers to the Pacific theatre. The proposal was quickly accepted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.


By late 1944, victory was more a matter of time rather than a question of being achieved and the decisions was made on 20 October 1944 to form a very large bomber force code named “Tiger Force”


Initially consisting of twenty-two squadron’s formed into three bomber groups. One Royal Air Force (RAF), one Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and one contain squadrons from the Royal Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) and South African Air Force (SAAF). The force was reduced to ten bomber squadron in two groups consisting of RAF and RCAF squadron’s and was later revised to include only eight squadron’s.


Tiger Force was to the based on Okinawa and would use Avro Lancaster’s, the newly arriving Avro Lincoln’s and Consolidated Liberator’s. Fighter escort duties were to be supplied by US Far East Air Force units and the Australian First Tactical Air Force as well as other Commonwealth units.


Aircraft marking for the Avro Lancaster and Lincoln’s was to be white upper-surfaces with black undersides. All Tiger Force was to be cancelled before being deployed this colour scheme was used on many RAF post-war Lancaster’s and Lincolns.

With the American bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki using Atom Bombs, Japan’s surrender followed shortly afterwards on 2 September 1945. But 5 September 1945 the Canadian Tiger Force Units, who had yet to begin training, received disbandment orders, while the RAF units were to remained on standby until they too received disbandment orders on 31 October 1945.

Tiger Force proposed formation included nine Wings and 22 Squadron’s:

The intended Order of Battle by 15 August 1945 stood as follows:


Air-Sea Rescue Squadron – 10 x Lancaster ASR III + 10 Catalina (not yet established)


Communications Flight: 6 x Auster + 2 x Expediter CI + 1 x Expediter CI (VVIP)


Reserve Force:


No’s 49 Squadron, RAF: 20 Lancaster/Lincoln

No. 189 Squadron, RAF: 20 x Lancaster/Lincoln


No. 5 Group, RAF


Communications Flight: 3 x Auster


No. 551 Wing, RAF (forming Coningsby) to be operational 1 Jan 1946


            No. 83 Squadron, RAF: 20 x  Lancaster BI (FE) / BVI (FE)

            No. 97 Squadron, RAF: 20 x Lancaster BI (FE) / BVI (FE)

            No. 627 Squadron, RAF:  30 x Mosquito B35(PF) (detached to Woodhall Spa)


No. 552 Wing, RAF (forming Metheringham) to be operational 1 Jan 1946


No. 106 Squadron, RAF: 20 x Lancaster BI (FE) / BVI (FE)

            No. 467 Squadron, RAAF: 20 x Lancaster BI (FE) / BVI (FE)

            No. 544 Squadron, RAF: 20 x Mosquito PR (Met) 34 (forming Benson)


No. 553 Wing, RAF (forming East Kirkby) to be deployed in build up 1946


No. 57 Squadron, RAF: 20 x Lincoln BII

No. 460 Squadron, RAAF: 20 x Lincoln BII


No. 554 Wing, RAF (forming Spilsby) to be operational 1 Jan 1946


No. 75 Squadron, RNZAF: 20 x Lancaster BI (FE) / BVI (FE)

No. 207 Squadron, RAF: 20 Lancaster BI (FE) / BVI (FE)


Special Missions Wing, RAF (forming Waddington) to be called forward late 1945


            No. 9 Squadron, RAF: 20 x Lancaster BI (FE) / BI (Special)

            No. 617 Squadron, RAF: 20 x Lancaster BI (FE) / BI (Special


No. 6 Group, RCAF


Communications Flight: 3 x Auster


No. 661 Wing, RCAF (forming Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada) to be operational 1 Jan 1946


            No. 431 Squadron, RCAF: 20 x Lancaster BI (FE) / BVII (FE)

            No. 434 Squadron, RCAF: 20 x Lancaster BI (FE) / BVII (FE)


No. 662 Wing, RCAF (Force build-up at Wing) to be operational not specified


            No. 419 Squadron, RCAF: 20 x Lincoln BII

            No. 428 Squadron, RCAF: 20 x Lincoln BII


No. 663 Wing, RCAF (forming Debert, Nova Scotia, Canada) for deployment early 1946


            No. 420 Squadron, RCAF: 20 x Lincoln BII

            No. 425 Squadron, RCAF: 20 x Lincoln BII


No. 664 Wing, RCAF (forming Scoudouc, New Brunswick, Canada) for deployment early 1946


            No. 405 Squadron, RCAF: 20 x Lincoln BII

            No. 408 Squadron, RCAF: 20 x Lincoln BII



It is interesting to note that this initial list for No. 6 Group, RCAF shows Lancaster’s as Mk. BI (FE) and BVII (FE) and also included Lincoln BII’s. When in fact all units forming in Canada were made up of Lancaster’s that had been flown back to Canada and were in fact Canadian made Lancaster Mk.X. (see below).


CANADA’s Lancaster’s contribution to Tiger Force


The Canadian group, contained No’s 661, 662, 663 and 663 (Heavy Bomber) Wings and was to be equipped with aircraft and personnel coming directly from squadron’s already operating in England within No. 6 Group, RCAF.


As soon as formation orders had been issued, the Canadian squadrons were re-equipped with Canadian built Lancaster Mk.X’s from the FM and KB serial number series. These aircraft, which had been built at the Victory Aircraft Production in Malton, Ontario, had been steadily arriving in England since mid 1944; and would allow all of the squadron’s to operate the same Lancaster variant.


The Wings formations were as follows:


No. 661 Wing, RCAF stationed at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada


No. 419 Squadron, RCAF


FM126 (spare), FM128 (spare), FM136*, FM140*,

KB721 (spare), KB748, KB722, KB783, KB839, KB841, KB851, KB854, KB857, KB860, KB881, KB892,


* = aircraft returned to Canada too late to be assigned.


No. 428 Squadron, RCAF





KB739, KB744, KB747, KB757, KB771, KB794, KB820, KB838, KB843, KB867, KB878, KB889, KB891,


No. 662 Wing, RCAF stationed at Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada


No. 431 Squadron, RCAF




KB733, KB774, KB796, KB801, KB802, KB811, KB812, KB819, KB823, KB827, KB837, KB847, KB847, KB856, KB861, KB868, KB872, KB888, KB895,


No. 434 Squadron, RCAF




KB789, KB824, KB825, KB829, KB830, KB833, KB836, KB840, KB844, KB849, KB852, KB873, KB880, KB883, KB893,


No. 663 Wing, RCAF stationed at Debert, Nova Scotia, Canada


No. 420 Squadron, RCAF




KB885, KB886, KB898, KB908, KB909, KB910, KB914, KB923, KB927, KB928, KB933, KB937, KB938, KB941, KB942, KB946,


No. 425 Squadron, RCAF




KB875, KB876, KB899, KB912, KB916, KB917, KB924, KB926, KB930, KB931, KB932, KB934, KB944, KB954, KB962,



No. 664 Wing, RCAF stationed at Greenwood, Nova Scotia, Canada


No. 405 Squadron, RCAF




FM110, FM115, FM122, FM123,


KB943, KB945, KB949, KB950, KB952, KB955, KB956, KB957, KB959, KB961, KB964, KB965, KB966, KB967, KB968, KB973, KB976, KB977, KB991, KB997, KB999


No. 408 Squadron, RCAF




FM120, FM130,


KB877, KB905, KB907, KB913, KB919, KB925, KB929, KB939, KB947, KB948, KB951, KB960, KB963, KB972, KB979, KB994, KB995, KB996, KB998,


In total 141 Lancaster Mk.X’s were allocated to Tiger force, however with the unforeseen disbandment Tiger Force the Canadian Government was faced with an interesting problem. Since the original intention was for the RCAF units to be re-equipped with Canadian built Avro Lincolns as soon as these aircraft could be made available. The Lancaster Mk.X’s, although Canadian made, had been transferred to RAF ownership and for several months after disbandment; Canadian built aircraft were being operated in Canada, by the RCAF, but did not belong to the Canadian government. The problem was resolved by late 1945 or early 1946 when ownership of the Canadian made Lancaster’s which had been returned to Canada were returned to the Canadian Government ownership, Even so the Lancaster maintained their RAF serial numbers.


With no requirement for a heavy bomber force the Canadian Government decided to place hundreds of Lancaster aircraft into long-term storage, in various disused air based in Eastern Canada. However after several years it was realised that the damp weather environment was not best suited for long term aircraft storage.


The decision was then made to relocate the stored Lancaster’s a drier climate which would be more indicative for aircraft storage. This so called ideal location was determined to be in the Western Canada prairie Province Alberta, where several closed British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) stations were allocated for this task. By the late 1940, many of the Lancaster’s had been flown out to Alberta and were to remain there until the early 1950’s


They force would likely have remained in storage, awaiting their final date to be scrapped, if increasing international tensions between the East and West had not reached point where the Canadian Government ordered the RCAF to activate seventy Lancaster’s and modify them for a variety of roles including Maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare.


Canadian Lancaster’s were also to be modified by the Canadian Government for Aerial Reconnaissance, Air-Sea Rescue, Navigational Training, Photo-Reconnaissance and civilian transport duties the later as Avro Lancastrians.