Motto: "Niet zonder arbyt" ("Nothing without labour").
Badge: Three swords in pile, the points upwards, and each enfiled by an astral crown. The three swords in pile denote the warlike activity of the Group. The three astral crowns are symbolically representative of the first three Royal Abbesses of Ely, the daughters of the Christian King Anna (AD 650) of Exning, who gave his life fighting against the Pagan hordes. No. 3 Group's Headquarters were situated near Exning, the old East Anglian capital. (The units of this Group operated from airfields located about Ely. As the Arms of the See of Ely include three crowns, and the number of the Group is three, this number of astral crowns was chosen for the badge.) The old Dutch motto meaning "Nothing without labour" was taken from the house of Cornelius Vermuyden, a Dutch engineer who reclaimed 40,000 acres of local fen. The Dutch motto was adopted to commemorate the fact that most of the Group's operations took its aircraft over Holland on their way to Germany, and also for the help given to RAF aircrews who landed in that country.
Authority: King George VI, August 1947.
No. 3 (Bomber) Group was formed on 1st May 1936, with headquarters at Andover, the HQ moving to Mildenhall, their present location, in January 1937. The Group was equipped with several types of aircraft during its early days-types such as the Virginia, Heyford and Overstrand.
The 10th October 1938 was an important date in the history of No. 3 Group, for it marked the delivery to one of the Group's squadrons of the first Vickers Wellington. It went to No. 99 Squadron, which subsequently became the first to re-arm completely with the Wellington. At the outbreak of war re-equipment of the entire Group with Wellingtons was almost complete, and on 4th September 1939, the second bombing operation of the war was made by some of its Wellingtons against German warships off Brunsbüttel.
On 2nd April 1940, two squadrons were temporarily transferred to Coastal Command and advanced bases in Northern Scotland, and they had hardly settled in before the Germans invaded Denmark and Norway. The squadrons went into action immediately and on 11/12th April one of them (No. 115) became the first RAF unit to bomb deliberately a mainland target (Stavanger/Sola airfield) in World War 2. The remainder of the Group's operational force continued its steadily-increasing bombing offensive. Following the declaration of war by Italy on 10th June 1940, several Wellingtons were detached to an advanced base at Salon in the South of France, to operate against targets in Italy. After two missions, flown in very bad weather and at night, the last detachments (from Nos. 99 and 149 Squadrons) were withdrawn on 17th June 1940, when the complete collapse of French resistance was announced.
Following the fall of France, the war was carried into Germany-and eventually into Italy also-on an ever-increasing scale. Late in 1940 the first of the new four-engined bombers, the Short Stirling, came into service in the Group, being followed in 1942 by the Avro Lancaster.
During 1941 and 1942 many important objectives were bombed, including the German capital, but these raids were insignificant in comparison with the hammer blows being prepared by a Command geared for total war. A milestone in the air war against Germany was reached on 3Oth/31st May 1942, when the first 1,000-bomber raid was made on Cologne.
As a result of experiments made over the Isle of Man, a new technique was adopted in 1942, when a flare force, using radar to ensure accuracy, lit the target for the main force. In August 1942, the Pathfinder Force was formed from squadrons drawn from each of the five operational Bomber Command Groups and now located for purposes of administration on stations in No. 3 Group, but under the operational control of the AOCinC Bomber Command.
On 3rd/4th November 1943, No. 3 Group played a leading part in the first bombing attack in which heavy bombers made use of the radar bombing aid known as G-H. The target was Düsseldorf; bombs were dropped "blind" and good results were obtained. In July and August 1944, aircraft of this Group equipped with G-H maintained an all-weather attack against flying-bomb sites.
Through the D-Day build-up, the liberation of France and conquest of Germany, formations of No. 3 Group attacked railway junctions, marshalling yards, troop concentrations, etc. During the week ending 25th March 1945, Bomber Command made numerous attacks to prepare for the crossing of the Rhine. The final devastating blows before the crossing were delivered on the 23rd in two attacks on the little town of Wesel - which was the objective of the 1st Commando Brigade - the first attack, 100 per cent G-H, being delivered at 1530 hours by 77 Lancasters of No. 3 Group. In the month of March 1945, this Group despatched a record of 2,791 sorties.
On 29th April 1945, 94 sorties were flown on Operation Manna, a supply drop to feed the Dutch people. Between that date and 8th May (VE Day) a further nine Manna operations were flown.
The Victoria Cross was gained on three occasions by Group personnel during the war. A New Zealander, the late Sergeant JA Ward, received the VC for his action on 7/8th July 1941 - climbing out on to the wing of his aircraft to put out a fire while returning from a raid on Germany. The award went also to an Australian, the late Flight Sergeant RH Middleton, for bringing back his bomber from Turin one night in November 1942 after the aircraft had been badly damaged by flak and he had been severely injured. The third Victoria Cross was earned by Flight Sergeant AL Aaron, who, though mortally wounded during a raid on the same target in August 1943, supervised the piloting of his crippled bomber to North Africa by the bomb aimer who then successfully belly-landed the aircraft.
WWII Air Officer's Commanding: