The formation of 8 (PFF) Group was at the request of the Air
Ministry, and initially was comprised of one squadron from each of
the other Bomber Command Groups.The reason behind the formation of
the Pathfinders, as 8 Group was commonly known, was as a direct
result of the Butt Report, and the need highlighted in that report
for a force to be able to mark a target accurately before the
arrival of "Main Force."
Everyone who flew with the Pathfinders volunteered to do so and
joining them entailed flying extra operations. The normal Pathfinder
"tour" was 45 missions opposed to the normal 30 flown by other
squadrons. Those who joined these squadrons were the very best at
their trade, whatever crew position they occupied. The Navigators in
particular were well above average ability for men of their trade,
and together with the blind-bombing aids that came into use by
Bomber Command as the war lengthened, the Pathfinders were able to
mature to became a crack force.
At the outset of 8 Group, squadrons transferred in with whatever
aircraft they were operating, but eventually only the Lancaster and
the Mosquito were used by the Group, and by April of 1945 the Group
consisted of no less than twenty operational squadrons.
Air Vice-Marshall Don Bennet commanded the Pathfinders for the
entire duration of the war, and he oversaw their development.
the defeat of Japan, the need for the Pathfinder Force passed, and
in December 1945 they were disbanded, having flown 51,053 sorties
during the war for the loss of 675 aircraft, and 3,700 members of
aircrew. The Air Officer Commanding remained Air Vice-Marshall Don
Bennet throughout the war, handing over to Air Vice-Marshall Whitley
in May 1945.