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.

Post-war, after 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.