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Royal Air Force Codewords During the Second World War

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With the need for secrecy and to confuse opposition forces during wartime essential both sides came up with codenames and words to make it harder for the other side to understand their true intentions. The glossary below covers a number of these used by the RAF during the Second World War which were used for either pilot instruction or for a type of sortie to be undertaken.

The height of aircraft in thousands of feet. Angels one five meant the aircraft were flying at 15,000ft.

Sorties undertaken by aircraft to attack the V-1 flying bomb or doodlebug as it was more commonly known.

Aircraft which has been identified as hostile.

An aircraft yet to be identified as friend or foe.

Lets the pilot know he is to go to full throttle.

Channel Stop
Sortie over the Strait of Dover to hinder any enemy shipping passing through this area.

The height of aircraft if below 1,000ft. Cherubs 2 meant the aircraft were flying at 200ft.

Daytime sorties undertaken by bombers escorted by fighters against close targets. The aim being to keep enemy fighters in the area and keep them busy.

Each aircraft sent a signal from its radio that radar plotters could use to tell were the aircraft was, to remind pilots to turn this on sector controllers would ask “is your Cockerel crowing?”. The pilots nicknamed it 'Pip Squeak'.

Operation undertaken by fighter aircraft to intercept enemy minesweeping aircraft.

Used over the radio-telephone by the Royal Observer Corps when a V-1 flying bomb was spotted.

Sortie performed by fighter aircraft to target enemy fighters trying to take-off or reaching altitude. These forced enemy aircraft to have to protect their airfields instead of targeting bombers. On their way back from these sorties pilots would sometimes seek out targets of opportunity.

Operation in which mines are laid.

Lets the pilot know he is to increase his speed to maximum full speed.

Sorties which saw aircraft maintain a presence over the Western Approaches to help protect Coastal Command aircraft from attack.

Normally carried out at night these were offensive sorties designed to attack enemy aircraft over their own territory.

Jim Crow
Originated during September 1940, it would see the coast patrolled by one or two aircraft, as part of an early warning system, that would see them pass on details about Luftwaffe raids approaching the UK.

These were patrols which would provide protection for fishing boats operating in the North Sea from the Luftwaffe.

Lets the pilot know he is to fly at cruising speed.

Sorties which saw ground targets and the railways attacked.

Name given to operations when propaganda leaflets were dropped by aircraft.

Sorties targeting the German V-weapons, V-1 and V-2, launch sites.

Tells the pilot a location to circle over.

Instructs the pilot to return to the airfield.

Short range sorties to attack ground targets carried out by bombers.

Intended to keep enemy fighters occupied, these sorties would be carried out with no set number of aircraft involved.

Undertaken by either fighters or fighter-bombers these would take place when there was low cloud and poor visibility. The aircraft would fly across the English Channel, drop under the clouds and search for any targets of opportunity.

These were attacks on enemy shipping either at sea or in port at low-level or by dive bombing.

Carried out over occupied Europe these were fighter sweeps designed to keep the Luftwaffe stationed in the area.

Reconnaissance sorties carried out by armed aircraft with orders to attack any targets of opportunity.

Take-off and engage enemy aircraft as quickly as possible

The word used for each operation undertaken by an aircraft. For example if five aircraft fly twice in a day that is ten sorties undertaken by that squadron on that particular day.

Decoy sites which would be set on fire or have lighting to resemble an airfield to fool enemy aircraft into dropping their bombs on these locations instead of the actual target.

When enemy aircraft were spotted this was said over the radio-telephone.

The direction the aircraft should travel using its compass. So when the pilot is told to Vector 220 that means to head 220 degrees.

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