Military Archive Research
by Dr. Stuart C Blank
Member of the Orders and Medals Research Society (OMRS)
Member of the Royal Air Force Historical Society (RAFHS)
Member of the Naval Historical Collectors and Research Association (NHCRA)
Member of the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS)
Member of the International Bank Note Society (IBNS)
Member of the International Bond and Share Society (IBSS)




Review of
Combat Codes – A Full Explanation and Listing of British, Commonwealth and Allied Air Force Unit Codes Since 1938
By Vic Flintham and Andrew Thomas
Pen and Sword Publishing (
ISBN 9781844156917


The codes used on RAF aircraft in World War 2 are well known and present the most famous insignia of our Air Force. After the RAF roundel they are the most synonymous badges of the wartime RAF. These codes were introduced in order to confuse the enemy and as an aid to fellow aircrew so that they could identify fellow squadron members and allies in the heat of battle. They were based on a two-letter code representing the squadron and a single letter (usually before and after the RAF roundel respectively) denoting the aircraft of a specific squadron.

As the Second World War progressed the system was expanded to incorporate numeral. It was also applied to USAAF and other Allied units. Often when conducting research into RAF aircraft one comes across these codes in period photographs. However without a guide book such as this the squadron to which the aircraft belonged would be a mystery. This marvellous publication relates the codes to squadrons aiding research into the operational aspects of the RAF.

The authors have conducted an outstanding piece of detective work as the original top-secret official references to the coding system were destroyed. Given this, one can only marvel at the quality of their research. The book is aimed for a wide audience of enthusiasts, aviation / military historians, researchers, modellers and genealogists. There are specific boundaries to the work and they are the codes used by the RAF and Allied Units from just before the start of World War 2 and until its end. American codes for European operations for 1942 to 1945 are included and some post-WW2 codes used by the RAF are also listed.

The book is lavishly illustrated and many examples of codes are given. There are extensive listings and they are cross referenced by both squadron number and code. Codes for Royal Australian Air Force, Royal Canadian Air Force, the Indian Air Force, South African Air Force and the Royal Egyptian Air Force are given. There are also the codes for the 2nd Tactical Air Force in Germany 1952-54 and the RAF Single letter codes since 1970.

One cannot praise the authors of this work sufficiently for their efforts in researching this publication. Without knowing the Codes used by the RAF and its Allies one cannot usually progress research into an aircraft or squadrons history. If merely a photograph of an aircraft showing its Codes is sourced then this book will help you identify its squadron and thus aid research into its operations. If you need to relate Codes to units etc then this is the book for you.

March 2011