During the interwar years of the 1920/1930s there was great advancement in aerodynamics and the power and sophistication of aero engines which took away the similarity between British, American, Russian, Italian, Japanese and German aircraft.
Following a few decades of peace but with the dark clouds of war gathering again Britain decided it needed to improve its aerial fighting ability and stand down the aging biplane fighters and bombers. We now needed to take advantage of the improvements made in mono-wing aircraft design by our own innovative engineers and take a look at those of the potential enemy.
As the war progressed, in late 1941, the RAF decided to set up 1426 Flight comprising of captured German aircraft to assist military personnel in recognition, to study the aircraft under operational conditions and to enact mock battles to explore their capabilities against our aircraft. The RAE facilities at Farnborough were utilised for the flight testing of German and Italian aircraft during these early war years.
In slightly over the 3 years the Flight was in existence, maintenance difficulties; due to the lack of spares and technical workshop manual details was a big problem. Tools and equipment had to be modified or specially made from scratch and all engine and airframe spares had to be salvaged from crashed and unserviceable aircraft or manufactured using these parts as templates. They were also faced with assembling aircraft that had never previously been seen in Great Britain and about which little or nothing was known from a maintenance or airframe point of view.
The following then is the brief history of No. 1426 (EAC) Flight, nicknamed the “Rafwaffe”. Many crash-landed airframes were brought to Farnborough for examination, testing and cannibalisation of useable spare parts to keep test aircraft in serviceable condition. The main flight testing work was carried out by the Aerodynamics Flight of the Experimental Flying Department and the Wireless & Electrical Flight (W&EF), the latter responsible for evaluation and examination of radar-equipped aircraft later in the war. The unit was established on the 21st November 1941 at RAF Duxford, and made up of a small group of pilots F/O Forbes, F/O Kinder, P/O Lewendon and F/Sgt Gough who had previously been maintenance test pilots with No. 41 Group RAF. Attached at first to 12 Group and were posted from AFDU (Air Fighting Development Unit) to which they had been attached for a mere eleven days to gain some basic flying experience on German aircraft. Its mission was to demonstrate captured types to Allied personnel and expose them to "the appearance, performance, and even the engine “sound" of hostile types.