The idea of using an elite corp of crews with high navigational ability evolved from the somewhat limited accuracy of bomber crews during the early years of the war together with the development of more sophisticated and difficult to use electronic navigational aids. Although originally opposed by Arthur Harris, the officer in charge of Bomber Command, hand-picked crews from operational bomber squadrons were transferred to form the Pathfinder Force in August of 1942.
The P.F.F. was commanded by veteran Australian bomber pilot, D.C.T. Bennett, who retained command throughout the war. It began operations within a few hours of its formation and continued its work of leading the main force against the enemy until the bombers' offensive ceased, shortly before V.E. Day.
A variety of techniques for marking targets with green, red, and yellow flares were utilized depending on cloud conditions. Often an initial marking of the target was improved upon or altered as the raid progressed.
The gallantry of the Pathfinder Force is legendary, and its contribution to the war effort immense, perfecting as it did techniques for precision main force bombing. Probably the greatest of many successes was its part in the sustained Battle of the Ruhr.
The PFF flew a total of 50,490 individual sorties against some 3440 targets. The cost in human lives was grievous. At least 3727 members were killed on operations including Nanton native, Glen Ransom, a pilot with 83 Sqd RAF, which served with the Pathfinder Force.