No.1426 Flight was formed on the 21st November 1941 with the task of demonstrating captured enemy aircraft to RAF and allied personnel with the aim of exposing them to their appearance, performance, and even their sound. Based at RAF Duxford all the aircrew involved in flying the captured types had engineering backgrounds so as to help with evaluation of the aircraft. The unit’s first aircraft was a Heinkel He.111 that was shot down over the UK in 1940. Landing relatively intact it was repaired and flown by the unit. Other aircraft included a Bf109 and a Ju88.
Over the course of the war the Flight acquired aircraft through numerous means. Most were the result of the aircraft being damaged in combat with Allied pilots. Some were captured on the ground during the fighting in North Africa and Italy while a handful were effectively “delivered” to the RAF when their pilots landed in the UK through navigational error and even the odd defector.
Over the course of the Flight’s wartime career numerous German types were evaluated and then lessons given to frontline crews. With the Americans entering the war in December 1941 the Flight began working closely with American evaluation units, even exchanging aircraft as well as experience. In early 1943 the Flight relocated to RAF Collyweston. At the time the US Amy Air Force was embroiled in a bitter fight with the Germans during their daylight raids and so the Flight took their aircraft on a tour of USAAF bases in England for the American crews to gain experience fighting some of the German fighters the Flight operated. One of the Flight’s Ju88s actually appeared in a wartime propaganda movie.
The Flight moved one more time in 1945, to RAF Tangmere, before being disbanded in December 1945. During the course of its existence the unit became nicknamed the “Rafwaffe” by the frontline squadrons. As well as German aircraft the unit also acquired an Italian CR.42 biplane fighter.