Operation Bingham

This was an Allied operation to reinforce the air strength of Air Vice Marshal G. H. Mills’s Balkan Air Force at Zadar in Yugoslavia with No. 281 Wing of the RAF with five (soon seven) squadrons of fighter-bombers to provide air support for the Yugoslav communist forces led by Marshal Josip Broz Tito (5 April 1945).

The Balkan Air Force had been created in Italy on 7 June 1944 to simplify command arrangements for the air support of the Special Operations Executive’s activities in the Balkans. The Desert Air Force had been responsible for those operations up to this time, but its primary task was the support of the formations of Lieutenant General Sir Oliver Leese’s (from October 1944 Lieutenant General Sir Richard McCreery’s) British 8th Army, and operations over the Balkans were proving a distraction to this primary task.

The Balkan Air Force was a multi-national unit, and on one occasion included a Soviet transport squadron. Its primary task was the support of Yugoslav communist forces, but it also provided support to Greek and Albanian resistance movements. It transported supplies to the partisans, evacuated wounded, dropped agents to help the resistance forces, and provided air support for the Yugoslav forces in operations against German and Croat troops.

Toward the end of its existence, the Balkan Air Force operated a small number of units from Yugoslav soil to harass the retreating Germans. However, disagreements with Tito meant that all Allied units left Yugoslavia very shortly after the war in Europe had ended, and the Balkan Air Force was disbanded on 15 July 1945.