Unit History: Royal Air Force

Royal Air Force
While the British were not the first to make use of heavier-than-air military aircraft, the RAF is the world's oldest independent air force: that is, the first air force to become independent of army or navy control. It was founded on 1 April 1918, with headquarters located in the former Hotel Cecil, during the First World War, by the amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). After the war, the service was drastically cut and its inter-war years were relatively quiet, with the RAF taking responsibility for the control of Iraq and executing a number of minor actions in other parts of the British Empire. Naval aviation in the form of the RAF's Fleet Air Arm was returned to Admiralty control on 24 May 1939.
The RAF developed its doctrine of Strategic bombing which led to the construction of long-range bombers and became the basic philosophy in the Second World War.
The RAF underwent rapid expansion prior to and during the Second World War. Under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan of December 1939, the air forces of British Commonwealth countries trained and formed "Article XV squadrons" for service with RAF formations. Many individual personnel from these countries, and exiles from occupied Europe, also served with RAF squadrons.
In the Battle of Britain, in the late summer of 1940, the RAF (supplemented by 2 Fleet Air Arm Squadrons, Polish, Czechoslovakian and other multinational pilots and ground personnel) defended the skies over Britain against the German Luftwaffe, helping foil Hitler's plans for an invasion of the United Kingdom, and prompting Prime Minister Winston Churchill to say in the House of Commons on 20 August, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few".
The largest RAF effort during the war was the strategic bombing campaign against Germany by Bomber Command. While RAF bombing of Germany began almost immediately upon the outbreak of war, under the leadership of Air Chief Marshal Harris, these attacks became increasingly devastating from 1942 onward as new technology and greater numbers of superior aircraft became available. The RAF adopted night-time area bombing on German cities such as Hamburg and Dresden, and developed precision bombing techniques for specific operations, such as the "Dambusters" raid by No. 617 Squadron, or the Amiens prison raid known as Operation Jericho.

Related Historic Documents

Memories of Royal Air Force

(Memories written by members of Forces Reunited)

Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Hospital, Halton in 1976

Written by Alistair Strachan

This is the year I joined the RAF. I trained on course 91. We had a great bunch on the course--Happy memories!!

Royal Air Force Acklington in 1948

Written by john campbell

I was Posted to Acklington inEarly February 1948 just before very bad winter. And when the snow did arrive and how the Aircraft Hangars disappeared overnight.
A.nd we awoke in morning it was still pitch black outside, until one of my mates venturede to the door, and when he opened it the snow was up over the roof. So we managed to get to the ablutions to shower. Then we dug our way to the temporary mess where the night shift were still on duty, and we had the best breakfast ever
Then when things were sorted we were allocated various duties on snow clearance. But being a short ass I got the best job driving a snow blower with the aerials on the NAFFI to aim at. We managed to clear snow to enable us to get to regular mess by lunch time. Where the cooks did us proud with a great three course lunch. Well that's my memnories of Acklington John

Royal Air Force Wilmslow in 1960

Written by Mary MACKAY Now Harrison

I left the tiny village where I grew up at the age of 17[a young 17 at that]and went to join the WRAF I travelled from Iverness to Wilmslow a distance of some 300 miles.A very frightened highland lassie who had never been more than 20 miles from home in her life I arrived at Crewe station the day after I had left home having spent a very lonely homesick night in a YWCA Hostel in Glasgow.I ended up in B flight and during our square bashing we moved to RAF Spitalgate I soon overcame my homesickness I just didnt have time for it I enjoyed my time at both Wilmslow and Spitalgate And anyone who remembers me please get in touch Mary

Royal Air Force Manby in 1961

Written by Mary MACKAY Now Harrison

Does anyone remember Maam Neilson at Manby or Pilot Officer Borgman Flying Officer Franks Please let me know if you do

Princess Mary’s Royal Air Force Nursing Service, in 2011

I have always said that, at age 18, joining up was the best thing that I did with my life. I value the training I had, my experiences as a hairy and as an office. But I also say that leaving was one of the other good things I did.

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