Search

RAF 100: Celebrating the legends of the skies

PUBLISHED: 11:00 08 July 2018 | UPDATED: 09:26 13 July 2018

A group photograph of staff and pupils of the first course to pass through the Central Flying School, August 17 - December 19, 1912. Picture: Air Historical Branch-RAF

A group photograph of staff and pupils of the first course to pass through the Central Flying School, August 17 - December 19, 1912. Picture: Air Historical Branch-RAF

© Crown copyright

This year Britain’s youngest armed service marks its centenary anniversary.

Vulcan bombers from RAF Waddington flying in formation in 1957. Picture: RAFVulcan bombers from RAF Waddington flying in formation in 1957. Picture: RAF

The Royal Air Force (RAF) milestone is to be marked with a parade through central London and a Buckingham Palace fly-past involving about 100 aircraft on July 10.

Through the celebrations it commemorates past service, recognises serving members and inspires the next generation.

The RAF and Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) began operations on April Fool’s Day 1918.

Armourers preparing the full complement of 112lb RL bombs needed for the night bombing operations by the F.E.2Bs of 149 Squadron at St Omer, France, on  July 18, 1918. Picture: Air Historical Branch-RAFArmourers preparing the full complement of 112lb RL bombs needed for the night bombing operations by the F.E.2Bs of 149 Squadron at St Omer, France, on July 18, 1918. Picture: Air Historical Branch-RAF

It followed months of wrangling about whether it was a good idea to join the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service while the First World War was raging.

Stuart Hadaway, senior researcher at the RAF’s Air Historical Branch, explained: “A lot of people thought wartime was not a good time.

“It would take up resources and personnel. But those in favour won out.”

41 Squadron Supermarine Spitfire F.XII aircraft. Picture: Air Historical Branch-RAF41 Squadron Supermarine Spitfire F.XII aircraft. Picture: Air Historical Branch-RAF

The creation of a government air ministry led to the country gaining superiority of the skies. By taking charge of production more and better aircraft began taking off. Aviation technology saw huge advances.

“There’s literally nothing else like it in the history of mankind where things moved so fast in such a short period of time,” Mr Hadaway said.

But after the First World War the RAF had to fight for its survival with the army and navy wanting their own flying services.

RAF recruits marching in their Graduation Parade at RAF Halton. Picture: Ministry of DefenceRAF recruits marching in their Graduation Parade at RAF Halton. Picture: Ministry of Defence

“The RAF had to justify its existence so it came up with ideas of strategic bombing and policing the empire,” Mr Hadaway said.

The proposal won out as it removed a need for boots on the ground, something senior commanders wanted to avoid after the devastating losses of the First World War.

As war fears grew in the 1930s funding for Britain’s air defences grew with technological leaps made as radar and new fighters like the Spitfire entered production.

“Had that not been in place the Germans would have knocked us out of the war in 1940 or 1941. It gave us the means to strike back,” Mr Hadaway said.

When Nazi Germany’s Luftwaffe airforce launched large scale attacks on Britain in July 1940 the RAF kept guard of the skies. Many British fighters took off from bases around London, including RAF Hornchurch.

Victory in the Battle of Britain led wartime prime minister Winston Churchill to recognise the RAF saying: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

“Most people took it to mean the 3,000 men of Fighter Command, but by ‘the few’ he meant the entire RAF, everybody at every level,” Mr Hadaway said.

After the war ended the RAF continued to grow switching to jet aircraft with bases around the world despite the British empire shrinking.

In the Cold War when relations between the West and the Soviet Union led to tensions the RAF kept control of Britain’s nuclear weapons before they were transferred to the navy in 1969.

It’s a service used to constant change.

“It almost changes from government to government through the 1950s to 1980s,” Mr Hadaway said. “In the ’50s and ’60s it’s about keeping the empire going. In the ’70s it was about defending the UK and West Germany. After the Falklands war it was about building the capacity to carry out expeditionary forces. It has been a real roller-coaster ride.”

“But if you had to characterise the RAF’s history over the last 100 years it has to be one of technological development. It has always pushed the boundaries of technology.”

But it is also a history of welcoming talented individuals with diverse backgrounds.

“The RAF approach has almost always been that if you have the skills to do the job, then you are good enough,” Mr Hadaway said.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Romford Recorder visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Romford Recorder staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Romford Recorder account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Romford News Stories

15:00

When the fighting ended in November 1918, Havering’s prisoners of war came home. As Prof Ged Martin reports, many had suffered a hard time

Wondering what the weather has in store for us this weekend? Watch our Met Office video forecast.

In recent weeks we have brought you the stories of families who have found a lifeline in Hornchurch charity First Step.

08:00

I like science fiction. I grew up wearing glasses so I didn’t have much say in the matter.

Yesterday, 16:54

A former Bomber Command rear gunner who lied about his age so he could join the RAF during the Second World War died in Romford last week.

Yesterday, 15:55

The brutal murder of an 85-year-old great-grandmother bludgeoned to death in her Romford home by a debt-ridden gardener has left a “hole in her family that will never ever be filled”.

Yesterday, 15:00

The mother of a three-year-old with a rare genetic condition described a Hornchurch charity that supports youngsters with disabilities and special needs as “their shoulder to cry on”.

PROMOTED CONTENT

From November, The Mercury in Romford begins to celebrate Christmas. The mall has plenty of gift ideas, fun events and activities for everyone

Vauxhall has completed its sport utility vehicle range with the third, and largest, Grandland X. We put the SUV, now available at Tony LeVoi in Romford, to the test.

“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining,” so the saying goes. So if some warm weather is making your conservatory uninhabitable, think about replacing its roof with a flat one and adding a roof lantern instead.

Newsletter Sign Up

Romford Recorder twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read news

Show Job Lists

Education Promo

News from your area

Competitions

A Romford photographer impressed the judges of a national creative photography competition with a picture of a stunning sunset.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now