A brief introduction to First World War

100 years of the Royal Air Force

The First World War was the first conflict in which aviation played a major role.

The First World War was the first conflict in which aviation played a major role.

At first, balloons, aircraft and airships were used for reconnaissance and dropping bombs.  Increasingly, aerial duels were fought to gain air superiority.

This was despite the fact that the aeroplane had only been demonstrated eleven years earlier in America in 1903 by the Wright brothers. Initially the usefulness of heavier-than-air machines had been met with scepticism from Britain’s army and navy.

Royal Naval Air Service mechanics
Royal Naval Air Service mechanics. IWM Q73557

At the outbreak of the war in August 1914 the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) had 146 officers and around 100 aircraft. The Royal Navy Air Service (RNAS) had over 700 personnel, 93 aircraft, two balloons and six airships.

One hundred years ago today (1 April 1918) the two rivals merged to form the Royal Air Force (RAF) under the control of the new Air Ministry.

By the end of the war November 1918, the Royal Air Force had grown in strength to 27,000 officers and 260,000 other personnel operating more than 22,000 aircraft.  But the casualty rate was very high: 14,166, of whom around 9000 died or were missing in action.  A further estimated 8,000 were killed in training accidents.

Royal Flying Corps
Royal Flying Corps Officers. IWM Q8068.

In commemoration of their bravery and sacrifice, Historic England is newly listing eleven memorials associated with the air war – eight to individual aviators – and upgrading three others.

The memorials help tell Britain’s wartime aviation story:

Aviation Memorials


Memorials to pilots killed in accidents and combat

Second World War memorials


Further Reading

4 comments on “100 years of the Royal Air Force

  1. Reblogged this on Karl Quinney.

  2. This blog is of great interest:- it is the way you have added the memorial pictures and added detils of each memorial makes it not easly to get the details of each picture or read as a whole feature.

  3. Malcolm Porter

    Congratulations to the RAF for 100years of splendid conservation of our heritage! However in terms of heritage memorial this would be an incomplete story without mentioning of the pioneering Royal Flying Corps and the crash site of Airman’s Cross, at Airman’s Corner near Stonehenge. Perhaps needing review by Heritage England and National Trust of the local setting and befitting permanence of the memorial for the two airmen of the RFC, Capt. Lorain and Staff Sergeant Wilson, who were the first military airmen to lose their lives whilst on flying duty, July 1912, during their training over this area …

  4. Reblogged this on keithbracey and commented:
    MY daughter has just completed RAF Basic Training at RAF Halton near Aylesbury….she is now completing Trade Training as a Military Policewoman at Southwick Park near Portsmouth. Both of her grandfathers served in the RAF, my father serving during WW2 in a covert squadron RAF Tempsford at Downham Market dropping SOE operatives over occupied France from Westland Lysanders. My wife’s father did his National Service at RAF Acklington in Northumberland working on the first jets the Meteor and DeHavilland Vampire.

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