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The History of the RAF


Published By royalscotsclub on 16/03/2018

On 1 April 2018 the Royal Air Force will be celebrating its 100th birthday. The centenary itself will be marked by special events, activities and other initiatives at local, regional and national levels running from April to the end of November 2018. The Royal Scots Club is no exception and will be marking RAF100 with a special dinner on Saturday 24 March. It is an exciting year for the RAF as they reflect on their history and look forward to the next 100 years. As this historic landmark approaches, we have looked at the history of the Royal Air Force and how this military service has developed over the past 100 years.


The youngest of division of the British Armed Forces, the Royal Air Force (RAF) was founded on 1 April 1918 along with the female branch of the service, the Women’s Royal Air Force. Repeated German air raids on Britain during the First World War led to British military planners pushing for the creation of a separate air ministry to carry out strategic bombing against Germany. Its creation was the result of an amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS), and is a separate military service to the British Navy and the British Army.

The Battle of Britain

By the end of World War I, the RAF had gained superiority in the sky with 300,000 officers and airmen, and more than 22,000 aircraft. However, at the outbreak of World War II the number of aircraft had reduced to around 2,000. During the Battle of Britain in 1940 the RAF successfully resisted the German air invasion; relying on radar technology, more manoeuvrable aircraft and exceptional bravery from the airmen. In May 1941 the Battle of Britain came to an end after Hitler delayed the German invasion indefinitely. The bravery and determination of the airmen was praised at the time by British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.

Present Day

Since the end of the Second World War the RAF have been involved in various conflicts including; the Cold War, the Gulf War, the Kosovo War, the War in Afghanistan, the invasion and war in Iraq and intervention in Libya. At present the Royal Air Force is engaged in 13 missions on four continents in 22 countries. As well as watching the skies, the RAF’s responsibilities include responding to threats, preventing conflict, delivering aid to those in need and combatting cyber threats.


The RAF is celebrating its 100th birthday in style with events taking place up and down the country for the next seven months. The centrepiece of RAF100 will take place on 10 July, with a centenary service in Westminster Abbey, followed by a parade in The Mall and spectacular flypast over Buckingham Palace. There will also be an RAF theme at this year’s Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in August. Since its creation in 1918 the RAF has been through many changes; aircrafts have developed and improved, the numbers of service men and women have fluctuated, and the types of threats facing Britain have changed. The Royal Scots Club is marking this special occasion with a celebratory dinner on Saturday 24 March. To find out more and to book your place, please click here.

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