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RAF History

The Royal Air Force is the oldest independent air force and has been defending the British skies for more than 100 years. In this hub, you'll find details about the history of the RAF, including the founding of the air force, key Second World War operations, and RAF squadrons and sections.

RAF Pride

LGBTQ+ History in the RAF

To mark LGBTQ+ History Month this February, the Fund has collaborated with the RAF LGBTQ+ Network to highlight the important milestones for the RAF LGBTQ+ community.

5 February 2024
peenemunde raid

Peenemünde raid – 80 years on

Eighty years ago one of the lesser known but perhaps most important Bomber Command raids of the Second World War took place. The raid on Peenemünde, credited with saving…

Rob Henderon Dambusters

Dambusters 80th anniversary: My father’s role in the Dambusters Raid and how the Fund has supported me

Robert ‘Bob’ Henderson joined 617 Squadron when it was established in 1943, recruited as a Flight Engineer, to become part of the historic Dams Raid.  We spoke with his…

German photograph of the breach wall of the Eder dam after the "Dambusters" raid in May 1943. Crown Copyright, MOD.

Barnes Wallis and the idea behind the bouncing bomb

Barnes Wallis, assistant chief designer for Armstrong Vickers, came up with the idea for a bouncing bomb that could be used to target strategic dams in 1942.

Great Escape

Remembering the airmen of the Great Escape

On the night of March 24, 1944 and into the early hours of the next morning, 76 allied airmen from  German Prisoner of War camp, the Stalag Luft III, made their way…

klet 'The Great Escape Stalag Luft III - From the original drawings made by Ley Kenyon 1943'.

Remembering the airmen of the Great Escape

On the night of March 24, 1944 and into the early hours of the next morning, 76 allied airmen from  German Prisoner of War camp, the Stalag Luft III, made their way…

The founding of the Royal Air Force

The RAF was founded on 1st April 1918, when the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) were merged in response to the events of the First World War. The newly created RAF was the most powerful air force in the world, with over 20,000 aircraft and 300,000 personnel. At the end of the First World War, the RAF was reduced in size and took on the task of policing the British Empire using air power. However, it then underwent rapid expansion prior to, and during, the Second World War.

Key Second World War operations

During the Second World War, the RAF was responsible for the aerial defence of Britain, as well as the strategic bombing of Germany. RAF squadrons also provided tactical support to the British Army around the world. The Battle of Britain was a defining operation for the RAF, who held off the Luftwaffe in one of the most complex ongoing air campaigns in history, during the summer of 1940.

Royal Air Force Squadrons and Sections

The RAF is made up of squadrons that can fly aircraft or be ground based, covering a diverse range of roles, such as combat, training, reconnaissance, and equipment testing. Sections include the RAF regiments, a specialist corps founded by Royal Warrant in 1942 with the aim to respond to a wide range of threats, whenever and wherever necessary.