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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.

Battle of Britain 81

Remembering The Few and those who kept them in the skies

On Wednesday families and serving personnel up and down the country will pause to remember the 81st anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

RAF pilots

Why it's important to remember The Few

The Second World War was the most destructive our world has ever witnessed. Cities, whole countries were changed beyond recognition and the outcome of the war still has…

15 September 2021
Mark Beaumont

Mark Beaumont: Air Cadets and me

To mark the 80th anniversary year of the RAF Air Cadets, adventure cyclist Mark Beaumont gives his support to the Fund's campaign to raise awareness of our support to…

13 September 2021
Air Cadets

"Cadets gave me the perseverance and resilience to be successful in journalism"

The lessons and skills BBC journalist Laura Trevelyan learned as an air cadet prepared her for a life on the road, living on her wits, ready to leave at a moment's…

12 August 2021
Guinea Pig Club

Standing shoulder to shoulder with The Guinea Pig Club

Since The Guinea Pig Club's founding in 1941, the RAF Benevolent Fund has stood shoulder to shoulder with the airmen who were so badly disfigured during the course of…

Guinea Pig Club

The town that didn't stare

Crucial to the recovery of many of Sir Archibald McIndoe's Guinea Pigs was the ability to walk freely into the local community without fear.

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.