One hundred years of the RAF

100 years of the RAF

Amongst the City events our Master has attended recently he notes an invitation from the Worshipful Company of Security Professionals to a lecture commemorating the formation of the Royal Air Force 100 years ago.

The lecture was given by Sebastian Cox who is the Chief Historian at the RAF. The Master reports that the lecture was slightly away from the norm in that he focused on the political figures and skulduggery involved in 1918.

The RAF came into being largely as the result of raids on London by German Gotha bombers, shown in the above illustration. This plane could fly to London and back from its launch sites in Belgium, carrying a bomb load of up to 400kg.

The first Gotha was delivered in March 1917 and the first raid on London by Gothas was in June 1917, resulting in 162 deaths. It was followed by another raid in July, in which 54 died.

There was a public outcry that the army (who controlled the Royal Flying Corps) and the Royal Naval Air Service had left London undefended. Prime Minister Lloyd George saw an opportunity to reduce the power of the Generals, who he considered were out of control by that stage of the war. He formed a War Cabinet committee the findings of which were heavily influenced by Lieutenant-General Jan Christian Smuts. This committee recommended that the air defences of London should be brought under a unified command. Smuts also proposed, and Lloyd George implemented, that the RFC and RNAS combine into a single air service, marking the birth of the Royal Air Force.

This organisation finally came into being on 1 April 1918. In the early 1920s there were attempts by both the army and navy to have the RAF disbanded to appropriate their budget for their own purposes, but this was resisted by Winston Churchill who, by then, was the Air Minister, and the rest is history. A good job too as 20 years later Britain would have fared rather differently without the RAF.

 There is an interesting article available online outlining the background and impact of the raids on London: