The Royal Air Force (RAF) was formed on this day one hundred years ago.
The RAF was founded on 1 April 1918 by the amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) under the Air Ministry, which had been established three months earlier.
The RFC had been born out of the Air Battalion of the Corps of Royal Engineers (RE) and was part of the British Army. The RNAS was its Royal Navy equivalent controlled by the Admiralty.
In 1917 Germany deployed long range Gotha bomber aircraft (above) against Britain. In response to those raids General Jan Smuts was authorised by the Imperial War Cabinet to conduct a review, the outcome of which became known as the Smuts Report (see below).
Smuts recommended that the air service should be treated as a separate force from the Royal Navy and the British Army and be solely responsible for conducting warfare in the air.
Following the report, Parliament debated and passed the Air Force (Constitution) Act 1917 (see below), which was given Royal Assent by King George V on the 29 November 1917.
A few months later on the 1 April 1918, the RNAS and RFC were merged together to create the Royal Air Force (RAF), the world’s first independent air force.
The newly created RAF was the most powerful air force in the world on its creation, with more than 20,000 aircraft and over 300,000 personnel. The squadrons of the RFC kept their existing numerals, while those of the RNAS were renumbered from 201 onwards.
After World War 1, the RAF was greatly reduced in size and during the inter-war years was used to police the British Empire in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
The RAF underwent rapid expansion during the Second World War, initially responsible for the air defence of Great Britain, playing the key role in the Battle of Britain, as well as the strategic nighttime bombing campaign against Germany and Italy, including targets like the Ruhr, Turin and Berlin, as well as the provision of tactical air support to British Army operations in North Africa, Italy, Burma, France and Germany.
During the Cold War, the main role of the RAF was the defence of the UK and continental Europe against attack by the Soviet Union, including responsibility for the UK’s nuclear deterrent up until 1969.
After the Cold War, the RAF was involved in several large scale operations, including the 1991 Gulf War, the 1999 Kosovo War, the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, the 2011 military intervention in Libya and support for enduring operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
You can find out more about RAF 100 events here: https://www.raf.mod.uk/raf100/