War clouds gather
|Founders of the RFC, Lord Haldane, Secretary of State for War; Mr Asquith, Prime Minister; General Sir John French, Chief of the Imperial General Staff and Brigadier General David Henderson, Director-General of Military Aeronautics |
|Zeppelin L3 flying over vessels of the Royal Navy at the Kiel Review, June 1914. |
In December 1911 the tension growing among the major European powers led the British Government to ask the Committee for Imperial Defence to investigate the state of naval and military aviation and how best to create an effective air force.
The Committee reviewed the state of Britain's air arms and roundly condemned them in comparison with other European powers, stating that
"France already possesses about 250 efficient military aeroplanes, and 150 qualified military and 80 civilian flying men, in addition to several airships: Germany possesses 20 or 30 military aeroplanes and there are in addition from 100-120 aeroplanes belonging to civilians in the country: there are besides some 20 airships in Germany: Italy possesses about 22 military aeroplanes….In contrast to this, Great Britain possesses less than a dozen efficient aeroplanes, and only two small airships, to meet the combined requirements of the naval and military services in time of war."
The recommendation was that Britain should establish a dedicated flying corps to consist of a Naval and a Military Wing, together with a Central Flying School, for the training of both Army and Navy pilots, and a Reserve.
The recommendations were duly accepted and 50 years after Lt Grover had first approached the War Office, King George V signed the Royal Warrant establishing the Royal Flying Corps on 13 April 1912.
The Air Battalion would be absorbed by this Corps by May and form the nucleus of the Military Wing. The naval aviators at Eastchurch would provide the core of the Naval Wing. The Central Flying School would be situated on Salisbury Plain and the Army Aircraft Factory would be re-designated the Royal Aircraft Factory.