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British Military Aviation in 1919

11 January
The Department of Civil Aviation is created within the Air Ministry to regulate commercial aviation in the United Kingdom. Major General Sir Frederick Sykes becomes the organisation's first Controller-General.

14 January
Following the 'Coupon' General Election of December 1918, Winston Churchill is appointed to the post of Secretary of State for War and the Royal Air Force (RAF) within the new Lloyd George administration.

In combining the posts of Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air, Prime Minister Lloyd George aimed to facilitate the dissolution of the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a separate Service.

The ministerial title 'Secretary of State for War and the Royal Air Force' is revised to become 'Secretary of State for War and Air'.

Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft in South Russia are moved to Beketova.

31 March
Major General Sir Hugh Trenchard is re-appointed Chief of the Air Staff.

A Royal Air Force (RAF) training mission leaves the United Kingdom for Novorossisk in Russia. The mission arrives during the following month and is subsequently reinforced by a detachment from No.47 Squadron.

No.5 (Operations) Group loses its command status and reverts to the control of South-Eastern Area.

Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft undertake offensive air action against the Bolshevi Urbabk base in Southern Russia.

17, 20, 24 May
Following the outbreak of the Third Afghan War No.31 Squadron carries out concentrated raids on the Afghan city of Jalalabad, during which three aircraft are lost.

24 May
The Handley Page V/1500 four-engined heavy bomber 'Old Carthusian' successfully bombs the Afghan capital, Kabul, dealing a huge blow to Afghan morale and helping to ensure a quick settlement to the conflict.

29 May
The War Cabinet approves a proposal put forward by the Secretary of State for War and Air, that up to 100 surplus aircraft from Royal Air Force (RAF) stocks should be gifted to each dominion of the Empire and to India. Small numbers of aircraft are also made available to any Colonial Government or Protectorate requiring them.

The aircraft offered include de Havilland DH9 and DH9A bombers, Sopwith Dolphins and Salamanders, Bristol F2Bs, Royal Aircraft Factory SE5A fighters and Avro 504 trainers. The 'Imperial Gift' paves the way for Australia, Canada and South Africa to establish air forces and India also receives aircraft for government purposes.

14-15 June
Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown make the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Alcock and Brown fly from St John's in Newfoundland to Clifden in County Galway in Eire in a modified Vickers Vimy bomber.

After a total flying time of 16 hours 27 minutes they crash land in a bog at Clifden Station, having mistaken soft ground for hard ground. Both Alcock and Brown were knighted in recognition of their achievement.

25 June
The Treaty of Versailles is signed. Under the terms of the Treaty, all German naval and military air forces are to be disbanded and all air material either handed over to the Allies in reparation, or destroyed. In practice, the German military authorities endeavoured to circumvent the provisions of the Treaty from the outset.

The aircraft carrier HMS Vindictive is despatched to the Baltic to support attacks on the major Bolshevik naval base at Kronstadt.

2-6 July
A Royal Air Force (RAF) airship makes the first airship crossing of the Atlantic. Major G.H. Scott and a crew of 30 RAF and United States Navy personnel fly the airship R34 from East Fortune in Scotland to New York.

9-13 July
Following their pioneering transatlantic flight, the crew of the airship R34 achieve the first successful double crossing of the Atlantic when they complete the return journey.

30 July
A joint Royal Air Force and Royal Navy force successfully attacks Kronstadt, a major Russian naval base, firing a dry dock and damaging the depot ship Pamyat Azova.

A bombing campaign mounted by the Royal Air Force brings the Third Afghan War to an end. During the course of the campaign, warning leaflets had been dropped on Afghan towns and village settlements in an effort to keep civilian casualties to a minimum.

4 August
The present rank titles of the Royal Air Force (RAF) are introduced by Air Ministry Order AMO 973/19.

15 August
The 'Ten Year Rule' is formulated by the War Cabinet in response to a request for guidance from the Admiralty. This read:

"It should be assumed for framing revised estimates, that the British Empire will not be engaged in any great war during the next ten years, and that no Expeditionary Force is required for this purpose."

The Ten Year Rule came to dominate decision-making with regard to defence expenditure during the 1920s, being made a permanent rolling assumption by Winston Churchill during his tenure as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

17-18 August
Eight Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft carry out bombing and strafing attacks on gun and searchlight crews protecting the Kronstadt naval base in Southern Russia, suppressing the defences and thereby enabling Royal Navy motor torpedo boats to attack naval vessels in the base. Two battleships and the depot ship Pamyat Azova are sunk.

15 September
The Royal Air Force Coastal Area is formed from South-West Area's No.10 Group, to control all units working with the Royal Navy in home waters. The Air Officer Commanding Coastal Area was jointly responsible to the Air Ministry and the Admiralty.

15 September
No.29 (Operations) Group loses its status as an independent command when it is placed within Coastal Area.

September - October
Five existing geographical Areas within the United Kingdom are consolidated to form three Areas:

  • Southern Area: Air Vice Marshal Sir John Salmond
  • Northern Area: Air Vice Marshal J.F.A. Higgins
  • Coastal Area: Air Commodore (from 10 October, Air Vice Marshal) A.V. Vyvyan

The School of Technical Training (Boys) is formed at RAF Halton, establishing a tradition of apprentice training that continues until 1993.

8 October
No.86 (Communications) Wing completes its last cross-Channel flight prior to disbanding. Between December 1918 and October 1919 the flight had flown a total distance of 350,000 miles.

23 October
The Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund is founded by Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sir Hugh Trenchard.

11 December
The Secretary of State for War and Air, Winston Churchill, introduces a White Paper into the House of Commons outlining plans for the post-war development of the Royal Air Force (RAF). Drafted by the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sir Hugh Trenchard, and often referred to as the Trenchard Memorandum, this White Paper provided for:

  • Home: 2 squadrons (increasing to 4) as a striking force, 1 army co-operation flight for each Army division, 1 or more squadrons for artillery co-operation, 1 reconnaissance and spotting squadron, half a torpedo squadron, an aeroplane fighting flight, a flying boat flight and a float seaplane flight (eventually increasing to 3 aeroplane and 2 seaplane squadrons) for fleet co-operation.
  • Overseas: 8 squadrons and 1 depot in India, 7 squadrons and 1 depot in Egypt, 3 squadrons and 1 depot in Mesopotamia, 1 seaplane flight in Malta, 1 seaplane flight in Alexandria, 1 seaplane flight on a carrier in the Mediterranean.

The White Paper also provides for the foundation of a comprehensive personnel training structure to include the Royal Air Force College, Staff College and Apprentice School, Halton, and the introduction of Short Service Commissions.

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