The Air Battalion

The Air Battalion was established on 1 April 1911 with the duty of creating a body of expert airmen and for working out how the Army should adopt air power.

Service with the Air Battalion was not seen as a career in itself but rather as an extension of the training of a Royal Engineer. Officers wishing to join the Battalion had first to obtain their Royal Aero Club certificate at their own expense. As an incentive for those eager to join and learn to fly, the War Office would refund them the £75 private tuition fee upon gaining their certificate.

Recruits also had to have ‘experience of aeronautics, good map-reading, and field sketching, not less than two years’ service, a good aptitude for mechanics and [to be]a good sailor.’

At the time of its formation, the Battalion’s 14 officers and 176 other ranks were commanded by Major Alexander Bannerman with its headquarters at Farnborough.

No. 1 Company, commanded by Captain E.M. Maitland was also based at Farnborough, and was to be responsible for airships, balloons and kites.

No. 2 Company, commanded by Captain J.D.B. Fulton, was based at Larkhill focused on aeroplanes. This was the first formation in the British Army devoted to heavier-than-air flying and was operating on a small scale. By August 1911 the aeroplane company had nine aircraft.