British Military Aviation in 1936

5 March

The first prototype of the Vickers Supermarine Spitfire (K5054) makes
its maiden flight at Eastleigh aerodrome, with Vickers test pilot Joseph
‘Mutt’ Summers at the controls.

1 May

Inland Area, renamed from Training Command No.1 Group, is formed. The
Air Officer Commanding Inland Area, Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Burnett,
continues to act as the Air Officer Commanding of the new command.


Air exercises give collective defence training to the Metropolitan Air
Force squadrons. During the exercises, it was assumed for the first time
that attacking forces would enter the United Kingdom airspace over the
seaboard of Southeast England. The exercises were also the first real
test of the Observer Corps.

9 July

RAF Halton and RAF Cranwell cease to have the status of independent commands
and are placed under the newly formed RAF Training Command.

13 July

Air Defence of Great Britain is abolished

14 July

The Metropolitan Royal Air Force is reorganised to reflect the demands
of expansion with Air Defence of Great Britain reformed into two role-relevant

  • RAF Bomber Command (Air Marshal Sir John Steel, headquarters in Uxbridge)
  • RAF Fighter Command (Air Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, headquarters in
  • RAF Coastal Area becomes RAF Coastal Command (Air Marshal Sir Arthur
    Longmore, headquarters in Lee on Solent).
  • A fourth command, RAF Training Command, had been formed on 1 May 1936.

21 July

The King’s Flight of the Royal Air Force is officially formed for the
first time.

30 July

Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) is formed. It is initially envisaged
that the RAFVR would recruit 800 reservists a year for pilot training
between 1936 and 1938 and provision is also made for recruiting 2,500
observer trainees and 3,200 wireless operator (air gunner) trainees. However,
as international tension heightens, recruiting targets sre increased.

17-24 September

The first full-scale trials of a Radio Direction Finding (RDF), or radar,
system are carried out by the Royal Air Force, using experimental equipment
located at Bawdsey Research Station to track Royal Air Force Coastal Command
Avro Ansons operating from RAF Manston and flying boats operating from
Felixstowe. Although the results of the trial are mixed, the Chief of
the Air Staff concludes that they have proved the concept of an RDF system
and justified the development of RDF as part of the air defences of the
United Kingdom.

28 September

Squadron Leader S.R. Swain, flying a Bristol Type 138 from Farnborough,
Hampshire establishes a new world altitude record of 15,223 metres (49,944


Following the declaration of a Jihad (holy war) against foreign infidels
by the religious leader the Fakir of Impi, fighting breaks out between
British and Indian Army columns and the Fakir’s forces in the Khaisora
Valley. No.5 and No.27 Squadrons, Royal Air Force, flies air supply missions
in support of the columns. The columns succeed in forcing the Fakir and
his supporters out of the Khaisora Valley and the Fakir goes into hiding.


The Balloon Barrage scheme is announced. Balloon barrages are intended
to deter low-level attacks on important installations by forcing hostile
aircraft to fly above the balloons, to impair the accuracy of hostile
bombers and expose them to anti-aircraft fire for longer periods.


The Royal Air Force Officers Engineering Course at RAF Henlow is renamed
the Royal Air Force School of Aeronautical Engineering.

31 December

No.60 Squadron fly a series of raids over three days against the Fakir
of Ipi’s fortified camp at Arsol Kot, which had been located on 23 December.
The raids achieve an accuracy of over 60% and Arsol Kot is ruined.