- Fine art
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- Battle of Britain Groundcrew 7 to 13 September
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- Conservation Week 15 to 21 June
- Spitfire Week 8 to 12 June
- Spitfire Creations Weekend
- D-Day76 1 to 5 June
- Lucky Mascots Weekend
- Dunkirk Week 25 to 29 May
- Competition Weekend Part 2
- Hidden Heroes 18 to 22 May
- Competition Weekend Part 1
- Bomber Week 11 to 15 May
- Create Your Own Museum Weekend
- Countdown to VE Day 75
- Jet Week 27 April to 1 May
- Jet Weekend
- Early Aviators Week 20 – 24 April
- Early Aviators Weekend
- Research enquiries
- Visit our reading room
- Online exhibitions
- Never Forgotten: The RAF in the Far East
- Pilots of the Caribbean
- Czechoslovak Squadrons in RAF
- Pre-War Czechoslovakia
- Pre-War Czechoslovakia (Czech)
- Escape to Poland
- Escape to Poland (Czech)
- Departure Abroad – via the USSR and France
- Departure Abroad – via the USSR and France (Czech)
- Leaving for exile – the so-called southern route and the Middle East
- Leaving for exile – the so-called southern route and the Middle East (Czech)
- 68 Night Fighter Squadron
- 68 Night Fighter Squadron (Czech)
- 312 (Czechoslovak) Squadron
- 312 (Czechoslovak) Squadron (Czech)
- 311 (Czechoslovak) Squadron
- 311 (Czechoslovak) Squadron (Czech)
- Czechoslovak Women in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF)
- Czechoslovak Women in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) (Czech)
- Lidice tragedy
- Lidice tragedy (Czech)
- Osudy- Life stories
- Osudy- Life stories (Czech)
- Osudy- Life stories 2
- Osudy- Life stories 2 (Czech)
- Osudy – Life stories 3
- Osudy- Life stories 3 (Czech)
- Return to a Liberated Country
- Return to a Liberated Country (Czech)
- Victims of the communist regime
- Victims of the communist regime (Czech)
- Rehabilitation and Commemoration of Former RAF Airmen
- Rehabilitation and Commemoration of Former RAF Airmen( Czech)
- Living History Group
- Living History Group (Czech)
- Air Transport Auxiliary
- Civil flyers
- On the verge of war
- Sir Gerard d’Erlanger
- A lack of work
- Birth of the ATA
- Stewart Keith-Jopp
- First female pilot
- Pauline Gower
- The first eight women
- ATA expansion
- Legion of the air
- Annette Mahon
- The Battle of France
- The Battle of Britain
- Women fly fighter aircraft
- Anything to anywhere
- The taxi service
- John Gulson
- Alison King
- The support network
- Women fly bombers
- Joan Hughes
- Return to France
- The reach of the ATA
- The death of a service
- A final act of progress
- ATA closure
- Sir Alan Cobham ; A Life of a Pioneering Aviator
- An Enduring Relationship : A History of Friendship between the Royal Air Force and the Royal Air Force of Oman
- 617 Squadron and the Dams Raid
- Model Dams Projects
- Barnes Wallis’ Papers
- Wing Commander Winterbotham’s Letter
- Group Captain Conrad Verity’s Memoirs
- Lancaster Modifications
- Bouncing Bomb Diagram
- Bouncing Bomb Tests
- Barnes Wallis’ Pass
- Designing the UPKEEP Mine
- Guy Gibson’s Log Book
- Spotlights – Low Altitude Flying Modification
- Target Map and Photo of the Eder Dam
- Target Photos of the Ruhr Dams
- Flight Lieutenant H.B. ‘Mick’ Martin’s Log Book
- Sergeant Charles Brennan’s Papers
- Aircraftwoman Morfydd Gronland’s Memoir
- Reconnaissance Photos of the Damaged Dams
- Letter from Air Commodore S.O. Bufton
- Herr Clemens Mols’ Memoir
- Casualties of the Dams Raid
- Media Reports
- Messages of Congratulation
- Signed Menu from A.V. Roe Celebratory Dinner
- Dambusters Podcasts
- Royal Flying Corps Centenary
- The Polish Air Force in WWII
- Taking Flight
- History of the Battle of Britain
- From world power to colonial policeman
- Churchill’s Warnings
- Expansion at last
- The Rise of the Nazi Party
- The Rise of the Luftwaffe
- Young Nazis
- Poland – The Catalyst
- Phoney Air War in France
- The Battle of France
- The Home Front
- Air Raid Shelter Protection
- Operation Sealion
- British Defences
- Bomber Command
- Other Commands
- The New Tactics
- RADAR – The Battle Winner?
- How RADAR Works
- Introduction to the Phases of the Battle of Britain
- The Battle of Britain Phase One
- The Battle of Britain Phase Two
- The Battle of Britain Phase Three
- The Battle of Britain Phase Four
- The Battle of Britain Phase Five
- The Hardest Day
- The Blitz
- The Blitz – The Hardest Night
- Subordinate German Commanders
- Commander in Chief of the Luftwaffe
- Corpo Aero Italiano
- The Few
- Battle of the Nations
- Women of Britain
- Subordinate RAF Commanders
- Commander-in-Chief of Fighter Command
- Douglas Bader: Fighter, Pilot
- Women of the Air Force
- Commandant Dame Helen Gwynne-Vaughan
- Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) 1918 – 1920
- Air Chief Commandant Dame Katherine Trefusis-Forbes
- Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) 1939 – 1949
- All the same buttons
- Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) 1949 – 1994
- WRAF and WAAF Recruitment Posters
- Air Commandant Dame Felicity Peake
- Women in the RAF Today
- Listen to Podcasts
- Your Comments and Stories
- Lest We Forget
- Remembrance Day
- The First World War (1914 – 1918)
- The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
- The Cenotaph
- War Memorials
- The Royal British Legion
- The Second World War (1939 – 1945)
- The Royal Air Force Missing Research and Enquiry Service 1944 – 1952
- St. Clement Danes – The Central Church of the Royal Air Force
- The Royal Air Force Today
- Support Organisations
- Remembrance Podcasts
- Americans in the Royal Air Force
- Archive exhibitions
- Alex Henshaw: Flying Legend, A Life in Art
- Freedom & Liberty
- Wonderful Amy!
- De Havilland – The Man and the Company
- Kings, Queens & Flying Machines
- Photographs of ‘Kings, Queens & Flying Machines’
- The Hendon Pageants
- Prince Albert
- No flying solo for Prince Albert
- de Havilland Moth
- The Royal Flight Vickers Viastra
- Three Kings
- The Royal Family visiting Mildenhall
- The King’s Flight
- King George V prepares for a review
- King George VI visiting Battle squadrons
- The formation of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force
- HM Queen Elizabeth with Princess Elizabeth
- King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited Bentley Priory
- The Armed King’s flight
- Duke of Gloucester visiting No. 467 Squadron
- HM King George VI with family
- The first post-war King’s flight
- The Vickers Viking
- Prince Phillip’s training
- The de Havilland Heron
- HM Queen Elizabeth II’s first Royal Review
- Westland Whirlwind HCC12
- Hawker Siddeley Andover
- Long haul flights
- RAF Comet
- Prince Charles in Chipmunk
- The Queen’s Colour Squadron
- Worth a Thousand Words – Air Diagrams
- Me 210
- Ju 87D
- Ju 88
- Layout of kit and method of wearing equipment
- Aids to homing
- Layout of WAAF kit
- Fog dispersal
- Emergency landing service
- Ju 188
- He 177
- Beware of the Hun in the sun
- Pilot’s controls – Stirling I
- Emergency Equipment & Exits – Lancaster I
- …And all this – because of you
- 5 men in a dinghy
- I thought YOU had the dinghy pack!
- Watch that prop…what prop?
- Dammit, chaps – who remembered to bring this thing anyway?
- Seconds Count
- Keep your aircraft to the tarmac
- Prevention of tyre and brake accident
- Danger – watch for tyre creep
- Lancaster I II III standard & Y types dinghy drill
- Jungle survival: Edible tropical plants
- DP/R and D.P.L. functioning (single arming)
- Keep your transparent panels clean (turrets)
- Train how to fit into the post war picture
- BABS Mk1C Still Air
- Not Quite Extinct!
- Battle of Britain Class Locomotive Plates
- Comet – The World’s First Jet Airliner
- The Art of Sergeant Elva Blacker
British Military Aviation in 1939
On this date, the Royal Air Force consists of 135 squadrons: 74 bomber,
27 fighter, 12 army co-operation, 17 reconnaissance, 4 torpedo-bomber
and 1 communications squadron.
Additionally, the Auxiliary Air Force has grown to 19 squadrons: 3 bomber,
11 fighter, 2 army co-operation and 3 reconnaissance squadrons.
The Auxiliary Air Force Reserve is formed to allow ex-members of the Auxiliary
Air Force to serve with Auxiliary flying squadrons in an emergency.
Reserve Command is formed under the command of Air Marshal C.L. Courtney.
Italy invades and occupies Albania.
Sixty Royal Air Force Stations and eighteen other airfields take part
in the last Empire Air Day, which receives approximately one million visitors.
The Fleet Air Arm reverts to Admiralty control.
The Secretary of State for Air, Sir Kingsley Wood, announces that the
Royal Air Force will impress civil aircraft in the event of war.
The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force is formed, with Miss Jane Trefusis Forbes
appointed as the first Senior Controller.
Approximately 240 aircraft of Royal Air Force Bomber Command participate
in a series of navigational exercises, including training flights over
Central and Southern France. These sorties serve as a ‘show of strength’
and also provide valuable training in long-range overseas operations.
At the same time, it is announced that an agreement has been reached with
the French to allow such training flights.
The first airborne interception (AI) radar sets are fitted into 30 Royal
Air Force Bristol Blenheim aircraft.
The last major British peacetime exercise takes place, with over 1,300
aircraft taking part in south-east of England and at the end of the practice,
a civilian ‘blackout’ is ordered.
A smaller Anglo-French air exercise takes place over England with 200
aircraft taking part.
Messages are exchanged between Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and
Adolf Hitler. Chamberlain warns that the United Kingdom is willing to
use force to aid Poland and Hitler states that he will not renounce Germany’s
claim to Danzig.
Readiness State ‘C’ is declared by the Air Ministry and mobilisation commences.
Aircraft are placed on 12-hour standby and personnel on special leave
are recalled to duty. Auxiliary Air Force and Volunteer Reserve personnel
are ordered to report to their mobilisation centres.
No.1 Group of Royal Air Force Bomber Command, is redesignated the Advanced
Air Striking Force.
Royal Air Force Coastal Command squadrons begin to fly regular North Sea
Readiness State ‘D’ is put into force, aircraft are dispersed on their
airfields and all personnel are recalled. ‘E’-Class reservists are also
ordered to report to their units.
At 0445hrs, German forces launch Fall Weiss (Operation White), the invasion
The complete mobilisation of British Navy, Army and Air Force is ordered.
The Air Transport Auxiliary is formed to deliver new and repaired aircraft
to Royal Air Force units.
The Advanced Air Striking Force (AASF) is deployed to France. The AASF initiallycomprised
twelve squadrons, ten equipped with Fairey Battle light bombers and two
equipped with Hawker Hurricane single-seat
fighters and is commanded by Air Vice Marshal P.H.L. Playfair.
At 1100hrs, an ultimatum issued to Germany by the British Government expires
and in a radio address to the nation, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain
announces, “this Country is at war with Germany”.
At 1130hrs, air-raid warning sirens sound in the London area for the first
time. However, the warning is a false alarm, triggered by the detection
of a French aircraft, en route to the United Kingdom, that had not filed
a flight plan.
Australia, New Zealand and France declare war on Germany.
A Bristol Blenheim IV (N6215) of No.139 Squadron is the first Royal Air
Force aircraft to cross the German frontier after war is declared. Between
1200hrs and 1650hrs the Blenheim, flown by Flying Officer A. McPherson,
carries out a photographic and visual reconnaissance of German naval ports.
Although the crew, which includes a naval observer, Commander Thompson,
sight a number of warships in the Schillig Roads off Wilhelmshaven, their
radio is unserviceable and they are unable to report until they return
to Wyton. Flying Officer McPherson is subsequently awarded the Distinguished
RAF Bomber Command conducts the Royal Air Force’s first operational sorties
of the Second World War, when eighteen Handley Page Hampdens and nine
Vickers Wellingtons of RAF Bomber Command undertake a search for German
naval shipping. However, they do not locate any targets and all return
Pilot Officer John Noel Isaac of No.600 Squadron becomes the first Briton
to die in the Second World War when his Bristol Blenheim crashes into
Heading Street in Hendon at 1250hrs, 1 hour 50 minutes after the British
declaration of war.
The first propaganda leaflet raid by Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys of No.51
and No.58 squadrons drops 5.4 million leaflets over targets included Hamburg,
Bremen and the Ruhr.
A message from King George VI to the Royal Air Force on the outbreak of
“The RAF has behind it a tradition no less inspiring than those
of the other Services and in campaigns which we have now been compelled
to undertake you will have to assume responsibilities for greater than
those which your Service had to shoulder in the last War. One of the greatest
of them will be the safeguarding of this Island from the menace of the
air. I can assure all ranks of the Air Force of my supreme confidence
in their skill and courage and their ability to meet whatever calls may
be made upon them.”
Sergeant George Booth, an observer with No.107 Squadron becomes the first
British Prisoner of War when his Bristol Blenheim is shot down over the
Following a second reconnaissance sortie by Flying Officer McPherson,
fourteen Vickers Wellingtons of No.9 and No.149 Squadrons and fifteen
Bristol Blenheims of Nos. 107, 110 and 139 Squadrons are despatched to
attack German warships at Brunsbüttel, Wilhelmshaven and the Schillig
Roads. However, five aircraft of each type do not locate their targets.
Ten Blenheims from No.107 and No.110 Squadrons attack the pocket battleship
Admiral Scheer and the cruiser Emden in Wilhemshaven. Three bombs hit
the Scheer but fail to explode.
By a peculiar twist of fate a Blenheim piloted by Flying Officer H.L.
Emden crashes on the deck of the cruiser of the same name. Two of the
Wellingtons fail to find Brunsbüttel and bomb Esjberg in neutral
Denmark, 110 miles north of their intended target. The error presaged
the navigational difficulties which proved to be a consistent problem
for Bomber Command. Flight Lieutenant K.C. Doran of No.110 Squadron is
awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his part in this raid.
The first Royal Air Force attack on an enemy aircraft occurs when a Lockheed
Hudson of No.224 Squadron fires on a Dornier Do18 over North Sea.
The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) begins to cross the English Channel
to France with Air support provided by the Air Component of the BEF. This
comprises four army co-operation squadrons, equipped with Westland Lysanders,
four bomber squadrons equipped with Bristol Blenheims and four fighter
squadrons equipped with Hawker Hurricanes and Gloster Gladiators.
An Avro Anson of No.500 Squadron makes the first attack on a German submarine,
10 miles north of Ostend.
The first German aircraft sorties occur over the United Kingdom.
South Africa declares war on Germany.
A technical fault at the Chain Home Radio Direction Finding (radar) station
at Canewdon, compounded by a series of mistakes within RAF Fighter Command’s
fighter control system, leads to friendly aircraft being plotted as an
incoming air raid.
No.56 Squadron scramble Hawker Hurricanes to intercept this ‘phantom’
raid and are plotted also as hostile. Further squadrons are scrambled
and, tragically, a section of No.72 Squadron (Supermarine Spitfires) misidentifies
two Hurricanes of No.56 Squadron as Messerschmitt Bf109s and shoots both
aircraft down. One pilot, Pilot Officer M.L. Hulton-Harrop, is killed.
The ‘Battle of Barking Creek’, as the events of 6 September later became
known, led to a wholesale review of RAF Fighter Command’s plotting system.
Canada declares war on Germany.
Soviet forces invade eastern Poland.
The first Women’s Auxiliary Air Force plotters go on watch in Fighter
Command Filter Rooms.
The first engagement between the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Luftwaffe
takes place, when three Fairey Battles of No.88 Squadron, Advanced Air
Striking Force, are attacked by three Messerschmitt Bf109s of Jagdgruppe
152 west of Saarbrücken. Two Fairey Battles are shot down.
The Royal Air Force’s first dedicated photographic reconnaissance unit,
the Heston Flight, forms at Heston within No.11 Group, RAF Fighter Command.
The commander of the flight, Wing Commander Sidney Cotton, had conducted
a series of clandestine photographic sorties over Germany on behalf of
the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) as a civilian in the late 1930s.
The Heston Flight is renamed No.2 Camouflage Unit on 1 November in an
effort to disguise its activities.
The first Luftwaffe aircraft is shot down during operations against the
United Kingdom. A Dornier Do18D flying boat of 2/Küstenfliegergruppe
506 is shot down by a Blackburn Skua of No.803 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm,
operating from the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, north of the Great
Fisher Bank. The crew of the Do18 are rescued by the destroyer HMS Somali
and the aircraft, which was still afloat, is sunk by gunfire.
By this date, the Royal Air Force (RAF) has dropped 18,000,000 leaflets
Poland surrenders the Germany.
A Royal Air Force Lockheed Hudson of No.224 Squadron, operating out of
RAF Leuchars, shoots down a German Dornier Do18 flying boat of 2/Küstenfliegergruppe
506 25km. This is the first victory recorded of an American-built aircraft
in the Second World War and is the first German aircraft to be destroyed
by a Royal Air Force aircraft operating from Britain.
An Empire air training scheme, operating in Canada, New Zealand and Australia,
British warships at Rosyth in the Firth of Forth come under attack from
Junkers Ju88 of Kampfgeschwader 30 flying from Westerland. Three of the
German raiders are brought down, and are the first aircraft destroyed
over British territory in the Second World War. The first German aircraft
to be shot down, is intercepted by Supermarine Spitfires and comes down
in the Firth of Forth near Crail. The pilot, Hauptmann Helmuth Pohle survives
and became a Prisoner of War. The successful pilots of No.602 (City of
Glasgow) Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force, are Flight Lieutenant G. Pinkerton
and Flying Officer A. McKellar.
Two Luftwaffe air raids take place on warships at Scapa Flow and the first
enemy bombs to explode on British soil land on the Island of Hoy in the
Supermarine Spitfires of No.602 (County of Glasgow) and No.603 (County
of Edinburgh) Squadrons bring down a Heinkel He111 of Stab/Kampfgeschwader
26 near Haddington in Lothian. This is the first enemy aircraft to be
brought down on mainland Britain during the Second World War.
Operational service trials of Very High Frequency Radio Telephone are
held at Duxford.
A Hawker Hurricane, piloted by Pilot Officer P.W. Mould of No.1 Squadron,
based at Vassincourt in France, shoots down a Dornier Do17 reconnaissance
aircraft of 2 (Fernaufklärungs)/Aufklarungsgruppe 123. This is Royal
Air Force’s first air combat victory over the Continent during the Second
The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force has recruited 8,800 and has raised its
upper age limit to 50 years, for women with experience in radar plotting
The first Chain Home Low radar station becomes operational in Fifeness.
The first German bombs fall on British soil. The bombs are dropped on
the Shetland Islands, with no casualties, except an uninhabited house.
The first German magnetic anti-ship mines are dropped in British coastal
The first successful photographic reconnaissance sortie is made by a PR
Supermarine Spitfire. Flight Lieutenant M.V. ‘Shorty’ Longbottom of the
Special Survey Flight, a detachment of No.2 Camouflage Unit, flies Spitfire
I Type A N3071 on a sortie from Coulommiers to photograph the Eupen –
Elsenborn region of northern Luxemburg.
Six Bristol Blenheim IFs of No.25 Squadron, RAF Fighter Command, and six
Blenheim IFs of No.601 Squadron, RAF Fighter Command make a low-level
attack on the German seaplane base at Borkum, causing little damage. All
the aircraft return safely.
Soviet Forces invade Finland and fighting continues until an armistice
comes into force on 12 March 1940. Despite overwhelming numerical and
technical superiority a combination of poor training and tactics sees
the Red Air Force lose 280 aircraft in air-to-air combat and 314 to ground
defences. Finnish losses total 62 aircraft destroyed in combat and 69
aircraft written off.
German warships at Heligoland are bombed by 24 Royal Air Force Vickers
Wellingtons. A bomb from one of the aircraft hangs up briefly, before
dropping on a German AA battery on shore. This is believed to be the first
British bomb to strike German soil.
Six Vickers Wellingtons of No.99 Squadron, RAF Bomber Command, are lost
from an attacking force of twelve during an attempted raid on the German
Navy cruisers Nurnberg and Leipzig, which have been damaged in a naval
action in the North Sea. The Wellingtons are intercepted by Luftwaffe
Bf109 fighters, which shoot five down into the sea and the sixth crash
lands near Newmarket.
A third repeat air attack on German shipping off Wilhelmshaven and the
Schillig Roads is badly mauled. 12 out of 24 Wellingtons are shot down
and others are badly damaged. This ends the British belief that bombers
operating in daylight can successfully defend themselves by close formation
The first ‘Gift’ squadron is announced, when Nizam of Hyderabad makes
a donation to the Royal Air Force. No.152 Squadron is subsequently renamed
No.152 (Hyderabad) Squadron.
The first Royal Australian Air Force squadron, No.10 Squadron RAAF, arrives
in Britain for service alongside the Royal Air Force.