Civil Air Guard

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The Civil Air Guard was a 1938 scheme in which the UK government subsidized training fees for members of flying clubs, in return for future military call-up commitments.


On 23 July 1938, Sir Kingsley Wood, Secretary of State for Air, announced the creation of the Civil Air Guard scheme. Its intention was to provide pilots who could assist the Royal Air Force in a time of emergency. The scheme was civilian in nature, and established in conjunction with local flying clubs; membership was open to any person between the ages of 18 and 50.[1][2]

In 1938, the Air Ministry offered a grant of £25 to pilot members of flying clubs who obtained an 'A' type licence; if they volunteered for the Civil Air Guard, the grant would be increased to £50 for those trained on standard aircraft types, or £30 for aircraft lighter than 1,200 pounds (544 kg).[2][3] The renewal grant would be increased from £10 to £15.[2] Members would receive flying training at subsidised rates of either 2s 6d or 5s an hour during the week, and 5s or 10s at weekend. A then current maximum subsidy of £2000 for each club would not apply to those in the air guard.[2]

Within a few weeks, more than 13,350 persons had inquired about joining, but only 6,900 had actually enrolled in a flying club.[4] The Air Ministry also lifted a restriction on the use of foreign aircraft for training by the flying clubs; previously, only British-built aircraft could be used, if the club wanted ministry subsidies.[4]

To control the organisation, five commissioners were appointed, and held the first meeting on 29 August 1938 at Ariel House, Strand, London. The chairman of the commissioners was Lord Londonderry, and the members were William Lindsay Everard, a Member of Parliament; Major Alan Goodfellow, former First World War pilot and chairman of the Royal Aero Club and the General Council of Associated Light Aeroplane Clubs; Maxine (Blossom) Miles, aviator and aircraft designer; Robert Murray, president of the Glasgow Corporation Transport Flying Club; the secretary was Air Commodore John Adrian Chamier. The organisation already had 23,647 members with the 75 flying clubs in the scheme.[5] The first training flight commenced on 1 September 1938, and 1,500 of the 23,647 members were available for training.[6]

On 8 October 1938, the Air Ministry announced that over 30,000 applications had been received.[7] The scheme had created a demand for more flying instructors, so the Air Ministry created a temporary Assistant Flying Instructor certificate that could be obtained after 100 hours solo flying, rather than 250 hours for the full certificate.[8]

On 24 January 1939, as the chance of war became closer, Civil Air Guard licence holders were classed in three groups:

  • Class "A", subdivided as
    • Class A1 - Men between 18 and 30 who might become service pilots in wartime.[9]
    • Class A2 - Men over 30 with instructional experience, or considerable flying experience who might become service pilots or instructors.[9][10]
  • Class "B" - Men between 18 and 40 who for various reasons would not be considered as Class "A" who might be able to undertake other service flying duties such as wireless operator, air gunner or observer.[10]
  • Class "C" - Men not in A or B and all women who might be suitable as ferry pilots or air ambulance or general communications pilots.[10]

Members who could not classed in either A, B or C would be advised to look for some other form of national service.[10] Selected members of all three groups would also get additional subsidised training, and were known as starred groups; Class A starred members would get Royal Air Force medicals.[10]

With the cessation of civil flying as the war approached, most members of the Civil Air Guard enlisted in either the Royal Air Force or the Fleet Air Arm; some of the women members went on to join the Air Transport Auxiliary. Other members were used for special duties in both military and civil aviation, or moved on to other non-aviation war duties.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Poulsen, C. M., ed. (28 July 1938). "The C.A.G." Flight. 33 (1544): 73.
  2. ^ a b c d "A Civil Air Guard - new body to help in defence - Cheap flying lessons". The Times (48055). 25 July 1938. p. 9.
  3. ^ Sunderland, G. R. (1990). "The Civil Air Guard". Air-Britain Archive (2/90): 39. Includes a list of 74 clubs that applied.
  4. ^ a b "Aircraft for Civil Air Guard". The Times (48070). 11 August 1938. p. 11.
  5. ^ "Forming the Air Guard - Over 23,000 members enrolled". The Times (48086). 30 August 1938. p. 7.
  6. ^ "Civil Air Guards at work - selection of pupils". The Times (48089). 2 September 1938. p. 9.
  7. ^ Poulsen, C. M., ed. (13 October 1938). "Over 30,000 Air Guard Applications". Flight. 35 (1555): 318.
  8. ^ "Instructors For Civil Air Guard New Air Ministry Certificate". The Times (48204). 16 January 1939. p. 9.
  9. ^ a b Curtis, Lettice (February 1983). "Flying for All". Aeroplane Monthly: 76–82.
  10. ^ a b c d e "Civil Air Guard Training Organization For A War Emergency". The Times (48215). 28 January 1939. p. 6.