Royal Auxiliary Air Force
|Royal Auxiliary Air Force|
Badge of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force
|Active||October 1924 - Present|
|Allegiance||Queen Elizabeth II|
|Branch||Royal Air Force|
|Type||Volunteer Reserve, Auxiliaries|
|Motto||Comitamur Ad Astra (Latin: "We go with them to the stars")|
|Website||Royal Air Force Auxiliary|
|Air Commodore-in-Chief||Queen Elizabeth II|
|Royal Air Force
of the British Armed Forces
The Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAuxAF), originally the Auxiliary Air Force (AAF), and now more commonly called the RAF Reserve, is the volunteer reserve element of the Royal Air Force, providing a primary reinforcement capability for the regular service. It consists of paid volunteers who give up some of their weekends, evenings and holidays to train at one of a number of squadrons around the United Kingdom. Its current mission is to provide trained personnel in support of the RAF.
- 1 Formation
- 2 Second World War
- 3 Cold War
- 4 Gulf War and beyond
- 5 Structure of the RAuxAF
- 6 List of former RAuxAF Squadrons
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Bibliography
- 10 External links
The Royal Auxiliary Air Force owes its origin to Lord Trenchard's vision of an elite corps of civilians who would serve their country in flying squadrons in their spare time. Instituted by Order in Council on 9 October 1924, the first Auxiliary Air Force squadrons were formed the following year. The pilots of AAF squadrons were generally formed from the wealthier classes, as applicants were expected to already have, or be prepared to obtain, their pilot's licence at their own expense, at a cost of £96, about £5,000 today. Unlike members of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) which had been trained in the RAF and left, but were obliged to return to service if required.
Pilots of the AAF were expected to join for a period of no less than five years, and were required to fly a few hours every quarter and attend annual training for 15 days. Each squadron was provided with a town base for training, and facilities at an aerodrome.
Second World War
By March 1939, 21 flying squadrons had been formed, the 20 surviving units being incorporated into the Royal Air Force at the outbreak of war. The squadrons were equipped with a variety of operational aircraft which included Hurricanes and Spitfires. The squadrons scored a number of notable successes before and during the Second World War: the first flight over Mount Everest, the first German aircraft destroyed over British territorial waters - and over the mainland, the first U-boat to be destroyed with the aid of airborne radar, the first kill of a V-1 flying bomb; the first to be equipped with jet-powered aircraft, and the highest score of any British night fighter squadron. In the Battle of Britain, the AAF provided 14 of the 62 Squadrons in RAF Fighter Command's Order of Battle and accounted for approximately 30% of the accredited enemy kills. The losses sustained during the Battle of Britain were replaced by drafting in regular and RAFVR pilots.
The Tactical Air Force squadrons were chosen to carry out several successful ultra low-level raids on key 'pin-point' targets in occupied Europe. The Balloon Squadrons also played their part, downing and deterring many hostile aircraft and were accredited with the destruction of 279 V1 flying bombs.
The Auxiliary Air Force was also responsible for the anti-aircraft balloon defences of the UK. At the outbreak of war in 1939 there were about 42 Squadrons operating barrage balloons, with the number of squadrons peaking at about 102 in 1944.
These achievements were honoured by the prefix "Royal" conferred by King George VI in 1947. Twenty of the pre-war squadrons were reformed postwar as fighter units. Events after the Second World War heralded a time of great danger for the UK. The onset of the Cold War with the Communist Bloc leading to the Berlin Air Lift and ultimately the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950. During all these crises the RAuxAF fighter squadrons, the five newly formed Air Observation Post (AOP) squadrons and other RAuxAF units, played their part in the UK's air defence and participated in many NATO air exercises. In 1951, at the height of the Korean War, all 20 RAuxAF fighter squadrons (representing one third of Fighter Command strength) were called up for three months full-time service. They were required for home defence in place of regular squadrons earmarked for deployment to Korea. In the event RAF fighter squadrons were not needed in Korea, but the RAuxAF squadrons were retained for intensive refresher training at their home bases.
The 10 March 1957 saw the disbandment of all the 20 RAuxAF Force fighter squadrons, the five post-war AOP squadrons and the Light Anti-Aircraft ground-based squadrons of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment. In the following two years or so, the Auxiliary Fighter Control Units associated with them were also disbanded. On 16 March 1960, the Air Commodore-in-Chief and His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, invited the Squadron Commanders and Flight Commanders of all the disbanded Royal Auxiliary Air Force units to a Reception at Buckingham Palace. All were given the following letter from the Air Commodore-in-Chief:
The renaissance of the RAuxAF began in 1959 with the formation of three Maritime Headquarters Units and one Maritime Support Unit. The MSU in Belfast was very short-lived, but No 1 (County of Hertford) MHU in Northwood, No 2 (City of Edinburgh) MHU in Edinburgh and No 3 (County of Devon) MHU in Mountbatten continued in existence until No 3 was amalgamated into No 1 in 1999. Later that year No 1 was renumbered 600 (City of London) Squadron and No 2 was renumbered 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron. These three units formed the entirety of the RAuxAF for twenty years until expansion starting in 1979, with the formation of three Regiment Field Squadrons, continuing with a Movements Squadron in 1982, and, following lessons learned during the Falklands conflict; an Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron in 1983. A more recent addition, in 1987, was an auxiliary element (The Grampian Troop) formed within a regular RAF Regiment Rapier Air Defence Squadron. Another step forward was taken in 1986, with the raising of four Defence Force Flights with the role of ground defence of key points on air bases. In 1984, the RAuxAF's Diamond Jubilee was marked by the award to the Service of its own badge, which forms the basic motif of the Sovereign's Colour for the Royal Auxiliary Force presented by Her Majesty the Queen in 1989. The words of the badge motto COMITAMUR AD ASTRA - Latin "We go with them to the stars".
Gulf War and beyond
During the Gulf War in 1991 the Aeromedical and Movements Squadrons performed with great distinction in theatre and at other locations in the UK and overseas.
On 5 April 1997, all of the four war-appointable flights of the then Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve were fully amalgamated into the RAuxAF, each with squadron status. In recognition of their origins, and in the absence of direct county or city territorial affiliations, they were each given the honour of retaining the letters "VR" within their squadron titles. The remaining non-active support elements of the RAFVR were and remain unaffected by this amalgamation, namely the RAFVR(T), the RAFVR(UAS), and at its point of formation, the RAFVR(DTUS) (being the branches for Training, University Air Squadron, and the Defence Technical Undergraduate Scheme, respectively).
During 2003 the RAuxAF was involved in the first large-scale mobilisation for over 50 years. More than 900 people, over 70% of its trained strength, were called into full-time service and were deployed to support RAF operations in Cyprus, Kuwait, Iraq and the Falkland Islands, as well as those in the UK. The RAuxAF enjoyed its 80th anniversary during 2004 and Lord Trenchard's vision has been amply vindicated by its achievements spanning the years. While the Auxiliary concept has moved away from the provision of Flying Squadrons, the professional skill, enthusiasm and esprit-de-corps of his young men of the twenties and thirties are matched by the men and women who constitute the RAuxAF of today.
The Royal Auxiliary Air Force establishment (liability) is set at 2,920 - though recruitment difficulties mean the RAuxAF is currently at a strength well below that; indeed, the RAuxAF's compromises 1,510 personnel as of April 2014.
On 19 July 2007 Senior Aircraftman Chris Dunsmore, aged 29, of 504 (County of Nottingham) Sqn RAuxAF was one of three men killed by a rocket attack on the RAF base at Basrah Airport, Iraq. He was the first serving RAuxAF member killed by enemy action since the Second World War.
On 13 April 2008 Senior Aircraftman Gary Thompson, aged 51, of 504 (County of Nottingham) Sqn RAuxAF was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol in Kandahar. SAC Thompson is the oldest British serviceman killed in Afghanistan.
In November 2014 the Ministry of Defence announced the creation of three new RAuxAF units: No. 505 Squadron - to be based at RAF St Mawgan in Cornwall, No. 605 Squadron - to be based at RAF Cosford in Shropshire, and No. 607 Squadron - to be based at RAF Leeming.
Structure of the RAuxAF
Current RAuxAF Units
(Note: none of the squadrons listed below are flying units with their own allocated aircraft)
- No. 3 Squadron Tactical Police Squadron (RAF Honington)
- No. 501 (County of Gloucester) Squadron RAF (RAF Brize Norton)
- No. 502 (Ulster) Squadron RAF (RAF Aldergrove)
- No. 504 (County of Nottingham) Squadron RAF (RAF Wittering)
- No. 505 (Wessex) Squadron RAF (RAF St Mawgan)
- No. 600 (City of London) Squadron RAF (RAF Northolt)
- No. 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron RAF (Glasgow)
- No. 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron RAF (Edinburgh)
- No. 605 (County of Warwick) Squadron RAF (RAF Cosford)
- No. 606 (Chilterns) Squadron RAF (RAF Benson)
- No. 607 (County of Durham) Squadron RAF (RAF Leeming)
- No. 609 (West Riding) Squadron RAF (RAF Leeming)
- No. 611 (West Lancashire) Squadron RAF (RAF Woodvale)
- No. 612 (County of Aberdeen) Squadron RAF (Leuchars Station)
- No. 614 (County of Glamorgan) Squadron RAF (Cardiff)
- No. 622 Squadron RAF (Hercules Reservist Aircrew) (RAF Brize Norton)
- No. 4624 (County of Oxford) Movements Squadron RAF (RAF Brize Norton)
- No. 4626 (County of Wiltshire) Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron RAF (RAF Brize Norton)
- No. 7006 (VR) Intelligence Squadron RAF (RAF Waddington)
- No. 7010 (VR) Photographic Interpretation Squadron RAF (RAF Waddington)
- No. 7630 (VR) Intelligence Squadron RAF (RAF Waddington)
- No. 7644 (VR) Media Ops Squadron RAF (RAF Halton)
- No. 2503 (City of Lincoln) Squadron RAF Regiment (RAF Waddington)
- No. 2620 (County of Norfolk) Squadron RAF Regiment (RAF Marham)
- No. 2622 (Highland) Squadron RAF Regiment (RAF Lossiemouth)
- No. 2623 (East Anglian) Squadron RAF Regiment (RAF Honington)
- No. 2624 (County of Oxford) Squadron RAF Regiment (RAF Brize Norton)
List of former RAuxAF Squadrons
Flying Squadrons formed 1925-1939
Air Observation Post flying Squadrons formed in 1949
- Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force 1949-1993
- No. 2625 (County of Cornwall) Sqn RAF Regiment (RAF St Mawgan) 1982-2006
Barrage Balloon Organisation of the Auxiliary Air Force
Barrage Balloon Groups and Centres
Barrage Balloon Squadrons
Jul 1940 - Unknown
- "Auxiliary Air Force". Flight XVII (876): 663–664. 8 October 1925. Retrieved 24 April 2015.
- Bishop, Patrick (2003). Fighter Boys. London: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780002571692.
- "UK Reserve Forces and Cadets" (PDF). Ministry of Defence. 29 May 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2015.
- "Funeral for airman killed in Iraq". BBC News. 8 August 2007. Retrieved 24 April 2015.
- "Tributes paid to veteran airman". BBC News. 16 April 2008. Retrieved 24 April 2015.
- "RAF Cosford to get new reserve squadron". BBC News. 25 November 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2015.
- Barrass, M. B. (2015). "RAF Squadrons 901–980". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 24 April 2015.
- Halley, James J. The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1980. ISBN 0-85130-083-9.
- Halley, James J. The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth, 1981-1988. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1988. ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
- Hunt, Leslie. Twenty-one Squadrons: History of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, 1925-57. London: Garnstone Press, 1972. ISBN 0-85511-110-0. (New edition in 1992 by Crécy Publishing, ISBN 0-947554-26-2.)
- Jefford, C.G., Wing Commander MBE, BA, RAF (Retd). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife Publishing Ltd., 1998 (second edition 2001). ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
- Moyes, Philip J.R. Bomber Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald and Jane's (Publishers) Ltd., 1964 (Second edition 1976). ISBN 0-354-01027-1.
- Rawlings, John D.R. Fighter Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald and Jane's (Publishers) Ltd., 1969 (Second edition 1976). ISBN 0-354-01028-X.