The period between May 1912 and March 1918, coinciding with the short life of the Royal Flying Corps, represented one of the most interesting, exciting and turbulent periods in the development of British aviation.
It was a time of innovation, experimentation, rapid change, triumph and tragedy, populated by a colourful and diverse cast of characters, some of whom would lead tragically short lives and others who would achieve leading positions in wartime and post war aviation. Many of the design, construction, operational and logistical lessons learned during that period have resulted in techniques and practices that are still in use today.
Researching this period presents many challenges. Whilst a substantial amount of documentary evidence remains, much has been destroyed and the remaining data is often incomplete and inaccurate. The researcher must collect, collate and analyse a large volume of material to ensure reliability, and cannot rely on a single source.
The purpose of this site is to provide free access to original documentation for researchers, historians and genealogists in a consistent format to enable further analysis, assist in the identification of errors and save the considerable time involved in data collection. The site also provides information in respect of some of these early developments and events, and lists some common errors. Much of the material contained in the 'AIR 1' series at the National Archives has been collated and appears here, comprising the contents of over 70,000 pages of documents.
the overview gives a brief outline of the origins and development of the RFC, its structure and organisation.
the aircraft pages give the history of every aircraft operated by the RFC and early Royal Air Force, and provides access to the downloadable contents of original documents.
the people pages provide research sources in respect of the officers and men of the RFC/RAF including a comprehensive index to names.
the facts and fiction pages provide access to articles on specific events and issues such as the departure of the Expeditionary Force to France in August 1914, the early system of aircraft markings, and common published errors.
the reference pages provide links to the principal sources of information and reference material.
May 19 major update to people
Nov 17 Gotha War Diary
Nov 17 new people files
Sep 17 new serial files
Aug 17 US additions
May 17 minor amendments
Oct 15 Exp Force amendments
Oct 15 minor additions
Jan 15 major file update
Jun 14 updated Army List
Jun 14 updated Gazette file