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Royal Air Force - Operational Records, WWI - (Military)

Nature of Source

Details of day-to-day activities of RAF squadrons which includes log books, combat reports, squadron histories and squadron Operational Record Books (ORBs) which record the day to day activities of the unit or squadron. Other operational records cover Commands, Groups, Stations and Wings of the RAF and are scattered amongst various series at The National Archives.

The Royal Flying Corps (RFC) was established in 1912 coming under the control of the War Office. The RFC included the Military Wing and Naval Wing, the latter becoming the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) in July 1914 under the control of the Admiralty. The Royal Air Force was founded on 1 April 1918 following the amalgamation of the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps coming under control of the newly created Air Ministry. The RFC and RNAS and the RAF are and were organised into squadrons (roughly equivalent of an army regiment), wings and groups, although confusingly for RNAS research a number of different squadrons and wings were assigned the same number.

During WWI, the RFC was deployed over the battlefields performing aerial reconnaissance trips and bombing missions whilst the RNAS was also deployed for home defence against enemy attack and overseas.

Service records for all ranks who served after 1920 remain with the Ministry of Defence with each military service maintaining its own record office. The Veterans UK web site provides contact details of where to apply for service records for each of the services.

Where Found

The National Archives (AIR 1, Air Historical Branch: Papers. An index to the squadrons and other units as well as a subject and name index is available at the TNA Discovery catalogue. First click on ‘Advanced search’ and then type in the name being searched. Then under ‘Search within’ select ‘Enter a reference’ and type ‘AIR 1’)
The National Archives (AIR 27, Operations Record Books, Squadrons, 1911-1980; AIR 28, Operations Record Books, Royal Air Force Stations, 1913-1980; AIR 29, Operations Record Books, Miscellaneous Units, 1912-1980. The series AIR 28 and AIR 29 have been catalogued and can all be searched at the online guide Looking for records of a Royal Air Force squadron)
Royal Air Force Museum (The collection comprises several hundred thousand objects ranging in size from aircraft to lapel badges. The Museum's library and archives collections include items such as First World War Casualty Cards, Aircrew Logbooks, fine art, medals and uniforms, film and sound, memoirs, historical studies, ephemera, technical manuals, magazines and periodicals, RAF Historical Society Journals Personal papers, casualty cards and aircraft records. The website has a number of online exhibition and information leaflets)

Period Covered

1914 - 1918

Further References

Bevan, Amanda. Tracing Your Ancestors in the National Archives: The National Archives, 2006

 

Chorley, W.R. Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War Vols. 1-9: various publishers and dates

 

Fowler, Simon. A Guide to Military History on the Internet: Pen & Sword, 2007

 

Fowler, Simon. Tracing Your First World War Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen & Sword, 2013

 

Franks, Norman L. R. RAF Fighter Command Losses of the Second World War vol 1. Operational Losses Aircraft and Crews 1939-1941: Ian Allan Publishing, 2008

 

Franks, Norman L. R. Royal Air Force Fighter Command Losses of the Second World War: vol. 2. Operational Losses: Aircraft and Crews 1942-1943: Midland Publishing, 1998

 

Halley, James J. The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth, 1918-1988: Air Britain Historians, 1989

 

Hobart, Malcolm. Badges And Uniforms of The RAF: Pen and Sword Books, 2013

Hobson, Chris. Airmen Died in the Great War, 1914-18: The Roll of Honour of the British and Commonwealth Air Services of the First World War: Hayward, 1995

 

Ingham, Mary. Tracing Your Service Women Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen and Sword Books 2012

 

McInnes, I & Webb, J. V. A Contemptible Little Flying Corps: Naval and Military Press, 2001 (Includes brief biographies of all non-commissioned airmen who joined the RFC between 1922 and 1914)

 

Philpott, Ian, The Birth of the Royal Air Force: Pen and Sword Books 2014

 

Spencer, William. Air Force Records: A Guide for Family Historians: The National Archives, 2008

 

Spencer, William. Family History in the Wars: The National Archives, 2007

 

Spencer, William. Air Force Records: The National Archives, 2008

 

Storey, Neil. Military Photographs and How to Date Them: Countryside Books, 2009

 

Tomaselli, Phil. Tracing Your Air Force Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen & Sword Books, 2014

 

Tomaselli, Phil. Air Force Lives: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen and Sword Books, 2013

 

Tracing Your Family History: Royal Air Force: Imperial War Museum, 2006

 

Usher, George. Dictionary of British Military History: A&C Black Publishers, 2006

 


TNA Research Guides

Websites

www.veterans-uk.info/service_records/service_records.html (Veterans UK)
www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/?research-category=military-and-maritime (TNA Research Guide Military and Maritime)
www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/looking-for-subject (TNA guide: Looking for records of a Royal Air Force squadron)
www.raf.mod.uk/organisation/squadrons.cfm (Royal Air Force Squadrons)
www.raf.mod.uk/history/historicsquadrons.cfm (Royal Air Force Historic Squadrons search)
http://archive.iwm.org.uk/server/show/nav.3240 (Imperial War Museum, Your History, Family History: Royal Air Force: Information sheets include Tracing Royal Flying Corps & Royal Air Force Ancestry, Royal Air Force Service Records, RAF Squadrons and Bases and List of Abbreviations)
www.rfc-rnas-raf-register.org.uk (David J Barnes Military & Aviation Research 1914 -1919: R.F.C., R.N.A.S.,R.A.F. Register 1914-1919. Central source of service and biographical information of all those who served in the British and Commonwealth Aerial Forces during the First World War)
www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/first-world-war
(The First World War - The National Archives: Web portal dedicated to WWI with collections featuring letters, diaries, podcasts and videos, maps and photographs. Also discover online collections, research guides and educational resources to learn about the history behind the war)
https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org (Imperial War Museum: Lives of the First World War: Digital memorial to the 8 million men and women from across Britain and the Commonwealth who made a contribution during the First World War. Each person will have their own Life Story page. Developed in Partnership with DC Thomson Family History. For the latest developments and additions see http://blog.livesofthefirstworldwar.org)
www.ukmfh.org.uk (UK Military Family History Online: Links to web sites with online data and information to aid in military family history research)
www.militaryarchiveresearch.com (Military Archive Research, by Dr Stuart C Blank)
www.raf.mod.uk/history (Royal Air Force History area)
www.rafmuseum.org.uk/research/research-enquiries.aspx (Royal Air Force Museum Information Leaflets including Researching First World War personnel, Researching Royal Air Force unit records and Researching Royal Air Force stations)
www.rafmuseum.org.uk/research/history-of-aviation-timeline.aspx (Royal Air Force Museum: History of Aviation Timeline)
www.rafmuseum.org.uk/research/online-exhibitions/lest-we-forget.aspx (Royal Air Force Museum Online Exhibition: Lest We Forget)
www.raf.mod.uk/history/rafhistoricalsocietym.cfm (RAF Historical Society. The society studies the history of the RAF and the contribution it has made to global peace and security since 1918. The site includes an RAF History Timeline and other useful information)
www.genuki.org.uk/big/MilitaryRecords.html (GENUKI guide to military records)
www.waafassociation.org.uk (Women's Auxiliary Air Force Association)
www.associations.rafinfo.org.uk/acronyms.htm (Royal Air Force Acronyms/Abbreviations)
www.raf-families-federation.org.uk/policies-abbreviations.asp (Abbreviations & Acronyms)
www.lancaster-archive.com/bc_abbreviations.htm (RAF Abbreviations and Slang)
www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/gwa (The Great War Archive: WWI digital photographs, audio, film, documents, and stories submitted by the general public. The initiative was run by Oxford University between the 3rd March and the 30th June 2008. Users can now share First World War objects on the The Great War Archive Flickr Group)
www.europeana.eu/portal/en/collections/world-war-I (Europeana 1914-1918. Explore the untold stories and official histories of World War I in items from across Europe including postcards, letters, diaries, images and other memorabilia)
www.westernfrontassociation.com
(The Western Front Association: The Association was formed with the aim of furthering interest in The Great War of 1914-1918 and to perpetuate the memory of all those on all sides who served during The Great War. The site includes a section on Research and Family History with articles providing help and guidance for your research into The Great War)

Online Databases

TNA Online Collections (Air Ministry Combat Reports, 1939-1945. TNA Online Collections is produced by The National Archives and contains online access to indexes, transcriptions and digital images of some of the TNA's most important holdings. Searches are free but a fee is levied for each downloaded item. However downloads are free if used at TNA or the Society of Genealogists)
www.forces-war-records.co.uk (Military Genealogy Forces War Records: Military records of over two million British Armed Forces personnel cross matched with over 4000 Regiments including Rolls of Honour, Crimean and Boer War Databases, Medal Rolls and Casualties Lists. The site also has a facility to access information on specific units or bases including regiments, ships, airfields)
www.britishmedals.us/kevin/raf1918.html (RAF's formation list in 1918 compiled by Ted Beard)