HISTORY OF THE ROYAL AUXILIARY AIR FORCE
1935 to 1939
From 1935 onwards it was at last understood how significant the threat from Germany might be as a result of her air rearmament. On August 30, 1936, to allow for considerable expansion for war, the RAF Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) was formed, with the objective of providing ab initio flying training for the increased number of pilots who might be required. Recruiting started in 1937. As a consequence of German rearmament, the Spanish Civil War and the Munich crisis of 1938, the RAF began an expansion programme (see The Expanding Years, November 1984—April 1985 Aeroplane ) which resulted in a further eight AAF squadrons being formed, and the five SR cadre squadrons were transferred to the AAF in 1937. Number 503 (City of Lincoln) Sqn was disbanded, to re-
Further expansion led to the separate inauguration of RAF Balloon Command on November 1, 1938, under Air-
WOMEN’S AUXILIARY AIR FORCE
In April 1938, the War Office proposed the formation of a Reserve of Women for the RAF as well as for the Army. However, the Air Ministry wanted the segregation, in special companies, of women enrolled with the RAF. Hence, when the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) came into being in September 1938, it had separate RAF companies. After the Munich crisis it became apparent that the RAF companies of the ATS should be brought more closely under RAF control and, that December, it was decided to move them to locations where they could be affiliated to an AAF unit.
Experience proved, however, that a separate Women’s Service was needed for the RAF, and on June 28, 1939, the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) was constituted by Royal Warrant. It has been estimated that 150,000 men were released for front-
AUXILIARIES AT WAR
In August 1939 the AAF and the WAAF, together with their colleagues in the RAFVR, were embodied into the RAF. From September 3, 1939, the Auxiliaries could muster 20 flying squadrons, 47 balloon squadrons and 1,734 WAAFs. On embodiment, recruiting into both the Auxiliaries and RAF ceased. New recruits were part of the RAFVR for the duration of hostilities. However, WAAF recruiting continued in earnest.
The foresight shown by Trenchard in 1919 in planning a reserve air force, territorially based, brought incalculable benefits when the RAF needed to be expanded rapidly to meet the demands of war. It’s flying and balloon squadrons were absorbed into the RAF, and made an invaluable contribution throughout the war.
The RAF went to war with just under 200,000 personnel, of whom 20,000 were RAFVR. Of the 12,600 officers, 3,000 were from the AAF.