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Paul McGuiness RAAF Archive
Paul McGuiness is an Australian aviation researcher and historian. Using primary sources he has assembled detailed information on the history of each plane
used by Australians and Australian forces in WWl and WW2, and on personnel involved.

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History of Australian Military Aviation

First World War

Armstrong Whitworth FK3

Avro 504

Bristol F2b Fighter

Fairey Aviation Model lllD Seaplane

Martinsyde G.100 G 102 Elephant

Maurice Farman S.11 Shorthorn

Royal Aircraft Factory BE2

Royal Aircraft Factory BE12

Royal Aircraft Factory RE.8

Royal Aircraft Factory SE5A Experimental Scout

Sopwith Camel B Series

Sopwith Camel C D E F Series

Sopwith Snipe

Sopwith Scout (Pup)

Sopwith 1½ Strutter

Supermarine Seagull lll

Supermarine Southampton Mk 1

Westland Wapiti


Post First World War

De Havilland DH.9A

Royal Aircraft Factory SE.5A

Avro 504K


Second World War

458 Sqd Wellingtons

460 Sqd Wellingtons

466 Sqd Wellingtons


Further Information:

Aces and Aviators WWl Database

Material Relating to Australia

History of Australian Military Aviation

Australia’s initial foray into the world of military aviation began in 1911 when it was announced at the London Imperial Conference that national armed forces of the British Empire should develop an aviation capability. Australia became the only Dominion country to immediately follow Great Britain’s lead in founding an airborne fighting force and the Australian Army began actively recruiting suitably qualified personnel in the UK at the end of the year.

By the time the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) was formed in April 1912 the Australians had recruited personnel, ordered [British] aircraft and chosen a site for their flying school. On 7th March 1913 the Australian Government officially announced the formation of an Australian Aviation Corps, although that name was rarely used. Instead, the terminology Australian Flying Corps (AFC) crept into accepted usage [no doubt strongly influenced by the British RFC].

The name Australian Flying Corps was enshrined in accepted usage when High Command Orders began using the title in 1914. The AFC’s Central Flying School was established in early 1914 and its rank structure, nomenclature, aircraft, training and methodology were all based on the RFC, thus establishing a closely interwoven link between the two Air Forces that has endured through many decades. Following an abortive interlude against a supposed enemy base in the German Territories of New Guinea the nascent AFC was requested by the Indian Government to join the campaign in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq). The Australian Government despatched the Half Flight, AFC on April 20th 1915 consisting of manpower and ground support equipment but no aeroplanes.

Supply of aircraft came under the purview of the RFC thus establishing an early precedent whereby Australia supplied manpower and the UK supplied all aircraft, munitions and infrastructure support services.

In September 1915 the Secretary of State for the Colonies issued a despatch inviting colonial powers to supply manpower to the rapidly expanding RFC. The colonies would pay for the men but all training and equipment would be supplied by the RFC. Eventually the AIF supplied nearly two hundred men to the RFC in 1915-16. At the same time the despatch suggested 'It is thought that Dominions might wish to raise complete aviation units. Such units would take their place in the general organisation as units of the RFC, but will be given distinguishing designations'.

The Australian response was immediate and the first complete Australian flying unit, No.1 Squadron AFC, was raised and embarked for Egypt in March 1916. The Squadron embarked without any technical equipment, the aircraft and all technical equipment were supplied by the RFC. The costs of this deployment were initially met by the British government, with Australia repaying the costs later on a per capita basis, which the British Government calculated in a very liberal manner.

Responding to further British requests as the War dragged on, Australia raised No.2, No.3 and No.4 Squadrons in Egypt and Australia for use on the European Front. Additionally, in late 1917 the 1st Training wing AFC was established in the UK comprising No.5, No.6, No.7 and No.8 Training Squadrons. The training wing graduated pilots from all Dominions and a significant number of RFC pilots and observers. All the extra AFC units followed the established practice whereby Australia recruited and paid for the manpower and everything else being supplied by the RFC. During the War a total of 880 officers and 2,840 other ranks served with the AFC and a further 200+ men served in RFC and RNAS units.

After the 1918 Armistice the AFC units handed back all their equipment to the Royal Air Force and returned to Australia where they were all disbanded during 1919. Following many acrimonious debates in Australian military circles a successor to the AFC was announced in December 1919.

The new organisation came into existence on 01 January 1920 and was called the Australian Air Corps (AAC). The AAC was destined for a short existence and, on 31 March 1921, the AAC was renamed the Australian Air Force (AAF). King George V approved the ‘Royal’ prefix in June 1921 and the title Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) became effective on 31 August 1921.

The RAAF was the second Royal air arm to be formed in the British Commonwealth, following the British Royal Air Force. When formed the RAAF had more aircraft than personnel, with 21 officers and 128 other ranks and 153 aircraft. Throughout the next 20 years the RAAF remained a small, exclusive fraternity and was modelled exclusively along RAF lines. Exceptional pilots were seconded to the RAF where they could be fine-tuned in the world’s leading air force and virtually all aircraft and equipment was purchased from British manufacturers. By July 1938 149 graduate pilots had transferred to the RAF which exemplified a coalition partnership in which both partners gained. The scheme also demonstrated the feasibility of the huge Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS) that followed in WW2.

When war clouds again started to gather in Europe during the turbulent 1930s many Australians enlisted in the RAF and the RAAF coordinated its war plans with its British counterparts. When WW2 did erupt Australia, along with all other Dominions, suppled many personnel directly to the RAF in addition to training thousands of Commonwealth aircrew as part of EATS. The RAAF formed seventeen Article XV Squadrons that served within the RAF structure, eight bomber squadrons; eight fighter or fighter/bomber squadrons; and, a Maritime Reconnaissance Squadron. Additionally six RAAF squadrons were placed under RAF control for the war’s duration. In total approximately 9% of personnel who served under RAF commands in Europe and the Mediterranean were RAAF personnel.

Total RAAF casualties while serving under direct RAF control were:

Died

Injured

Total

Europe

5,397

947

6,344

Middle East

1,135

413

1,548

Canada

147

55

202

India-Burma

242

89

331

Far East

136

44

180

Other areas

163

30

193

Total: 8,798

The RAF/RAAF relationship is not unique in the annals of military cooperation but it does represent a tried and trusted partnership that was almost symbiotic in the formative years of military aviation to today’s mutual respect and understanding. From the early part of the 20th Century the RAF and RAAF stood side-by-side in WW1, WW2, Korea, the Malayan Emergency and many other hostile situations. Both air forces still maintain an exchange program with aircrew, technicians and non-technical staff spending lengthy periods in each other’s country. In the latest cooperation evolution RAAF Detachments have worked, and continue to work closely with RAF units in the troubled areas of the Middle East.

Paul McGuiness 22 April 2020

SY 2020-04-24

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Last Modified: 24 April 2020, 15:06

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