TIMELINES: What new independent military service is created in Britain April 1, 1918?

April 1, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2015

Sunday, April 1, 2012


April 1, 1918, the Royal Air Force (RAF) comes into being in the United Kingdom, just nine years after Britain sees its first official airplane flight. The feat is performed by American Samuel Franklin Cody in a canvas and bamboo biplane and covers a distance of 1,390 feet. Britain is far behind France and Germany in its development of the new machinery, but rapid development is soon triggered by World War I. Nonetheless, the initial conception of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC)—the precursor to the RAF which comes into being in 1912—sees the aircraft as a tool for reconnaissance, with no mention of applications such as air defense or bombing raids. During the war, the need for pilots to support the front lines is beyond training capacity in Britain so a base is established in Canada. By March 1917, an RFC training squadron is formed near Toronto, which goes on to train 16 squadrons by the end of the year.


Today, the RAF must cut about 5,000 personnel over the next five years due to a shrinking defense budget. The Royal Canadian Air Force, facing a serious shortage of military pilots, is hoping to benefit by attracting ex-RAFers into service in Canada. According to the Ottawa Citizen, Canada signed up its first former RAF aviator in November, and another 20-25 are expected to join by the end of the year. The pilots would eventually become Canadian citizens, a document obtained by the Citizen said. The RCAF is having trouble training and retaining enough new pilots to fill the places of servicemen who are retiring.