Centenary Plinth

On 26th June 2024, the Royal Auxiliary Air Force Foundation staged a Centenary Service at the National Memorial Arboretum commemorating the founding of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force in 1924. Part of the Service included the dedication of Plinth erected adjacent to the Royal Auxiliary Air Force Memorial which recognises and pays tribute to al those who have served in the Foundation during its 100-year history. The Chairman of Trustees of the Foundation, Group Captain Richard Mighall, explained during the Service the reasoning behind the Foundation’s decision to fund and arrange for the Plinth’s installation:

After the formation of the Royal Air Force in 1918, its founder, Lord Trenchard had a further vision for a force of an elite corps of civilians who would serve in flying squadrons in their spare time and be available to support the regular Force in times of emergency. This vision was realised in 1924 by Order in Council which authorised the formation of the Auxiliary Air Force. The first Squadron formed in 1925 and by the outbreak of the 2nd World War in 1939, there were 22 flying squadrons, 47 balloon squadrons and a number of companies of women from the Auxiliary Territorial Service. All were part-timers, all were members of the Auxiliary Air Force, all served with great distinction throughout the War and, as has been well-acknowledged, collectively they made a vital contribution towards its victorious outcome. This achievement was recognised in 1947 when the Force was honoured by the King with the new title ‘Royal Auxiliary Air Force’.

After the war, only the flying squadrons were retained. Later, 5 Observation posts were formed along with 12 Regiment Squadrons, 29 Fighter Control Units, 2 Radar Reporting Units. and an Air Intelligence Unit. However, in 1957, all of the flying Squadrons were disbanded and, by 1961, likewise were all of the other units. Only 3 Maritime Headquarters Units, formed in 1959 and 1960, kept the Auxiliary flag flying – and they did so for 20 years when 3 Regiment Squadrons were formed to be followed in the early 80s by an Air Movements Squadron and an Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. More units followed providing yet more disciplines, and the Force was able to provide increasingly diverse support for the Royal Air Force in times of emergency and conflict – as evidenced by the indispensable contribution it has since made in countless actions around the world.

Over the past 40 years, units have come and gone, but the Royal Auxiliary Air Force today remains a dynamic and highly effective organisation, and, as always, is ready to support the Royal Air Force in times of need. And it is so because of the high calibre of the men and women who serve in it. Throughout its 100- year history, tens of thousands of these highly motivated and skilled part-timers have passed through its ranks. They have served their units, their Force and their country with great distinction, Lord Trenchard’s vision of having an elite Force of air-minded civilian auxiliaries has been truly vindicated. These men and women deserve to be remembered, and this Plinth, which we dedicate today, is a fitting and lasting testimony and tribute to all of them and recognises with gratitude their service in the Auxiliary Air Force and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force over the past 100 years.


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