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Establishment of Royal Flying Corps

Early aviation development was slow until it was realised the progress the French and Germans were making
in aviation. The importance of the aeroplane as an observation platform was soon realised by the War
Office and the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) was formed on 13 May 1912. Initially the RFC was a joint service unit with the Royal Navy (RN) and Army working together to develop its capabilities, however the RN soon identified its specific requirements and formed the Royal Navy Air Service (RNAS). They took responsibility for most of the derigibles that were serviceable as the superior range and endurance of the airships were deemed more suitable for maritime reconnaissance.

After further trials, Samuel Cody's aircraft were purchased for the new Corps and the next few years were a steep learning curve for the Army pilots who took to the skies. The aircraft were crude, there were no altimeters and height was judged by being able to read the names of railway stations.

The First World War (28 July 1914-11 November 1918) proved the value of aircraft not only for observation but also as fighters and bombers. By 1918 the RFC and the RNAS had expanded to over 20,000 aircraft of all types. The time had come for a new armed service to operate these machines and to organize training. On 1 April 1918, just months before the end of the war, the RFC and RNAS were absorbed into the structure of the newly formed Royal Air Force. However, the new service was seen as a temporary measure for the duration of the war, a fact clearly recognised by Major General Sir Hugh Trenchard, the Chief of the Air Staff, when he wrote in 1919 "the whole Service was practically a war creation on a temporary basis, without any possibility of taking into account that it was going to remain on a permanent basis." It would be some years before the Army had its own aircraft again.

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