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RAF Centenary Conference

There will be wings: the First World War origins of the RAF

On 2 March 2018, The National Archives, the National Museum of the Royal Navy, the RAF Museum, and the National Army Museum will present a one-day conference exploring this formation. With a keynote delivered by Professor Richard Overy (University of Exeter), the conference will look at why the Royal Air Force came into existence, and examine the challenges and opportunities of bringing together two distinct branches of the armed forces to create something entirely new.

Location is the The National Archives at Bessant Drive, Richmond, TW9 4DU

Tickets are reasonably priced and can be bought here:


09.15 – 9.40 Registration and refreshments

09.40 – 10.00 Peter Johnston: The RAF and NAM

10.00 – 10.40 Wg Cdr Jeff Jefford (RAF Retd): RFC + RNAS = RAF: Harmonising the Aircrew

Between 1912 and 1918 the evolution of the air services sponsored by the army and navy had resulted in different attitudes towards the rank, status and executive authority of their respective aircrew personnel.  These differences had to be rationalised and reconciled by the RAF.  

10.40. - 11.00 Break and refreshments 

11.00 - 12.00 Body and Soul – health and morale in Britain’s Air Arms

11.00 -11.30 Dr Lynsey Shaw-Cobden (Air Historical Branch - RAF):  Nec Aspera Terrent:  Nerves, Flying and the First World War

This paper will explore the military medical response to nervous disorders in the Royal Flying Corps.  The war in the air exposed pilots to considerable nervous strain, but their unique experiences have been overlooked in favour of ‘trauma’ in infantrymen. Using the military medical collections of the RAF Museum and National Archives, this paper will show that flyers were believed to be medically different, and what set them apart from the men in the trenches was their unique employment. 

11.30 -12.00 Dr Emma Hanna, School of History (University of Kent): Saying it With Song: Music, Combat and Courage in the RFC/RAF, 1914-1918

This paper will examine the role of songs and singing in maintaining morale and squadron identity in the Royal Flying Corps/RAF on the Western Front during the First World War. Using song books, published memoirs and officers’ personal papers from the Royal Air Force Museum and Imperial War Museum, it will show that airmen's songs helped to dissipate fear and anxiety, to maintain morale and enhance esprit de corps.  

12:00 – 12.30 Lunch

12.30 - 13:00 Air Vice-Marshal (ret’d) Dr Peter Dye (Cross and Cockade International): Airmen At War - Headquarters Royal Flying Corps and the Creation of the Royal Air Force

This paper will explore the role of Headquarters Royal Flying Corps in the creation of the Royal Air Force, the enabling developments and the influence of key individuals. In particular, it will address why, of all the nations engaged on the Western Front, it was the British that decided to form the first independent air service. In the process, I will look at the impact of personal relationships in determining policy and generating confidence in the air arm’s professional foundation and operational potential.

13.00 – 14.00 Peter Hart (Imperial War Museum): Aces Falling

14:00 - 14:15 Break and refreshments

14:15 - 15:15 Keynote – The Creation of the Royal Air Force, Professor Richard Overy (University of Exeter): The Birth of the RAF

The RAF was created at the height of the struggles on the Western Front, an unusual example of an entirely  new military service created in wartime. The lecture will explore the reasons why, and the long struggle the RAF had to protect the infant service and to establish a clear material and doctrinal identity.

15:15 - 16:00 Open Discussion and close chaired by Peter Johnston (NAM)
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Article posted: 07/02/2018

Categories: Upcoming Events


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