Brief History of the Royal Australian Air Force

The Royal Australian Air Force was created on 31 March 1921.  It followed on the service experience of the Australian Flying Corps in World War 1.  The AFC had been formed at Point Cook, Victoria, effectively in 1914, with the first Australian military flight carried out by Lieutenant Richard Williams.  The Flying Corps had distinguished service in the Middle East, Britain and France.
One AFC member was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1917, he was:
Air Vice Marshall Francis Hubert McNamara, CBE

Following its formation in 1921, the Australian Air Force (it became Royal shortly after formation) was equipped with Hawker Demons - a gift from the Royal Air Force.  The first commander was Richard Williams, then a Lieutenant Colonel and he remained effectively in command through the inter-war year periods.  Others involved in command included Group Captain S.J. Goble.

Throughout the subsequent years, while suffering from financial restrictions, Air Commodore Williams concentrated on the structure of the Service, its Bases, its Messes, etc.  Various other names notable in Air Force history, who were active in the inter-war years included Murray Jones, Lucas, Cole, Wrigley and George Jones.

The forming Service kept in touch with the Royal Air Force and Williams reports finding Lord Trenchard, the founder of the Royal Air Force, to be helpful.

With the coming of World War 2, the Air Force have been financially restricted, was not at full strength.  World War 2 brought rapid development of the RAAF, including a major involvement in Europe through Bomber Commander (in which 3,500 Australian airmen died - the highest Australian casualty list in any campaign in World War 2) and in the Mediterranian area - Egypt, Palestine, Tunisia, Italy and Gibraltar.

The Service also, of course, was very active with training and the defence of Australia, and participation in the Pacific Island campaign.

There were three Australian Victoria Cross winners.:

  • Hughie Edwards (an Australian in the RAF)
  • Rawdon Middleton
  • W.E. Newton

Some of the aircraft flown included the Wellington, Lancaster, Spitfire, Hurricane and Kittyhawk.

Following the end of World War 2, the Service, as with the Navy and Army, was principally involved with demobilisation and reorganisation, and concentrated on high training efficiency and the best aircraft and weapons available within budgetary restrictions.  It had an involvement in various campaigns starting with the Berlin Air Lift and including Vietnam.  There was also substantial involvement in the Occupation Forces in Japan.

  • Post World War 2, Chiefs of Air Force have included:
  • Sir Frederick Scherger
  • Sir John McCauley
  • Sir Valston Hancock
  • Sir Charles Reid
  • Sir James Rowland
  • Air Marshal J. Newnham
  • Air Marshal Errol McCormack and currently
  • Air Marshal G D shepherd

The current Air Force is regarded as an efficient and powerful striking force.


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