RAF founders would be proud, says chief as Air Force celebrates centenary

Those who founded the Royal Air Force would be proud of what it has become a century on from its creation, the chief of the air staff has said.

It was 100 years ago on April 1 1918 that the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service merged to created the RAF - the world's first independent air service.

Just 15 years after the first ever powered flight undertaken by the Wright Brothers, the decision was made after the War Cabinet inquiry criticised the poor organisation of Britain's air forces.

Those recognised as the founders of the RAF include Lieutenant General Sir David Henderson and Lord Hugh Trenchard - the first chief of the air staff.

The current head of the RAF since 2016, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, has previously said his inspiration for joining the service was his father, Aircraftsman Victor Hillier.

When pressed on what the founders of the RAF would make of the service today, he said: "Trenchard said 'We are building the foundations of a castle', and what we have done for the next 100 years is build the walls and complete that castle.

"Trenchard put in place our apprentices scheme to ensure we could attract talent from across society, train them and develop them.

"What he put in place then gave us so much strength and capability in the Second World War.

"Well, a month ago we won the national apprentice employer of the year award - he would look at that and say 'Yes, you are doing good'.

"What they would also look at is the spirit and the ethos and the character of the Air Force and say 'Yes, we recognise that'."

ACM Hillier said throughout the history of the RAF there has been and continues to be the display of courage and fortitude, with which the founders of the service would identify.

"I think, I hope, actually I'm confident that they would be proud of us," he added.

To mark 100 years since the creation of the RAF, a national campaign has been launched which will begin on March 31 with an opening gala concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

With events and activities running through to September there will also be a 100-day baton relay commencing on April 1 from outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

But the centrepiece of the RAF 100 celebrations will take place on July 10, with a service in Westminster Abbey, followed by a parade on the Mall and a Buckingham Palace flypast.

ACM Hillier recently revealed that the UK's first F-35 squadron will arrive back at RAF Marham from the US with the cutting-edge stealth fighter jets "very soon", and in time for the big summer celebration in central London.

Britain's new supersonic 'stealth' strike fighter, the F-35B Lightning II (MoD/PA)
Britain's new supersonic 'stealth' strike fighter, the F-35B Lightning II (MoD/PA)

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "I am delighted to send my congratulations to the whole of the RAF, the world's oldest independent air force, on its 100th anniversary.

"From the brave pioneers flying bi-planes in the First World War, through to the heroic fighters of the Battle of Britain and the ever-vigilant aircrews of the Cold War, the RAF has continually ensured our safety.

"Now as we introduce the stealth fighters of the 21st century the RAF continues its proud tradition of being at the forefront of innovation, offering a potent force in defence of UK interests.

"They can be proud of what their predecessors have done, celebrating this important milestone and be full of confidence for the future."

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