3 March 2001, 01:20 AM
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Kent, England
In 1910 the War Office built a shed at Larkhill on Salisbury Plain for use by the Hon Charles Rolls for the instruction of army officer; Rolls was killed in a crash at Bournemouth in July. Despite the work carried out by Rolls and his successors, Capt Fulton and Mr G B Cockburn, “The Government were not as yet prepared to undertake large expenditure upon aeroplanes;...that they had been advised by the Committee of Imperial Defence that the experiment with aeroplanes... should be discontinued, but that advantage should be taken of private enterprise in this branch of aeronautics.”
In practice only the RNAS sought public funding; Mr Francis McClean loaned two of his aeroplanes while Mr G B Cockburn gave much of his time to train three naval officers and a Royal Marines officer to fly. The only fees paid by the Admiralty was £20 per officer to Short Brothers for six months’ technical instruction.
An Army Order issued on 28 February 1911 created the Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers and the new unit came into being on 1 April 1911. The RFC was created by a Royal Warrant dated 13 April 1912, the necessary regulations were set up in an Army Order dated 15 April and the RFC absorbed the Air Battalion on 13 May.
The RFC was split into Army and Naval wings, the latter using the title Royal Naval Air Service which was officially recognised on 23 June 1914 when the RNAS was established as a separate service.
At the time it was created, the RFC comprised Nos 1, 2 and 3 Squadrons with no 4 being created on 16 May. No 1 Sqn operated both aeroplanes and airships until the airships were passed to the RNAS in June 1914.
According to the "War in The Air" Volume 1, the RNAS had 39 land aeroplanes, 52 seaplanes and seven airships on strength on 4 August 1914. Other sources (such as The Story of A North Sea Air Station) say 40 aeroplanes, 31 seaplanes and 7 airships.
At the time of mobilisation for transfer to France, the RFC and RNAS could muster 113 aeroplanes and seaplanes, 63 being RFC machines, and six airships for front-line use. The RFC strength was apparently 105 officers and 755 men.
No 2, 3 and 4 Sqns went to France on 13 August and 5 Sqn on 15 August. 1 Sqn’s training did not finish until February 1915 and the unit moved to France the following month; 6 Sqn went to Belgium on 7 October 1914 but within a week had been forced to retire over the French border; 7 Sqn, which had formed on 1 May 1914, didn’t get to France until April 1915 being joined in that month by No 8 Sqn. These eight units were listed in the RFC’s Order of Battle dated 10 March 1915.
The storm occurred during the night of 28/29 December 1914 and was of such violence that 16 machines, left out in the open, were wrecked beyond repair and another 14 were damaged.
Sources: Air Aces of the 1918-1918 War, The Guinness Book of Air Facts and Feats, The Squadrons of The Royal Air Force and The Sky Their Battlefield.