The Royal Air Force Birthday, RAF100 Tour & Our First Black Pilot

100 years of the RAF

Easter Sunday marks the 100th birthday of the RAF which was formed on 1st April 1918, it will see the start of the RAF100 Baton Relay in which a specially designed baton will set off on a journey around the UK and abroad. The baton will set off from the Royal Courts of Justice tomorrow and then take in key sites in all the UK Regions along with the Falkland Islands, Afghanistan, Irag, United Arab Emirates, Romania and The USA before returning to London on the 10th July when the RAF100 Parade and special flypast involving 100 aircraft from the RAF will take place.

Royal Flying Corp

The merger of the army’s Royal Flying Corps and the underlined the emerging importance of air power during the Great War.Announcing its Centenary programme, the RAF said: “From the earliest veterans in the First World War, through to ‘The Few’ of the Battle of Britain, right up to those who have recently left, we want to highlight the commitment and sacrifice these men and women have made in service to their country.”

What is RAF100?

The idea of the baton relay originally began as an orienteering challenge and still has a significant element of that in it. Each baton carrier will be given just a start and end point and they will have to work out the rest themselves.

The baton will be carried by lots of different willing volunteers that all have a connection to the RAF and over 100 days will visit 100 sites associated with the RAF. The baton will be carried by RAF personnel, cadets, veterans and members of the many sporting associations that make up the RAF.

Where will the Baton Relay Go?

Harry Parkins Lancaster Flight Engineer

Amazing achievements, undertaken by amazing people; the pioneers from our formation; those that stood firmly against aerial bombardment; the brave men and women on operations all over the world today; and the future generations who will carry that legacy into our next 100 years. Watch inspirational interview with ex RAF pilot Harry Parkins

Britain’s first Black pilot was Sergeant William Clarke

William Clarke arrived in Britain and, on 26 July 1915, joined the Royal Flying Corps. At first, Clarke served as an air mechanic, but on 18 October, he was posted to France as a driver with an unidentified observation balloon company. In a letter to his mother, written in early 1917, Clarke described the company’s work directing artillery fire but added the balloons “can’t do anything unless it’s a clear day, which is very rare now as its still winter”.

Clarke’s ambition was to fly, and in December 1916, he was accepted to undergo pilot training in England. Having completed the course, Robbie qualified on 26 April 1917, receiving Royal Aero Club (RAeC) Aviators’ Certificate number 4837. Clarke’s RAeC photograph is held in the RAF Museum’s Archive as is an accompanying index card that describes his nationality as ‘British’.

On the morning of 28 July, Clarke and his observer, Second Lieutenant F.P. Blencowe, were conducting a photographic mission aboard R.E.8 A4691 when they were attacked by enemy fighters. Robbie described the action in another letter to his mother:

“I was doing some photographs a few miles the other side when about five Hun scouts came down upon me, and before I could get away, I got a bullet through the spine. I managed to pilot the machine nearly back to the aerodrome, but had to put her down as I was too weak to fly any more … My observer escaped without any injury.”

Sergeant Clarke was evacuated to Britain and remained in hospital at Lichfield in Staffordshire until November 1917. Happily, he recovered from his wounds and returned to duty, at first with an RFC Reserve Depot and then as a mechanic with No. 254 Squadron based at RAF Prawle Point in Devon.  Source: RAF Museum 

Aircraft Tours in the UK Make Up The RAF Celebrations

You will be able to get up close to a selection of aircraft in the following cities:

There will also be an educational zone focussed on aviation and aerospace activities, designed to encourage interest and participation from young people.

Darlington Celebrate 100 years of the RAF

Darling celebrate of the 100th anniversary of the RAF, the Royal Air Force Ensign was flown over Darlington Town Hall.The event was marked by a ceremony raising the Ensign in support of the Armed Forces – past, present and future. Among those in attendance was mayor councillor Jan Taylor and senior aircraftman Craig Macduff. Cllr Taylor said: “On April 1, the RAF will celebrate its 100th anniversary. To mark this occasion, there will be events all over the country, highlighting its history and achievements, celebrating the work the RAF is doing and looking forward to the next 100 years.

Pembrook Dock  Celebrate the RAF

Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre is opening especially to commemorate the centenary and the RAF’s long and successful connections with the town.This is one of the major RAF100 events in Wales to mark the centenary, as the RAF was formed on April 1 1918, during World War I. A new exhibition, a programme of talks and local walks highlighting service connections, and exhibits from the likes of the ATC and a number of aviation-linked community groups are packed into a very busy day.