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November 2018 Meeting

On Friday 9th November 2018 at The Abbey Centre 21 members and 6 visitors enjoyed an excellent talk by Group Captain Mark Heffron on "100 years of the Royal Air Force".

Mark has been in the RAF for 33 years and has managed anything except for flying, engineering and nursing. That leaves a lot including Human Resources, Finances, Strategy and Infrastructure, and, in the past, command of RAF High Wycombe.

Mark picked out a few themes and looked to dispel some myths along the way. The RAF was formed on 1st April 1918 when the Royal Naval Air Service (formed in 1914) and the Royal Flying Corps (formed in 1912) were brought together. At that time, being WW1, the life expectancy of the servicemen was 20 minutes. The RAF is the oldest independent Air Force and there was three months to get it ready from the passing of the Air Force Constitution Act. During WW1 the air services provided observation, photography, dropped bombs (carried them onto the plane and dropped over the side on what looked like a good target) and defence was a personal revolver with which to take pot shots at the enemy aircraft. The distinctive RAF blue uniform is due to material captured from the Prussian cavalry. Formations and ranks were chosen that reflected the air as opposed the sea (navy) and land (army).

The Women's Royal Air Force was created on the same day as the RAF but was disbanded on 1920. However, the value of the nursing role was appreciated and the RAF Nursing Service was formed in 1921. The whole thing was formed again in 1939 and called the WAAF in which the women provided numerous support roles, including as plotters (of enemy aricraft formations). It was finally re-invented in 1949 as the WRAF, and in 1994 was fully amalgamated into the RAF. We can claim the first female: pilot in 1952; combined officer training in 1970; and fast jet pilot in 1994. There are now 3 female Air Vice-Marshalls. In fact there is only one role in the RAF that a woman cannot do. Being an RAF Roman Catholic chaplain. A lot more detail is available at this link: RAF timeline
Mark went on to tell us about the celebrations; what their objective was and what they achieved and the hour long presentation was going to conclude with a video but thanks to the intricacies of modern technology I didn't pass this initiative test. If you want to see it click here. per ardua ad astra