It was during the Modular Initial Officer Training Course that Pilot Officer Insall rediscovered that one of her ancestors served in the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War. Following a little research, we discovered that her great-great uncle attended No 4 Flying Instructors Course between March and June 1921. The Flying Instructors Course was operated by the Central Flying School (CFS). The CFS is acknowledged as being one of the oldest military flying school in the world and was formed at RAF Upavon in 1912 to provide advanced flying training for qualified military pilots.
To discover more about her family legacy, Pilot Officer Insall met with the Commandant of the CFS, Group Captain Mike Jordan to learn more about her great-great uncle. Group Captain Jordan was able to show Pilot Officer Insall photos of her ancestor when he attended the Flying Instructors Course in 1921 and helped her to understand more about the role of the CFS in today’s RAF.
Today, the Headquarters of CFS is based at RAF Cranwell, their role is no less important than it was 111 years ago. On behalf of Defence, CFS trains, develops and assures the finest military aircrew instructors, to build exceptional air and Space domain warfighters.
CFS consists of Exam Wing and the Development and Delivery (D&D) Wing. D&D Wing delivers a range of aircrew instructor courses and covers Flying Training Research and Development, edits AP3456 and develops Human Performance initiatives to maximise aircrew potential. CFS Examiners are based at RAF Cranwell, RAF Valley, RAF Shawbury and RAF Syerston and fly with all military aircrew instructors, across the breadth of UK Defence. Additionally, CFS undertakes a considerable amount of overseas travel, working with the UK’s International partners.
The Insall military history began on 14 March 1915, when Gilbert Stuart Martin Insall commissioned in the Royal Flying Corps, during the First World War.
He was 21 years old, serving with 11 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps when he won the Victoria Cross, after only 7 months of service. Sadly, he couldn’t personally receive his VC, as both he and his gunner had fallen into captivity. After two unsuccessful attempts, Insall escaped on his third try. His VC was presented by His Majesty the King (George V) on 27 September 1917.
After the war, Insall remained in service, receiving a permanent commission as a Captain in the newly formed Royal Air Force on 1 Aug 1919 – his rank was re-graded to Flight Lieutenant on the same day. Just 3 months later, Insall was awarded the Military Cross for his gallantry in escaping from captivity as a Prisoner of War during the war.
Following her graduation Pilot Officer Insall will now move onto the next stage of her training as a Logistics Officer.
Pilot Officer Insall said:
Whilst at RAF Cranwell, I have re-discovered just how interesting a history my family has in the RAF. My great-great uncle, Group Captain G S M Insall, was awarded a Victoria Cross for his actions during the First World War. To be continuing my family’s legacy in the RAF makes me proud and I’m looking forward to my future career in the RAF.
The opportunity to see Gilbert’s course photo in the CFS was really special, and it is nice to know that my family history lives on within the RAF for me to build on. The interest shown by Cmdt CFS about preserving the past was encouraging and I appreciated the parallels he drew about their past innovation to the current day.
Group Captain Mike Jordan, Commandant CFS said:
It was a genuine delight meeting with Pilot Officer Insall and to discuss her Great-Great-Uncle’s illustrious military career, including his time as a CFS qualified instructor. The story of his exploits, which led to the award of both VC and MC, reminded me of the innovative spirit that the founding Fathers of our Service and the CFS exemplified. Whilst the technology that we operate might have changed since 1915, the ethos remains, and we should be extremely proud of our heritage and legacy. The CFS wish Pilot Officer Insall the very best of luck in her future career.
The Central Flying School (rafmuseum.org.uk)
Central Flying School | Royal Air Force (mod.uk)