Wales and the RAF: A shared history

Wales and the Royal Air Force have a relationship steeped in history. It was a Welsh man who signed on the dotted line to establish the RAF, the famous bouncing bomb of the Dambusters was tested in the Welsh Elan Valley and factory workers at Broughton, adjacent to RAF Hawarden, in Flintshire, built the Lancaster plane that flies today with the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

The idea behind the RAF Red Arrows was formed in Wales with the creation of the RAF Yellowjacks at RAF Valley in 1963 flying Yellow coloured Gnat aircraft.

The displays were very successful and led to the creation of the Red Arrows in 1964, flying the Gnat in the red livery for which they have become famous across the world.

Lloyd George and the formation of the RAF

We owe Prime Minister David Lloyd George a debt of gratitude, for it was through his initiative, together with his drive to secure victory in the First World War, that the Royal Air Force, the world’s first independent air force, was created on 1 April 1918.

Lloyd George is not only the first British Prime Minister to be from Wales, but also the first to work in his second language (English).

The first fighter pilot group captain Lionel Wilmot Rees VC, MC, AFC, RAF

Lionel Wilmot Rees VC, from Caernarfon, was the first pilot to be sent to serve in a designated fighter squadron. It can be argued therefore that he was the first ‘fighter pilot’.

It's not all about aeroplanes

In the 1930s Edward ‘Taffy’ Bowen developed work on cathode-ray direction-finding technology and used his findings to explore how rays could be used to attack or, as was eventually discovered, detect incoming aircraft. Bowen was then tasked with building a transmitter and the team detected their first aircraft by June 1935. This would later become widely known as RADAR.

© CSIRO Radio Astrology Image Archive

RAF Coastal command

During the First World War five air stations were set up in Wales. Patrols forced German submarines (U-boats) to stay submerged and away from their targets. RAF Coastal Command was established in 1936 and many of the stations in Wales operated in the Second World War again in the unrelenting battle against the U-boats.

Mountain rescue service: Made in Wales

Early in 1942 Flight Lieutenant George ‘Doc’ Graham, the Station Medical Officer at No 9 Air Gunners School, Llandwrog, North Wales adapted what equipment he could and trained selected volunteers from the station to assist with aircraft crashes in the mountains. This was the beginning of the Mountain Rescue Service.

The RAF Eagle is Welsh, but is it an albatross?

In 1918 Chief Petty Officer Pepper from Llandudno was appointed to design the RAF’s logo. There has been occasional controversy over whether the badge that RAF personnel wear is an eagle or an albatross. Mr Pepper insisted he rejected the eagle as the badge of the Germans and chose the albatross.

Fastest aerial victories

Wing Commander James Ira 'Taffy' Jones DSO, MC, DFC & BAR

Born at Woolstone Farm in St Clears, Carmarthenshire, James Ira ‘Taffy’ Jones is reputed to have achieved the fastest total of aerial victories of any pilot of his time. He was awarded an astonishing Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar, Military Cross and Distinguished Service Order for outstanding combat.

© Royal Aero Club Trust