100 years of the Royal Airforce

The Royal Air Force marked its 90th anniversary in style with its biggest ever parade for the presen

The Royal Air Force marked its 90th anniversary in style with its biggest ever parade for the presentation of new Queens Colours to the RAF in the United Kingdom and the RAF Regiment (c) MOD Crown Copyright - Credit: MOD Crown Copyright

This year sees the curtain rise on a series of high profile, national events being staged to mark the RAF’s Centenary. Playing its part will be the Fairford-based team behind the Air Tattoo, as Richard Arquati explains.

HRH The Queen at the Air Tattoo in 2008 (c) MOD Crown Copyright

HRH The Queen at the Air Tattoo in 2008 (c) MOD Crown Copyright - Credit: MOD Crown Copyright

Founded on April 1 1918 at the end of the First World War, the RAF is the oldest independent air force in the world.

Few of us can look back over the period since and find ourselves untouched by the courage, capability and achievements of the men and women who served – and continue to serve – in our Royal Air Force. Indeed, thanks to the 1939 and 1948 National Service Acts of Parliament, many of us will be aware of far more personal associations with the RAF within our own family histories.

To mark this key anniversary, a series of events and initiatives are being planned around the UK that seek to Commemorate the RAF’s history, Celebrate the vital role it is currently playing and Inspire the next generation of Servicemen and women.

Providing the launch pad for this is a special Centenary Gala at the Royal Albert Hall in London on Saturday, March 31.

This high-profile event is being organised by RAF Charitable Trust Enterprises, the Fairford event company behind the staging of the annual Royal International Air Tattoo.

Staged in the presence of a Royal guest, the gala promises a rousing night of music, comedy, ceremonial drill, screen footage plus a line-up of special guests. Featuring the Bands of the Royal Air Force, the RAF Squadronaires and the Queen’s Colour Squadron, the Centenary Gala will be a colourful and celebratory evening, with proceeds going to Fairford-based charity the RAF Charitable Trust.

The following morning, on Easter Day, a special service is due to be held at St Clement Danes, the central church of the Royal Air Force, in the Strand, London. At the same time, a Centenary Baton Relay will begin its journey from the Royal Courts of Justice to 100 sites around the UK that are associated with the RAF before arriving back in London, at Horse Guards Parade, 100 days later – on July 10.

Various aircraft fly overhead during rehearsals at RAF Fairford in preparation for the RAF Colours a

Various aircraft fly overhead during rehearsals at RAF Fairford in preparation for the RAF Colours and RAF Regiment Colours parade presented by HM the Queen (c) Cpl Scott Robertson - Credit: Cpl Scott Robertson

No RAF commemoration would be complete without a show-stopping massed flypast, and this year two are scheduled, one along The Mall on July 10 and another three days later at the RAF100 themed Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford.

Taking place on July 13-15, the Air Tattoo will host an international celebration of the Royal Air Force at 100. As well as featuring aircraft from the RAF’s past, present and future, many military air arms from around the world are expected to be represented to celebrate the close and enduring friendships they’ve forged with the Royal Air Force over the years.

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And, in addition to a full eight-hour flying display on the Friday (July 13) that will include a dramatic centenary flypast, there will also be a rarely-performed Royal Review of RAF aircraft.

Running alongside, throughout this year, will be the RAF100 Appeal by the Service’s four major charities - the RAF Charitable Trust, the RAF Benevolent Fund, the Royal Air Forces Association and the RAF Museum. They have joined together under one banner to ensure that all members of the RAF family – past, present and future – are honoured, supported and inspired.

From the youngest child to the oldest veteran, those currently serving their country and their brave families at home, the RAF100 Appeal provides the nation with an opportunity to pause and say: “thank you for what you’ve done, for what you’re doing and for what we can depend on you to do in the future.”

The appeal will run until the end of the year, with money raised going to ensure that the Royal Air Force and its heritage remains woven into the fabric of British life.

Since 1918, the Royal Air Force has been defending our nation’s airspace and combatting aggressors as well as providing vital humanitarian support and aerial surveillance around the globe. Make sure you don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to mark this special centenary as the nation prepares to salute our Royal Air Force - past, present and future.

Key events:

RAF 100 Centenary Gala

Royal Albert Hall, London - March 31

RAF100 Baton Relay commences

April 1

National Aircraft Tour

Cardiff City Hall Gardens - May 16/20

RAF Cosford Airshow

June 10

RAF Museum re-opening ceremony

London - June 21

National Aircraft Tour

Horse Guards Parade, London - July 6/10

RAF100 Parade & Flypast

The Mall, London - July 10

Royal International Air Tattoo

RAF Fairford - July 13/15

Northern Ireland Airshow

Portrush - August 4/5

National Aircraft Tour

Newcastle, N Ireland - August 4/5

National Aircraft Tour

Victoria Square, Birmingham - August 25/27

National Aircraft Tour

Glasgow Science Centre - September 1/2

National Aircraft Tour

Cathedral Gardens, Manchester - September 15/16