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RAF Cranwell – History & Current Operations

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RAF Cranwell is a Royal Air Force station in Lincolnshire, England. The base was originally opened on 1 April 1916 as an RNAS training establishment (Royal Naval Air Service).

RAF College Cranwell is now the RAF’s only officer training establishment in the UK, and also provides basic flying training for aircrews.

RAF History at Cranwell

Royal Air Force Cranwell has a long and distinguished history. In 1915, with the Great War looming, the Admiralty requisitioned 2,500 acreas of farmland at Cranwell and on April 1 1916, the Royal Naval Air Service Central Training Establishment Cranwell was commissioned.

Some sources say that the original base was named of HMS Daedalus but others point out that this is a misconception due to the fact that the original naval personnel were listed on the books of HMS Daedalus, which at that time was a hulk on the River Medway.

HMS Daedalus was the original name of the Fleet Air Arm airfield at Lee-on-the-Solent. This is now a general aviation airfield renamed Solent Airport.

During the early 1920s, the RAF developed Cranwell into a centre for pilot training and it soon became one of the largest pilot training schools in the UK.

The station expanded rapidly during the 1930s, with the construction of new hangars, classrooms, and accommodation for cadets. The outbreak of World War II saw a dramatic increase in the number of cadets at Cranwell, as the Royal Air Force sought to rapidly expand its pilot ranks.

In recent years, Royal Air Force College Cranwell has continued to play an important role in training both officers and aircrew. RAF flying instructors introduce young cadets to flying and to military aviation before they eventually move on to more advanced flying courses.

Famous Names at RAF Cranwell

  • Sir Frank Whittle – Flight Cadet, 1926. His ashes were placed in a memorial at the St. Andrew Parish Church in Cranwell.
  • T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) – Aircraftman Second Class TE Shaw, 1925-1926. During his residence he wrote his book “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom“.
  • Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader – 1930s.

Royal Air Force College Cranwell Today

The college currently is now a thriving RAF station that trains many hundreds of officers every year, making it one of the RAF’s most important training establishments. A flight cadet who begins his or her basic training here can one day become the pilot of a fighter jet or transport aircraft.

Air cadets who being their elementary flying training here will be posted to other RAF bases for converting onto other aircraf types. They are given ab initio training with the option to add multi engine pilot training.

Current occupants and aircraft at RAF Cranwell:

  • RAF College Cranwell
  • Central Flying School (military flying instructor training school)
  • HQ No. 3 Flying Training School (elementary flying training for the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force using the Embraer Phenom T1)
  • No. 45 Squadron (flying training using the Embraer Phenom T1)
  • No. 57 Squadron (flying training using the Grob Tutor & Prefect)
  • No. 703 Naval Air Squadron (Royal Navy training establishment providing flying training using the Grob Prefect. Operates from RAF Barkston Heath)
  • HQ No. 6 Flying Training School (University Air Squadrons and Air Experience Flights)
  • East Midlands Universities Air Squadron (Grob Tutor T1)
  • No. 7 Air Experience Flight (Tutor T1)

Key Facts About RAF Cranwell

  1. RAF Cranwell is located near Sleaford in Lincolnshire, England.
  2. RAF Cranwell was founded in 1916 as a training school for the RNAS.
  3. The base is home to the Royal Air Force College, which trains officers for service in the RAF.
  4. RAF Cranwell is controlled by No. 22 Group (Training).
  5. RAF College Cranwell is also an RAF recruitment centre.
  6. The motto for RAF Cranwell is alitum altrix trans. “We nurture the winged”.
  7. During WWII, with the Luftwaffe bombing military airfields, Herman Goering ordered the Luftwaffe not to bomb RAF Cranwell as he wanted to claim the site for his headquarters after the invasion of Britain. Thanks in part to some of the pilots who completed their basic training at Cranwell, the Battle of Britain saw to it that the planned invasion (Operation Sealion) was never launched.
The Battle Of Britain Memorial On The Thames Embankment, London
The Battle of Britain memorial on the Thames embankment, London
Photo by Zaymuel on Unsplash

Key dates in the history of RAF Cranwell

  • 1916: Royal Navy Air Service Training Establishment Cranwell opens.
  • 1917: The Cranwell Flyer train starts running along a single track from Sleaford.
  • 1918: RAF established and RNAS Cranwell becomes RAF Cranwell.
  • 1920: The RAF College is established at Cranwell.
  • 1933: College Hall Officers’ Mess opens.
  • 1934: College Hall opens.
  • 1941:  Gloster Whittle Jet test flown at the airfield.
  • 1971: HRH The Prince of Wales commences training on a Jet Provost.
  • 2018: Cranwell celebrates its centenary.

Today, RAF Cranwell remains an important training establishment for the RAF, and continues to play a vital role in preparing young men and women for service in the Royal Air Force, both as a college that prepare cadets for various roles within the service, The central flying school provides only basic training but prepares air force officers for advanced training at other establishments.

The Royal Air Force (RAF)

The RAF was formed in 1918, as a result of the merger of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). At the time, both organizations were responsible for the training and operation of military aircraft.

The merger created a new organization that was responsible for all aspects of aviation, from training pilots to operating military aircraft. The RAF played a vital role in the victory of the Allies in both World Wars, and it remains an important part of the British armed forces.

The RAF is organized into a number of different branches, each with its own area of responsibility. The training branch is responsible for the training of all RAF personnel, both officers and aircrew. The operations branch is responsible for the planning and execution of all RAF operations. The engineering branch is responsible for the maintenance and repair of all RAF aircraft.

The RAF operates several different types of aircraft, both fixed wing and rotary wing. These are for attack, defense, training, and transport. The current fighter aircraft is the Eurofighter Typhoon, which is used to protect British airspace and to carry out offensive operations. The RAF also operates a number of different transport aircraft, which are used to move personnel and equipment around the world.

The RAF is headquartered at RAF Northolt, in Greater London. It has a number of different bases around the UK as well as overseas.

The Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAAF)

The Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAAF) is a branch of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) that was formed in 1950. The RAAF is a volunteer organization, and its members are civilians who have been recruited to provide support to the RAF.

The RAAF provides a number of different services to the RAF, including airfield services, medical support, and engineering support. The RAAF also operates a number of different squadrons that provide light aircraft support to the RAF.

The RAAF is headquartered at RAF Benson, in Oxfordshire. The RAAF has a number of different bases around the UK, as well as a number of overseas bases.

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