Welcome to The RAF in Essex, WW1 to the Cold War

Website about all the RAF Airfields and auxiliary sites in Essex.


"Never was so much owed by so many to so few"
- Winston Churchill

History of the RAF


The RAF was founded in 1918, near the the end of World War by merging the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. After the First World War, the RAF was reduced in size. The RAF underwent rapid expansion prior to and during the Second World War. During the war it was responsible for the aerial defence of Great Britain, the strategic bombing campaign against Germany and tactical support to the British Army around the world.

The newly created RAF was the most powerful air force in the world on its creation, with over 20,000 aircraft and over 300,000 personnel (including the Women's Royal Air Force). The squadrons of the RFC kept their numerals while those of the RNAS were renumbered from 201 onwards. At the time of the merger, the Navy's air service had 55,066 officers and men, 2,949 aircraft, 103 airships and 126 coastal stations. The remaining personnel and aircraft came from the RFC. The RAF's last known surviving founder member was the World War I veteran Henry Allingham who died in 2009 aged 113. A memorial to the RAF was commissioned after the war in central London.

During the 1920s and first half of the 1930s, Government spending on the RAF was limited and the air staff put a higher priority on strategic bombing than on naval aviation. The result of this was that by the late 1930s the Fleet Air Arm was equipped with outdated aircraft in limited numbers. By 1936, the Admiralty were once again campaigning for the return of naval aviation to their control. This time they were successful and on 30 July 1937, the Admiralty took over responsibility for the administration of the Fleet Air Arm. Under two years later, on 24 May 1939, the Fleet Air Arm was returned to full Admiralty control under the Inskip Award and renamed the Air Branch of the Royal Navy. The RAF name of the Fleet Air Arm remained in informal usage and was later adopted officially. Land-based aircraft of Coastal Command which defended the United Kingdom from naval threats remained under RAF control.


During the Cold War, the main role of the RAF was the defence of the continent of Europe against potential attack by the Soviet Union, including holding the UK's nuclear deterrent for a number of years. At Kevledon Hatch is one of the main RAF ROTOR Stations. This secret nuclear bunker was built in the early 1950's and has to be visited as it captures the history of the Cold War era. After the Cold War, the RAF was involved in several large scale operations, including the Gulf War, the Kosovo War, the War in Afghanistan, the Iraq War.