Formation of the Air Force

On 1 January 1920, the Australian Air Corps (AAC) was established as part of the Commonwealth Military Forces, intended as a temporary body to maintain existing equipment until a permanent organisation could be created. As well as conducting training and public flying displays, the AAC carried out surveys of aerial routes.

It was September 1920 before funding to establish an efficient air force and commercial air service was announced by Prime Minister W.M. Hughes, a self-professed aviation fanatic.

Despite the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm the final step of bringing the Air Force into being was delayed by the Government. Lieutenant Colonel Richard Williams, the principal military adviser on air matters, believed this situation might not be resolved quickly, so he focused on the Government’s desire to use military aircraft to trial the establishment of air mail services in some of Australia’s more remote areas. Williams advised that trials of such an air mail service could not begin until the proposed air force had been formally established. With this argument, Williams was able to win approval for creation of an air force, and the Australian Air Force was inaugurated on 31 March 1921.

Official approval for the prefix ‘Royal’ to be added to the new Service’s name was granted on 31 August 1921. Thus, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) was born.

The initial strength of the RAAF was 151 aircraft, of which 129 had been provided through the Imperial Gift. These included thirty-five Avro 504K trainers, thirty-five SE5A fighters, thirty DH9A general purpose aircraft and twenty-nine DH9 day bombers. There were just 149 RAAF servicemen, including 21 officers. A single mixed RAAF Squadron, 1 Squadron, operated from Point Cook.

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