Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation


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Commissioned Ranks of the Royal Air Force 1919 - Present

Final Uniform Design


The original proposal (by Lt-Gen Sir David Henderson) was to use a combination of Naval and Army ranks for the new service.  However, the War Office felt that the new service should have its own rank titles and also that the original list gave senior officers naval ranks and junior officers military ones.  On the other hand, the Admiralty objected to the use of naval ranks, even with the addition of the word 'Air', and also suggested that the RAF adopt its own titles. 

The final choice of titles are those still in use today and shown below.  However prior to arriving at these an initial list of titles was suggested:-

Ensign, Lieutenant, Flight-Leader, Squadron-Leader, Reeve, Banneret, Fourth-Ardian, Third-Ardian, Second-Ardian, Ardian, Air Marshal.

Ardian was derived from the Gaelic 'Ard' meaning Chief and 'Ian' or 'Eun' meaning Bird

A further suggestion varied the higher ranks as follows: -

Ensign, Lieutenant, Flight-Leader, Squadron-Leader, Wing-Leader, Leader, Flight Ardian, Squadron Ardian, Wing Ardian, Ardian, Air Marshal.

When introduced the new ranks were adopted as from 1 August 1919, however, appointments in the London Gazette were still being made with reference to Army ranks into early September 1919, their first use appearing to be in the edition of 5 September 1919, when appointments made after 1 August 1919 are in the new rank titles.

Pilot Officer - Final uniform design 

Flying Officer - Final uniform design

Flight Lieutenant - Final uniform design

 Pilot Officer 

Flying Officer

Flight Lieutenant
Squadron Leader - Final uniform design Wing Commander - Final uniform design Group Captain - Final uniform design
Squadron Leader Wing Commander Group Captain
Air Commodore - Final uniform design Air Vice Marshal - Final uniform design Air Marshal - Final uniform design
Air Commodore Air Vice-Marshal Air Marshal
Air Chief Marshal - Final uniform design   Marshal of the RAF - Final uniform design
Air Chief Marshal   Marshal of the RAF

This page was last updated on 26/05/17 using FrontPage 2003 

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