Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation

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Establishments - Flying Schools and Colleges

This section lists those establishments which have existed in roughly the same form throughout their history and have had Commandants of Air Rank. It includes pure RAF units and Joint Service units, having established posts for RAF Air Officers. For continuity periods when the Commandant's post was lower than Air Commodore, the post holder was non GD or a Naval/Army officer held the post, have also been included. Naval, Army and non-GD RAF officers or officers who did not ultimately attain Air Rank are shown in italics.

Central Flying School

RAF Upavon, Wiltshire; RAF Wittering, Leicestershire. (10 Oct 1926 - 30 Aug 1935)

Its formation was authorized on 23 April 1912 as an independent unit and formally opened on 19 June, with the first course beginning on 17 August. Initially formed to give pilots holding RAeC Certificates military training, it was later tasked with the training of flying instructors and refresher training. It was subordinated to Southern Training Brigade from 5 August 1917 and transferred to HQ Training Division on 5 January 1918. Further transfers took place, to No 7 Group from 1 April 1918 and to No 8 Group on 16 September 1918.  It was renamed Flying Instructors School on 23 December 1919. (Commandant of FIS included and indicated by *).

It was reformed on 26 April 1920 at Upavon within Inland Area and transferred to No 3 Group on 1 April 1926 and then No 23 Group from 12 April 1926.  On 7 October 1926, it moved to Wittering but returned to Upavon between 30 August and 2 September 1935.  It came under the control of Training Command when it was formed on 1 July 1936 and transferred to Flying Training Command when Training Command was split on 27 May 1940 and was disbanded by being renamed as No 7 Flying Instructors School on 1 April 1942.

19 Jun 1912:             Capt G M Paine RN

15 Nov 1915:           Lt Col D le G Pitcher

xx xxx 1916:             Col C J Burke

18 Jun 1916:            Lt Col A C H McLean

17 Jan 1919:             Lt Col P H L Playfair*

 7 Apr 1919:             Lt-Col/Wg Cdr C D Breese*

3 May 1920:             Wg Cdr N D K MacEwen

 9 Oct 1922:             A/Cdre E A D Masterman

1 Jan 1923:               Gp Capt F V Holt

22 Apr 1925:            Gp Capt W R Freeman

24 Jan 1927:             Gp Capt-A/Cdre C S Burnett

17 Dec 1928:            Wg Cdr-Gp Capt J E A Baldwin

19 Jan 1932:             Gp Capt P C Maltby

 7 Mar 1935:             Wg Cdr-Gp Capt H G Smart

28 Dec 1936:            Gp Capt J M Robb

 4 Apr 1940:            Gp Capt H H Down

It reformed again on 7 May 1946 at  Little Rissington.  In May 1952, the element at Little Rissington was renamed CFS (Advanced) and No 2 FTS At South Cerney was redesignated CFS (Basic).  On 1 June 1957, both elements were amalgamated into a single CFS again.  Subsequently the HQ element of CFS has been based at Cranwell from 12 April 1976, Leeming from 5 September 1977, Scampton from 19 September 1984 and back to Cranwell from 31 May 1995, where it remains to the present (2017).  However, since 1952, it has been the policy to station specific elements of the CFS at other stations where a particular type of aircraft is based.  These include South Cerney, Middle Wallop, Ternhill and Shawbury (helicopters), Fairford (Gnat and Jet Provost), Kemble (Gnat), Aston Down (Jet Provost), Church Fenton (Primary Flying Squadron), Valley (Hawk - later 19 (Reserve) Squadron), Cranwell (Bulldog) and Topcliffe (Tucano).

7 May 1946:              Gp Capt E A C Britton

xx xxx 1946               A/Cdre W L M MacDonald

xx xxx 1948               Gp Capt G D Stephenson

xx xxx 1950               Gp Capt G T Jarman

xx xxx 1951               A/Cdre A D Selway

xx xxx 1954                A/Cdre G J C Paul

16 Jan 1956                A/Cdre N C Hyde

22 May 1958              A/Cdre J H N Whitworth

21 Jan 1961                A/Cdre H P Connolly

 4 Feb 1963                A/Cdre H A C Bird-Wilson

 8 Nov 1965               A/Cdre F L Dodd

xx xxx 1968                A/Cdre I G Broom

29 Jan 1970                A/Cdre F S Hazlewood

21 Jan 1972                A/Cdre R H Crompton

 9 Feb 1974                A/Cdre J deM Severne

14 Feb 1976               A/Cdre J M D Sutton

 9 Jul 1977                  A/Cdre A W Fraser

16 Jun 1979                A/Cdre D Allison

15 Jan 1983                A/Cdre R J Kemball

 5 Jul 1985                  A/Cdre A B Blackley

 1May 1987                A/Cdre D E Leppard

26 May 1989              A/Cdre K B Latton

 4 Oct 1991                A/Cdre G L McRobbie

12 Nov 1993              A/Cdre S N Bostock

28 Oct 1996               A/Cdre H G Mackay

xx xxx xxxx                 A/Cdre M Prissick 

 7 Sep 2000                A/Cdre P A Robinson

14 Jan 2002                Gp Capt J S Fynes

24 Dec 2004               Gp Capt S P Ayres

xx xxx xxxx                 Gp Capt S J Blake

xx Apr 2012                Gp Capt D A Bentley

xx Mar 2014                Gp Capt J H Hunter

xx Mar 2016                Gp Capt J F Monahan

xx Jun 2018                 Gp Capt A R Franklin

xx Jun 2020                 Gp Capt M J Higgins

xx Jul 2022                 Gp Capt T M Jordan

Listings of officers serving in this establishment (1920-1939) are available in the Members' Area

1st - 26 June 1969

HM Queen Elizabeth II

2nd - 4 June 1992

HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother

[Central Flying School Website  | Aircraft and Markings | Coat of Arms]

Empire Central Flying School

This was formed on 1 April 1942 at Hullavington within No 23 Group from a nucleus provided by the Central Flying School and was redesignated Empire Flying School on 7 May 1946

xx xxx 1942                Gp Capt A J Holmes

xx xxx 1942                A/Cdre G S Oddie,   

xx xxx 1943                A/Cdre C Mc C Vincent,

| Central Flying School Website |

Empire Central Armament School/Empire Air Armament School

This was formed as the Empire Central Armament School from No 1 Air Armament School on 18 September 1944 at Manby within No 25 Group.  In November 1944 the unit records start to use the title Empire Air Armament School, although no specific reference to this change is included in them.  It was transferred to No 21 Group in 1946 and amalgamated with the Empire Flying School on 31 July 1949 to form the RAF Flying College.

18 Sep 1944                A/Cdre C W Busk

For photographs of the unit see Members' Area

Empire Flying School

This was formed on 7 May 1946 at Hullavington by redesignating  the Empire Central Flying School and amalgamated with the Empire Air Armament School to form the RAF Flying College on 31 July 1949.

xx xxx 1946              

xx xxx 1947               A/Cdre E D Barnes


  Central Navigation School

This was formed on 14 August 1942 at Cranage by redesignating No 2 School of Air Navigation within No 25 Group.  On 11 February 1944 it moved to Shawbury, where it redesignated the Empire Air Navigation School, 28 October 1944. 

It  reformed on 31 July 1949 by renaming the Empire Air Navigation School at RAF Shawbury.  On 10 February 1950 it absorbed the School of Air Traffic Control and was redesignated Central Navigation and Control School.

14 Aug 1942                           Wg Cdr O A Morris

22 Sep 1942                           Gp Capt N C Ogilvie-Forbes                             

25 May 1944                          Gp Capt G I L Saye

20 Sep 1944                           A/Cdre P H Mackworth

31 Jul 1949                            ?

Empire Air Navigation School

This was supposedly formed on 28 October 1944 in No 25 Group at Shawbury, however, the unit ORB refers to it as ECNS from September.  Its role was to provide advanced navigation instruction and the development of new techniques.  It was transferred to No 21 Group in 1946 and was redesignated the Central Navigation School on 31 July 1949

Commandants: -

xx Sep 1944                Gp Capt G I L Saye

28 Oct 1944                A/Cdre P H Mackworth

13 Jun 1945                   A/Cdre N H D'Aeth

19 Jan 1948                  A/Cdre L K Barnes

xx xxx 1948

 Central Navigation and Control School

This was formed on 10 Feb 1950 when the Central Navigation School absorbed the School of Air Traffic Control at RAF Shawbury, becoming the Central Navigation and Control School within No 21 Group.  It was transferred to No 25 Group on 1 February 1955 and renamed the Central Air Traffic Control School on 11 February 1963 with the Navigation Element moving to the RAF Flying College at Manby.

10 Feb 1950                            ?

RAF Flying College

This was formed on 1 June 1949 at RAF Manby, where it absorbed the Empire Flying School and Empire Air Armament School on 31 July 1949.  Its role was to provide advanced courses to aircrew in all aspects of air combat and battle management.  In September the All-weather Jet Refresher Squadron moved to its satellite, RAF Strubby, to be followed by the Jet Training Squadron on 24 May 1950.  The organisation had stabilised by November 1950 into No 1 Squadron (Bombers), No 2 Squadron (Fighters), No 3 Squadron (Handling) and No 4 Squadron (Development). 

In August 1952 the college took over the Specialist Navigation Course from the Central Navigation and Control School and by the mid 1950s the structure composed No 1 (Heavy) Squadron with Hastings, Valettas and Lincolns, No 2 Squadron with Canberras, Meteors and Vampires at Strubby, No 3 (Handling) Squadron and No 4 (Research and Development) Squadron.

On 12 April 1954 the Handling Squadron was transferred to the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down and on 1 July 1962 it was renamed the College of Air Warfare.

 17 Jun 1949               A/Cdre A McKee

26 Jun 1951                A/Cdre S R Ubee

 1 Feb 1954                A/Cdre G A Walker

 1 Sep 1956                A/Cdre P H Dunn

12 Nov 1958              A/Cdre E M Donaldson

21 Feb 1961               A/Cdre D G Smallwood

College of Air Warfare

This was formed on 1 July 1962 at Manby by renaming the RAF Flying College.  It was tasked with providing course in tactics and techniques as well as providing refresher flying training to pilots returning from ground postings.  On 11 February 1963 the Staff Navigator Course was transferred to it from the Central Navigation and Control School at Shawbury.  In January 1974 it began to transfer its tasks to the newly created Department of Air Warfare at the RAF College at Cranwell, a process completed on 1 April 1974, when the College disbanded.

21 Feb 1961                A/Cdre D G Smallwood

23 Jan 1963                A/Cdre G R Magill

25 Mar 1964                A/Cdre J G Topham

10 Jun 1966                A/Cdre C B Brown

27 Jan 1969                A/Cdre J C T Downey

 3 Oct 1969                A/Cdre A H Mawer

24 Apr 1971                A/Cdre D C Saunders

 6 Jan 1974

School of Land/Air Warfare

This was formed on 1 May 1947 at Old Sarum within No 11 Group by renaming the School of Air Support.  It was transferred to No 12 Group on 1 December 1960 and was absorbed into the Joint Warfare Establishment on 31 March 1963

xx xxx 1944                AVM Sir Leslie Brown

xx xxx 1948                AVM W G Dawson

xx xxx 1950                AVM L F Pendred

xx xxx 1952                AVM L F Sinclair

xx xxx 1953                AVM G Harcourt-Smith

xx xxx 1955                AVM J H Edwardes-Jones

xx xxx 1957                AVM C G Lott

xx xxx 1959                AVM D R Evans

15 May 1961              AVM C T Weir

Defence Helicopter Flying School

This was formed on 1 April 1997, taking over the role of the various training schools operated by the RAF (No 2 FTS), Royal Navy and Army.  Based at RAF Shawbury, it is splint into three training squadrons, No 660 Sqn AAC, No 705 Sqn RN and No 60 (Reserve) Sqn RAF.  All students undertake the Basic Rotary Wing course with No 660 Sqn, before progressing to the Advanced Rotary Wing course with No 705 Sqn after which the Army and RN students leave the DHFS.  The RAF students move to the Multi-Engine Advanced Rotary Wing course with No 60 (Reserve) Sqn.

 4 Jan 2002                Gp Capt R W Tizard

This page was last updated on 10/06/22

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