Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation

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Explanation of terms (Organisational)

This section explains the meaning of certain terms used in this website as defined by King's Regulations.

Air or other Officer Commanding: -The officer of air or lower rank who is appointed to command a RAF command or group at home or abroad or who is in command of the command or group during the absence of the officer posted for that duty.

Establishment: -The establishment of a unit is the number of officers, airmen, civilians, aircraft, and transport included in its organisation as authorised, and indicates in detail: -

(i)                 numbers and ranks of officers and the duties on which they are employed

(ii)               numbers, ranks and trades of airmen

(iii)             numbers, grades and trades of civilians

(iv)             numbers and types of aircraft

(v)               numbers and types of transport vehicles and marine craft.

Extension, Prolongation and Re-engagement: - "Extension” is used, in relation to alterations of airmen's engagements, when the altered period of service (i.e. continuous service since last attestation) to be completed does not exceed 12 years, “ prolongation” when it exceeds 12 years but is less than 24 years, and “re-engagement" when it is 24 years.

Invalided: - When used in relation to an airman, will be held to mean “discharged as medically unfit for further service.” When used in relation to an officer, it will be held to mean “retired or gazetted out of the service as medically unfit for further service.”

Mustering: - The term used to denote the rank, group and trade in which an airman is placed on first joining the RAF, or (for an apprentice or a boy entrant) on passing out of the training establishment.

Promotion: - The term used to denote a rise in substantive rank. It therefore does not apply to an aircraftman, 2nd class, rising to air­craftman, 1st class, or an aircraftman, 1st class, rising to leading aircraftman. (See Reclassification.)

Reclassification: - The term used to denote any transition, either upwards or downwards, between the three classes (aircraftman, 2nd or 1st class, or leading aircraftman) of aircraftmen.

Remustering: - The term used to denote a change in the trade of an airman.

Reversion: - The term used to denote

(i)                 the return of a warrant officer or acting warrant officer or NCO or acting NCO to a lower rank, or class in the ranks, either compulsorily, automatically or voluntarily. Reversions may be from substantive, temporary or acting rank.

(ii)               Also, where the context so requires, the return of an airman to his basic or former trade on relinquishment of a non-substantive or additional mustering. In this event no loss of rank is normally involved. 

Strength: - The strength of a unit at any particular time is the number of officers, airmen and civilians who are actually borne on its muster roll at the time, exclusive of any attached. Strength is sub­divided into: -

(i)                 effective strength;

(ii)               non-effective strength.

The effective strength of a unit at any moment is the number of officers, airmen and civilians on its strength who are actually serving with the unit (including those on ordinary leave) and available for duty at that moment. The non-effective strength at any moment is the number of officers, airmen and civilians on the strength of the unit who are not available for duty for any of the following reasons: -

(i)                 In hospital or station sick quarters.

(ii)               Absent without leave.

(iii)             Under arrest or detention, or in prison.

(iv)             Detached.

(v)               Sick leave.

Officers and airmen attached to a unit are not part of its establishment

nor on its strength. They remain on the establishment and strength of the unit from which they are detached.

Subordinate Commander: -

(i) An officer commanding a unit who is subordinate to the CO of the station for disciplinary purposes

(in accordance with para. 1138, clause 6);

(ii) an officer placed in command of a flight, section or other sub-division of the unit who is sub­ordinate to the CO of the unit for disciplinary purposes; also

(iii) the officer who by appointment or by the custom of the service discharges the functions of either of the officers above mentioned, in their absence.

Unit: -

1. Includes: -

2. These units do not cease to be so designated even though they appear in establishments as part of a larger formation or unit, e.g. a squadron or independent flight may be included in the establishment of a station. Detachments from units, e.g. a flight from a squadron, are not units, but a flight for which a separate establishment exists, such as a flight of the Fleet Air Arm, is a unit. A depot is a unit; a section of a depot is not a unit unless it is expressly made so for a particular purpose, e.g. a squadron at No 1 RAF Depot for disciplinary purposes, but a section for which a separate establishment exists, such as the “Air Ministry Wireless Section", is a unit. It does not follow that units, as just defined, are in all cases units for accounting purposes. Self-accounting units for equipment and cash accounts are approved as such by the Air Ministry; units not so approved are affiliated to a self-accounting unit for either equipment or cash accounting purposes, or both.

3. Formation: - A formation consists of one or more units grouped under a headquarters unit, e.g. a wing is a formation, and consists of a wing headquarters and one or more squadrons, and may include a park, depot or other units as required.

4. Command or Group: - A command or group is a formation set up for the purpose of decentralising the command of units and lower formations from the Air Ministry.

5. It should be noted that a unit consists of a definite number of officers, airmen, &c., and that its composition is fixed and only changes if its authorised establishment is amended. A formation, on the other hand, is a flexible organisation which is liable to alteration according to circumstances: changes in formations merely affect the grouping of units and make no difference in numbers.


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This page was last updated on 31/12/22©

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