Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation

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RAF Reserves

RAF Reserves fall into two basic categories, Reserve following active service and Volunteer Reserves.

Reserve following active service

When joining the RAF on a short service commission, it is normal for the person's service to consist of a period of active service followed by a fixed period of mandatory reserve.  The spilt between these two elements has varied over time depending on a number of factors including finances and the increasing complexity of the service and equipment operated.

The Reserve of Air Force Officers was given the prefix 'Royal' on 1 April 1997.

RAF Reserve Classes

Volunteer reserves

The earliest forms of volunteer reserve in the RAF were the Special Reserve and Auxiliary Air Force.  The Special Reserve was absorbed into the Auxiliary Air Force in 1936 and the AuxAF was given the 'Royal' prefix in 1947.

Auxiliary Air Force/Royal Auxiliary Air Force Units

However, as the threat of war grew larger in the 1930's, it was clear that the existing reserve forces would be unable to cope with the numbers of personnel need so the RAF Volunteer Reserve was formed on 27 August 1936.  On the outbreak of war, recruiting into the (Regular) RAF ceased and all personnel joining the service were enlisted into the RAFVR and they continued to wear the 'VR' badge on their uniform, which had been introduced in September 1939.  However, by 1943, the original purpose of the badge was being diluted by the numbers entering the service and it was felt that it was being seen as a way of distinguishing between war-time 'amateurs' and pre-war 'professionals' so in June 1943 officers were instructed to remove the badges from their uniforms and the airmen's badge was declared obsolete.  After the war, the RAFVR was reconstituted and students flying in the UAS's were added to its numbers. 

University Air Squadrons

Volunteer Reserve Units

When the Air Defence Cadet Corps was taken over by the Air Ministry and renamed the Air Training Corps in 1941, a new class of the RAFVR was formed to man and run this organisation, the RAF Volunteer Reserve (Training Branch).

HQ Air Cadets


This page was last updated on 09/03/21

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