Researching your ancestors that served in the Royal Air Force can be done in a number of RAF records that are fully searchable at TheGenealogist.

The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's aerial military service. It came into existence towards the end of the First World War on 1 April 1918, which means that it is the first independent air force to have been created anywhere in the world. The RAF was formed when the pilots of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) were merged into a new organisation. Adopting the motto ‘Per ardua ad astra’ that translates as ‘Through adversity to the stars’, its first Chief of the Air Staff was Major-General Sir Hugh Trenchard who would go on to become Marshal of the Royal Air Force, 1st Viscount Trenchard.

Following the Allied victory in 1918, the RAF was the largest air force in the world at the time. Today it maintains a fleet of cutting-edge aircraft to play its part in the defence of British interests. From its early days, the RAF has taken a significant role in British military history, playing a large part in the Second World War where it fought its most famous campaign, the Battle of Britain with its iconic fighter planes including the Spitfire and Hurricane. This and the bombing operations carried out with Lancasters, Blenheims, Halifax and Mosquitos, to name a few, can be traced in the records on TheGenealogist.

Records that subscribers may use on TheGenealogist:

Family historians wishing to research their RAF ancestors in the records have access to a number of useful resources on TheGenealogist. If you are searching for Royal Air Force aircrew from your family tree then you could do no better than consulting the following records that list RAF personnel.

Air Force Lists

Regularly published books that can be used to trace the commissions and promotions of an RAF officer over their career.

Hurricanes of 80 Squadron in Palestine, June 1941
Hurricanes of 80 Squadron in Palestine, June 1941

Operations Record Books (AIR 27)

Operations Record Books (ORBs) – these are daily records of the life of a squadron, and of other units within the RAF structure.They are extremely useful for providing insights into what an airman or officer did during their time in a squadron. Very often individuals are mentioned by name, though there are also details of the activities of the unit as a whole including operations in the air as well as day to day happenings on the base, including visiting top brass and concert parties. Find out more here.

Aviator Certificates from the Royal Aero Club

TheGenealogist’s Occupational Records contain pilot certificates from the pioneering years of aviation, ranging from 1909 to 1926. Some of these Aero Club members, Aeronaut certificates, and airship certificates were held by early members of the RAF.

WW2 Prisoner of War

World War II Prisoner of War records 1939-1945 detail Officers and other ranks from the RAF as well as the British Army, Royal Navy and British Empire land forces that were held as Prisoners of War in Germany and German Occupied territories. Find out more in our featured article, "The famous WW2 Air Ace who overcame great adversity".

Royal Air Force War Memorials

A number of War Memorials can be searched on TheGenealogist that contain the names of lost airmen including the following specifically for the RAF:

  • The Battle of Britain Memorial, Victoria Embankment
  • Air Forces Memorial to the Missing WW2 at Runnymede
  • Capel Le Ferne – Battle of Britain Memorial
Crew boarding their Lancaster bomber in preperation for Operation Chastise (The Dam Busting mission)
Crew boarding their Lancaster bomber in preperation for Operation Chastise (The Dam Busting mission)


These records on TheGenealogist provide an in-depth analysis of the mission which went on to achieve legendary recognition. The fascinating information includes an account of each aircraft’s flight, including full crew lists and details of the awards made to each of the crew members after the mission.

Who’s Who in British Aviation (The Flying Book 1918)

From the year that the RAF came into existence with illustrations of aircraft from this time and more.

The Wonder Book of Aircraft 1930

Some wonderful images and articles from that era, including A life in the Royal Air Force.

The Air Annual of the British Empire 1930 Vol II

Includes a review of the Air Force in 1930.

Featured Articles on TheGenealogist

We have published online, and free to read, a number of articles on the RAF and its records including the following:

Air Force Lists and AIR 27 records finds Paddy Finucane the Spitfire Ace

Air Operations Record Books capture airmen from fighter and bomber squadrons during WW2

Celebrating the centenary of the RAF with TheGenealogist’s records

RAF crew during training for the 1932 Hendon airshow, with a Gloster Gamecock. RAF crew during training for the 1932 Hendon airshow, with a Gloster Gamecock.

Discover your RAF ancestors today with a free search:

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Air Chief Marshal Dowding with some of
Air Chief Marshal Dowding with some of "The Few"
Loading bombs during World War II
Loading bombs during World War II