How do I trace my RAF ancestors?
The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's aerial military service in which many of our recent ancestors may have served. As a branch of the British armed forces it only 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.
How do I find my ancestor's RAF war records?
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.
How can Air Force Lists help me find RAF ancestors?
Air Force lists were regularly published books that can be used to trace the commissions and promotions of an RAF officer over their career.
Are RAF ancestors' named in the Operations Record Books (AIR 27)?
Operations Record Books (ORBs) – are daily records of the life of a squadron, and of other units within the RAF structure and so RAF ancestors' names are often recorded in these pages. Operations Record Books are extremely useful for providing insights into what an airman or officer did during their time in a squadron. As well as individuals being mentioned by name, 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.
How do I trace an early pilot's 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.
My ancestor was a WW2 Prisoner of War, what records can I find?
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. These records can be found on TheGenealogist. Find out more in our featured article, "The famous WW2 Air Ace who overcame great adversity".
How can I find my RAF ancestor's Royal Air Force War Memorial?
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
Where can I find the crew list etc. for the Dambusters?
The Dambusters 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.
What other resources can I use to find my RAF ancestors?
Ancestors that served in the RAF may be found mentioned in a number of books and directories such as the following:
- Who's Who in British Aviation (The Flying Book 1918)
TheGenealogist has digitized this book for their members to use when researching RAF ancestors. Researchers can discover details of people in the Aviation world in 1918, as well as an Industrial Directory from this important year when the RAF came into existence. It is enhanced with illustrations of aircraft from this time.
- The Wonder Book of Aircraft 1930
Some wonderful images and articles from that era, including A life in the Royal Air Force. The book can also be searched on TheGenealogist's site.
- The Air Annual of the British Empire 1930 Vol II
Includes a review of the Air Force in 1930.
Where can I read Featured Articles about researching RAF ancestors?
TheGenealogist has published online, and free to read, a number of articles on the RAF and its records
Where can I read articles about researching RAF ancestors?
TheGenealogist has 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
- Ace in a Day: Archie McKellar, one of "The Few"
- Douglas Bader - the famous WW2 Air Ace who overcame great adversity