The Royal Naval Air Service

IWM Q 27501. Anti-submarine patrol. The dazzle camouflage schemes aided identification in the air during combat and on the water in the event of ditching.

Re: our commemorative post on the RFC and the RAF in WWII, we are grateful to have been reminded about the First World War contribution made by the men of the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS).

The RNAS was under the control of the Admiralty for its (not quite) four year existence, which ended on 1 April 1918 when it was merged with the British Army’s Royal Flying Corps to form the RAF.

The merge was recommended by the much respected South African soldier-statesman Jan Smuts, who foretold the need for an independent air force specifically to deal with the new dangers and tactics of aerial warfare. Smuts believed that this new air force should not be tied to the tactical needs of the Army and the Navy.

His plan was adopted and implemented with remarkable speed. However, because both the Army and the Navy resented their flying wings being taken away from them, the new Service, the RAF (which was often referred to as the Junior Service), had a difficult first few years. Even during the Second World War, the old complaints were being made about the RAF’s independence. But that’s another subject for another day …


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