War in the Air
Military aviation was in its infancy at the outbreak of the First World War, but quickly became vitally important to warfare on land and sea, as well as creating a new battleground in the air. Airmen from across the Commonwealth took to the skies in all manner of machines, from balloons to biplanes, reconnaissance aircraft to combat fighters and bombers. They were active across the world, from North America to the Middle East. On the Western Front, fierce battles were fought between aircraft, and military and industrial targets were bombed from the air. In April 1918, the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) merged to create the new Royal Air Force (RAF), which at its peak had some 4,000 front-line aircraft and over 100,000 personnel.
The sites selected below represent just some of the CWGC cemeteries and memorials where air forces personnel are commemorated:
Arras Flying Services Memorial, Pas de Calais
In the central courtyard of the Arras Memorial is the Memorial to the Flying Services, which commemorates by name almost 1,000 Commonwealth airmen of the Royal Flying Corps, the Royal Naval Air Service, and the Royal Air Force, who died on the Western Front and have no known grave. The memorial was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, with sculpture by Sir William Reid Dick.
Omer) Souvenir Cemetery, Pas de Calais
St Omer aerodrome was first used by the Royal Flying Corps in September 1914, and became the largest air base on the Western Front. By the end of the war more than 4,000 personnel were serving here in both operational and support units, including men from Illinois, Quebec, Natal and Western Australia.
British Cemetery, Pas de Calais
Among those laid to rest here are 46 RAF personnel who were killed during a German bombing raid at Marquise in September 1918. Located between Boulogne and Calais, Marquise had an important aerodrome which was used by several RAF squadrons and 1 Aeroplane Supply Depot, which moved here from St Omer during the German spring offensive of 1918.
Established for the Independent Air Force, the cemetery is now the final resting place of more than 100 Commonwealth service personnel. The Independent Air Force was formed to conduct bombing raids on German communications, industrial and military targets, and was headquartered in Nancy, with several squadrons based in the areas around the cemetery.
Church Cemetery, Gloucestershire
Australia formed its own flying corps, with squadrons serving in Palestine and the Western Front. Leighterton was the home of Numbers 7 and 8 Training Squadrons which, along with other training groups across southern England, formed the 1st Training Wing, Australian Flying Corps. Among those laid to rest here are several airmen who died while serving with these squadrons.
Paul's Churchyard, East Boldre, Hampshire
A flying training school designated RFC Beaulieu was established at East Boldre in November 1915. New hangers were built, along with barracks and workshops. Renamed RAF Beaulieu in April 1918, it remained here until 1919. The churchyard is the final resting place of several of those who served here.
Cemetery, Gosport, Hampshire
No. 5 Squadron RFC was based at Gosport before the outbreak of the First World War. The nearby airfield was used by the Royal Naval Air Service in late 1914, and the RFC (later RAF) from 1915.
Saints Churchyard, Yatesbury, Wiltshire
Two RFC training centres were established at Yatesbury airfield in late 1916, and several airmen who died here were buried in the churchyard.
Park, Fort Worth,
In 1917 and 1918, training units of the RFC and RAF were stationed at the Fort Worth flying field under a reciprocal arrangement between the American and Canadian air services. The Memorial Park contains a Royal Air Force Plot, marked by a central memorial, which is the final resting place of 11 Commonwealth airmen of the First World War.
Upavon has a long association with the air forces, and was the location of the Army Central Flying School. During the war, it was a centre of training for flying instructors and in April 1918, the base became officially known as RAF Upavon. This is the final resting place of more than 30 members of the RFC, the RAF and the Women's Royal Air Force who died here during the First World War.
Cemetery, Montrose, Angus
In February 1913, Upper Dysart Farm - three miles south of Montrose - became the first military airfield to operate in the United Kingdom, when five aircraft of No. 2 Squadron RFC touched down. Montrose was a strategic location, close to the North Sea and the Royal Naval bases at Scapa Flow in Orkney, Cromarty Firth and Rosyth, on the Firth of Forth. Nearby Bloomfield Farm became RAF Montrose.