Armed Forces & World Wars

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The British Royal Air Force - RAF


The RAF follows the practice of the Army and Royal Navy with commissioned officers and other ranks.

Originally the RAF after its formation in April 1918 used Army ranks. A distinctive set of ranks was introduced in August 1919. Those for officers were based to an extent on titles already used in the Royal Navy.

During the Second World War fighter and bomber aircraft could be crewed by a mixture or commissioned and non-commissioned officers. However junior his rank, the pilot was always the crew's commander.

Despite their titles RAF junior officers may never have had anything directly to do with aircraft.

Indeed in general members of the RAF performed a vast range of duties which is not reflected in their ranks, although after the Second World War two new ranks were established for other ranks Junior Technician (between Leading Aircraftman and Corporal) and Chief Technician (between Sergeant and Flight Sergeant) to reward the technical skills of many servicemen and women.

Ranks and Officers

Rank Description
Aircraftman 2 (AC 1) & Aircraftman 1 (AC 2) Both of these were training ranks. Normally after a year the individual would be promoted to: Leading Aircraftman/woman (LAC)
Leading Aircraftman/woman (LAC) Leading Aircraftmen and women would have done everything from maintain aircraft to cooking and basic clerical tasks. Sometimes nicknamed 'erks', although the origins of the nickname is not known.
Squadron Leader (Sq Ldr) In the early days of the RAF, a Squadron Leader may have actually commanded a squadron of aircraft. During the Second World War however, a flying squadron was usually commanded by a Wing Commander, with each of the two flights under a Squadron Leader.
Air Marshal (AM) In charge of a command, such as Fighter Command or Bomber Command
Marshal of the Royal Air Force (MRAF) Largely an honorific title given to members of the royal family and very senior officers