Royal Australian Air Force flag
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) traces its history back to the Imperial Conference held in London in 1911, where it was decided aviation should be developed within the Armed Forces of the British Empire. Australia implemented this decision, the only country to do so, by approving the establishment of the Central Flying School at Point Cook, Victoria in 1912.
The Australian Flying Corps (AFC) was formed within the First Australian Imperial Force (AIF), and earned a most creditable reputation in both Palestine and France during World War I. The Australian Flying Corps remained part of the Australian Army until 1919, when it was disbanded along with the AIF. Although the Central Flying School continued to operate at Point Cook, military flying virtually ceased until 1920, when the Australian Air Corps The Australian Air Force was formed on 31 March 1921. King George V approved the prefix "Royal" in June 1921 and became effective on 31 August 1921. The RAAF then became the second Royal air arm to be formed in the British Commonwealth, following the British Royal Air Force. When formed the RAAF had more aircraft then personnel, with 21 officers and 131 other ranks and 170 aircraft.
World War I
Soon after the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the Australian Flying Corps sent aircraft to assist in capturing German colonies in what is now north-west New Guinea. These colonies surrendered quickly however, before the planes were even unpacked. The first operational flights did not occur until 27 May 1915, when the Mesopotamian Half Flight was called upon to assist the Indian Army in protecting British oil interests in what is now Iraq. The Corps later saw action in Egypt, Palestine and on the Western Front throughout the remainder of World War I. By the end of the war, four squadrons had seen active service.
World War II
In 1939, just after the start of World War II, Australia joined the Empire Air Training Scheme, under which flight crews received basic training in Australia before travelling to Canada for advanced training. A total of 19 RAAF bomber, fighter, reconnaissance and other squadrons served initially in Britain, and/or with the Desert Air Force, in North Africa and the Mediterranean.
With British manufacturing targeted by the Luftwaffe, the Australian government created the Department of Aircraft Production (DAP; later known as the Government Aircraft Factory) to supply Commonwealth air forces and the RAAF was eventually provided with large numbers of locally-built versions of British designs like the Beaufort torpedo bomber.
In the European Theatre of World War II, RAAF personnel were especially notable in RAF Bomber Command: although they represented only two percent of all RAAF personnel during the war, they accounted for 23% of the total number killed in action. This statistic is further illustrated by the fact that No. 460 Squadron RAAF, mostly flying Avro Lancaster