Discover your ancestors who served as Warrant Officers, noncommissioned officers, or airmen in the Royal Air Force (RAF) between 1912 and 1945. The record set contains records of almost 343,000 airmen, who were born in over 30 countries. You may be able to explore the personal lives of these airmen, including details of their birthplaces, civilian occupations, religious denominations, and wives and children. In addition, the records may reveal details of their military lives, including attestation year, service number, military training, and awards or decorations.

Each record comprises a transcript and black and white images of the original register.

Some airmen used an initial or a diminutive instead of a first name, so you should be aware of possible alternatives when searching for your ancestor’s first name.

Transcript

The amount of information listed varies, but the records usually include a combination of the following information about your ancestor:
  • First name(s)
  • Last name
  • Attestation year
  • Attestation date
  • Attestation age
  • Birth year
  • Birth date
  • Birth parish
  • Birth town
  • Birth county
  • Occupation
  • Spouse’s first name
  • Marriage year
  • Marriage date
  • Children’s name(s)
  • Children’s birth year(s)
  • Children’s birth date(s)

Images

The images may provide additional details. Through the years the records differ slightly, but most will include:
  • Age
  • Religious denomination
  • Next of kin details
  • Physical description
  • Trade classification
  • Special qualifications
  • Awards or decorations
  • Details of former service
  • Will particulars
  • Military training
  • Details of promotions, reductions, and casualties
  • Details of injuries attained during service
  • Results of medical examinations

The record set comprises more than 342,820 records of airmen from over 30 countries, including 18 who were born in Germany.

The records began with the inception of the RAF on 1 April 1918, but they include retrospective details of earlier service in the Royal Flying Corps or Royal Naval Air Service.

Airman is a generic term for anybody in the RAF, whether they flew or not.

Of the 329,000 RAF service numbers within the series, around 8,500 are not available as the individual was either commissioned as an officer, in which case his service record will probably not survive (look for him in the records of officers AIR 76), or because the record is still kept by the Ministry of Defence.

Flying Aces

The First World War introduced the systematic use of true single-seat fighter aircraft, with sufficient speed and agility to catch and maintain contact with targets in the air, combined with weaponry powerful enough to destroy the targets. Around 5 percent of combat pilots account for the majority of air-to-air victories, and these pilots came to be known as aces during World War One, after newspapers in France described Adolphe Pégoud as “l’As,” the ace, when he became the first pilot to shoot down five German aircraft. The British originally used the phrase “star-turns,” a show-business expression, while the Germans named their elite fighter pilots “Uberkanonen,” which translates loosely as “top guns”. The British high command regarded praise of fighter pilots to be detrimental to equally brave bomber and reconnaissance aircrew, so the British air services didn’t publish official statistics on the successes of individuals. Nevertheless, some pilots became famous through media coverage, which made the British system for the recognition of successful fighter pilots informal and inconsistent.