The MOD has brought together 100 stunning photos, showing the development of the RAF to celebrate the centenary of its creation.
The images in the collection, offer an insight into the past, present and future of the RAF, showing snapshots of the people and equipment that have enabled operations from the Air over the last century.
From early shots of the Fleet Air Arm and Royal Flying Corps personnel, to aerial views of Mosul and Gallipoli in the 1920’s, through WWII and the Cold War and then right up to date with the RAF’s most recent operations and equipment, the pictorial history also includes images which have not been seen before.
Harland Quarrington the MOD’s Chief Photographer said:
"This was truly a challenging but hugely rewarding task, often it proved massively difficult to identify the history of an image."
He said: "In many cases a tail number, or Squadron crest would be the only clues, but we stuck at it and with the help of our RAF friends managed to finalise this wonderful package – we are very proud of the results and of the Royal Air Force."
A selection of our favourite photographs are displayed below, but the full 100 can be seen here.
Image: Crown Copyright 1940
WAAF plotters pictured at work in the underground Operations Room at HQ Fighter Command, Bentley Priory, in north-west London. A senior officer studies the unfolding events from the viewing deck above.
RAF Bentley Priory played a pivotal role during the Battle of Britain as Headquarters Fighter Command.
From July 1936 to April 1968, Bentley Priory served as the Headquarters of Fighter Command, and from where the Battle of Britain was organised by Sir Hugh Dowding.
From 1937 until 1940, Dowding’s Operations Room was in the converted Anteroom of the Priory until the underground bunker was opened. It was in the Operations Rooms that Dowding monitored the intelligence required for his vital decision-making in the run-up to the Battle.
Image: Crown Copyright 1917
Pictured is Squadron Commander EH Dunning attempting to land his Sopwith Pup (N6453) on the flight deck of HMS Furious for the second time on 7 August 1917, five days after his first success.
For this flight, his aircraft had its armament re-fitted and grab-ropes had been added under the lower wings and fuselage to ease the task of the waiting deck party.
Conditions on the day were gusty and the aircraft was blown backwards, damaging the tail plane.
Later in the day, Dunning took off for another landing in a different aircraft but, on the third attempt, his aircraft slipped over the side of the deck as he tried to alight, having landed too far forward and too fast and he drowned before he could be rescued.
Image: Crown Copyright 1942
Training for airfield defence: An Army instructor teaching men of the newly-formed RAF Aerodrome Defence Corps on the Thompson sub-machine gun at Whitley Bay, Northumberland, in January 1942.
Formed in the storm and stress of war in 1942, the RAF Regiment was born of the official recognition of the necessity for an indigenous and credible RAF ground defence force.
The success of German 'Blitzkrieg' tactics during the opening years of the war had signalled the vulnerability of airfields to attack by a highly mobile enemy.
A high-level committee was convened to find a solution to the problem of airfield defence. It recommended that a 'Royal Air Force Aerodrome Defence Corps' be formed, giving RAF commanders control over the defence of their own assets and releasing Army units for redeployment.
The new Corps, to be titled the Royal Air Force Regiment, was established by Royal Warrant on 1st February 1942. Its motto was to be 'Per Ardua', translated as 'Through Adversity', with its insignia crossed No.4 Lee Enfield rifles encircled by an astral crown.
The Regiment adopted two distinct types of operational establishments, the Field squadron and the Anti-Aircraft flight. All members of the Regiment, however, were initially trained as combat infantrymen, an arrangement that continues to the present day.
By the end of hostilities, the RAF Regiment had served in all theatres of the war and had gained an enviable reputation for tenacity and versatility.
Image: Crown Copyright 1944
An amazing image of one of the most unorthodox, yet highly effective ways of destroying V1s, or flying bombs.
RAF Fighter Command pilots would tip them over with the wing tips of their aircraft.
On first contact with the V1s, Tempest and Spitfire pilots (the only aircraft quick enough) often suffered damage through the explosion of the bombs in mid-air.
To counteract this - especially when ammunition had been exhausted - the wing-tipping technique was employed.
No record of the number of the "kills" made in this way has been kept, but it is known that the figure was high. This photograph, taken from the ground on 9 August 1944, shows a Spitfire closing in on a V1 and safely tipping it over.
Image: Crown Copyright 1945
Pictured are 22,000lb Medium Capacity high-explosive deep penetration bombs (Bomber Command code "Grand Slam"). One is being manoeuvred onto a trolley by crane in the bomb dump at Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire, for an evening raid by 617 Squadron on the railway bridge at Nienburg, Germany, on 22 March 1945.
Twenty aircraft took part in the raid and the target was destroyed.
The Grand Slam was used by RAF Bomber Command against strategic targets during the Second World War.
Known officially as the Bomb, Medium Capacity, 22,000 lb, it was a scaled-up version of the Tallboy bomb and closer to the original size that the bombs' inventor, Barnes Wallis, had envisaged when he first developed his earthquake bomb idea. It was also nicknamed "Ten ton Tess".
It remained the most powerful non-atomic aerial bomb used in combat until 2017, when a US GBU-43/B MOAB was used in a 2017 attack against ISIL forces in Afghanistan.
Image: Crown Copyright 1913
Pictured in a very early image are various training aircraft in use with Central Flying School at Upavon, Wiltshire, in 1913. Included in the line-up are Avro 500s, a pair of BE.4s, Henri Farman, Short S.27 and two Maurice Farman S.7 Longhorns.
The Central Flying School (CFS) is the RAF’s primary institution for the training of military flying instructors. It was established at RAF Upavon, near Upavon, Wiltshire in 1912, and is the longest existing flying training school in the world. The CFS’s first commandant was Captain Godfrey Paine RN.
In 1918 the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service were amalgamated to form the Royal Air Force and as part of the reorganisation, in 1920 CFS became the Flying Instructors School tasked to carry on the work started at the School of Special Flying at Gosport.
Image: Crown Copyright 1918
WRAFs sewing fabric and attaching it to pre-built aircraft frames and wings, July 1918.
During WWI, members of the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS) and the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) worked on air stations belonging to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS).
When the decision was taken to merge the RFC and RNAS to form the Royal Air Force (RAF), concerns were raised about the loss of their specialised female workforce.
This need for a separate women's air service led to the formation of the WRAF on 1 April 1918.
Personnel of the WAAC and WRNS were given the choice of transferring to the new service and over 9,000 decided to join. Civilian enrolment swelled WRAF numbers. They were dispatched to RAF bases, initially in Britain and then later in 1919 to France and Germany.
Image: Crown Copyright 1940
Image of de Haviland Mosquito FB.VIs of 248 Squadron attacking a German 'M' Class minesweeper and two trawler-type auxiliaries in the mouth of the Gironde River, off Royan, France, on 12 August 1944. Bombs can be seen straddling the vessel, which later blew up.
When Mosquito production began in 1941 it was one of the fastest operational aircraft in the world.
Entering service in late 1941, the first Mosquito variant was an unarmed high-speed, high-altitude photo-reconnaissance aircraft.
Subsequent versions continued in this role throughout the war. The first Mk. B.IV bomber entered service with No. 105 Squadron on 15 November 1941.
From mid-1942 to mid-1943, Mosquito bombers flew high-speed, medium or low-altitude daylight missions against factories, railways and other pinpoint targets in Germany and German-occupied Europe.
Image: Crown Copyright 1940
Vertical photograph taken during the night attack on the German tank and vehicle depot at Mailly-le-Camp, France, on 3/4 May 1944 by 346 Lancaster's and Halifax's of Nos 1 and 5 Groups, Bomber Command.
A Lancaster, silhouetted by a large explosion, clears the target area during the raid which, although successful in the levels of destruction caused, was costly in terms of losses, 42 being shot down by Luftwaffe night fighters.
Image: Crown Copyright 1940
RAF airmen crowd the deck of a steam Boat during Operation ARIEL - the evacuation of British forces from Brest, France in June 1940.
Operation Ariel (also Operation Aerial) was the name given to the World War II evacuation of Allied forces and civilians from ports in western France from 15-25 June 1940, following the military collapse in the Battle of France against Nazi Germany.
It followed Operation Dynamo, the evacuation from Dunkirk and Operation Cycle, an evacuation from Le Havre, which finished on 13 June.
British and Allied ships were covered from French bases by five Royal Air Force (RAF) fighter squadrons and assisted by aircraft based in England to lift British, Polish and Czech troops, civilians and equipment from Atlantic ports, particularly from St Nazaire and Nantes.
Image: Crown Copyright 1918
A padre uses the observer's cockpit of an FE.2b aircraft, as his pulpit during a service held at the 2 Aircraft Servicing Depot in France.
The image was taken on the 1st of September 1918, and demonstrates the lack of protection afforded to the observers who occupied this seat during air-to-air combat.
When the RAF was formed on 1 April 1918, there were seven squadrons of F.E.2s serving as night bombers and a further four squadrons of the type used for night flying training. The last of the type in front-line service served with occupation forces in Germany until March 1919.
The pilot occupied the rear cockpit and the gunner the front, giving his one or two Lewis machine guns an unobstructed field of fire of over 180 degrees.
Used in offensive patrols over enemy lines to escort unarmed reconnaissance aircraft, with a 160hp Beardmore engine giving a maximum speed at sea level of 147km/h/91.5 mph the F.E.2s were generally outperformed by German fighter aircraft by late 1916 which led to their night-time rather than daytime use.
The F.E.2b was specifically designed for large-scale wartime production by companies inexperienced in aircraft production.
Image: Crown Copyright 1953
The Coronation Review of the Royal Air Force by HM Queen Elizabeth II celebrating her coronation which had taken place at the beginning of June.
The event held at RAF Odiham, 15th July 1953 was the culmination of seven month's planning can be seen in this view of the immaculately parked aircraft and their crews as they wait in the afternoon sun for Her Majesty to inspect them.
This display was the largest display of military airpower that this country has ever seen (still to this day). Over 300 static aircraft and a flypast of over 600 aircraft.
Image: Crown Copyright 1960
Pictured for the 20th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain in 1960 is a unique line-up of RAF fighters from the Battle of Britain to the present day (in 1960).
From bottom to top: Hawker Hurricane IIc (LF363), Supermarine Spitfire PR.XIX (PM631), Gloster Meteor F.8 (WL164), Hawker Hunter FGA.9 (XE610/J), Gloster Javelin FAW.9R (XH894/R) and English Electric Lightning F.1 (XM137/F)