Monday, 9 April 2018

A Hundred Years on the Wing

Last week the UK celebrated the centenary of the formation of the Royal Air Force on 1st April 1918. It was formed by the unification of the army’s Royal Flying Corps with the navy’s Royal Naval Air Service.

There have been many lgbt aircraftmen and women who have served in the RAF. Since 2007 the RAF has been listed in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index. In 2011 it joined the Top 100. This is a far cry from the years before 2000 when being openly lgbt in any of the armed services in the UK meant an immediate discharge.

There were lgbt personnel in the pre-RAF air services. Most notable was the singer-songwriter Ivor Novello (1893-1951). He is most famous for writing the sentimental song popular during World War I, “Keep the Home Fires Burning” (more of which in a few months time during the “Around the World in Another 80 Gays” series). On the outbreak of the war he joined the Royal Naval Air Service. He trained as a pilot but crash-landed on both of his first two solo flights. Because of this he was transferred to the Admiralty as a clerk. From there he seems to have been transferred to the new Air Ministry when the RAF was formed.

As I wrote last year I have had a number of RAF personnel in my family, more than in any other of the defence services. In celebration of the RAF centenary and the contribution of lgbt pilots and ground crew I’ve put together the chart below. It lists selected lgbt RAF personnel from the past 100 years in descending order of military rank. I have yet to identify appropriate personnel for all ranks, particularly the top ranks. The individuals listed as placed in the highest rank they achieved.
Other RAF personnel I have previously written about include Wing Commander Derek Jackson, and Wing Commander Ian Gleed. My representation of Air Commodore Lionel Charlton’s coat of arms is here.

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