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.