Tuesday 19 February 2008 by Peter Burness. 1 comment
Aircraft 1914 - 1918, Development of RAAF and Australian Civil Aviation

Just a year after the end of the First World War, and only a decade after the short first powered flight in Australia, a twin-engine Vickers Vimy, with a crew of 4, flew from England to Australia.  This 1919 exploit exemplified the progress in world aviation. During the First World War there were men who had never before seen an aeroplane or driven a motor car, who had learned how to fly.

DAAV00006A Learning to fly at Point Cook, Melbourne, Victoria. c. March 1916.

They captured the public’s imagination; a few became aces. Turning from war to peace, some of them, having discovered the opportunities flight provided, made vital contributions to the emerging local and international civil aviation industries, such as QANTAS, while others influenced the creation of the Royal Australian Air Force in 1921.

P02413.010 Starboard side on view of a De Havilland (Airco) DH.9a aircraft (No. A1).

While the RAAF inherited the traditions and some of the personnel of the AFC it was now a separate and independent third service. Growth was slow at first because of financial restrictions and obsolete aircraft. However, from the mid-1930s the service grew. In the years before the Second World War, while concentrating on local defence, the air force also undertook important aerial surveys and photography, assisted in emergencies, and helped in the development of civil aviation. In the Second World War, and since, the RAAF has advanced beyond the imagination of those early airmen of the old flying corps with their flimsy machines.

DAAV00005 Unidentified men watch an aircraft land. This is one of a series of photographs taken by the Darge Photographic Company which had the concession to take photographs at the Broadmeadows and Seymour army camps during the First World War.


Rod Stewart

Peter; I have recently sent to the AWM a photo of my grandfather Wing Commander EJ Howells seated with the others in an early post WWI portrait of RAAF staff officers. My grandfather also donated an aerial photo (B02737) from 1918 taken of his bridge over the Jordan during the Sinai - dated one week before the RAAF was formed. Thanks to such photos, I was able to visit the site of the bridge and see where the RAAF flew over my grandfather 90 years ago.