Source Information

Ancestry.com. UK, Royal Air Force Operations Record Books, 1911-1963 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2022.
Original data: AIR 27 Air Ministry and successors: Operations Record Books, Squadrons Record books 1911-1993. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives.

About UK, Royal Air Force Operations Record Books, 1911-1963

General collection information

This collection contains records documenting operations conducted by the British Royal Air Force (RAF) between 1911 and 1963. The collection includes complete records for each squadron made up of summaries of events forms, details of work carried out and operational orders. The collection also includes records for allied squadrons from other countries under British command. Most records in the collection are typed, but will vary by record type.

Using the collection

Records in the collection may include the following information:

  • Name
  • Rank
  • Service number
  • Date of operation

Depending on the type of document, records may also include information about aircraft type, aircraft number, the region where the operation took place, names of other crew members, type of operation, and notes about the operation.

Please note when “i/c” is listed in front of the officer’s rank, it indicates that the officer was in charge of the mission.

Collection in context

The Royal Air Force (RAF) was founded in 1918, when the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Navy Air Service were combined. The earliest records in this collection date from the creation of the Royal Naval Flying School in 1911 before the merge occurred. During the First World War, the newly formed RAF grew rapidly, from less than 200 aircraft to a total of 22,000 aircraft by the war's end. After the First World War, RAF numbers drastically reduced, however, the onset of the Second World War again saw the need for a strong air force and enrollment surged. Many new pilots were brought in by the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), a joint programme between the UK and the Dominions and designed to boost the number of allied pilots.

Throughout the course of the Second World War, airmen fought in every theatre of conflict; including the Battle of Britain. After the Second World War, most airmen were demobilised but the RAF continued to employ about 200,000 airmen.

A wide range of nationalities served with the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, from different parts of the British Commonwealth and the wider world. One fifth of the aircrew that served during the Battle of Britain were born outside of Britain for example.

Particularly fascinating are the operations record books (ORBs) for Commonwealth squadrons, such as those belonging to the Canadian, Australian and New Zealand air forces. Many of these squadrons were formed under the British Commonwealth Air Training Programme, a wartime aircrew training initiative, and operated under RAF jurisdiction. Also present within the collection are ORBs for the Indian Air Force, providing a crucial insight into its wartime work.

The collection also contains entries for squadrons of exiled nationals who escaped their homes following Nazi occupation and later formed squadrons within the RAF. The activities of Czech, Polish, Yugoslavian, French and Greek squadrons can be explored, to name a sample. There were also American ‘Eagle Squadrons’ made up of American nationals who joined the RAF prior to America declaring war on Japan and Germany in December 1941, whose ORBs can be viewed.

Bibliography

History.com. “RAF Formed.” Last Modified 30 March 2021. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/raf-founded.

NationalArchives.gov. “Royal Air Force Operations Books, 1911-1963.” Last Modified 6 February 2021. https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ukgwa/+/https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/raf-operations-record-books-1939-1945/

Royal Air Force. “Our History.” Last Modified 20 July 2021. https://www.raf.mod.uk/our-organisation/our-history/.

Please note: All images are available to view, however, indexes are only available to 1940.