England’s Royal Mail has issued a collection of stamps to mark the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force.
The iconic aircraft depicted span the Force’s 100-year history and feature original artwork by renowned aviation artist Michael Turner.
Featured on the stamps are the First World War era Sopwith Camel F1, the Hurricane Mk 1 from the Battle of Britain, a Vulcan B2, the Lightning F6, the Nimrod MR2 and Typhoon FGR4.
The Red Arrows also feature in images that show the aerobatic display team in full flight during four formations – Flypast, Swan, Syncho and Python.
On April 1, 1918, the union of the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps formed the world’s first independent air force: The Royal Air Force (RAF). The RAF fought over the Western Front in direct support of ground forces. It played a major role in blunting the German spring 1918 offensive and in the Allies’ final counter-attacks, which led to the surrender of German forces in November 1918.
During the Second World War, the RAF played a decisive role defending the United Kingdom, operating worldwide with increasing strength and providing support to the war at sea and on land.
Victory in the Battle of Britain in 1940 was crucial to securing the country’s survival and preserving its ability to wage war alongside its allies. The strategic bomber campaign steadily eroded Germany’s will and capability to fight, while the winning of the Battle of the Atlantic ensured that the lifeline from the USA was maintained.
The RAF also supported land forces in North Africa and Burma, which was critical to the Allies’ eventual success. The establishment of air superiority in the build-up to D-Day, and direct support for the invasion of Normandy in June 1944, paved the way for the advance into Germany and final victory.
The RAF began the Second World War with around 3,550 aircraft, including biplanes and many obsolete models. Five years later, the service had 9,200 aircraft, many of advanced design, including the only jets to be operated by the Allied air forces. By the end of the war, there were 1,079,835 RAF, Dominion and Allied officers and airmen serving, alongside 158,771 women, giving a total RAF strength of 1,238,606, including 193,313 aircrew.
Throughout the post-war era, RAF transport aircraft have delivered humanitarian aid worldwide in the wake of natural disasters, be it famine, earthquake or hurricane. The RAF has seen many cultural changes and reorganisations in recent years, including the introduction of women in combat. It remains ready and able to operate around the world across the spectrum of air warfare.
Sopwith Camel F1
The RAF Red Arrows Aerobatic Team
The RAF Red Arrows Aerobatic Team has been displaying since 1965. One of the premier aerobatic teams in the world, comprising 120 people, including pilots, engineers and support staff, it is based at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire. The pilots fly the Hawk T1 at speeds in excess of 600 mph and in total have flown almost 4,900 displays.