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Air Battalion Royal Engineers

From Academic Kids

The Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers was the first flying unit of the British Military. It evolved into the Royal Flying Corps which in turn evolved into the Royal Air Force.

An order was issued on February 28 1911 for the formation of the Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers effective April 1 the same year. The initial establishment was 14 officers and 150 other ranks. Officers could be selected from any branch of the service whereas other ranks were selected from the Corps of Royal Engineers.

Pilots had to already have earned a Royal Aero Club certificate from a private flying school. The GBP 75 charge for flight training was reimbursed only if the student passed the course.

The battalion was comprised of two companies. No. 1 Company was equipped with airships and was under the command of Captain Edward Maitland. Maitland was an experienced balloon and airship pioneer. He also helped pioneer the parachute and in 1913 made the first parachute jump from an airship. No. 2 Company was equipped with aeroplanes and was commanded by Captain John Fulton. Fulton, a mechanical engineer from the Royal Field Artillery, had been an early enthusiast of military flying and had attended the world's first air show at Rheims in 1909. He had earned his pilots certificate, number 27, on November 15 1910.

In October 1911, the Italians used aircraft in combat against the Turks in Tripoli. This lead to the formation of a sub-committee of the British Imperial Defence Staff to recommend policy for the future of British military flying. The committee recommended the formation of a separate flying corps and on April 12 1912 the Royal Flying Corps was created.

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