Published on March 20th, 2018 | by Sarah Jubb
Flying The Skies – Celebrating The Centenary Of The RAF
1 April 2018 marks 100 years since the formation of the Royal Air Force and to celebrate Royal Mail have released a series of special stamps that feature some of the most iconic British planes to have flown the skies with the RAF.
The formation of the Royal Air Force was precipitated by the First World War, which saw aircraft originally used for reconnaissance purposes. As the war changed, so too did aircraft as both sides saw their fighter planes being developed that were able to shoot down enemy aircraft along with the development and introduction of aircraft that were capable of dropping bombs.
During the war, there were two branches that made use of aircraft for warfare purposes; the Royal Flying Corps under the control of the British Army and the Royal Naval Air Service was the naval equivalent under the control of the Admiralty.
Due to the impact that air power had made in the First World War, it was decided to merge the two together to create a completely independent air force. This made it the first air force in the world to become independent of either army or navy control, giving it the title of the world’s oldest independent air force.
World War II And Beyond With The RAF
If it took the First World War for the RAF to be formed, then it would be the Second World War that saw the RAF become a firmly entrenched part of both British military, history and culture. During the war, the RAF expanded rapidly in response to Nazi Germany’s own Luftwaffe.
This cumulated in 1940 with the Battle of Britain in which the RAF held off the German aircraft over an entire summer in an extremely long air campaign. Despite only consisting of a few hundred RAF pilots, their efforts resulted in Nazi Germany delaying and cancelling plans to invade the United Kingdom, leading to Winston Churchill’s famous words of “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
The Cold War saw the arrival of jet fighters and bombers in the RAF and the development of the UK’s nuclear weapons arsenal saw the Avro Vulcan take to the skies, which is one of the planes featured on the Royal Mail’s stamp series.
It has remained an important part of British military since, being involved in various conflicts including the Falklands War and the War in Afghanistan. On 1 April, the RAF will celebrate its 100th birthday and there are a series of events and activities that are taking place across the UK until the end of November.
The Royal Mail series features six special stamps that each features an RAF aircraft that has helped to defend the UK throughout the century. Included on these stamps are the Lightning F6, Hurricane Mk I, L Vulcan B2, Typhoon FGR4, Nimrod MR 2 and the Camel F1. These stamps are available as part of a Presentation Pack that includes all six and interesting information or as other collectible items in our RAF Centenary section.
The Red Arrows
As well as commemorating the centenary of the RAF, the Royal Mail is also releasing a Miniature Sheet to celebrate the RAF Red Arrows. The official name for this team is the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team and they are considered to be one of the premier aerobatic display teams in the world.
They have been flying since 1965 and are used to both represent and showcase the skills and values that the Royal Air Force have. Performing displays across the world, they had visited 57 countries by the end of 2016.
The members of the Red Arrows have served in operational units that range from jets to helicopters and have completed operational tours or been part of what is called the Quick Reaction Alert in the UK and the Falkland Islands.
Anyone who is a lover of the Red Arrows may find the RAF Centenary Coin Cover a must have collectible item, as this contains not only the Red Arrows Miniature Sheet but also a £2 Brilliant Uncirculated coin that has been minted for the centenary event.