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Royal Australian Air Force Between the Wars

Wartime experience and the technical development of aircraft made it obvious that air power had become an essential element in any military equation. In Australia negotiations between Army, Navy and Defence officials from 1917 to 1921 resulted in the Australian Air Force being formed on 31 March 1921, with approval to use the 'Royal' prefix granted on 13 August 1921. At that time the RAAF comprised of 21 Officers, 128 Airmen and 153 aircraft (which included 127 of 128 'gift' aircraft from the British Government). By September 1939 when the Second World War was declared, there were 310 Officers, 3,179 Airmen in the RAAF, operating 246 aircraft.

RAAF bases had also been established around the country - Laverton, Victoria (1921), Richmond, New South Wales (1923), Pearce, Western Australia (1934), Darwin, Northern Territory, Archerfield, Queensland and Rathmines, New South Wales (1939).

Between 1926 and 1928 the Air Force also assisted in a variety of national survey operations, mostly using the Seagull V aircraft. They surveyed the Great Barrier Reef, Papua New Guinea, New Britain, the Solomon Islands, outback Australia, potential civilian landing grounds and civilian air routes. In 1924 Wing Commander S.J. Goble and Flying Officer I. McIntyre in a Fairey IIID, aerial circumnavigated Australia. During 1929 and 1930 personnel flew a Gipsy Moth in the British Australian Antarctic Research Expeditions. And in January 1936 a crew in a Wapiti and Gipsy Moth assisted in the research of Lincoln Ellsworth and his pilot who were reported missing after attempting to fly across the Antarctic continent.

In late 1934 the Australian government announced that there would be increased funding for defence purposes and attempts were made to procure modern aircraft. The first of 48 Avro Anson general reconnaissance bombers were delivered in November 1936. The Bristol Beaufort began manufacture in Australia and Lockheed Hudson aircraft were purchased from the United States. It was during this period that the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation was established to produce the Wirraway trainer for the RAAF; a decision that affected the selection of aircraft operated by the RAAF for over two decades.

During this period nine Permanent Air Force Squadrons (No's 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 11, 12, and 14) and four Citizen's Air Force Squadrons (No's 21, 22, 23 and 25) were either raised or re-raised. However, in most cases they were under strength and the RAAF was ill prepared for war when it was declared in 1939.

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