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Royal Australian Air Force in World War II

When war against Germany was declared approximately 450 Australian pilots were serving with the Royal Air Force (RAF) in the United Kingdom (UK). Personnel from No 10 Squadron were also en route to the UK to take delivery of nine Short Sunderland flying boats. They remained in Britain for the duration of the War operating with RAF Coastal Command, earning an outstanding reputation.

Representatives of Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand reached agreement at Ottawa, Canada, on 27 November 1939 to participate in the Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS). This scheme was to train aircrew for service with the Royal Air Force. Basic training was completed in Australia before undertaking advanced training in Canada (674 personnel also received training in Rhodesia) before service with the RAF.

The first 34 Australians graduated from RAAF Service Flying Training Schools on 18 November 1940, with a further 37,000 aircrew eventually trained in Australia. To meet this commitment, the RAAF established 2 Air Navigation Schools, 3 Air Observers Schools, 3 Bombing and Gunnery Schools, 12 Elementary Flying Training Schools, 6 Initial Flying Training Schools and 8 Service Flying Training Schools. In addition, 7 Schools of Technical Training and other specialised technical schools were established to train ground crews in the maintenance of aircraft and equipment.

The duration of World War II saw 15,746 RAAF pilots, navigators, wireless operators, gunners and engineers sent to British squadrons and 11,641 to Australian squadrons. These men exemplified themselves in every major campaign front from the Battle of France, Battle of Britain, Normandy invasion, Egypt, the Middle East, Germany, Battle of the Atlantic, the defence of Malta, liberation of Italy, the Battles of the Coral and Bismarck Seas, Defence of Australia, to fighting in India, Burma, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and Pacific.

Substantial Australian forces were involved outside the campaigns in the immediate north. By the time of the German surrender there was a total of 16,000 RAAF personnel engaged in the war against Germany of whom 12,300 were aircrew. This should be contrasted with the Pacific at the same time where the RAAF had 14,500 aircrew out of a total strength 138,000.

When the armistice with Japan was signed on 15 August 1945, the RAAF in the Pacific had a total strength of 131,662 personnel and 3,187 front line aircraft. First Tactical Air Force, the major operational formation, had grown to 18,894 men in April 1945 and operated 20 operational squadrons. In addition to its execution of numerous air operations, the RAAF had also pioneered the development and operation of radar and operated its own shipping in the South West Pacific Area. The RAAF legacy of the Second World War is a proud one, with it now the world's 4th largest Air Force.

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