Military Wiki
RAF Upavon
Upavon Airfield - - 396918.jpg
The airfield at former RAF Upavon during 2007.
Type Royal Air Force station
Coordinates Latitude:
Built 1912 (1912)
In use 1912–1993 (1993)
Ministry of Defence

Royal Air Force Upavon or RAF Upavon is a former RAF station located in Wiltshire, England. It was a grass airfield, military flight training school, and administrative headquarters of the Royal Air Force. The station opened in 1912 and closed in 1993, when it was transferred to the British Army and became known as Trenchard Lines.

The station motto was In Principio Et Semper, and translated from Latin means "In the Beginning and Always".[1]


Origins and construction

Central Flying School staff taken at Upavon, January 1913

Construction began on 19 June 1912, on some training gallops, on an elevated site about 1.5 mi (2.4 km) east of Upavon village, near the edge of the Salisbury Plain, in the English county of Wiltshire.[2] Upavon Airfield was originally created for pilots of the military and naval wings of the newly formed Royal Flying Corps (RFC), and became home to the army Central Flying School (CFS). Captain Godfrey M Paine, RN, became the first commandant, with Major Hugh Trenchard being his assistant. Trenchard later became the chief of air staff, and subsequently became known as the "father of the Royal Air Force".[2]

Trenchard in the uniform of the Royal Flying Corps

Early flying developments

During 1913 the first night landing made in England was achieved at Upavon, by Lieutenant Cholmondeley.[3] In May 1914, Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, was a passenger on a flight by a Farman MF.7 biplane while visiting Upavon.[4] Two officers of the CFS at Upavon developed the bomb sight between 1914–1915, and this was used in a very successful manner at the Western Front.[5] The officers' mess, a Grade II* listed building, was completed in 1915.[6]

Birth of the Royal Air Force

On 1 April 1918 the Royal Flying Corps became the Royal Air Force, and Upavon became Royal Air Force Station Upavon, commonly abbreviated to RAF Upavon. Accordingly, the former Army Central Flying School became the RAF Central Flying School (RAF CFS).[7]

Aviation "fighting", and air displays

During 1926 the Central Flying School moved from Upavon.[8] At the same time, No.17 (Fighter) Squadron RAF moved to Upavon[9] to join No.3 (Fighter) Squadron RAF, who had been at Upavon since 1924.[10] For the next eight years, the two fighter squadrons developed both night flying and aviation fighting techniques. At the same time, they wooed the public all over the country with impressive air displays. In May 1934, both squadrons left Upavon for RAF Kenley, London, and were replaced at Upavon, for a short time in 1935, by four squadrons from the Fleet Air Arm.[6]

The St. Raphael

On 31 August 1927 Lieutenant Colonel Frederick F. Minchin, known to his colleagues as 'Dan', Captain Leslie Hamilton, and Princess Löwenstein-Wertheim took off from Upavon airfield in a Dutch Fokker F.VIIA named the St. Raphael in a bid to become the first aviators to cross the Atlantic from east to west. The St. Raphael was last sighted some 800 mi (1,300 km) west of Galway heading for Newfoundland. The aircraft was never seen again and the fate of Minchin, Hamilton and Löwenstein-Wertheim remains a mystery.[11]

Second World War

During August 1935, the Central Flying School was to return to Upavon and stayed there until it moved to RAF Little Rissington in Gloucestershire in April 1942.[12] During this crucial period, the school's primary role was to train and supply flight instructors to the now increasing number of military flying schools.[13] King George VI visited Upavon during the Second World War.[14]


Upavon became home to headquarters No. 38 Group in 1946 and home to headquarters RAF Transport Command in 1951.[15] A new headquarters building for Transport Command was completed in the 1960s. On 16 June 1962, Upavon held a static and flying display, attended by Prince Philip, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Royal Flying Corps.[16] Transport Command was renamed Air Support Command on 1 August 1967.[17]

With the contraction of the RAF, Air Support Command only lasted a short time as a command, and it was absorbed into Strike Command on 1 September 1972.[18] The grass runway was not wholly appropriate for heavy fixed-wing aircraft, nor any kind of jet aircraft, and so the airfield was used as an administrative base and also became the home of No. 622 Volunteer Gliding Squadron, part of the Air Training Corps, who used static winch-launched gliders.[19]

As a result of major reorganisation of the entire structure of the Royal Air Force in the early 1990s, RAF Upavon became surplus to requirements, and the RAF was to permanently withdraw from Upavon. On 3 August 1993, the RAF officially handed over the site to the British Army.[20] The airfield became a British Army garrison called Trenchard Lines. When the army initially moved into Upavon, it became home to Headquarters Doctrine & Training. On 30 January 1995, it then became Headquarters Adjutant General. In April 2008[21] the base was absorbed within the newly formed HQ Land Forces.[22]

See also


  1. Pine, L.G. (1983). A dictionary of mottoes (1 ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 110. ISBN 0-7100-9339-X. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Upavon Village Design Statement". Wiltshire Council. 2006. Archived from the original on 17 June 2011. Retrieved 2009-10-19. 
  3. Fischer, William Edward Junior (1998). The Development of Military Night Aviation to 1919. Air University Press, Maxwell Air Force Base. p. 18. 
  4. "The morning of 29 May 1914". This Day in Churchill History. 29 May 2017. Retrieved 1 August 2019. 
  5. Bradley, John Kirkham (1994). "The History and Development of Aircraft Instruments - 1909 to 1919". Imperial College, London. p. 165. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Historic England. "Upavon Camp (Officers' Mess), Building 21 (1365554)". National Heritage List for England. 
  7. Lake 1999, p. 44.
  8. "CFS History 1". Retrieved 11 August 2017. 
  9. Jefford 1988, p. 29.
  10. Jefford 1988, p. 24.
  11. "The Atlantic Flights". 8 September 1927. p. 634. Retrieved 2 March 2015. 
  12. "Parishes: Upavon | British History Online". Retrieved 11 August 2017. 
  13. "Second World War flying training - Taking Flight". RAF Museum. Retrieved 1 August 2019. 
  14. "George VI at Upavon". BBC. Retrieved 1 August 2019. 
  15. "Wiltshire Community History". Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 1 August 2019. 
  16. "50th Anniversary of RFC". Imperial War Museum. 16 June 1962. Retrieved 1 August 2019. 
  17. British Military Aviation in 1967 Archived 10 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine. RAF Museum
  18. British Military Aviation in 1972 Archived 5 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine. RAF Museum
  19. "Air Cadet Aviation Relaunch:Written statement". Hansard. 10 March 2016. Retrieved 1 August 2019. 
  20. Historic England. "UPAVON AIRFIELD (1430889)". PastScape. 
  21. "HQ Land Forces on the move ...". p. 3. Archived from the original on March 7, 2012. 
  22. "Commonwealth soldiers currently serving in the British Army (letter from HQ Land Forces Secretariat, Trenchard Lines)". 11 March 2010. 


  • Lake, A (1999). Flying units of the RAF. Shrewsbury: Airlife. ISBN 1-84037-086-6. 
  • Jefford, C.G, MBE, BA , RAF (Retd) (1988). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing. ISBN 1-84037-141-2. 

External links

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