Origin and early history
Royal Flying Corps cap badge
With the growing recognition of the potential for aircraft as a cost-effective method of reconnaissance and artillery observation, the Committee of Imperial Defence established a sub-committee to examine the question of military aviation in November 1911. On 28 February 1912 the sub-committee reported its findings which recommended that a flying corps be formed and that it consist of a naval wing, a military wing, a central flying school and an aircraft factory. The recommendations of the committee were accepted and on 13 April 1912 King George V signed a royal warrant establishing the Royal Flying Corps. The Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers became the Military Wing of the Royal Flying Corps a month later on 13 May.
The Flying Corps' initial allowed strength was 133 officers, and by the end of that year it had 12 manned balloons and 36 aeroplanes. The RFC originally came under the responsibility of Brigadier-General Henderson, the Director of Military Training, and had separate branches for the Army and the Navy. Major Sykes commanded the Military Wing and Commander C R Samson commanded the Naval Wing. The Royal Navy however, with different priorities to that of the Army and wishing to retain greater control over its aircraft, formally separated its branch and renamed it the Royal Naval Air Service on 1 July 1914, although a combined central flying school was retained.
The RFC's motto was Per ardua ad astra ("Through adversity to the stars"). This remains the motto of the Royal Air Force (RAF) and other Commonwealth air forces.
The RFC's first fatal crash was on 5 July 1912 near Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain. Killing Captain Eustace B. Loraine and his observer, Staff Sergeant R.H.V. Wilson, flying from Larkhill Aerodrome. An order was issued after the crash stating "Flying will continue this evening as usual", thus beginning a tradition.
In August 1912 RFC Lieutenant Wilfred Parke RN became the first aviator to be observed to recover from an accidental spin when the Avro G cabin biplane, with which he had just broken a world endurance record, entered a spin at 700 feet above ground level at Larkhill. Four months later on 11 December 1912 Parke was killed when the Handley Page monoplane in which he was flying from Hendon to Oxford crashed.