The History of Royal Air Force Halton
For short video about the Trenchard Museum, introduced by the curator Francis Hanford, made by Bucks TV on 16 October 2009, click here
For a short video about the founding of RAF Halton, commemorated in the Trenchard Museum, featuring interviews with Group Captain Richard Gammage, Station Commander at the time, and Lord Trenchard, grandson of the Founder of the RAF, made by Bucks TV on 7 January 2010, click here
A short history of RAF Halton
In 1914, when Lord Kitchener called for his first hundred thousand volunteers to augment the professional army, many landowners offered their estates as training grounds. Alfred Rothchild was one of the first and some 12,000 troops descended on Halton, to live in tents as they started training for trench warfare on the Western Front. Almost immediately the army was forced to start erecting wooden huts and some more durable buildings to preserve the health of the troops. This created a useful base for the Royal Flying Corps to move into in 1917, to create a centre for training air mechanics. By Armistice Day there were some 6,000 British and Australian male mechanics, 2,000 female mechanics and 2,000 boys being trained by some 1,700 staff.
With peace came major changes. Alfred Rothchild had died in 1918 and his heirs were far less affluent. Meanwhile, the newly formed Royal Air Force needed permanent bases and had spent considerable sums on workshops and accommodation on the estate already. The Air Council purchased the whole property, to house its new School of Technical Training, which moved here from Cranwell in 1919. Thus Halton became the obvious home for the Aircraft Apprentice Scheme when this was introduced in 1920.
When re-organising the RAF to meet the requirements of peace Lord Trenchard foresaw the need to produce a pool of skilled aircraft engineers. The three-year course he initiated here trained 155 Apprentice Entries between 1920 and 1993 and the training they received was thorough and broad-based. Apart from the basic syllabus, the fact that Halton was close to the capital ensured their participation in many major public events, which enhanced the school’s prestige and the boys’ esprit-du-corps. As you will see elsewhere in this museum many of these “Trenchard Brats” achieved considerable success and rose to the higher ranks during their subsequent careers.
While apprentice training brought publicity, we should not forget the many shorter and more specialist engineering courses run for the training of adult entrant tradesmen. These helped to produce a considerable proportion of the vast numbers of maintenance crews required in World War 11. Apart from these, Halton has made significant contributions to the RAF’s training needs and welfare in many other areas. Princess Mary’s RAF Hospital and the Institute of Pathology and Tropical Medicine provided a general service, until its closure in 1995, and also trained many medical trades personnel and nurses. The RAF Police, Supply, Catering, Secretarial and Dental personnel have all trained here and some of these trades continue to do so to this day.
Today Halton is the Royal Air Force’s premier non-technical ground training station.
Training organisations have been moved in from around the country to provide special courses that will prepare airmen and airwomen for all stages of their careers. Starting as Basic Recruits, some remain for Trade Training, while all may return for General Service Training as they are promoted through the ranks or to acquire specialist qualifications. The motto: “Teach, Learn, Apply” is as appropriate this station today as it was in 1918.
The James McCudden Heritage Flight Centre, a new section of the Trenchard Museum, opened on 26 June 2014, for more detail click here