A brief history of the Australian Flying Corps and RAAF Association

Formation of the Association

The event officially accepted by the RAAF Association as marking its commencement was a gathering in Melbourne outside St. Paul's Cathedral. Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith and their crew had just completed the epoch-making first flight from England to Australia on 10 December 1919. Mr H.V. Leckie, a former member of the Australian Flying Corps, then living in Melbourne, believed that he and his fellow airmen should welcome the Smith brothers in a fitting manner to recognise their achievements and to establish a lasting organisation to keep the ex-AFC members together.

Accordingly, Mr Leckie placed an advertisement in the paper asking former members of the Australian Flying Corps interested in forming an association, to meet him outside St. Paul's Cathedral at a nominated time. Many of his former comrades turned up, including Lieutenant Colonel Richard Williams who had been one of the first four Australians to fly military aircraft and had commanded No 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, during World War I. He was to play an outstandingly important part in the subsequent history of the yet to be formed Royal Australian Air Force.

As a result of this informal get-together, the AFC members entertained the Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith and their crew at an informal dinner. Following the dinner, attendees agreed to form the Australian Flying Corps Association in Victoria, whcih was established in 1921. Similar Australian Flying Corps Associations were established over the following months in the other States.

Throughout the subsequent inter-war years, the AFC Associations were linked with the aim of keeping the former members of the AFC together, through reunions and similar functions. In addition, the Associations assisted by raising funds to look after those of their members who needed assistance.

Objects of the Association

  • To foster the spirit of comradeship developed during Service
  • To foster the development of air defence
  • To promote the welfare of the Association and its members

Title Changes and Development

As the AFC itself had been a relatively small organisation, the numbers in the AFC Associations were small. However, with the coming of World War II and the existence of very much larger air force than had existed in World War I, the Australian Flying Corps Associations in each State had to consider their future. Making the right decision, they opened the doors of the AFC Association to the thousands of young Australians who were now, literally, pouring into the Royal Australian Air Force. The title of the Association was changed to Air Force Association in 1943.

With the vastly increased numbers who now belonged to the Association, its status grew substantially and it became quickly recognised as one of the major ex-servicemen's bodies in Australia. It took a close and detailed interest in all the matters affecting the welfare of airmen and the Air Force. Records indicate a constant detailed attention to pension matters, war service homes, housing and the interests of air defence. The Air Force Association differed from most other ex-service bodies in that it retained its links with one of the armed services and has always regarded one of its prime aims as supporting flying and the Air Force.

The Association was incorporated in New South Wales on 6th November 1995, and has adopted the title Australian Flying Corps and Royal Australian Air Force Association Incorporated.

Leadership and Membership

Among the former members of the AFC were many whose names were significant in the aviation history of Australia. The most well known was Lieutenant Colonel Williams. He became the first Chief of Air Staff (CAS) of the Royal Australian Air Force, formed on 31 March 1921, some months after the AFC Association was formed. He was CAS for seventeen years, rising to the rank of Air Marshal, the first member of the Royal Australian Air Force to do so. Air Marshal Sir Richard Williams long career as National President of the Association continued until 1966, when he became the Association's first President of Honour.

Initially, membership in the Association was restricted to those men who had served in any Branch of His Majesty's Air Forces, in war. The Air Force Association played a major part in organising welfare facilities for airmen in the capital cities and in looking after the many welfare problems which arose. In 1947, members of the Womens Auxiliary Australian Air Force were accorded full membership of the Air Force Association.

Peace-time airmen and airwomen including those in the Reserve Air Force, are now fully entitled to membership and rights of membership as war-time personnel. Currently, the RAAF Association seeks to attract serving and recently discharged ex-RAAF personnel to join and play an important part in its work, both in their own personal interests and the interests of the Service.

The Association has broadened its potential membership base to include spouses/widows(ers), children and siblings of members of the Association.

It also welcomes the members of those admirable organisations, the Australian Air League and the Australian Air Force Cadets (the successor of the Air Training Corps) and similar organisations having an interest in aviation.

Patronage

Since its inception, the Association has enjoyed the privilege of having the Governor-General as its Patron.

Relations with other Ex-Service Organisations

The Association took a lead, at the suggestion of the then Minister for Repatriation, in the formation of The Australian Veterans and Defence Services Council Inc. (AVADSC), an umbrella organisation, at the National level, in which all interested veterans and post-war servicemen and women's organisations are represented. While not interfering with their autonomy, it provides a forum for discussions and joint representations on repatriation and other important matters to Government when the Member Associations wish. Through AVADSC the Association continues to follow up regularly, with close attention to the interests of its members, its representations to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs and other Ministers. The Association's activities with the Australian Veterans and Defence Services Council (AVADSC) continue and grows, with increasing contact with and influence on the policy sections of the Repatriation community.

The RAAF Association is a member of the World Veterans Federation and was the first Australian National Veteran's Organisation to join the Federation in 1954.