As soon as man took to the skies, another means of engaging in warfare became available. First in balloons and then later in aeroplanes, Britain took to the skies. A Bit of History The first Army Balloon School was established at Woolwich Arsenal in 1878 after the Government War Office finally agreed that there was scope within the British Army for the use of balloons in warfare. However, by 1911, the War Office had decided that, with the invention of the aeroplane, the Balloon Section should be expanded to become an Air Battalion. But the trained pilots were few and far between. It was thought that there were just a total of 11 in the Army and only 8 in the Navy – not really enough for a fighting force. March 13th 1912 saw the instigation of the Royal Flying Corps and the Bristol Scout and Sopwith bi-planes amongst others, played their parts in the battle of the skies in World War One. Following lessons learned during the Great War, the Royal Air Force finally came into being on 1st April 1918. Air Force Ranks Whatever role your ancestor played in the Royal Air Force, understanding the rank in which they served will help. Officers Marshal of the Royal Air Force Air Chief Marshal Air Marshal Air Vice-Marshal Air Commodore Group Captain Wing Commander Squadron Leader Flight-Lieutenant Flying Officer Pilot Officer Other Ranks Warrant Officer Flight-Sergeant Chief Technician Sergeant Corporal Junior Technician Senior Aircraftman Leading Aircraftman Aircraftman Whilst some records are held on various pay per view websites, the National Archives at Kew hold Service Records for Airmen (not officers) from 1918 to 1922, Commission and Promotion of Officers are also there from 1919. Other records may also be found in local Archives. First World War medal cards may also be seen for a small fee. For the service records of those who served in the Second World War, you will need to visit the Veterans Agency website and download the appropriate forms. See here for their Guidance notes.