RAF Cranwell

This article is about the Royal Air Force station. For the officer training establishment which lodges at RAF Cranwell, see Royal Air Force College Cranwell.
RAF Cranwell
Near Cranwell, Lincolnshire in England

Alitum Altrix
Latin:"Nurture The Winged"
Shown within Lincolnshire
Coordinates 53°01′49″N 000°29′00″W / 53.03028°N 0.48333°W / 53.03028; -0.48333Coordinates: 53°01′49″N 000°29′00″W / 53.03028°N 0.48333°W / 53.03028; -0.48333
Type Royal Air Force station
Site information
Owner Ministry of Defence
Operator Royal Air Force
Site history
Built 1916 (1916)
In use 1916–present
Airfield information
Identifiers ICAO: EGYD
Elevation 66 metres (217 ft) AMSL
Direction Length and surface
01/19 1,461 metres (4,793 ft) Asphalt
08/26 2,081 metres (6,827 ft) Asphalt
08R/26L 761 metres (2,497 ft) Grass

Royal Air Force Cranwell or more simply RAF Cranwell (ICAO: EGYD) is a Royal Air Force station in Lincolnshire, England, close to the village of Cranwell, near Sleaford. Among other functions, it is home to the Royal Air Force College (RAFC), which trains the RAF's new officers and Aircrew.

RAF Cranwell is currently commanded by Air Commodore P. J. M. Squires.


The history of military aviation at Cranwell goes back to November 1915,[1] when the Admiralty requisitioned 2,500 acres (10 km²) of land from the Earl of Bristol's estate.[1] And on 1 April 1916, the Royal Naval Air Service, Training Establishment, Cranwell was officially born.[1] The first commander was Commodore Godfrey M. Paine.

As the naval personnel were held on the books of HMS Daedalus, a hulk that was moored on the River Medway, this gave rise to a misconception that Cranwell was first established as HMS Daedalus.[2]

With the establishment of the Royal Air Force as an independent service in 1918, the RNAS Training Establishment became RAF Cranwell.[3] T. E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, was stationed at RAF Cranwell just after the war, in 1926, where he wrote a revised version of his Seven Pillars of Wisdom.[4][5] He mentioned the nearby village of Navenby in a letter to a friend at the time, saying: "I'm too shy to go looking for dirt. That's why I can't go off stewing into the Lincoln or Navenby brothels with the fellows. They think it's because I'm superior: proud, or peculiar or 'posh', as they say: and its because I wouldn't know what to do, how to carry myself, where to stop. Fear again: fear everywhere."[6][7]

Cranwell became the entry point for all those who wished to become permanent officers in the RAF, and the selection process was extremely stringent. Initially the course took two years, but by the 1950s this had expanded to three. Until 81 Entry, arriving in September 1959, all flying training took place at the College; basic training on Percival Provosts and advanced training on either De Havilland Vampires or Gloster Meteors. With the arrival of 81 Entry, the academic syllabus was improved to allow cadets to gain degrees in humanities, or AFRAeS. To enable this to happen in the three-year course, only basic training was carried out at Cranwell on the new Jet Provosts Mks 3 and 4. Cadets still received their wings on passing out of Cranwell, but went on to advanced flying courses at either RAF Oakington or RAF Valley. In 1962 Whittle Hall was built to support the new syllabus, opened by Sir Frank Whittle. This meant that the old East and West Camps, which had been used for lectures, were re-deployed for other activities.

From 1917 RAF Cranwell was served by its own dedicated railway station on a single track branch line from Sleaford, the train being known as The Cranwell Flyer. The spur line was closed in 1956 and all the track removed. However, the original station building still stands and today remains in use as RAF Cranwell's main guardroom.

The main building of RAF College Cranwell is noted for its distinctive dome, visible from most of the surrounding roads.

The motto – Alitum Altrix – translates roughly to Nurture the Winged, and this motto can be found in gold print above the main doors of CHOM (College Hall Officers Mess). Also on the top of the dome of the Mess is a connection to the RNAS past life of the station, that makes Cranwell unique in RAF history and a record holder as well; RAF Cranwell has the furthest lighthouse from the sea in the UK, and the only RAF station to have a permanent lighthouse on its grounds.

Jet engine history

Sir Frank Whittle attended RAF Cranwell in the 1920s.[8] It was here that he formulated many of his ideas for the jet engine, and it was at Cranwell on 15 May 1941 that the first flight of the Gloster E.28/39 took place. When Whittle died in 1996, his ashes were buried in a church at RAF Cranwell.

Current functions

Royal Air Force College

College Hall at the Royal Air Force College, Cranwell

Cranwell is home to the Royal Air Force College (RAFC), which trains the RAFs new officers on a 32-week course. It is thus the RAF equivalent of Sandhurst or the Britannia Royal Naval College, and is considered by some to be the spiritual home of the RAF.

There are plans for the Recruit Training Squadron at RAF Halton to be relocated to Cranwell under Project Trenchard to commence 2018.

RAF recruitment

The station is home to the Officer and Aircrew Selection Centre (OASC), where all applicants to the RAF as Officers or non-commissioned aircrew, are put through a 4-day rigorous selection process. The OASC is currently commanded by Group Captain Tom McWilliams. The selection process features aptitude testing, medical examinations, interviews, plus a number of challenging individual plus team planning and initiative exercises.

It is also home to the Inspectorate of Recruiting (IofR) – the division of the RAF responsible for providing recruiting and outreach services via the network of Armed Forces Careers Offices (AFCOs) around the UK.

Around the 1970s the RAF introduced the Direct Entry Scheme, in which a fresh graduate from any university could be admitted into RAF after a short training period at RAFC Cranwell. Originally titled the Professionally Qualified and Re-entrant Course (PQRE) since 1978 the course has been known as the Specialist Entrant and Re-entrant Course (SERE). The course has trained RAF Chaplains, officer ranked nurses joining the PMRAFNS from the NHS, officers transferring to the RAF from the Army or Navy, former officers re-joining the RAF and, until 1992, Royal Observer Corps wholetime officers. Most entrants emerged with the rank of Flight Lieutenant with chaplains being commissioned as Squadron Leaders.

Headquarters Central Flying School

HQ CFS has been located at RAF Cranwell since 1995 when it moved from RAF Scampton. Central Flying School is the longest established military flying school in the world and currently trains all RAF QFI flying instructors.

Air Cadets

Since the mid-1990s, Cranwell has been home to Headquarters, Air Cadets, and the Air Cadet Organisation's Adult Training Facility. Furthermore, the station is home to the Air Cadet Leadership Course, run by the Combined Cadet Force although attended by both ATC and CCF cadets, as well as occasionally sea and army cadets.

Sea Cadet Corps

Since 2011 the Eastern Area Sea Cadets Headquarters have been based on site.

Flying Units

One of 45(R) Squadron's King Airs, based at RAF Cranwell

Central Flying School

Temporary units:

No.s 5 and 14 Squadrons relocated to RAF Cranwell from RAF Waddington in September 2014 while the runway at Waddington was resurfaced. They are expected to return to Waddington by the end of 2015.[9]

RAF Cranwell also has an administrative role as the overall headquarters for 3 Flying Training School (Elementary Flying Training, operated at RAF Wittering by 16(R) and 115(R) squadrons and at Cranwell by 57(R) Squadron) and 6FTS (University Air Squadrons and Air Experience Flights, based around the country).


No. 3 Flying Training School (FTS) HQ, No. 6 Flying Training School (FTS) HQ, training navigators and non-commissioned aircrew, are also based there. Cranwell is also home to two of the RAF bands, namely The Band of the Royal Air Force College and The Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment.

See also



  1. 1 2 3 Halpenny (1981), p.74
  2. "College History". Royal Air Force. 2012. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
  3. Halpenny (1981), p.75
  4. Hastings, Chris; Bisset, Susan; Edwardes, Charlotte (9 June 2007). "T E Lawrence's 'mistress' was an orphan". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 20 February 2008.
  5. Hart, Basil (1936). T. E. Lawrence in Arabia and After. J. Cape. p. 424. ISBN 0-8371-4258-X.
  6. Wilson, Jeremy (1990). Lawrence of Arabia: The Authorized Biography of T.E. Lawrence. Atheneum. p. 766. ISBN 0-689-11934-8.
  7. Knightley, Phillip (1970). The Secret Lives of Lawrence of Arabia. McGraw-Hill. p. 294. ISBN 0-17-135010-3.
  8. http://www.frankwhittle.co.uk/content.php?act=viewDoc&docId=3&docFatherId=1&level=sub
  9. http://www.raf.mod.uk/rafwaddington/rafcms/mediafiles/8A853088_5056_A318_A89EB2105B8613B9.pdf


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