Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Active 1 April 1936present
Country United Kingdom
Allegiance Queen Elizabeth II
Branch Royal Air Force
Type Volunteer Reserve
Website Royal Air Force Reserves
RAF Ensign

The Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) consists of a number of groupings of Royal Air Force reservists for the management and operation of the RAF's Volunteer Gliding Squadrons and Air Experience Flights of the Air Cadet Organisation. It also forms the working elements of the University Air Squadrons and the Defence Technical Undergraduate Scheme. Unlike the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, the RAF Volunteer Reserve is not an active reserve from which members may be drawn to supplement the regular air force.

Personnel involved in a training function of the RAF Volunteer Reserve are commissioned into the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Training Branch) for service with the Air Cadet Organisation.


The RAF Volunteer Reserve was formed in July 1936 to provide individuals to supplement the Royal Auxiliary Air Force which had been formed in 1925 by the local Territorial Associations. The AAF was organised on a Squadron basis, with local recruitment similar to the Territorial Army Regiments. Initially the RAFVR was composed of civilians recruited from the neighbourhoods of Reserve Flying Schools, which were run by civilian contractors who largely employed as instructors members of the Reserve of Air Force Officers (RAFO), who had previously completed a four-year short service commission as pilots in the RAF. Navigation instructors were mainly former master mariners without any air experience. Recruits were confined to men of between 18 and 25 years of age who had been accepted for part-time training as Pilots, Observers and Wireless Operators. The object was to provide a reserve of aircrew for use in the event of war. By September 1939, the RAFVR comprised 6,646 Pilots, 1,625 Observers and 1,946 Wireless Operators[1]

When war broke out in 1939 the Air Ministry employed the RAFVR as the principal means for aircrew entry to serve with the RAF. A civilian volunteer on being accepted for aircrew training took an oath of allegiance ('attestation') and was then inducted into the RAFVR. Normally he returned to his civilian job for several months until he was called up for aircrew training. During this waiting period he could wear a silver RAFVR lapel badge to indicate his status.

By the end of 1941 more than half of Bomber Command aircrew were members of the RAFVR. Most of the pre-war pilot and observer NCO aircrew had been commissioned and the surviving regular officers and members of the RAFO filled the posts of flight and squadron commanders. Eventually of the "RAF" aircrew in the Command probably more than 95% were serving members of the RAFVR.

During 1943, the decision was taken by the Air Ministry to raise an order for members of the RAFVR to remove the brass and cloth 'VR's worn on the collars and shoulders of officers and other ranks (respectively), as these were viewed as being divisive. No similar order was raised for members of the Auxiliary Air Force, who retained their 'A's on uniforms at that time.

The association with the Air Cadet Organisation began informally during the 1930s as members of the RAF VR would arrange and implement the cadets' training. During the Second World War, all those called up for Air Force Service with the RAF, both commissioned officers and other ranks, did so as members of the RAFVR under the National Service (Armed Forces) Act 1939. At the end of World War II, the RAFVR was reconstituted in 1947, and continued to act as a focus for individuals who had a continuing obligation under the Acts, peaking in its activities at the end of the 1950s. Following the end of conscription in 1962/63, the war-appointable RAFVR diminished in size down to a small number of specialist support flights which were absorbed into the RAuxAF in 1997 (the RAFVR(T) and RAFVR(UAS) continued unaffected from 1947 to 1997, and from then to the present day, but have now been joined by the RAFVR(DTUS)).


The original function to provide a source of aircrew is no longer necessary in a professional and non-conscriptive RAF.

The association with the Air Cadet Organisation has been maintained by members of the RAFVR(T) who coordinate and administer at various levels of the command structure. This includes CCF and ATC Squadron Officers, some CCF Contingent Commanders, ATC Wing & Regional Staff Officers, VGS & Air Experience Flight Pilots and Instructors.

RAFVR Officer Cadets and APO's within the UAS continue in their capacity as members of the University Air Squadrons. Following the advent of the Marston Report, and the removal of the requirement to follow the RAF Elementary Flying Training syllabus (replaced instead by an extended syllabus that includes value-added flying), there has been a much greater emphasis upon development of military skills, building existing leadership abilities and expanding the officer potential within the current membership.

RAFVR Officer Cadets are also members of the Defence Technical Undergraduate Scheme, a scheme which marries the benefits of studying science and engineering degrees with leadership and teamwork, under RAF sponsorship, whilst attending one of a small number of designated universities. During this period of study, members of the RAFVR(DTUS) are associated with their university's DTUS Squadron which provides members with a varied syllabus of activities including military and leadership training, physical fitness, adventure training and attachments to RAF units both in the UK and overseas.

Members of both the RAFVR(UAS) and RAFVR(DTUS) are eligible (in exactly the same manner as for members of the RAF's active volunteer reserve, the RAuxAF) for published daily rates of pay when on duty, and also the annual reservist bounty or Proficiency Grant, as long as they maintain the required levels of personal fitness tested via the RAF, successfully complete the requirements of Common Core Skills in terms of military capability, and attend the required number of Man Training Days and Annual Continuous Training periods. This is evidenced by a Certificate of Efficiency signed off by the Commanding Officer of the individual concerned.

See also



  • Terraine, John (1985). The Right of the Line. London: Hodder and Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-26644-9. 
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