IT WAS THE FIRST, and is still among the best.
On April 1, 1918, the British Royal Flying Corps merged with the Royal Naval Air Service to create the Royal Air Force—the first time any nation set up a branch of the military dedicated entirely to aviation, and not subordinate to another service.
The RAF’s finest hour came a generation later, in the early days of World War II, when a few brave pilots in Spitfires and Hurricanes held off the formidable Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain.
Today, the RAF carries on that proud tradition as it celebrates a century of service. To mark its 100th anniversary, we’ve picked out some of our favorite stories about Britain’s famed flying service.
(Photo: A Supermarine Spitfire Mk VB flies over the cliffs of Dover on Battle Of Britain Memorial Day, September 15, 2013. Photo by Rob Shaw)