The Royal Flying Corps (RFC) was founded in 1912, with a military wing and a naval wing. In 1914, the naval wing was separated off to form the Royal Naval Air Service. The two services combined again in 1918 when the Royal Air Force was created.
Initially the main role of the RFC was aerial reconnaissance and enemy artillery spotting but, as aircraft technology and design improved, strafing and bombing enemy military and industrial targets also became key objectives. For any pilot the risks were great, especially as no parachutes were available throughout the war.
At the start of World War I the RFC only consisted of five squadrons, one of observation balloons and four of aeroplanes. By the start of 1919, the RAF had 4,000 combat aircraft (many of them built in Surrey) and 114,000 personnel in 150 squadrons.
Brooklands Landing Ground was used as a RFC station throughout the war.
Written by Mike Page, Surrey History Centre