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RAF Training and Name Tags

As NameTags4U has been supplying RAF recruits with name tags for 15 years, we have taken an interest in the Air Force and, particularly, in their initial training. If you’re reading this in preparation for your new career as an Airman, this will give you some clear background information and a good idea of what to expect from your training. It will also serve as a reminder to order plenty of name tags and everything else on the kit list before you begin!


What is the RAF?

The main functions of the Royal Air Force (RAF) are the protection of the UK’s airspace and the provision of air power abroad. Within the RAF there are more than 50 types of roles, ranging from catering to engineering.



History of the RAF

When did the RAF begin?

Younger than the Navy and the Army, the RAF was founded towards the end of WW1 on 1 April 1918 with the merging of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service.

The formation of the RAF was the first incidence of any country forming a completely separate, independent air force. It boasted over 290,000 personnel and 23,000 aircraft.

In 1920, a cadet college was opened at Cranwell in Lincolnshire for permanent officers of the RAF’s flying branch.


The ranks

The current rank titles were established on 4th August 1919.

Starting with the highest rank…

Marshal of the RAF

Air Chief Marshal

Air Marshal

Air Vice Marshal

Air Commodore

Group Captain

Wing Commander

Squadron Leader

Flight Lieutenant

Flying Officer

Pilot Officer

Warrant Officer

Flight Sergeant



Senior Aircraftman




Inter-war period

The RAF decreased significantly in size between the world wars and it was a relatively quiet period for the Force. Resources were used principally to support the British Empire.



By the time WW2 broke out, in September 1939, the RAF was down to around 2,000 aircraft. The personnel headcount, however, grew and grew. In fact, during WW2, the total number of personnel reached around 1,208,000. 185,000 of these were aircrew.


The RAF at present

Where are most personnel based?

Whilst the majority of the RAF’s personnel are based here in the UK, many members also serve abroad. In fact, RAF personnel currently participate in 15 missions across 4 continents and in 22 countries and the total number of frontline fighter aircraft is 192. The biggest overseas operations are currently over Iraq and Syria, but many RAF personnel are also based at long-established bases abroad like Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands or Cyprus.

The largest RAF station is RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire with around 7,300 personnel are based there. The vast majority of these are service personnel, but there are also many contractors and civilian staff.


How many women?

In 2018 the RAF was made up of approximately 4,500 women, compared to 28,000 men. In 1994, Flight Lieutenant Jo Salter was the first woman to fly an RAF jet.


At what age can you join?

You can join the RAF at the age of 16, providing you have parental consent. You do not need parental consent to join beyond the age of 18.


What is the RAF’s motto?

The official, Latin motto is “Per ardua ad astra”, which means "through adversity to the stars" or "through struggle to the stars.


What did Prince William do in the RAF?

Prince William served in the RAF between 2009 and 2013, during which time he trained to be a helicopter pilot. He carried out his operational tour at RAF Valley in Anglesey, as well as doing a 6-week tour in the Falklands Islands.



The RAF’s centenary 2018

Last year, in April 2018, the RAF celebrated its centenary, the anniversary marking 100 years of service. The celebrations were made up of parades, commemorative services, and a flypast over Buckingham Palace consisting of 100 aircraft, including the Red Arrows. 22 typhoons spelled out the number 100 above London, a display which is said to have taken months of practice in simulators to perfectly plan.

Take a look at the flypast here; the display of the number 100 comes right at the end:


What is the basic Airmen recruit training like?

All basic recruit training for Airmen takes place at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire. It spans over a 10-week period, divided into 6 key phases:


  1. Arrival

-Being sworn in (you can take an Oath either to God or to the Queen)

-Parent’s Day (parents, guardians or partners can come to RAF Halton to gain an insight into the upcoming training course, to witness recruits being sworn in and to have a tour)


  1. General Service Training

-Getting into the fitness routine

-Regular dress and room inspections

-Learning about marching, core values, rules and the history of the RAF


  1. Force Development Training

-Testing out skills in adventurous environments

-Training activities like mountain walking expeditions


  1. Initial Force Protection Training

-Learning military survival skills such as camouflage, weapon fire, and first aid


  1. Exercise Blue Warrior

-Testing out skills over 4 days in the field, facing battle conditions like explosions and blanks fire


  1. Graduation

-Learning what will be required during their first posting

-Participating in the graduation ceremony, joined by family and friends



RAF name tags

New recruits will need to make sure they have everything on the official RAF kit list before they begin their initial training. Included on this list are name labels as there will obviously be a lot of identical items in one place!

On his blog https://ryan9900.wordpress.com/basic-training/) Ryan talks about how labelling his things was one of many tasks he and his peers had to carry out on their very first night as new recruits. He was glad that sew on labels were no longer a requirement, but apparently even applying his iron on labels took a long time due to the sheer quantity of new belongings! So make sure you order plenty of RAF name tags from us before you go and don’t forget your iron or sewing kit! 



As well as supplying both iron on and sew on RAF name tags, we also supply several other key items on the kit list such as boot polish, head torches and dusters. Recruits (or their mums!) find it really convenient to be able to buy lots of these essentials from one place.



Head to https://old.nametags4u.co.uk/ for more information or to place an order.

Good luck to anyone embarking on an exciting career in the RAF.


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