The RAF was built on three pillars: the first – the great training institutes such as Cranwell, Halton and the Staff College. The second, was the establishment of a reserve through Short Service commissions and the creation of the University Air Squadrons. The third was the focus on technical knowledge and understanding throughout the new service.
founder of the Apprentice Scheme
Hugh Montague Trenchard, 1st Viscount Trenchard, is often described as the ‘Father of the Royal Air Force’
An army major-general who had served in India and also fought in the Boer War, where he suffered a critical injury, losing a lung and suffering partial paralysis. The paralysis was later reversed as a result of a bobsleighing accident. Trenchard learnt to fly in 1912 (though he showed no natural gift for flying) and subsequently held senior positions in the Royal Flying Corps during WWI, becoming commander from 1915 – 1917. In 1918 he became Chief of the Air Staff for a brief period before resigning 10 days after the official formation of the RAF and being reinstated the following year.
Trenchard fought fierce critics of the RAF throughout his career, securing its future despite much opposition. Budget constraints meant that the Army and Navy were initially asked to undertake all training and education, but Trenchard insisted that this be done ‘in-house’ and the RAF Apprentice Scheme was born.
Named as first Marshal of the Royal Air Force in 1927, he stepped down as Chief of the Air Staff in 1930, and become Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police the following year. He was the RAF’s first peer in the House of Lords as Baron of Wolfeton and was subsequently made a Viscount in 1936. His ashes are interred in Westminster Abbey.
the finest aeronautical engineering college in the world
“One thing is absolutely true. The air battles of Burma were won in the classrooms and workshops at Halton; won not just by knowledge and skill of your maintenance crews, it was won by the spirit that Halton has produced.”
- Earl Mountbatten
Lord Trenchard realised that his new Royal Air Force would need highly skilled airmen to provide the Service with a solid foundation. The RAF Apprentice Scheme ran, in its original form, from 1920 to 1993, though the delivery of world renowned training continues to this day.
Boys as young as 15 left their schools and homes to join the most elite boarding school in Britain; a school which would ensure their standard education was completed, their love of aeronautics nurtured, their outside interests in sports or music encouraged, and excellence in their careers assured.
From fitters to plotters, electrical mechanics to instrument makers, beginning with airframes and moving through to jet engines, communications and radar; the breadth and depth of knowledge and expertise which was taught, learnt and passed on to each fresh-faced entry was as revolutionary in its time as it is relevant today.
to commemorate the 40,000 Apprentices
This tribute is situated in front of the old schools at RAF Halton, near to St. Georges Church and was unveiled by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 31st October 1997. It is made of Scottish granite, and designed in the shape of a ‘brass cube’.
“1922-1993 No1 School of Technical Training RAF Halton. This Sculpture celebrates the Apprentice Scheme started by Lord Trenchard at No1 School of Technical Training. Over 40,000 boys, many from Commonwealth and Foreign Air Forces and from the Royal Navy, all affectionately known as ‘Trenchard’s Brats’ graduated from Halton between 1922 and 1993. This sculpture represents the Brass Cube test job undertaken by apprentices during their training, and incorporates the ‘Wheel Badge’ which was worn proudly by generations of apprentices.”