Located at Sleaford in Lincolnshire, RAF Cranwell became the unwitting first home of the fledgling RAF Apprentice scheme. Lord Trenchard’s vision had been for training to begin at RAF Halton, but delays in the preparation meant that in the 2 years from 1918, his ‘Brats’ started their careers at Cranwell, the former training establishment of the Royal Naval Air Service.
In March 1920, after No1 School of Technical Training had been successfully transferred to its permanent home at Halton, the old ‘Boys Wing’ was renamed No2 School of Technical Training. In July 1926 No. 4 Apprentice Wing also moved to Halton and Apprentice training ceased at Cranwell for three years.
August 1929 saw No1 Electrical & Wireless School moved to Cranwell from RAF Flowerdown, and No 1 Radio School was set up in 1941 to teach radar. Also notably in 1941, the Gloster-Whittle E28/39 jet-propelled aircraft made its maiden flight from the South Dome.
In October 1950 No. 1 Radio School title moved to RAF Locking, but Apprentice training continued at Cranwell as No. 6 Radio School until 1952 when the 63rd was the last Entry to pass out from RAF Cranwell. RAF Cranwell has also been home to The Red Arrows and The Band of the RAF Regiment, alongside The Band of the RAF College.
where 40,000 boys were trained
Situated in the Chiltern Hills of Buckinghamshire and originally opened by Lord Trenchard, Halton has a long and successful history of training that continues to this day. The first Entry of some 500 Apprentices arrived in January 1922 to be accommodated in permanent buildings erected especially for the No. 1 School of Technical Training being transferred from RAF Cranwell.
Trades taught at Halton included Aircraft Apprentices, Craft, Technician, Admin, Mechanics, Instrument Makers and Aircraft Engineering Technicians.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II awarded Her Colour to the School in July 1952. As this Colour was received from Her Majesty by a Sergeant Apprentice, it is unique in being the only Colour which can be carried by an NCO. Moreover, it is the only Colour ever presented to a military youth training school in any of the Armed Services.
In 1993, after 73 distinguished years during which 40,000 boys were trained, the Halton Apprentice Scheme ended, leaving a legacy of excellence in aircraft engineering acknowledged world-wide. RAF Halton remains the spiritual home of the RAF Apprentices, with the legacy maintained there through their Association, Museum and Archives within an active military base.
The Electrical & Wireless School
Located in Hampshire RAF Flowerdown was an active base from 1919 until 1979, but only trained apprentices for a very short period of time. The Electrical & Wireless School was based here, with the majority of Apprentices being trained as Wireless Operator Mechanics, and the remainder as Electricians, Instrument Makers, Wireless Electrical Mechanics, Plotters and Telephonists.
The Electrical & Wireless School Entries 15 to 19 were moved to Cranwell in August 1929, with the 20th Entry onwards started their training at Cranwell. The station finally closed in 1979.
RAF Locking, situated in Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset had been opened in 1939 housing No.5 School of Technical Training for Boy Entrants which was closed in 1950, to be replaced by No .1 Radio School which moved Apprentices across from Cranwell.
In 1964 the RAF Trade skills structure was changed to reflect changes in maintenance policy, (the change from ‘maintenance by repair’ to ‘maintenance by replacement’). This affected apprentice training, and the last entry of ‘Aircraft Apprentices’ and the first entries of ‘Technician’ (3 year) and ‘Craft’ Apprentices (2 years) commenced training.
In 1965 all Aircraft Radio/Radar trade training moved to RAF Cosford leaving only ground electronics specialisations at RAF Locking. In 1966 the last Aircraft Apprentice entry graduated, and in 1970 the first entry of Mechanic Apprentices commenced training. 1976 saw the end of all ground electronics specialisation Apprentice training at RAF Locking.
From 1990 onwards various parts of No 1 Radio School were moved to RAF Cosford until the eventual shut down of RAF Locking as a training facility in 1998. RAF Locking was closed down at the turn of the millennium.
RAF Cosford opened in Shropshire in 1938 as a joint aircraft maintenance, storage and technical training unit.
During WWII, Cosford enhanced its technical training role and for some time delivered elements of Aircraft Apprentice training transferred from No.1 School of Technical Training.
In 1965, Technician Apprentices returned to train at Cosford, alongside Air Electronics training which moved over from RAF Locking. This was followed 20 years later by No.2 School of Technical Training arriving from RAF Cranwell.
Following the transfer of RAF Halton's remaining technical training in 1993, RAF Cosford took on the mantle of the No 1 School of Technical Training. The last major arrival at Cosford was No 1 Radio School, formerly at RAF Locking, in 1999.
With No.1 School of Technical Training and No.1 Radio School still based at RAF Cosford, it has remained mainly a training unit to this day, with the prestigious RAF Museum also based on the site.
Today’s 21st Century Modern Aircraft Engineering Apprentices continue to set the fine standards envisaged by Trenchard and delivered by their predecessors at Halton. The Queen’s Colour of No 1 School of Technical Training typifies the loyalty and commitment of the trainees.