Air Training Command:

The appalling casualty rate suffered during W.W.I as a result of inadequate training was addresses by Sir Hugh Trenchard as a matter of priority after the war. At that time pilots had arrived at front line squadrons with less than 20 hours total flying time logged and with no experience of the type of aircraft they were to fly to war. Many were killed before they ever reached the front or on their first sortie.

This Command was formed in 1936 and was responsible for all air and ground training. This structure was officially disbanded in May 1940 when flying training and technical training separated to form their own Commands.

Air Crew: Between the wars pilot training was increased to 150 hours with additional continuation training on the squadron, but there were serious deficiencies in the types of training given. For example, there was hardly any night flying or flying in poor weather where instrument flying and navigation were essential. Another weakness was the emphasis on pilot training to the detriment of aircrew training. This last was considered to be a spare time activity for which the volunteers received an extra sixpence a day. (2 ½ pence in today's currency). It was not considered part of normal duty and so the air gunners, bomb aimers or flight engineeers were often required to mount guard duty or attend parades immediately after a night mission as part of their "real" work. The result was that the ability of a single cohesive crew to fly and fight an aircraft was minimal. Aircraft of the time were designed with the pilot, but nobody else, in mind. Before the outbreak of war Sir Edgar Ludlow-Hewitt, Chief of Bomber Command, voiced his serious concerns at the unpreparedness of his Command to the great embarassment of the Government of the day.

On mobilisation there was no capacity in the operational squadrons to undertake the necessary additional training. This was then transferred to the reserve squadrons. Later, in 1941 these "Training Squadrons " were reformed to become Operational Training Units (OTUs). Further instruction was introduced later in the war for bomber crews with the formation of the Heavy Conversion Units (HCUs).

The training system was unable to cope with the massive increase in size of the RAF after mobilisation and so much training was carried out in Canada, Kenya and the USA under the newly formed Empire Air Training Scheme, (EATS). Many types of training aircraft were used. In the early days this was often dictated by availability. Elementary training was in de Havilland Tiger Moths with later advanced training for fighter pilots in Miles Magisters or Harvards. For pilots and crews training for multi-engined aircraft the Airspeed Oxford was used, but also the ubiquitous Avro Anson and Cessna Crane.

Ground Crew: Over 70% of RAF personnel were in the ground crew support role. The rapid growth of the RAF from 1934 stretched the ability of the Technical Training schools well beyond their capacity and a series of ad hoc schemes were devised. Pre-war holiday camps and seaside hotels provided accommodation while local businesses, schools and universities were contracted to provide instructional facilities. In many cases instructors ranged from qualified garage mechanics to university lecturers. Signals and communications training was given by the BBC and the general Post Office (GPO).