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Royal Air Force Cranwell or more simply RAF Cranwell (ICAO: EGYD) is a Royal Air Force station in Lincolnshire, England, close to the village of Cranwell, near Sleaford. Among other functions, it is home to the Royal Air Force College (RAFC), which trains the RAF's new officers and Aircrew.

RAF Cranwell
Air Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Near Cranwell, Lincolnshire in England
Graduates front of College Hall.jpg
RAF Cranwell.png
Alitum Altrix
(Latin for Nurture the Winged)[1]
RAF Cranwell is located in Lincolnshire
RAF Cranwell
RAF Cranwell
Shown within Lincolnshire
Coordinates53°01′49″N 000°29′00″W / 53.03028°N 0.48333°W / 53.03028; -0.48333Coordinates: 53°01′49″N 000°29′00″W / 53.03028°N 0.48333°W / 53.03028; -0.48333
TypeTraining station
Area700 hectares (1,700 acres)[2]
Site information
OwnerMinistry of Defence
OperatorRoyal Air Force
Controlled byNo. 22 Group (Training)
Site history
Built1916 (1916)
In use1916–1918 (Royal Naval Air Service)
1918 – present (Royal Air Force)
Garrison information
Air Commodore Peter J M Squires
Occupants See Based units section for full list.
Airfield information
IdentifiersICAO: EGYD, WMO: 03379
Elevation67.7 metres (222 ft) AMSL
Direction Length and surface
09/27 2,082 metres (6,831 ft) Asphalt/Concrete
01/19 1,462 metres (4,797 ft) Asphalt/Concrete
08N/26N 761 metres (2,497 ft) Grass
08S/26S 761 metres (2,497 ft) Grass
Source: UK MIL AIP Cranwell[3]

RAF Cranwell is currently commanded by Air Commodore P. J. M. Squires.



The history of military aviation at Cranwell goes back to November 1915,[4] when the Admiralty requisitioned 2,500 acres (10 km²) of land from the Marquess of Bristol's estate.[4] And on 1 April 1916, the Royal Naval Air Service, Training Establishment, Cranwell was officially born.[4] The first commander was Commodore Godfrey M. Paine.

As the naval personnel were held on the books of HMS Daedalus, a hulk that was moored on the River Medway, this gave rise to a misconception that Cranwell was first established as HMS Daedalus.[5]

With the establishment of the Royal Air Force as an independent service in 1918, the RNAS Training Establishment became RAF Cranwell.[6] T. E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, was stationed at RAF Cranwell just after the war, in 1926, where he wrote a revised version of his Seven Pillars of Wisdom.[7][8] He mentioned the nearby village of Navenby in a letter to a friend at the time, saying: "I'm too shy to go looking for dirt. That's why I can't go off stewing into the Lincoln or Navenby brothels with the fellows. They think it's because I'm superior: proud, or peculiar or 'posh', as they say: and it's because I wouldn't know what to do, how to carry myself, where to stop. Fear again: fear everywhere."[9][10]

Cranwell became the entry point for all those who wished to become permanent officers in the RAF, and the selection process was extremely stringent. Initially the course took two years, but by the 1950s this had expanded to three. Until 81 Entry, arriving in September 1959, all flying training took place at the College; basic training on Percival Provosts and advanced training on either De Havilland Vampires or Gloster Meteors. With the arrival of 81 Entry, the academic syllabus was improved to allow cadets to gain degrees in humanities, or AFRAeS. To enable this to happen in the three-year course, only basic training was carried out at Cranwell on the new Jet Provosts Mks 3 and 4. Cadets still received their wings on passing out of Cranwell, but went on to advanced flying courses at either RAF Oakington or RAF Valley. In 1962 Whittle Hall was built to support the new syllabus, opened by Sir Frank Whittle. This meant that the old East and West Camps, which had been used for lectures, were re-deployed for other activities.

From 1917 RAF Cranwell was served by its own dedicated railway station on a single track branch line from Sleaford, the train being known as The Cranwell Flyer. The spur line was closed in 1956 and all the track removed. However, the original station building still stands and today remains in use as RAF Cranwell's main guardroom.

The main building of RAF College Cranwell is noted for its distinctive dome, visible from most of the surrounding roads.

The motto – Alitum Altrix – translates roughly to Nurture the Winged, and this motto can be found in gold print above the main doors of CHOM (College Hall Officers Mess). Also on the top of the dome of the Mess is a connection to the RNAS past life of the station, that makes Cranwell unique in RAF history and a record holder as well; RAF Cranwell has the furthest lighthouse from the sea in the UK, and the only RAF station to have a permanent lighthouse on its grounds.

Nos 5 and 14 Squadrons relocated to RAF Cranwell from RAF Waddington in September 2014 while the runway at Waddington was resurfaced. They returned to Waddington in late 2016.[11]

Jet engine historyEdit

Sir Frank Whittle attended RAF Cranwell in the 1920s.[12] It was here that he formulated many of his ideas for the jet engine, and it was at Cranwell on 15 May 1941 that the first flight of the Gloster E.28/39 took place. When Whittle died in 1996, his ashes were buried in a church at RAF Cranwell.

Current functionsEdit

Royal Air Force CollegeEdit

Cranwell is home to the Royal Air Force College (RAFC), which trains the RAFs new officers on a 24-week initial course, after which they are dispersed to their Phase II training for specific branch instruction. It is thus the RAF equivalent of Sandhurst or the Britannia Royal Naval College, and is considered by some to be the spiritual home of the RAF.

There are plans for the Recruit Training Squadron at RAF Halton to be relocated to Cranwell under Project Trenchard to commence 2018.[citation needed]

RAF RecruitmentEdit

The station is home to the Officer and Aircrew Selection Centre (OASC), where all applicants to the RAF as Officers or non-commissioned aircrew, are put through a 4-day rigorous selection process. The OASC is currently commanded by Group Captain Tom McWilliams. The selection process features aptitude testing, medical examinations, interviews, plus a number of challenging individual plus team planning and initiative exercises.

It is also home to the Inspectorate of Recruiting (IofR) – the division of the RAF responsible for providing recruiting and outreach services via the network of Armed Forces Careers Offices (AFCOs) around the UK.

Around the 1970s the RAF introduced the Direct Entry Scheme, in which a fresh graduate from any university could be admitted into RAF after a short training period at RAFC Cranwell. Originally titled the Professionally Qualified and Re-entrant Course (PQRE) since 1978 the course has been known as the Specialist Entrant and Re-entrant Course (SERE). The course has trained RAF Chaplains, officer ranked nurses joining the PMRAFNS from the NHS, officers transferring to the RAF from the Army or Navy, former officers re-joining the RAF and, until 1992, Royal Observer Corps wholetime officers. Most entrants emerged with the rank of Flight Lieutenant with chaplains being commissioned as Squadron Leaders.

Headquarters Central Flying SchoolEdit

HQ CFS has been located at RAF Cranwell since 1995 when it moved from RAF Scampton. Central Flying School is the longest established military flying school in the world and currently trains all RAF QFI flying instructors.

No. 3 Flying Training SchoolEdit

Cranwell is home to the headquarters of No. 3 Flying Training School (No. 3 FTS). The school provides elementary flying training for fixed wing and multi-engine student pilots from the RAF, Fleet Air Arm and Army Air Corps through No. 57 (Reserve) Squadron, No. 703 Naval Air Squadron and No. 674 Squadron Army Air Corps. The UK Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS) programme saw the transition from the Grob Tutor T1 to the Grob Prefect T1 during 2018. Although nominally based at Cranwell, elementary training largely takes place at nearby RAF Barkston Heath.[13] After elementary training, aircrews destined to multi-engine engine aircraft and rear-seat roles are trained by No. 45(R) Squadron on the Beechcraft King Air B200, which is in the process of being replaced by five Embraer Phenom 100.[14]

On 16 January 2018, the Skyes Building was opened at Cranwell by Air Marshal Sean Reynolds, the Deputy Commander Capability and Senior Responsible Owner of the UKMFTS. The building will act as a UKMFTS operational support building and be used to train new RAF pilots. It was named after Air-Vice Marshal Sir Frederick Hugh Sykes, a British military officer and politician who served during the First World War.[15]

Air CadetsEdit

Since the mid-1990s, Cranwell has been home to Headquarters, Air Cadets, and the Air Cadet Organisation's Adult Training Facility. Furthermore, the station is home to the Air Cadet Leadership Course, run by the Combined Cadet Force although attended by both ATC and CCF cadets, as well as occasionally sea and army cadets.

Sea Cadet CorpsEdit

Since 2011 the Eastern Area Sea Cadets Headquarters have been based on site.

Based unitsEdit

A King Air, previously used by No. 45(R) Squadron's based at RAF Cranwell

The following notable flying and non-flying units are based at RAF Cranwell.[16]

Royal Air ForceEdit

No. 22 Group (Training) RAF

No. 2 Group (Air Combat Support) RAF

No. 38 Group (Air Combat Service Support) RAF

  • RAF Music Services
    • The Band of the Royal Air Force College
    • The Band of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force

RAF Air Warfare Centre

  • Air Warfare School

Other RAF Units

  • RAF Disclosures


  • RAF Cranwell Flying Club
  • Cranwell Gliding Club

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Pine, L.G. (1983). A dictionary of mottoes (1 ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 9. ISBN 0-7100-9339-X.
  2. ^ "Defence Estates Development Plan 2009 – Annex A". GOV.UK. Ministry of Defence. 3 July 2009. p. 18. Retrieved 6 April 2019.
  3. ^ "Cranwell AD 2 - EGYD - 1 - 1" (PDF). UK MIL AIP. 28 March 2019. Retrieved 6 April 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Halpenny (1981), p.74
  5. ^ "College History". Royal Air Force. 2012. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
  6. ^ Halpenny (1981), p.75
  7. ^ Hastings, Chris; Bisset, Susan; Edwardes, Charlotte (9 June 2007). "T E Lawrence's 'mistress' was an orphan". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 20 February 2008.
  8. ^ Hart, Basil (1936). T. E. Lawrence in Arabia and After. J. Cape. p. 424. ISBN 0-8371-4258-X.
  9. ^ Wilson, Jeremy (1990). Lawrence of Arabia: The Authorized Biography of T.E. Lawrence. Atheneum. p. 766. ISBN 0-689-11934-8.
  10. ^ Knightley, Phillip (1970). The Secret Lives of Lawrence of Arabia. McGraw-Hill. p. 294. ISBN 0-17-135010-3.
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ "120TP Prefect". Royal Air Force (Beta). Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  14. ^ "New aircraft arrive for UK military flight training - Flight Training News". Flight Training News. 22 August 2017. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  15. ^ "Cutting-edge milestone for UKMFTS programme" (PDF). desider. Ministry of Defence / Defence Equipment & Support. 115: 12. February 2018.
  16. ^ "RAF College Cranwell - Who's Based Here". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 14 July 2018.


External linksEdit