The Royal Engineers experimented with balloons in the 1870s and a small factory was established at Chatham in 1883. Blériot's flight across the Channel in 1909 and the German Zeppelin programme persuaded the army to set up an Air Battalion in 1911 and the RFC was established in April 1912. In 1914, four squadrons went to France with 63 aeroplanes, most of them BE2 biplanes (Blériot Experimental), made at Farnborough. The early role of the corps was scouting, but the build‐up of forces and the invention of the synchronized machine‐gun, firing through the propeller, led to frequent dog‐fights. The corps's defensive capabilities were demonstrated on 3 September 1916 when William Leefe Robinson shot down Zeppelin SL 11 while it was raiding London. In 1918 air warfare was reorganized to assist co‐ordination. The RFC amalgamated with the Royal Naval Air Service to form the Royal Air Force, with its own minister.
Subjects: British History — Warfare and Defence.