The Royal Flying Corps and Farnborough

The British Army had been officially using Hydrogen Balloons for aerial observation and reconnaissance since 1878 and later added man-carrying Kites, in 1894, to their inventory. The natural progression was to Dirigibles (powered and steerable balloons), with the Farnborough Balloon Factory prototype, Nulli Secundus, completed and flown in 1907.

By this time both Cody and Dunne were experimenting with aeroplanes at Farnborough and although Cody made the first official flight in Great Britain in October 1908, the War Office showed no interest in the form of flight. However, in July 1909 Bleriot coaxed his monoplane across the English Channel and it was clear to the military that Britain was ‘no longer an island’.

In 1909 the formation of the Royal Aircraft Factory – from the Balloon Factory and later the Army Aircraft factory – resulted in the rapid application of science and technology to the development of ‘heavier-than-air’ machines and the Army and War Office began to understand the way in which this newly-fangled device could be of tactical use to the Army on the battlefield.

The Royal Aircraft Factory began to design and build practical aeroplanes and these formed the core of the RFCs fleet when the war started in 1914.