Made up of three different parts, the Auxiliary Air Force, the Special Reserve and the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, these three separate and different groups have not featured significantly in existing literature. Current historiography of the AAF and SR is dominated by the experiences of Nos. 600 and 601 Squadrons, which were based in London, and presents a popular image of a gentlemen’s flying club, whilst that of the RAFVR presents an image of a much more egalitarian institution, intended to be a citizens’ air force.
These Voluntary squadrons scored a number of notable successes before and during the Second World War: the first flight over Mount Everest, undertaken by auxiliary pilots from 602 Squadron, the first German aircraft destroyed over British territorial waters – and over the mainland, the first U-boat to be destroyed with the aid of airborne radar, the first kill of a V-1 flying bomb; the first to be equipped with jet-powered aircraft, and the highest score of any British night fighter squadron. In the Battle of Britain, the AAF provided 14 of the 62 Squadrons in RAF Fighter Command’s Order of Battle and accounted for approximately 30% of the accredited enemy kills. Indeed, in 11 Group Fighter Command, that saw the heaviest fighting over South East England in 1940, of the 15 top scoring squadrons, eight were auxiliary. The losses sustained during the Battle of Britain, as with all other squadrons, were replaced by drafting in regular and RAFVR pilots. In fact, the volunteer reserves of the RAF outnumbered the regular RAF pilots in the Battle of Britain.